Our homegrown self-appointed guardians of collective conscience also inevitably
– by their own testimony – corner the market on all available good sense. They
persistently analyze our assorted predicaments and without fail arrive at the
same judgment – Israel is to blame.
Specific circumstances and incidental
details notwithstanding, it’s always our moral lapse and/or misguided
conceptions that make us mess up massively.
We need only be more virtuous
or more sagacious (obviously as per their flawless recommendations).
other day Yossi Beilin – ex-minister, pivotal Oslo protagonist, Labor Party
headliner and later Meretz hotshot – published an op-ed in Yisrael Hayom
omnisciently instructing us all on where we erred vis-à-vis Turkey. And thus he
sermonized: “There comes a moment when a state must weigh what’s dearer to its
heart – diplomatic, military and economic ties with a very large Muslim country
whose influence in the region grows, or insistence on the truth, as it perceives
it, and on what it interprets as national honor.”
are unequivocal – we should have opted for the bounty clearly accruing from
chumminess with Turkey and apologized abjectly for our legitimate self-defense
in the Mavi Marmara incident. Considerations of national honor, he more than
implies, are irrational, if not outrightly insane.
As he puts it, it was
a showdown between “pursuers of national honor” and “those who sought to sustain
the national interest.” He despairs that the former won.
Let’s leave the
issue of national honor on the side for a bit and assume that it’s quite
natural, indeed sometimes altogether desirable, for nations to humble and even
Let’s just ponder the pragmatic perks contingent upon
bowing down to Turkish diktats.
Of all the world’s Muslim powers, Turkey
undeniably appears the most accessible. A negligible corner of it even protrudes
into what’s arbitrarily defined as Europe. Founder of its post- WWI republic,
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, seemed to transform the abolished Ottoman Sultanate with
political, cultural, social, economic and legal reforms. Despite the occasional
resort to military coups to protect its threatened secular quasi-democracy,
Turkey became a NATO stalwart and for decades held radical Islam at
Bigger players in the international arena had realpolitik reasons to
suck up to Turkey. For us the attraction was overpowering. An outcast in its
neighborhood, Israel yearned for Muslim friends. It fell headlong for the vision
of the region’s non-Arabs banding together in a comradeship of
This made particular sense in the heyday of nationalist
pan- Arabism. It was bound to erode as jihadist fervor supplanted nationalist
zeal and Arabs could hypothetically welcome Iran and Turkey into their club
rather than shun their co-religionists as rank outsiders.
We know the way
Iran went. We lost what we trusted was a bosom ally in Teheran. But Turkey, it
was long obstinately maintained here, is a whole other story because its eyes
are set westward and it covets EU membership.
Therefrom sprang the
sugar-coated “strategic alliance” with Ankara, in the framework of which Israel
supplied Turkey with sophisticated weaponry, among other security-oriented and
lesspublicized services. The wishful thinking was that even 2002’s electoral
victory of a religious Muslim party wouldn’t impel Turkey to follow in Iran’s
But this was delusionary already many years before the Mavi
Some among us, like Beilin, refuse to admit that things have
moved on and that their hype has been rendered obsolete.
The Mavi Marmara
It was preceded by a Turkish veto on Israeli
participation in a joint NATO drill within its borders. That slap in the face
evidently stunned our powers that be, who professed “sudden shock” at the “bolt
from the blue” turn of events.
Nevertheless chatty know-it-alls continued
to pooh-pooh the affront.
But – still significantly pre-Mavi Marmara –
Turkey lost no opportunity to hector and routinely unleash virulent anti-Israel
invective. Turkish state-run TV broadcast libelous anti-Israeli melodramas, like
Ayrilik, which portrayed IDF soldiers callously shooting Arab children, among
other bogus homicidal atrocities.
Nevertheless, given our attachments to
cloud-cuckoo-land and our insatiable hunger for syrupy companionship in a
hostile environment, we made a predictably worsening situation a whole lot worse
by submissive fawning.
Turkey’s Islamic leadership played us for suckers
while spurning our incongruous affections.
The most egregious
miscalculations were made by former prime minister Ehud Olmert and his foreign
minister Tzipi Livni. It boggles the mind, but this duo single-handedly promoted
Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the role of a regional super-statesman
when initially choosing him, of all unlikely facilitators, to mediate between
Israel and Syria. Olmert-Livni should have realized that Turkey is hardly a
neutral bystander. They blundered spectacularly.
The fat was already
irretrievably in the fire before Erdogan insolently scolded the dumbstruck
Shimon Peres at Davos in January 2009 before the effusively chummy Turkish and
Syrian foreign ministers signed military and nonmilitary cooperation treaties in
Aleppo, before Erdogan hobnobbed with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and
lauded him as “doubtlessly our friend,” before Erdogan outrageously charged that
Avigdor Lieberman schemes to nuke Gaza.
The bitterest travesty is that
Turkey, of all nations, tongue-lashed Israel for mass-murdering innocents in
Operation Cast Lead. Ironically, while we never did the evil deed, Turkey’s
record is horrific.
We could of course answer Erdogan in his own idiom
and elaborate on Turkey’s first Armenian massacre of 1890 (between 100,000 and
200,000 dead); Turkey’s subsequent mega-massacres of 1915 in which hundreds of
thousands of Armenians perished in a series of bloodbaths and forced marches of
uprooted civilians in Syria’s direction; the WWI slaughter of tens of thousands
of Assyrians in Turkey’s southeast; and the 1974 invasion and continued
occupation of northern Cyprus (which incredibly fails to preoccupy the
Last but hardly least is the ethnic cleansing,
ongoing aerial bombardments and other operations that cost Kurds untold
thousands of lives throughout the 20th century and beyond and still deny them
the selfdetermination they deserve (eminently more than Palestinians).
the night of August 17, Turkish military jets bombed the Qandil Mountains in
Northern Iraq, in yet another anti-Kurd aggression.
The Iraqi Kurdistan
Regional Government protested the cross-border incursion and the infliction of
civilian casualties, but the world appears remarkably unperturbed. No
Goldstone-like commission was empowered to probe and do-gooders didn’t organize
flotillaequivalents in support of the Kurds.
Most of all, Israel didn’t
pay Turkey back with its own coin, which brings us back to the pesky business of
Back in 1916 Ze’ev Jabotinsky described the Jews as “very
strange with their pangs of conscience and sentimentality.
lament the misfortune of arch-haters.... What compassion they feel for the poor
Poles whom Providence afflicted with the inconvenient Jewish
Jewish guilt for burdening oppressors and assailants is
entrenched and with it, apparently, the compulsion to make amends. Its
derivation may be traceable to the penchant of every local medieval tyrant to
oblige Jewish communities to pay exorbitantly for the privilege of not being
Jews began to treat such levies as the way of the world,
only to be expected.
This is where the Beilinesque mind-set