If in Israel there were widespread protests involving tens of thousands throughout the country calling out Prime Minister Netanyahu, there would be worldwide wall-to-wall media coverage. Meanwhile, in Turkey, where there is mass rioting and citizens are being beaten in the street, the world reaction is muted. There is no flotilla of human rights activists speeding towards Turkey for example. (Isn’t Turkey the nation that expressed outrage at Israel for the way they treated the so-called “peaceful” protesters on the Gaza flotilla?)
So the Turkish government is facing these mass protests – and is seen as increasingly turning towards extremism. The country recently passed legislation limiting the sale of alcohol, and the Prime Minister said in an interview that anyone who buys alcohol is an “alcoholic.” There were no full-page stories about this in The New York Times like these was over the Women of the Wall fiasco however.
Recently, Turkish subway authorities warned couples not to kiss in public, and asked passengers “to act in accordance with moral rules.” I heard no condemnation from Hillary Clinton like she did when religious extremists in Jerusalem spoke of segregating buses.
In Turkey, there is widespread police violence and use of force against peaceful protesters. Tear gas and water cannons were used against young people holding a peaceful sit-in at an Istanbul park. Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler said the police were “carrying out their duties” against an “illegal occupation” of the park. Opposition politicians and many others were injured as a result of these policies of the government.
People from all walks of life and all political parties have taken to the streets in protest. Fans of the three largest soccer teams in Turkey can be seen standing hand in hand in jerseys against the government – this is monumental in the Middle East. Soccer is seen as a religion in Turkey – opposing fans standing together is monumental.
Reporters were targeted by the authorities, and state media which is controlled and censored has given out little information. As Erdogan and the Turkish government cannot control social media, they condemn it. Erdogan recently said “There is now a menace which is called Twitter. The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.” Imagine the international uproar if the Israeli government were to speak like this?
If this is the beginning of another Middle East revolution, one wonders what the new map of the Middle East will look like even 2 years from now. Amazing how times change – only five years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to mediate peace negotiations with Syria. That wouldn’t have ended well – and today, reports indicate that up to 100,000 people have been slaughtered in Syria.
For the sake of peace, many say Israel should offer concessions to Assad in Syria who has killed tens of thousands of his own people. They also say that Israel should be more conciliatory towards Turkey, where the police force abuses fellow citizens regularly.
These people talk foolishly of Israeli settlements, or Israel’s “aggressive nature in the Middle East” that leads to violence. Could it be something else? Pigs can’t fly, and the Israelis are not the people who bring violence to the Middle East.
Jewish history – and the “Arab spring” of the last few years teaches us that Israel must only depend upon itself to secure its safety.