As Alana noted yesterday, the Turkel Committee’s investigation of Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla last May largely confirmed what any fair-minded person already knew: that the blockade of Gaza was legal, that Israel therefore had the right to enforce it militarily, and that its soldiers fired in self-defense after being brutally attacked when they boarded the Mavi Marmara. Nevertheless, the probe did unveil one important bit of new information: that Turkey’s government bears direct responsibility for the bloodshed that ensued.
The report revealed that Ankara had initially proposed having the Turkish Red Crescent take responsibility for the flotilla. Under this proposal, the ships were to dock in Ashdod Port, after which the Turkish Red Crescent would shepherd the cargo overland to nearby Gaza. Israel (obviously) agreed. And then, at the last minute, Turkey reneged.
In other words, Turkey recognized that the flotilla presented a potentially dangerous problem — that, unlike other flotillas before and since, this one, sponsored by an organization with well-known terrorist links, could not be trusted to divert peacefully to Israel or Egypt. So it proposed a solution and secured Israel’s agreement. And then, at the last minute, it decided instead to let the problem go ahead and explode. Consequently, nine Turks died.
Unfortunately, that has become the norm in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey: Ankara’s stated policy of “zero problems” with its neighbors, for all the paeans it has won in places like the New York Times, somehow never extends to Israel. On the contrary, Turkey often seems to go out of its way to create problems with Israel — as it did in this case by reneging on the flotilla deal.
Indeed, Erdogan appears to have made a strategic decision that anti-Israel incitement serves his purposes. The flotilla was obviously a gold mine in this department, but there have been many other equally telling incidents.
Take, for instance, the viciously anti-Semitic television series Valley of the Wolves, which featured such gems as Israeli soldiers murdering children at point-blank range and Israeli intelligence agents kidnapping babies to convert them to Judaism. When Israel complained, Turkey responded that freedom of the press precluded it from intervening.
That would be fair enough — except that Turkey has no qualms about intervening in television productions that don’t suit its purposes. Just this month, Bloomberg reported that “Turkey’s television regulator threatened to yank a new television series for failing to respect the privacy of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who ruled the Ottoman Empire from 1520 until his death in 1566.” In other words, insufficient deference to a long dead sultan is off-limits, but vicious incitement against live Israelis is fine.
That, in a nutshell, defines Erdogan’s Turkey. And last May, nine Turks died for it.