Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thugs and Hypocrites

Boaz Toporovsky, chairman of Israel's National Student Union, has a question he wants to ask activists attempting to bring humanitarian aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip, who according to the United Nations, are receiving only a fourth of the goods they need due to an Israeli-Egyptian siege. "Why [are] they. . .not talking about the Kurdish minority or the Armenians that were murdered [in Turkey] or many other problems? We want to expose the truth, this hypocrisy and the absurdity," he explains. The death of nine Turkish nationals in an Israeli terrorist attack last week elicited a harsh rhetorical response from Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which gave many Israelis new appreciation for the suffering of the victims of human rights violations. Or at least of Turkish ones, Israeli crimes remain laudable acts of self-defense against terrorists plotting to throw Israelis into the sea. Even the rock band The Pixies have become "cultural terrorists".

Suddenly Turkey's human rights issues have become a serious issue for Israelis. Denying the Armenian genocide might have been fashionable when Israeli President Shimon Peres did it, but now that Turkish politicians are denouncing an Israeli atrocity that trend is out of vogue. And though the close connections the Israeli military has maintained with its Turkish counterpart is not a legitimate target for popular anger, the same cannot be said of the plight of Turkey's minorities at the hands of its security apparatus. The sincerity of this outrage can be tested by asking how these Israelis might behave if their true concern was human rights. It would be a remarkable coincidence for this new wave of concern for Turkey's oppressed to just happen to suddenly emerge at the same time as a serious diplomatic spat with the nation which has been Israel's second closest ally since 1956.

The same question, however, needs to be leveled at Prime Minister Erdogan, who has been trumpeting himself as the indefatigable champion of the downtrodden whilst presiding over one of the world's most repressive states and quietly maintaining military ties with Israel. Just because Turkey's human rights record has been the subject of a wave of self-righteous indignation does not mean there are not serious issues. During World War II, NAZI propagandists tirelessly crusaded against the crimes of the partisans. That criticism was illegitimate, but the crimes were still real.

In this latest crisis anyone genuinely concerned with human rights would be justified in asking the same question of Prime Minister Erdogan they put to the assembly of hypocrites in Israel. How might Erdogan behave if his true concern was human rights. Starting with the latest crisis, and assuming he has control over the armed forces, he might sever military ties with Israel. Then he would proceed to recognize the Armenian Genocide and make reparations to Turkey's disenfranchised minorities. He would offer equal rights and a referendum on meaningful autonomy to the Kurds. Thus begins a long list of reforms that will never be undertaken by the present AK government. Erdogan wants to reposition himself as a leader of the Muslim world, hence his tough rhetoric, while continuing to pursue his nation's cynical realpolitik objectives, hence his refusal to change policies. The spat between Turkey and Israel is a contest among thugs and hypocrites.


Don Emmerich said...

Okay, it's been too long -- time for another post!

Seriously. You're a very gifted writer. The world needs your voice.

Young Activist said...

Thanks Don,
To be honest, though, this blog has very few readers. It's helped with my writing skills and taught me about the world, but sometimes I wonder if I'm not misplacing my effort. We'll see, maybe when I head off to college in the Fall I'll become more proactive in updating it.