It is a well-known truth that Israeli – Turkish relations are at an all-time low, and there does not seem to be any promise of things improving in the near future. Even though the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is well-known for his anti-Zionist outbursts, during Operation Protective Edge he toughened his stance. Unfortunately, the method of using international relations as a tool for domestic policy, as Erdoğan did during his election campaign, is damaging 100 years of friendship irreversibly and inciting not only anti-Zionist ideas in Turkey, but also anti-Semitic movements. In this piece I would like to propose an alternative Muslim Turkish view to Israeli – Turkish relations within the context of Operation Protective Edge as well as suggestions to the Israeli side.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu explained Turkey’s foreign policy goals in his book, Strategic Depth: Turkey’s International Position. According to Davutoğlu. Turkey’s role in the world should not be limited to Washington and Tel Aviv centric policies – it should become a global actor. Aligning with this vision, the AKP government has pursued a policy of ending its long-term hostilities with its neighbors, mainly in the Middle East, which the Ottoman Empire once ruled. In order to become a sovereign power, especially in the Middle East, Turkey became involved in the regional crises more so than it had in the past.
In the beginning, Turkey’s involvement had been encouraged by Washington and Israel, as they both trusted Turkey to become a successful and objective negotiator in the region. However, the AKP government has pursued an ideological approach on both Iran’s nuclearization and the Israeli – Arab peace process. Instead of supporting the secular Palestinian Authority or peaceful Palestinian movements, it supported Islamist Hamas and its violent goals. AKP also supported Iran at the UN Council.
The international crises that have arisen in the last few years have all occurred during critical periods for the AKP government. When Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had his infamous “one-minute” outburst at the Davos Economic Forum, it was a short time before the local elections in Turkey in which AKP won. After that, the AKP government began to see foreign policy as a tool for its domestic policies. The flotilla incident occurred just after the CHP’s election of its new leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who was able to gain media attention shortly after. Finally, the anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist critics of the AKP, came out just before the presidential elections.
It is very clear that the situation in Turkey is not about criticizing Israel’s policy regarding the Palestinian Authority, or civilian causalities during Operation Protective edge. Meanwhile, in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed more than 6000 Muslims, and still conducts mass executions, holding Turkish embassy personnel as hostages. President Erdogan has ordered the media not to mention the ISIS issue. On the other hand, remembering Hitler with respect in the Turkish media throughout every Israeli operation, clearly shows that the problem resides in the Turkish nation’s viewpoint. Most of the public in Turkey are not aware when and why Operation Protective Edge started. Even the President of the Palestinian Authority, during his Turkey visit, stated that the point of origin of all the recent incidents is the kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian. However, we all know that the real point of origin is the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teenagers, Naftali Fraenkel 16, Gil-ad Shaer 16, and Eyal Yifrah 19.
The radical belief of religion clouds people’s minds in Turkey and convinces them that Israel is doomed, so that whatever Israel does is damned. As, during the AKP era, the government is constituted by more and more radical Islamists, the idea which seemed like a joke in the beginning, gains more followers each day.
Unsuccessful boycott attempts and anti-Semitic comments
The only positive outcome so far is that because the Turkish nation is so unfamiliar with the term anti-Semitism, instead of damaging Israel and its interests, it makes a laughingstock of itself.
On July 15, 2014 Turkish singer Yıldız Tilbe tweeted that Hitler did not do enough to Jewish people. She received so much negative reaction, not only from Turkish Jewish people but also Turkish Muslims, that she had to delete her tweet. Yet, a week later, she tweeted something else that nobody should buy Israeli products as CocaCola is mixing Muslim blood in its products and Israeli baby formulas make babies imbeciles. Of course after this tweet many of her followers blamed her that she should stop using drugs as it does her no good, some even suggested she change her drug dealer.
A day later, on July 23, 2014 the Governor of Tekirdağ, protested against Coca Cola, by ordering Fanta to the dinner table. What he does not know is that Fanta is a product of the Coca Cola Company.
In another video, a market stall owner emptied all his Coca Cola stock into the trash by claiming boycott each time. He only harmed himself as he already bought the stock and getting rid of it guarantees he will buy more stock. The Black Sea region of Turkey takes the boycott one step further with one store owner throwing his market size cola fridge off his balcony. Apparently many people think that boycott means buying the product and not drinking it.
Turkish government reaction to boycott
Most likely after seeing all these unsuccessful attempts, Turkish Government officials stated that the trade between Israel and Turkey will continue. First, the Vice Prime Minister stated that no one should criticize the Government because of its trade relations with Israel. After that Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan stated that there is no interruption of trade between Israel and Turkey.
Suggestions to Israel
Israel’s wait and see method worked so far, but the more the Israeli government stays silent the greater the reaction in Turkey. As a nation who suffered most from terrorism in the eastern regions, Turkey is one of the few countries who can understand Israel’s situation completely.
Nobody in Turkey knows how many rockets have been fired into Israel, regardless of the target. Again in Turkey people don’t know that 3 Israeli boys were kidnapped and brutally murdered before all this happened.
It is a well-known truth that Israel does not advertise its losses, it does not show bodies of the terror victims, but at least it should conduct a more informative campaign in Turkey, as Turkey is still the only ally Israel has in the region. It is clear that Turkish media is completely controlled by the government at this point, so Israel has to do the work by itself, and by watching the unsuccessful boycott videos above, we can all see that anti-Semitism is a term that Turkish people cannot embrace.