Turkish demonstrators calling for a boycott of Israeli products over Gaza - (source = US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel)
The Israeli attack on the Gaza aid flotilla led to a temporary lifting of the blockade on Gaza by Mubarak’s dictatorship in Egypt and an Israeli government statement on an easing of the blockade on land, but also reports in the Turkish and Indian media that Turkish government ministers have suggested future aid flotillas to Gaza may be escorted by Turkish navy warships (1) – (2).
The Turkish government statements will have created a potential head-ache for the Obama administration in attempting to keep Turkey and Israel from ending up at war after Israeli forces already committed an act of war by attacking Turkish flagged civilian ships in international waters and killing Turkish citizens.
The tension between Turkey and Israel is another shift in Turkish foreign policy, like the Turkish government’s refusal to allow US troops to go through it’s territory to invade Iraq in 2003.
The shift in Turkish foreign policy is the result of democracy in Turkey, a country with a Muslim majority. Historically Turkey has been a close ally of Israel because Turkey was either ruled by extreme secular nationalist military dictatorships, or had elected governments so afraid of another coup that they were unwilling to do anything which might offend the US-aligned military.
While there has been a lot of scaremongering about an Islamic party having been elected to government in Turkey it is not significantly more extreme than Christian Democrat governments in western Europe have been, while many of the “secular nationalists” praised by non-Turks with an excessive fear of all Muslims are nationalist generals so extreme as to be pretty much fascists.
The fact that the foreign policy of Turkey’s elected government is beginning to cause friction with the US and Israel is likely to lead to Israeli and American intelligence operatives being directed to support a military coup in Turkey.
Dozens of suspected members of a Turkish ultra-nationalist organisation – ergenekon – including generals- are already being tried in Turkey on charges of planning a military coup (3).
This is not that surprising given that Hamas, too, were democratically elected by Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza in legislative elections in January 2006. Rather than recognise this fact, affirmed by EU election observers at the time, the US and Israeli governments and the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt attempted to back a military coup by Fatah’s armed wing against Hamas. They have also refused to recognise or negotiate with Ismail Haniyeh, the elected Palestinian Prime Minister; instead choosing to recognise President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, who was also elected, but has appointed his own Prime Minister and cabinet – something he has no authority to do under the Palestinian Authority’s constitution (Abbas’ appointee as ‘Prime Minister’ is Salaam Fayad).
Whether I, or the majority of Israelis, Europeans or Americans disagree with Hamas’ brand of Islamic fundamentalism is irrelevant. Hamas were democratically elected by Palestinians and no-one else has the right to tell them the government they voted for is forbidden. Nor are Hamas particularly worse than the major Israeli political parties, all involved in war crimes, or Fatah, whose armed wing is deeply involved in terrorism as much as Hamas’ is.
Turkey’s government will be well aware that they face increased risk of a military coup. They arrested many members of the military accused of being members of ergenekon – an ultra-nationalist group plotting a military coup, but Turkish public opinion and their own inclinations have led them to demand that NATO condemn the Israeli attack on Turkish flagged ships. The Obama administration refused, just as they refused to allow the word “attack” to be included in the UN security council resolutions on the issue.
If it seems far fetched that the US would back a coup in a fellow NATO member country consider the respective strengths of the Israeli and Turkish lobbies in the US – and the US backed military coups in Greece in 1967 and Honduras in 2009, again involving ultra-nationalists and fascists. The whole point of these coups is to make sure that US allies continue to follow domestic and foreign policies acceptable to Washington.
What happens next could be as important to relations between the Muslim and non-Muslim world as the crusades or the fall of Constantinople.
The failure of the military coup attempt against Hamas (at least in Gaza) and the failure of the blockade should give everyone pause for thought. No-one with any sanity or humanity should want to risk destroying democracy in Turkey – and to do so would be a gift to Al Qa’ida; more apparent evidence that the US and the EU will not allow democracy in predominantly Muslim countries.
(1) = Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs 20 Jun 2010 ‘Prime Minister's Office statement following the Israeli Security Cabinet meeting’, http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2010/Prime_Minister_Office_statement_20-Jun-2010.htm
(2) = CNN-IBN (India – note – not the American based CNN) 31 May 2010 Turkey threatens action; Israel on alert,http://ivarfjeld.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/cnn-ibn-turkish-navy-to-escort-next-islamic-%C2%ABaid-ship%C2%BB-to-gaza/
(3) = Observer 4 May 2008 ‘Mystery of a killer elite fuels unrest in Turkey’,