Erdogan and Hitler: The new Sultan crossed the line

According to an old Chinese proverb, ”never write while you are angry”, surely words of wisdom, but sometimes anger is the right response to statements and actions of politicians and leaders, and even with the passing of time it does not subside, and for good reason. It is precisely what I feel about the latest outrage from Turkey’s President Erdogan’s statement, that Nazi Germany under Adolph Hitler provides a good example of an effective Presidential regime. Not less than being angry at the new Sultan on the Bosporus , I am angry at the lack of response from the Government of Israel and Jewish organizations abroad. Years back, Jorg Heider, an Austrian Fascist leader declared that the Third Reich should also be remembered for its good actions, for example the building of the autobahns and reduction of unemployment. What a storm of protests then, and how quiet it is now with Erdogan.

Part of it has to do with the continuing process of Holocaust trivialization in Europe , but also in Israel. The frequent use of the Nazi period for some political gains, the label Nazi which is so easily thrown at the face of political adversaries and the use of the word Holocaust to describe every example of mass murder. Erdoghan is not the first world leader who uses the Nazi period in a perverted way, but he deserves our special attention, exactly because of the on-going efforts to restore Israeli-Turkish relationships. I, for one, support these efforts. Turkey is an important strategic actor on the world scene, and surely in the Mediterranean. Until the coming to power of the Islamist AK government of Erdoghan 12 years ago, the two countries enjoyed normal, if not even good relations, especially in the late 1990’s when astute political observers rightly talked about ”strategic alliance”. But these were relations with the Turkish Kemalist establishment, particularly the then secular army , not with the Turkish people at large.

It is arguably the case, that Erdoghan’s animosity towards Israel is a better reflection unfortunately of popular Islamic sentiment in Turkey, than that of the Kemalist establishment. It is also the case, that while Erdoghan systematically undermined the relationships from 2003 onwards, he cynically capitalized on the stupid handling by Israel of the take over of the Havi Marmara terror ship few years back. And stupid it was. Yes, this was a Turkish government-oriented provocation, but also a case where Israel should have acted clever and not succumb to the provocation. The violent take-over with 10 casualties could have been avoided, and once happened, there should have come an immediate proper apology. But better late than never, P.M Netanyahu issued an apology over two years ago, and offered a lavish financial compensation to the families of the victims.

That should have put an end to the saga, but Erdoghan wants more. No less than ”lifting the Gaza siege”[there is no siege by Israel], and also, with more than a bit of Chutzpah, a direct Turkish access to Gaza. Really?. The Ottoman Empire is back?. Egypt today is the one country which effectively besieges Gaza, and for good reason. Egypt is an important ally of Israel in the struggle against Hamas, and Erdoghan is not. He is a supporter of the evil Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. To give him a direct access to Gaza will be nothing short of madness. It will be also madness to have an Israeli gas pipe-line going exclusively to Turkey and from there to other destinations, which is another of the demands of the new Sultan.

It will be madness also to ignore the fact, that Erdoghan is in a dire situation now due to his crazy aggression against Russia. That said, there is something else here at play. Something that should be the final determinant of Israeli policy in this case. It is called MORAL, and NATIONAL HONOR. Time for Israel to ultimatively demand from Erdoghan an unequivocal apology for his remark about Hitler, and NOT to indulge in any negotiations with him until then. To much to expect from a ”national” government in Israel?. I do not think so, but I am afraid that this may be a voice in the wilderness of ”real politics”.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina