Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Israel takes on bogus crusade
What's Turkey's Islamist AKP regime playing at?
It is laughable to hear the Prime Minister of Turkey describe Monday’s raid by Israeli commandoes on the so-called ‘Freedom Flotilla’ in which nine ‘peace activists’ -- eight Turks and an American of Turkish origin -- were killed as a “bloody massacre”. If the death of eight Turks who set upon the Israeli commandoes with knives and clubs, and shot at them after seizing their pistols, is a “bloody massacre”, then the chilling atrocities committed on Armenians by Turks surely amount to the genocide which they are described as but persistently denied by Turkey.
Let us not forget that the Armenian Genocide witnessed little girls being snatched from their mothers’ arms, dragged to the streets, raped and left to bleed to death; that young and old, men and women, were despatched to horrific deaths; that Armenian property was looted and what could not be stolen was set on fire; and, that tens of thousands were disinherited of their nationality and forced to seek shelter in alien lands. And all this happened without Turkish authorities lifting so much as a finger in admonishment.
Neither should we forget that till date Turkey has not owned up to that crime against its own people and against humanity, nor has it allowed others to recognise the massacre and worse for what it was. So much so, US President Barack Hussein Obama, who has sought a full report on the raid on the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “ASAP”, chose not to use the word ‘genocide’ in his message on the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide after promising to do so, presumably because he was mindful of Turkish sentiments.
Therefore, we really need not be distracted by the official reaction of Turkey which, apart from indulging in fiery rhetoric denouncing Israel and allowing thousands of Islamists to march on the Israeli Embassy in Ankara, has recalled its Ambassador to Tel Aviv. This could be Turkey’s first step towards snapping diplomatic ties with Israel, a country with which it has had cordial relations for six decades. It is Turkey’s sovereign right to decide how it conducts its foreign policy, as much as it is Israel’s right to decide how it responds to what is clearly a blatant Turkish provocation inspired by the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which is increasingly veering towards assertive Islamism for reasons which I shall dwell upon later. First, a brief account of what happened on Monday and who is responsible for what Turkey has so colourfully described as a “bloody massacre”.
The ‘Freedom Flotilla’, a convoy of six ships of varying sizes, led by the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, had set sail for the coast of Gaza, ostensibly carrying “urgently required relief material for impoverished Palestinians” living in the blockaded territory. The three-year-old blockade of Gaza Strip is being enforced by two countries, Israel and Egypt, for different though inter-linked reasons. Israel has imposed its blockade, including maritime blockade off the coast of Gaza, because it is currently in a “state of armed conflict” with the Hamas regime which has repeatedly attacked civilian targets in Israel with weapons that have been smuggled in via the sea route and through tunnels connecting the Palestinian territory with Sinai in Egypt. Gaza’s Rafah border crossing with Egypt has also been consistently misused by the Hamas militia for smuggling in arms, ammunition and explosive material. Egypt, which has a peace agreement with Israel and whose President Hosni Mubarak is not enamoured of either the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the progenitor of Hamas, or the Islamists who dream of Hamastan instead of Palestine, has not only closed the Rafah crossing but is also building a steel-and-concrete underground wall to prevent tunnels from being dug. The blockade of Gaza Strip, really, is in effect a joint Jewish-Arab enterprise. We could endlessly quibble over the details, but that would not change the reality on the ground.
The ‘Freedom Flotilla’ was ostensibly organised by the ‘Free Gaza Movement’, which claims the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza Strip are living in abject poverty on account of the blockade. Israel says food, medicines, fuel and all civilian goods are allowed to pass through the blockade and tales of suffering, impoverished Palestinians are either sheer propaganda meant to generate support for Hamas or exaggerated to paint Jews as the persecutors of helpless Arabs, put countries otherwise favourably disposed towards Israel on a guilt trip, and keep the mills of anti-Zionism grinding in Arabia and beyond. What is true is that Israel has prohibited the supply of material which can be used for building tunnels and fashioning improvised rockets that are regularly fired by the Hamas militia.
The tenuous ceasefire that followed ‘Operation Cast Lead’ has held, but there’s nothing permanent about it as Hamas considers it no more than a hudna, to be used for regrouping and rearming its forces before launching fresh attacks. Israeli authorities had repeatedly requested the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ organisers to hand over its ‘relief supplies’ for inspection before being despatched to Gaza Strip and not to attempt reaching the Gaza coast. The organisers refused to either allow an inspection of the cargo or to hand it over to the relevant Israeli authorities.
That’s understandable, because the purpose behind the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ was not to help the poor and the famished of Gaza Strip, but make a political statement that would find a resonance around the world, forcing Governments and people to lend their voice to a ‘moral crusade’ while ignoring Israel’s national security imperatives. The media chose to romanticise the ‘Freedom Flotilla’, sensing a soft story that would tug at the heartstrings of newspaper readers and television viewers, instead of raising relevant questions about the entire dubious exercise and exposing the real organiser of the flotilla, the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi, or IHH, an Islamic charity with a radical anti-Western orientation. There is sufficient documentation to prove that beyond its legitimate philanthropic activities, the IHH provides extensive support to radical Islamist organisations, including Hamas, and that in the past it has maintained contacts with and provided support to global jihad organisations.
Given these facts about those behind the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ and its dubious cargo of material to help Hamas build tunnels and produce improvised rockets, Israel was within its rights under international law to stop the ships in international waters as the purpose behind the ‘moral crusade’ was to undermine Israel’s sovereignty. Israel had two options: Either score cheap brownie points by retreating before bogus ‘moral crusaders’, or court equally bogus international opprobrium by protecting its national interest. It chose the latter, which, we in India with an effete Government must concede, requires a lot of gumption.
This brings us back to the enraged reaction of Turkey, more specifically of the AKP regime in Ankara, to Monday’s unfortunate incident provoked by the belligerence of the so-called peace activists, among them a crew of Al Jazeera and a Pakistani television anchor, on board the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. A recent poll suggests a dramatic shift in Turkish public opinion with the Left-secular Republican People’s Party, or CHP, surging ahead of the Islamist AKP. The CHP is now seen to be commanding 33 per cent of the vote, compared to 31 per cent for the AKP. The Right-wing Turkish nationalist MHP stands third with 19 per cent of the vote. The next election is scheduled for 2011, but the AKP, according to reports, has been toying with the idea of calling an early poll rather than risk a worsening economic situation. In such a scenario, what better way for the AKP to shore up its electoral fortunes than by painting Jews as villains guilty of “bloody massacre” of Turks and by extension Muslims? Other Islamist regimes have played this game successfully, so why not the AKP regime?
[This appeared as the main Edit Page article in The Pioneer on June 2, 2010.]