Commentary Magazine


Turning the Tables on the Turks

As Jennifer noted, some Israelis are thinking of getting even with Turkey this week with a “flotilla” that would bring some symbolic aid to the embattled Kurdish minority in that country. Though most of the media coverage of the Gaza flotilla controversy has wrongly blamed Israel for messing up the relationship with Turkey, most Israelis view Turkey’s decision to back the Islamist terrorists of Hamas against the Jewish state as a terrible betrayal.

While Israel has certainly benefited from the alliance with Turkey in the past, this was not a one-sided friendship. The Turks were happy to use the specter of a friendly Israel to help maintain a favorable balance of power in the region at the expense of hostile states such as Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

The Turks also benefited greatly from having Israel’s supporters in the United States largely at their disposal, even on issues where Jews felt they were being asked to balance Israel’s strategic interests against questions of human rights and genocide. Thus, American Jewish groups repeatedly have weighed in, often to the dismay of their rank-and-file members, against resolutions recognizing the historical truth of the Turkish genocide against Armenians during World War One. As Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman learned to his sorrow, trying to keep American Jews out of that fight — when their own historical experience of genocide impelled them to side with the Armenians — for the sake of maintaining good relations with a country that was supposedly friendly to Israel was a thankless task.

But with the actions of Turkey’s Islamic government undermining any hopes for meaningful sanctions on Iran and choosing to side with Tehran’s terrorists allies in Gaza, perhaps it is high time for American Jews to show the Turks that it is not just Israel that will pay a price for the flotilla controversy. The idea of treating a country that oppresses its Kurdish minority and that has illegally occupied a portion of Cyprus since 1974 — a violation of international law that ought to silence any Turkish criticism of the presence of Jews in Jerusalem or the West Bank — and that continues to pretend that the mass murder of Armenians is a myth as a valued friend and ally is much harder sell for Americans than it was a couple of weeks ago. Even more to the point, recent events should effectively end the debatable practice of American Jewish organizations carrying water on Capitol Hill for Turkish interests.