by Iqbal Jassat
“The Palestine policy is our red line. It is impossible for us to accept Israel’s Palestine policies. Their merciless acts there are unacceptable,” President Tayyip Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers in Istanbul.
That was in December 2020.
Fifteen months later, notwithstanding the fact that Israel’s “merciless acts” Erdogan found “unacceptable”, have escalated in vicious ferocity across Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), he ignores his own “red lines” by making a huge somersault.
Rolling out the red carpet for Israeli president Isaac Herzog on an official state visit to Ankara on March 9, Erdogan proudly spoke of building a new alliance with the settler colonial entity.
In making such public utterances and in full glare of the world’s media, he seemed shamelessly oblivious of his earlier commitments to Palestine.
Having repeatedly condemned Israel’s occupation, Erdogan is on record as having slammed US-brokered rapprochements between Israel and four Arab countries.
His attack at the time didn’t sit well with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco who had succumbed to American pressure to “normalize” relations with Israel.
He was hailed by many Muslims as a revolutionary defender of Islam and the sacred Al Aqsa Mosque in Al-Quds-Jerusalem.
Shockingly, Erdogan has dashed those hopes.
The opponent of Israel’s ethnic cleansing and “baby killer”, as he famously rebuked former Israeli president Shimon Peres, has now openly embraced the current ruler of the same regime, despite the fact that there has been no letdown in the killing and murders of Palestinians including babies.
Though Turkey has always had ties with the zionist regime, the crunch came in May 2010, when Israeli forces raided the Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla sailing to break the siege on Gaza, and cold bloodedly killed 10 civilians.
This brazen act of murder in international waters led to Erdogan freezing ties, not severing relations, but soon thereafter in 2016, saw the return of ambassadors following a deal to “reconcile”, which in fact was a sellout of the justice sought by families of the Mavi Marmara victims.
However, two years later, it collapsed when more than 200 Palestinians were killed by Israel in a few months in Gaza.
This period, starting in March 2018, was known as the “Great March of Return” during which Palestinian refugees led weekly protests demanding the right of return to their homes and lands in Israeli occupied areas, from where their families were forcibly expelled in an orgy of ethnic cleansing in 1948.
The protesters also demanded an end to Israel’s illegal blockade imposed on Gaza, turning it into the world’s largest open-air prison.
It remains under siege to this day.
So, while the horrible oppressive situation Palestinians find themselves in has become worse, Erdogan’s move to embrace the most racist regimes of the settler colonial entity, is worse than mere betrayal.
There are Palestinians under siege in Gaza as well as those under military occupation in the West Bank and in Al-Quds-Jerusalem.
In addition, there are millions of refugees in camps dotted around the Arab world.
Collectively they may have held out hope that Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership would leverage its position to advance their just cause.
They cannot be blamed if they now view him as a traitor.
His act of somersault is in effect much worse than the politics of “normalization” by Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE.
These four are largely unelected despots lacking any democratic credentials and known to be American surrogates.
Though Sudan’s history may differ slightly, the current coup and deals arising therefrom with the US and Israel, places it in the US/zionist camp.
What is worse for Erdogan is that the pomp and glory he accorded Isaac Herzog, needs to be explained in the context of a growing international push to impose sanctions on Israel.
The BDS movement provides the global community a platform to activate boycott campaigns in much the same way that the Anti-Apartheid movement mobilised against white supremacism in South Africa.
That he has chosen to embark on this disastrous route in a political climate that is extremely unfavourable to Israel given the overwhelming number of damning findings by human rights organizations against Israel’s inhumane policies and atrocities, makes Erdogan’s decision even more objectionable.
To embrace Israel at a time that rights groups such as Israel’s B’Tselem and Amnesty International have documented a litany of violations by it against international laws and the Geneva Conventions, does not augur well for Erdogan’s credibility, especially among Muslims.
While details of agreements may be sketchy for now, it is certain that none will advance Palestine’s freedom struggle.
Iqbal Jassat, Executive Member, Media Review Network, Johannesburg, South Africa