Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Israel and Turkey: so different, yet so similar, yet so different...

Turkey has recently condemned Israel's offensive in Gaza. Ankara has even decided to suspend its mediating efforts between Israel and Syria.

It would be easy to dismiss such a position as just solidarity with the Muslim brothers and sisters in Gaza. Not that it would be wrong. But I would like to change the perspective in the issue, noticing that Israel and Turkey, two long-standing allies, have more in common than one could imagine. And that is what I am going to highlight right now.

  1. Both Turkey and Israel are countries which are strongly defined by their main religions, and yet both are convinced secular countries. In both cases religion identifies largely with ethnicity (with the important exceptions of Kurds, of course, where ethnicity is predominant, and Alevis, who are not considered as a religion minority). Which has brought discrimination and / or war against religious and / or ethnic minorities. The modalities are different, but the similarities are striking.

  2. Both Turkey and Israel are countries which have been artificially created by the international community. Israel, through the partition of Palestine into two states decided by the United Nations in 1947; Turkey, through the Treaty of Lausanne, which in 1923 replaced the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, actually reintegrating a series of territories which had been previously stripped off it, and frustrating the Kurds' hopes for an independent State (hopes that had been fed by the Treaty of Sèvres). I should add that the international community has not little responsibility in the Armenian genocide.

  3. This may be little more than a curiosity, but I think it's significant. Both countries have compulsory military service. In Israel, it applies both to men (3 years) and women (2 years); in Turkey, it's mandatory only for men (15 months). I admit I don't know what the consequences of this are in Israel (where a limited amount of conscientious objection exists anyway), but I know in Turkey for a long time this situation helped PKK recruit militants, since many Kurds did not wish to be sent to fight against their own fathers or brothers, preferring rather fight at their side.

  4. Both countries are just a few weeks away from the next electoral rendez-vous. On February 10, Israelis will vote for the next government (and, for those of you who can read French, I suggest that you go through this interesting article by Le Monde); on March 29, municipal elections will take place in Turkey.

Let me focus on this last point. The key issue in Turkey's local elections will be the Kurdish majority regions (what PKK and in general militant Kurds refer to as “Kurdistan”, a word that in Turkey can bring you straight to prison). On the subject, I can recommend you this article on the Christian Science Monitor.

Now, what has been the big news in Turkey in the last few days (apart from Nazim Hikmet's rehabilitation)? I quote from Reuters:

Turkey has launched its first 24-hour Kurdish-language TV station

Which brings me to the conclusion:

  1. Israel is moving towards elections → Israel bombs Palestinians

  2. Turkey is moving towards elections → Turkey gives more rights to Kurds

Of course Kurds are not satisfied, and they are not completely paranoid in considering this decision as a way by the government to get as many votes as they can, in short a propaganda move. It is also true that Ankara has quite a double-face attitude: while PKK is considered a terrorist group, soon after Hamas won the elections the AKP government welcomed to Turkey Khaled Meshal, the exiled Hamas leader. And they never uttered a word about the rockets fired against Israel.

Nonetheless, one cannot help noticing that making propaganda through opening up to minorities is a more democratic way than bombing civilians. So, what are the main differences in this situation? Why do two similar countries in two similar situations act in such different ways?

First of all, Turkey is a EU candidate. It is true that in the last few years the great reform impulse that marked the first period of the AKP government has slowed down, if not thoroughly stopped. And the new nationalistic vague has not helped in that sense. It is also true that this government is struggling hard at least to show a nice image of itself, which is surely not enough, but it's helping improvement. And improvement is never easy, especially for a proud people like Turks. The journey is still long, but the path is the right one.

Now, this doesn't mean of course that Israel should be a candidate to the EU, but at least it shows that the EU can actually have a role in international politics. More than that: personally, I think we have a responsibility in that sense.

But in all this story we must not forget one decisive point: in Turkey Kurds vote. In Israel Palestinians don't.


iddaa said...

Ne Mutlu Türküm Diyene!

Anonymous said...

In Israel, men who object to joining the army are prosecuted and serve time in jail. The women, besides being conscientious objectors, can get out of compulsory enlistment by either being married, or being pregnant.
Palestinians don't vote in the Israeli elections because they are not part of Israel and have their own governments.

Anonymous said...

Oh and Israel does not target civillians so you can't say that Israel bombs civillians. It's more correct to say that Israel bombs palestinian guerilla fighters who hide behind civillians, who in turn suffer because of their coward government.

Selene Verri said...

Anonymous, you are entitled to your own opinions of course, but I would surely be happier to discuss them if you had the guts to sign them. I think you are just as coward as the people you are talking about. What are you afraid of?

Anonymous said...

What is it that you don't understand? Israel does not bomb palestinians. It defends itself from THEIR initiated terrorist attacks. Palestinians do not wish to vote in Israel, they want to eradicate the whole State of Israel from the face of the earth. Therefore, I am appalled by the last sentence of your blogpost.

Selene Verri said...

I absolutely understand your point of view, and actually I totally agree. It's just like Nazis used to defend themselves from the attacks of those who were trying to reverse them. What could do Nazis do if not kill them by the thousands? You are absolutely right, thanks for your enlightening comment. Could you just tell me your name, so that I can thank you personally?

israel lost said...

1 türk varya 1000 tane dünyaya bedeldir. ya.. olay bitmiştir.