by Ahmet Mehmet (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 3, Ramadan, 1443)
How not to conduct foreign policy is best illustrated by Turkish President Recept Tayip Erdogan’s constant somersaults over the zionist occupation of Palestine and illegal intrusions into Masjid al-Aqsa. Last month that coincided with the month of Ramadan, the zionist occupiers not only murdered scores of Palestinians in cold blood, they also attacked hundreds of worshippers inside the holy compound.
And how did Erdogan react to such brazen zionist assaults? He phoned Israeli President Isaac Herzog on April 19 urging him to allow unimpeded access for Palestinian worshippers to pray in Masjid al Aqsa. In a series of tweets, Erdogan said he discussed regional issues and bilateral relations with Herzog, “particularly the events caused by some Israeli radical groups and security forces in recent days.”
Did Herzog or the other illegal squatters in Occupied Palestine pay any heed to such appeals? Perish the thought. Erdogan lamented the deaths and injuries of Palestinians since the beginning of Ramadan (as if the zionists were any less brutal before). His fear that such events will spread to the Gaza Strip were realized when Israel launched air strikes into Gaza the same day.
There have been calls both inside and outside Turkey for Erdogan to take a more principled stand vis-à-vis Zionist brutalities against the Palestinians. He has resorted to rhetorical volleys that the Zionists dismiss with contempt. They know Erdogan is all bark, no bite.
According to Israeli media reports, Herzog responded to Erdogan’s appeal for allowing Palestinian worshippers access to Masjid al Aqsa by saying that Israel is protecting freedom of worship. Adding insult to injury, he claimed that efforts by Israel’s security forces were ensuring that ‘freedom’. Their methods of ensuring that freedom included barging inside the masjid with their big guns and filthy boots and firing tear gas shells inside the confined space.
Horrific images of Palestinian worshippers lying on the floor with their hands and feet tied tightly with plastic bands have emerged on social media. Heavily armed Israeli police and soldiers lounged around the inner space polluting the carpets.
Herzog had the gall to tell Erdogan that “incitement and propaganda should be ignored”, while violence—especially toward Jews walking to prayer—should be condemned. The perpetrators accuse their victims of indulging in violence.
The zionist criminals have no right to enter the sacred sanctuary, no matter what pretext they use. It belongs to the Muslims, not the zionist colonial settlers from Europe and North America.
Despite such mindboggling hypocrisy borne of arrogance, Erdogan could only appeal to the zionists’ good sense. None exists. They know that Erdogan cannot do anything. He lobs rhetorical volleys but cannot and will not take any action against Israel.
As a sad testament to its chequered history, Turkey was the first Muslim country to recognize the zionist occupation of Palestine. True, it is not Erdogan’s fault. He was not even born when this decision was taken but he has the choice to end it. He won’t.
Instead, he has deepened ties with the illegitimate zionist regime as was evident from the March 9 visit of Israeli president Herzog to Ankara. Erdogan lauded the visit as a “turning point” in relations between the two countries even as thousands of people in Turkey protested Herzog’s visit!
Was Israel any less brutal toward the Palestinians when the visit took place? Surely, Erdogan cannot be unaware that there are more than 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli prisons. These include women and children who suffer not only physical and mental torture but also threats of sexual abuse.
The Israeli occupation army as well as heavily-armed illegal squatters (aka settlers) continue to attack Palestinian villages and town terrorizing their inhabitants. Palestinian farms are attacked and olive trees uprooted and destroyed. The zionists are economically strangling the Palestinians as part of a policy of ethnic cleansing to drive them from their ancestral lands.
The Turkish military is not weak. It can take on the zionist thugs but that would require political will and courage which is sadly lacking. Erdogan prefers to indulge in theatrics instead of adopting a principled stand.
Exactly 12 years ago (in May 2010), the Mavi Marmara, leading a flotilla of boats to deliver food and medicines to the besieged people of Gaza was attacked in international waters. Israeli commandos rappalled from helicopters and shot and killed 10 Turkish citizens. The flotilla passengers were all unarmed and peaceful. The boat was commandeered and its contents, together with those of other boats, were illegally seized by the zionist thieves. The passengers were arrested and thrown in Israeli prisons. There, they were beaten and tortured for days.
Israel had committed a war crime. The people of Turkey were extremely angry. They demanded revenge. Erdogan who was the country’s prime minister at time, indulged in his customary theatrics. He participated in the funeral prayers of the victims and vowed strong action.
Yet, when the Mavi Marmara crew and family members of the martyrs lodged a court case in Turkey against Israeli military and political leaders, Erdogan and his government pressured them to drop it. Far from taking any military action to avenge the deaths of innocents, he would not even allow a legal challenge against the zionist criminals.
And Erdogan claims title to the leadership of the “Sunni” world. He is not entitled to leadership of the Turkish people whom he cannot defend from zionist crimes, much less claiming to lead the “Sunni” Muslim world. His wrath is reserved for fellow Muslims. The Turkish army continues to indulge in all kinds of crimes in Syria, ostensibly to help the Syrian people but in reality to advance his agenda of Turkish nationalism, albeit couched in Islamic rhetoric.
For three years, he pursued Jamal Khashoggi’s murder case in Turkish courts. It won him much plaudits from Muslims. As soon as the Saudis offered him some money through the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Erdogan dropped the case. Instead, he said he would transfer it to a Saudi court. Is it realistic to assume that a Saudi court would deliver justice?
The Saudi judicial system is thoroughly corrupt. Innocent people are sentenced to death while mass murderers and criminals are set free. Since, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) is directly involved in ordering the murder of Khashoggi, it is pointless to expect justice.
Is Erdogan unaware of this? His has sacrificed justice for personal gain. If he would not seek justice for his own citizens (Mavi Marmara victims), what chance is there that he would pursue the killers of Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen, whose murder moreover, was ordered by the de facto ruler of the medieval kingdom?
Money talks and Erdogan has shown that he is amenable to financial persuasion. After all, Israeli El Al airline continues to fly Israeli tourists to Istanbul on a regular basis. It is extremely depressing to see Israeli planes land at a major airport in a leading Muslim country even while the zionists continue to kill and maim Palestinians.
Erdogan has a lot to explain for his conduct.