Last week, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu gave the USA a stern lecture on its role in the Flotilla incident, and revelled in his own “with us or without us” moment:
“Psychologically, this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey. We expect full solidarity with us. It should not seem like a choice between Turkey and Israel. It should be a choice between right and wrong, between legal and illegal.”
That’s an impressive job of grandstanding by Davutoglu, but let’s not forget that in the “choice between right and wrong” and in the not so distant past, Turkey had few scruples when it leveraged its alliance with the US and Israeli security organisations to help them to track down and imprison the Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Now Turkey wants the world to know that it is single-handedly taking on Israel and its oppression of a stateless minority. But when it comes to oppression of another stateless minority, Turkey’s brutal oppression and record of crimes against humanity against its Kurdish minority goes back a long way and, as far as brutality goes, takes some beating.
As Robert L Pollock explains:
What’s more, Turks remain blind to their manifest hypocrisies. Ask how they would feel if other countries arranged an “aid” convoy (akin to the Gaza flotilla) for their own Kurdish minority and you’ll be met with dumb stares.
Turkey’s blind spot on the Kurdish issue is especially striking when you recall that Turkey nearly invaded Syria in 1998 for sponsoring Kurdish terrorism. Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan then bounced around the capitals of Europe, only to be captured in Kenya and handed over to the Turks by the CIA. Turkey’s antiterror alliance with Israel and the U.S. couldn’t have been more natural.
Yet Prime Minister Erdogan was one of the first world leaders to recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas government in Gaza. And now he is upping the rhetoric after provoking Israel on Hamas’s behalf. It is Israel, he says, that has shocked “the conscience of humanity.” Foreign Minister Davutoglu is challenging the U.S: “We expect full solidarity with us. It should not seem like a choice between Turkey and Israel. It should be a choice between right and wrong.”
Please. Good leaders work to defuse tensions in situations like this, not to escalate them. No American should be deceived as to the true motives of these men: They are demagogues appealing to the worst elements in their own country and the broader Middle East.