Our homegrown self-appointed guardians of collective conscience also inevitably – by their own testimony – corner the market on all available good sense. They persistently analyze our assorted predicaments and without fail arrive at the same judgment – Israel is to blame.
Specific circumstances and incidental details notwithstanding, it’s always our moral lapse and/or misguided conceptions that make us mess up massively. We need only be more virtuous or more sagacious (obviously as per their flawless recommendations).
The other day Yossi Beilin – ex-minister, pivotal Oslo protagonist, Labor Party headliner and later Meretz hotshot – published an op-ed in Yisrael Hayom omnisciently instructing us all on where we erred vis-à-vis Turkey. And thus he sermonized: “There comes a moment when a state must weigh what’s dearer to its heart – diplomatic, military and economic ties with a very large Muslim country whose influence in the region grows, or insistence on the truth, as it perceives it, and on what it interprets as national honor.”
Beilin’s preferences are unequivocal – we should have opted for the bounty clearly accruing from chumminess with Turkey and apologized abjectly for our legitimate self-defense in the Mavi Marmara incident. Considerations of national honor, he more than implies, are irrational, if not outrightly insane. As he puts it, it was a showdown between “pursuers of national honor” and “those who sought to sustain the national interest.” He despairs that the former won.
Let’s leave the issue of national honor on the side for a bit and assume that it’s quite natural, indeed sometimes altogether desirable, for nations to humble and even defame themselves. Let’s just ponder the pragmatic perks contingent upon bowing down to Turkish diktats.
Of all the world’s Muslim powers, Turkey undeniably appears the most accessible. A negligible corner of it even protrudes into what’s arbitrarily defined as Europe. Founder of its post- WWI republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, seemed to transform the abolished Ottoman Sultanate with political, cultural, social, economic and legal reforms. Despite the occasional resort to military coups to protect its threatened secular quasi-democracy, Turkey became a NATO stalwart and for decades held radical Islam at bay.
Bigger players in the international arena had realpolitik reasons to suck up to Turkey. For us the attraction was overpowering. An outcast in its neighborhood, Israel yearned for Muslim friends. It fell headlong for the vision of the region’s non-Arabs banding together in a comradeship of self-preservation.
This made particular sense in the heyday of nationalist pan- Arabism. It was bound to erode as jihadist fervor supplanted nationalist zeal and Arabs could hypothetically welcome Iran and Turkey into their club rather than shun their co-religionists as rank outsiders.
We know the way Iran went. We lost what we trusted was a bosom ally in Teheran. But Turkey, it was long obstinately maintained here, is a whole other story because its eyes are set westward and it covets EU membership.
Therefrom sprang the sugar-coated “strategic alliance” with Ankara, in the framework of which Israel supplied Turkey with sophisticated weaponry, among other security-oriented and less-publicized services. The wishful thinking was that even 2002’s electoral victory of a religious Muslim party wouldn’t impel Turkey to follow in Iran’s footsteps.
But this was delusionary already many years before the Mavi Marmara. Some among us, like Beilin, refuse to admit that things have moved on and that their hype has been rendered obsolete.
The Mavi Marmara wasn’t unforeseeable. It was preceded by a Turkish veto on Israeli participation in a joint NATO drill within its borders. That slap in the face evidently stunned our powers-that-be, who professed “sudden shock” at the “bolt from the blue” turn of events. Nevertheless chatty know-it-alls continued to pooh-pooh the affront.
But – still significantly pre-Mavi Marmara – Turkey lost no opportunity to hector and routinely unleash virulent anti-Israel invective. Turkish state-run TV broadcast libelous anti-Israeli melodramas, like Ayrilik, which portrayed IDF soldiers callously shooting Arab children, among other bogus homicidal atrocities.
Nevertheless, given our attachments to cloud-cuckoo-land and our insatiable hunger for syrupy companionship in a hostile environment, we made a predictably worsening situation a whole lot worse by submissive fawning.
Turkey’s Islamic leadership played us for suckers while spurning our incongruous affections.
The most egregious miscalculations were made by former prime minister Ehud Olmert and his foreign minister Tzipi Livni. It boggles the mind, but this duo single-handedly promoted Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the role of a regional super-statesman when initially choosing him, of all unlikely facilitators, to mediate between Israel and Syria. Olmert-Livni should have realized that Turkey is hardly a neutral bystander. They blundered spectacularly.
The fat was already irretrievably in the fire before Erdogan insolently scolded the dumbstruck Shimon Peres at Davos in January 2009 before the effusively chummy Turkish and Syrian foreign ministers signed military and nonmilitary cooperation treaties in Aleppo, before Erdogan hobnobbed with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and lauded him as “doubtlessly our friend,” before Erdogan outrageously charged that Avigdor Lieberman schemes to nuke Gaza.
The bitterest travesty is that Turkey, of all nations, tongue-lashed Israel for mass-murdering innocents in Operation Cast Lead. Ironically, while we never did the evil deed, Turkey’s record is horrific.
We could of course answer Erdogan in his own idiom and elaborate on Turkey’s first Armenian massacre of 1890 (between 100,000 and 200,000 dead); Turkey’s subsequent mega-massacres of 1915 in which hundreds of thousands of Armenians perished in a series of bloodbaths and forced marches of uprooted civilians in Syria’s direction; the WWI slaughter of tens of thousands of Assyrians in Turkey’s southeast; and the 1974 invasion and continued occupation of northern Cyprus (which incredibly fails to preoccupy the international community).
Last but hardly least is the ethnic cleansing, ongoing aerial bombardments and other operations that cost Kurds untold thousands of lives throughout the 20th century and beyond and still deny them the self-determination they deserve (eminently more than Palestinians).
On the night of August 17, Turkish military jets bombed the Qandil Mountains in Northern Iraq, in yet another anti-Kurd aggression.
The Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government protested the cross-border incursion and the infliction of civilian casualties, but the world appears remarkably unperturbed. No Goldstone-like commission was empowered to probe and do-gooders didn’t organize flotilla-equivalents in support of the Kurds.
Most of all, Israel didn’t pay Turkey back with its own coin, which brings us back to the pesky business of national honor.
Back in 1916 Ze’ev Jabotinsky described the Jews as “very strange with their pangs of conscience and sentimentality. They sincerely lament the misfortune of arch-haters…. What compassion they feel for the poor Poles whom Providence afflicted with the inconvenient Jewish problem.”
Jewish guilt for burdening oppressors and assailants is entrenched and with it, apparently, the compulsion to make amends. Its derivation may be traceable to the penchant of every local medieval tyrant to oblige Jewish communities to pay exorbitantly for the privilege of not being slaughtered.
Jews began to treat such levies as the way of the world, only to be expected. This is where the Beilinesque mind-set originates.