Large demonstrations are currently raging in Turkey against the dictatorial policies of Prime Minister Erdogan. Tens of thousands are taking to the streets from dawn to dusk, waving signs, shouting disruptively, and skirmishing with the police. Hundreds have been arrested. On Thursday, Erdogan stated during a conference in Tunisia that radical elements “including terrorists” are behind the demonstrations. He also condemned the foreigners participating in the protests, who, in his opinion, have infiltrated Turkey to “create provocations”.
It is difficult to ignore the fact that the protests in Turkey began on May 31, 2013, exactly three years following the day a flotilla including a Turkish vessel named the “Mavi Marmara” sailed from the ports of Cypress towards Israel, carrying 581 activists from an Islamic organization called IHH, intent on breaking Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.
On that same day, the flotilla vessels ignored the warning of Israel’s navy. Israeli Navy Seals boarded most of the ships without problematic incidents. When they boarded the vessel from Turkey, however, they were surprised by a violent ambush. After being attacked by knives and clubs, they responded in self-defense, shot and killed nine Turkish activists, and the rest is history.
Today, everyone who protests against Erdogan’s government in Gezi Park in Istanbul is defined by him as a “terrorist”. Three years ago, two days after the flotilla incident, Erdogan accused Israel of carrying out “state terrorism”, recalled his ambassador from Tel-Aviv, and called on Israel to immediately cease its naval blockade of Gaza. It is worth noting that this naval blockade was created to protect Israel from elements smuggling weapons to radical Islamic activists in the Gaza Strip.
I understand from Erdogan’s use of the word “terror” that a “terrorist” is any person who opposes radical Islamic activism. It would not offend me if Erdogan categorized me as a “terrorist”, since I identify with those demonstrating against his government in Turkey.
If I had the time and the resources, I would organize a naval flotilla of Israeli human rights activists and sail toward the ports of Turkey to support the struggle of those who are suffering human rights abuses by the Erdogan regime. I wonder how the Turkish navy would treat such a flotilla.
I am at a loss to understand Binyamin Netanyahu’s behavior towards Erdogan and his government. Three years ago, the Prime Minister cancelled his meetings with President Obama, cut short his visit to the USA, and returned to Israel in crisis mode to meet with his Security Cabinet in order to manage the flotilla crisis. Granted, he did not buckle under UN pressure to form an international investigative committee to examine the circumstances surrounding the death of the Turkish activists. Nevertheless, two and a half months ago, during the last day of Obama’s visit to Israel, Netanyahu acquiesced to the President’s request, called Erdogan, apologized for the flotilla events, and pledged to compensate the families of the Turkish activists who were killed. By his actions, Netanyahu yielded and succumbed to the unreasonable demands of a radical Islamic dictator.
It will be interesting to see how Barack Obama will deal in the near future with what is taking place in Turkey. Until today, the Obama White House has supported all of the elements protesting against totalitarian regimes in the Middle East in the framework of the “Arab Spring” uprisings – from Tunisia to Lybia, to Egypt, all the way to the rebels in Syria.
So far, Obama has not missed an opportunity to prove his warm friendship towards Erdogan, especially in their dealings with Israel. On the other hand, he has also consistently pledged that anywhere in the world where people are fighting for the values of freedom of expression, freedom of religion, women’s rights, democracy and the rule of law – the USA will stand with them. Will Obama also become a “terrorist” according to Erdogan? We can only hope so.