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Is the Turkish PM Anti-Semitic? (Interview with Sedat Laciner)
1.       Roswitha
4132 posts
 01 Feb 2009 Sun 01:26 am

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan´s harsh criticisms of Israel´s Gaza assault have met disapproval in numerous circles while having been welcomed in others. We interviewed Sedat Laciner - Head of USAK, Ankara-based Turkish think tank, on the PM´s reaction to Israel´s Gaza assault and this reaction´s effects on Turkey-Israel relations in the long run. Laciner shared his analysis and criticisms toward Turkish policies on Israel and Palestine throughout history. He also gave his predictions for the future of Turkey-Israel relations. We also asked Laciner about the prior principles of Turkey in its relations with Israel and about the hidden risk in these two countries´ problematic relations.

Q: The Prime Minister´s remarks following Israel´s Gaza assault received reactions from abroad and were widely criticized by different circles. How would you evaluate these criticisms?

S.L.: "PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan´s recent comments on Israel´s Gaza assault have been labeled "anti-Semitic´ by some Israeli and Jewish critics. According to these criticisms, PM Erdogan is an Islamist politician and an anti-Israeli. Some Jewish have writers claimed that Turkey-Israel relations will be damaged as a result of the PM´s reaction. Some Israeli newspapers and members of some US-based Jewish think-tanks even furthered their claims and threatened Turkey by saying PKK terrorism will increase due to Turkey´s stand on the Gaza assault. Regarding these claims, Turkey has been receiving great support from Israel on numerous grounds, including combating PKK terrorism.

First, since reactions towards Israel´s Gaza assault were huge in Turkey, it is misleading to limit these reactions merely to PM Erdogan´s and his Justice and Development Party´s (AK Party) stance. Israel´s attack received tremendous reactions from all political parties, including leftists as well as those on the right. None of the political party leaders in Turkey criticized Israel less than the PM Erdogan. Moreover, Turkish press -including socialist, leftist-nationalist, rightist-nationalist, and pro-Kurdish, together with conservatives or fundamentalists condemned Israel for conducting a huge massacre in Gaza. For instance, Cumhuriyet, a leftist-nationalist newspaper which is known for being a harsh opponent of PM Erdogan, published caricatures in which Israeli soldiers were shown as Hitler.

Another reason why Erdogan´s reaction was well-received in Turkey stems from the opposition parties´ severe criticisms of him. Erdogan was blamed for not taking concrete actions, but just speaking through the leader of Nationalist Action Party (MHP) Devlet Bahceli. Bahceli also demanded the withdrawal of security agreements between Turkey and Israel as a reaction to Israel´s Gaza assault. Alike others, Deniz Baykal, leader of The Republican People´s Party (CHP) criticized Israel´s actions for being "inhumane´. Baykal claimed the Turkish Grand National Assembly (Turkish Parliament) should condemn Israel, and prepared a draft proposal to implement it as a parliament decision. Yet, the implementation of this proposal was impeded by Erdogan´s party, AKP. All political parties gave more or less similar reactions, however, only Erdogan´s stance received much criticism as a result of his position as the Turkish PM.

Erdogan´s actions during the Gaza crisis are other implications of his not being an anti-Semitic. During the crisis period Turkey did not take any position threatening its economic and political relations with Israel nor did it value the backings of some circles to do the opposite. Even military agreements between the two states were kept in this period as they were in the past."

Q: Then what is the reason behind PM Erdogan´s harsh criticisms toward Israel?

S.L.: "First, Turkish PMs have always been among the PMs who criticized Israel severely. Turkey is a unique country who can criticize both Israel and Palestine at the same time and can also tell their misdeeds directly. For instance Bulent Ecevit, who was one of the leftist PMs of Turkey, blamed Israel for committing genocide in 2001. Erdogan, on the other hand, never used the word "genocide´ during Gaza crisis. There have always been some problems in Turkey-Israel relations regarding the Palestine issue. The degradation of Turkey´s Israeli Embassy from an embassy to a charge d´affaires, and its being limited to this position for a long time, is a case in point. While Turkey and Israel had these problems, nevertheless Turkey is the first country, among the ones whose population is overwhelmingly Muslim, to recognize Israel. Moreover, Turkey is an extraordinary instance among the Muslim countries respecting Israel´s right to exist and defending it as well. As Israel´s ambassador to Ankara had previously stated, Turkey-Israel relations reached its peak during the AKP governance. Currently, Turkey is the only country in the Middle East who has military collaboration with Israel. To sum up, PM´s reaction to Gaza crisis is not a unique reaction, thus, it cannot be judged as an implication of increasing anti-Semitism in Turkey.
It is very obvious that Israel´s Gaza assault was condemned around the world as it was in Turkey. Technological developments made the disproportional use of military power and abuse of human rights more visible to world. Israel may have caused as many civilian losses in previous Palestine and Lebanon assaults as it did in this Gaza assault, however, the rise of technology made hiding abuses impossible. Only one fourth of the people killed in the assault were Hamas members; more than half were women and children, three fourths were civilians, and more than one fifth was composed of children and babies. No just cause can legitimize such a picture.

In other words, one has to seek the reasons for PM Erdogan´s or other Turkish politicians´ reactions in misdeeds of Israel army in Gaza not in Turkey´s circumstances."

Q: Do you think Israel will try to punish Turkey for its reactions? Does it affect the two countries´ relations?

S.L.: "If Israel chooses to end its relations on Armenian Issue and combating PKK terror, or if it tries to punish Turkey as a result of Gaza reaction, that would be mortal wrong for Tel Aviv. Some pro-Israeli writers´ comments unfortunately carry intimidation against Turkey. These people imply that some Jewish parliamentarians in the American Parliament will shift their support from Turkey´s thesis to Armenian allegations. These writers loudly declare their threats and state that Israel and American Jews will no longer support Turkey´s cause against PKK terror. The first concrete implication of these threats was seen in Turkey´s initiation to buy Heron TP unmanned air vehicles from Israel. It is stated that Turkey´s import of these vehicles, which are used against PKK, was impeded by Israel. In case Israel follows a punishment strategy, Turkey can collaborate with other countries to meet its needs in combating terrorism. To clarify, Israel does not give any weapons for free or donate them to Turkey. Thus, the claim that Israel seriously supports Turkey is weak. Let them be leftists or rightists, a large amount of Turkish people believe that Israel supports PKK terror. Mossad´s interactions with PKK terrorists and its efforts to help to the establishment of a Kurdish state are among the claims which commonly take place in Turkish press. Even if these claims are not true, Israel´s serious support in Turkey´s fight against terrorism is hard to believe. Israeli critiques are exploiting that support which is in fact inexistent.

Considering the Armenian issue, Jewish American politicians´ contributions to Turkey´s cause is undeniable. However, if this contribution is grounded on selfish interests without any principal bases, public explanation of this case will be troublesome for American politicians. On the other hand, Turkey´s Israel policies are placed on its principles and values, not merely on its interests. Indeed, interests are highly important, yet, protecting the interests of a country without principles would be very hard.
Second, Israel´s support in the Armenian issue should not be overvalued. For instance, numerous Jewish American associations signed a bulletin against Turkey´s cause on Armenian issue in last summer. Moreover, the fate of any Armenian proposal in the American Congress depends more on the changes in USA-Turkey relations than the decisions of Jewish deputies in the American Congress. If Israel and Jewish American senators´ support is grounded in such cheap reasons, end of this support would not harm Turkey."

Q: What do you think about the recent Davos affair?

S.L.: "In Davos, I think there is a great conspiracy. If you prefer an Armenian moderator for such a sensitive issue and in a highly sensitive time, it means that you try to spoil Turkish - Israeli relations. The moderator, David Ignatius, is a diaspora Armenian and he is a fanatic in Turkish and Israeli issues. He is a well-knon pro-Israel columnist and has written essays against Turkey and Mr. Erdogan. In Davos Israeli President raised his voice and blamed Turkey although PM Erdogan was kind and soft at the beginning. Mr. Ignatius and Mr. Peres´ unexpected anger prooked Erdogan."




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