Respect and Suspect

The good news is that millions of Israeli tourists will soon be flooding the Turkish bazaars again. The Turks have desperately missed the cash flow from Israeli tourists buying gold jewelry and leather goods.

And now, in return, the Turks, alienated from Russia, are anxious to buy gas from Israel and Israel will soon be laying the pipelines in Turkey through which Israeli gas will flow. Sounds like a good bargain.

But still it is difficult to put the past completely behind us. Since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident and the ending of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Erdogan as Prime Minister and now President has been vilely anti-Semitic and has condemned Israel for all the regional problems.

Slanderous words and accusations once made cannot be retrieved. Like feathers in the wind they continue to fly in the air and float on even gentle breezes.

Israel and Turkey have almost concluded the negotiations which will lead to the return of ambassadors and the restitution of diplomatic relations. Israel has apologized for the deaths of Turkish citizens in the Mavi Marmara flotilla. We have agreed to set up compensation funds for families of the victims. And we eventually will sign a Turkish-Israeli agreement. But one important sticking point remains unresolved.

Turkey is insisting that we lift the naval blockade of Gaza in order that their ships may deliver “aid” to the suffering population of Gaza.

That is something that Israel must never agree to. The blockade of Gaza must remain in order to prevent military weapons and equipment destined to be used against us from being delivered to the port of Gaza.

Nations and charitable organizations are free to send aid to Gaza through the Israeli port of Ashdod. Inspections of all materials will be thorough and, if cleared, will be transferred overland to Gaza.

Of the forty-five countries in the world which I have visited, Turkey is not one of them. I never had the desire nor the interest in traveling to Turkey. Besides the Hagia Sophia and the great museums in Istanbul, there is little that draws my fancy to Turkey. Unlike most Israeli tourists, I buy neither gold nor leather goods and I have no mouth-watering taste for Turkish cuisine.

Except for the anxious shop-keepers awaiting large tourist groups from Israel, the average man on the street could not care. People have told me that the Turks are a friendly people. I cannot say.

But as a Jewish historian, I cannot forgive nor forget the 1914-1915 massacre of the Christian Armenians at the hands of Muslim Turks. More than one million men, women and children were slaughtered in the Sultan’s genocide. Turks refuse to admit their country’s guilt and often they penalize those who continue to accuse them of it.

Hitler learned a lesson from the Armenian genocide. He said , “who remembers the massacre of the Armenians? The world has ignored it and they will ignore our final solution of the Jewish problem”.

While I am pleased that Turkish-Israeli relations will soon be back on track and President Erdogan will learn to speak kindly of us, I recall a statement that my parents once taught me: chabdehu v’chashdehu… respect and suspect.

And with the Turks my gut feeling tells me there is much to suspect.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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