Saturday, June 5, 2010
Turkey's unofficial sponsorship of the aid flotilla to Gaza, and its vocal fury regarding the aftermath is worth noting. A BBC article describes Turkey as "famously a country where you can drink, dress lightly and party, especially in Istanbul and the Aegean coast." The population that is approaching 80 million is almost entirely Muslim, but very diverse in the way they practice their faith. Modern Turkey's George Washington is Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) who after WWI led a consolidation and secularization of the country into its modern form. Turkey has been on the edge of full European Union membership for decades, and is a NATO member. Its ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has a moderate Islamic orientation with a public stance for continued tolerance and freedom (the constitution does not favor any religion).
But, as elsewhere, a narrower, pietistic brand of Islam is making headway, in this case championed by the IHH (an Islamic aid charity who organized the 6 ship flotilla to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza). The AKP's deliberate decision to loudly support a contentious direction of action, publicly call for a review of its ties to Israel, and orchestrate a vocal burial - see picture - of the Turkish activists killed on one of the aid ships, are all bringing attention to the country's foreign and domestic policy drift, possibly reflecting a more strident Islamic orientation. (In contrast, South Korea very significantly lowered its public, strident proclamations regarding North Korea's provocative sinking of its ship two weeks ago).
Just a couple more points regarding the Israeli interception of aid ships to Gaza. On Friday, June 4, Israel intercepted another aid boat without incident, while the peace activists on board the Rachel Corrie made their point (Rachel Corrie being a young woman accidentally crushed by a bulldozer while protesting in Israel on behalf of Palestinians). Israel continues to make a lonely though compelling case (click link to read an opinion by Israel's ambassador to the U.S titled, "An Assault, Cloaked in Peace" http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/03/opinion/03oren.html?src=me), drowned out by shouting in the EU Parliament for example, and a particularly pathetic outburst by an iconic White House reporter, Helen Thomas. Thomas, long a thorn in the side of successive U.S. Presidents, when asked about the Gaza incident, said Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go back home to Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else." At 89 years old, one would think she would have personal memories of the shock of the Holocaust in real time ...
There is straightforward Islamic hostility to be sure towards Jews, not just Israeli government policies. But even in this day of tolerance and respect trumpeted in the West, there remain pools of anti-Semitism lying close to the surface. That this attitude is not just among aryan ideologues and "redneck" racists is perhaps the most troubling of all