Turkey’s True Tragedy Is the Anti-Israel Tyrant Erdogan
On Sunday, after visiting the Haseki Hospital in Istanbul, where scores of survivors of Saturday night’s twin bombings near the capital city’s Besiktas stadium were being treated for serious injuries, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was surrounded outside by crowds shouting “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”).
As funerals began to be held for the 44 people killed in the bombings, most of them police officers, the government declared a national day of mourning, and Erdogan vowed to bring the perpetrators of the latest mass assault in Turkey to justice.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened his weekly cabinet meeting that morning by saying, “In the struggle against terrorism there has to be a mutuality in condemnation as well as in thwarting the attacks, and that is Israel’s expectation from all countries it has relations with.”
The message he was conveying to Erdogan was harsh, but apt. Though Jerusalem and Ankara have restored diplomatic ties after a six-year split — with the incoming Turkish emissary’s arrival in Tel Aviv virtually coinciding with the attack — relations between the two are cold.
Erdogan is an Islamist tyrant, who has spent the past 14 years transforming the previously democratic country into his personal fiefdom, incarcerating anyone he deems a threat to his rule. This practice burst into full flower following the failed coup attempt against him in July, which some believe he orchestrated for the purpose of legitimizing his sweeping oppression.
Nor are his repeated declarations about combating terrorism anything more than propaganda. He has illustrated in word and deed that he is selective about which groups he believes need eradicating and which others are worth bolstering. So, while joining the West in fighting Islamic State thugs, he boasts a close partnership with Hamas, the equally vicious murder machine that controls the Gaza Strip, and the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s outlawed terrorist organization.
Indeed, it was his instigation of the attempt to break Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza that precipitated the Turkey-Israel schism. This was only bridged when Israel conceded to a list of utterly unjust and draconian demands, including $20 million “compensation” to the families of the perpetrators killed and injured on the Mavi Marmara ship by IDF commandos who shot at their assailants in self-defense.
In August, a month after the attempted coup in Turkey, a Qassam rocket struck a yard in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. Though the attack was committed by a different terrorist group, Israel made good on its oft-repeated promise to hold Hamas responsible for any such activity emanating from Gaza, and bombarded a number of targets in the terrorist-run enclave. The rocket attack and retaliatory strike took place two days after the Turkish parliament ratified the rapprochement agreement with Israel reached in June. Nevertheless, Erdogan’s Foreign Ministry ripped into Israel, “strongly condemning” its “disproportionate attacks, unacceptable whatever prompted them.”
“The normalization of our country’s relations with Israel does not mean we will stay silent in the face of such attacks against the Palestinian people,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s statement read.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry shot back: “The normalization of our relations with Turkey does not mean that we will remain silent in the face of its baseless condemnations. Israel will continue to defend its civilians from all rocket fire on our territory, in accordance with international law and our conscience. Turkey should think twice before criticizing the military actions of others.”
As if to prove that he never “thinks twice” before engaging in hypocrisy and brutality, Erdogan launched a full-fledged military operation in the town of Jarablus, along the Turkey-Syria border, three days later. The purpose of the operation, code-named “Euphrates Shield,” was to wrest the area from Islamic State terrorists and Syria-based Kurdish militias affiliated with insurgents in Turkey. That the Kurds were also fighting Islamic State, and receiving U.S. aid to do so, was of no interest to Erdogan, who views them as a danger to his reign.
This is why his first reaction to Saturday night’s carnage was to blame the Kurds and their “Western” backers. His second was to impose a ban on news coverage of the event, and arrest a number of people who posted comments about it on social media. This is but one tiny example of Erdogan’s lack of genuine desire to stomp out terrorism.
Another was apparent at the end of last month. A week before Israel’s new ambassador to Turkey, Eitan Na’eh, presented his credentials in Ankara, Istanbul hosted the first annual conference of the association of “Parliamentarians for Al-Quds.” During the two-day gathering, Erdogan said, “Policies of oppression, deportation and discrimination have been increasingly continuing against our Palestinian brothers since 1948. Actually, I am of the belief that the Palestinian issue serves as a litmus test for the UN Security Council.”
Erdogan’s statement was a milder version of what he had said several days earlier, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2: “I don’t agree with what Hitler did and I also don’t agree with what Israel did in Gaza,” he told interviewer Ilana Dayan. “Therefore there’s no place for comparison in order to say what’s more barbaric.”
Erdogan’s open assertion that the establishment of the Jewish state is responsible for its “Nazi-like” response to decades of Palestinian-Arab terrorism tells us all we need to know about his true attitude towards the slaughter of innocent people. It is he who is Turkey’s greatest tragedy.
Ruthie Blum is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.