When it’s properly motivated, the UN can react with lightning speed. It just has to want to, as in the case of the errant mortar shells from the Syrian civil war that inadvertently overfly the border and come down with an occasional thud on the Turkish side.
No lucid pundit can envisage any stratagem that would remotely tempt embattled Damascus despot Bashar Assad to arouse Turkish ire. Assad presumably has his hands more than full at home. He is the least likely to launch deliberate aggression against his big neighbor and thereby ostracize and endanger himself even further in an already hostile world environment.
Whatever else we have to say about Assad, and there’s plenty to rightfully badmouth him for, he certainly didn’t seek confrontation with Turkey. This isn’t his doing.
Nevertheless, it’s no less than instructive to witness the stern censure against Syria after each mortar shell that explodes in Turkish jurisdiction. One would think that this constitutes the most heinous belligerence in recent memory. And so UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was rattled out of his habitual inclination for keeping lethargically mum (such as when Hamas rockets explode deep inside Israel).
The violation of Turkish territory, despite the overwhelming likelihood that it wasn’t calculated Syrian policy, positively shook Ban up. In an official statement, he informed all the peace-loving denizens of this planet that he was “alarmed by escalating tensions” between Syria and Turkey.
Gazan missiles fired for many years – and very intentionally so – at Israel’s entire South don’t upset him. Ban only expresses concern on those occasions in which Israel rises to defend its incessantly terrorized civilians.
But in the case of Islamist-led Turkey, Ban’s concern took on a resolute proactive expression. With unprecedented swiftness and solemnity, he warned against “the risk of the 18-month-long Syrian conflict embroiling the entire region.”
The manifest implication is that the Mideast is in trouble because a Turkish response is to be naturally expected, contingent on Turkey’s inalienable right to exact vengeance. Again, needless to stress, this is quite unlike what is perceived as natural and inherently justified for Israel.
But as this wasn’t about Israel, Ban’s official spokesman, Martin Nesirky, lost no time to let us all know that “the risks of regional conflict and the threat to international peace and security are increasing.”
This is never the case when Hamas, Islamic Jihad and associate proxies (boasting mutating monikers) fire rockets at Israeli kindergartens, schools, medical facilities, family homes, apartment houses, grocery stores and even the Ashkelon Power Plant that inter alia supplies Gaza with electricity.
The UN Security Council also reacted with uncharacteristic alacrity when Ankara asked it to take the “necessary action to stop Syrian aggression and ensure that Turkish territorial integrity is respected.” No sooner did Turkey squawk then the Security Council condemned what was called “the Syrian attack.” This starkly contrasts with the undisguised disdain with which numerous Israeli complaints are dismissed.
Moreover, the council’s clairvoyance had magically enabled it to determine that this was an attack and not an accident, and that said attack came from Assad’s military forces and not the insurgents who are bigheartedly armed by officially dispatched Saudi and Qatari weaponry. The fact that no international fact-finding probes were mandated in this instance might raise a few eyebrows, but apparently investigations are prescribed only in Israel’s case (invariably in order to ostensibly substantiate its guilt via due process).
In any event, the Security Council was unequivocal in the compassion it copiously showered upon the Turks. “The attack,” we were told, “highlighted the grave impact the crisis in Syria has on the security of its neighbors and on regional peace and stability.”
Syria might have fared even worse in the Security Council were it not for the obliging Russian and Chinese Assad-boosters who objected to a more severe admonition against the “grave impact to international peace and security,” as distinct from mere regional repercussions.
The council went on to sanctimoniously demand that “such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated.”
Ever hear anything of the like out of the same council regarding Gaza? You’re not likely to. There’s as much chance of that as of tasting the green cheese from the dark side of the moon.
Syria’s UN envoy Bashar Ja’afari repeated his patrons’ frightened apology to Ankara and assured the council that his government isn’t out to trigger combat with Turkey. But no one was listening. The Security Council called on the Syrian regime “to fully respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbors.” Israeli territorial integrity is surely not included in this request.
No outcries of dismayed denunciation greeted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reiterated bluster that “The Turkish Republic is a state capable of defending its citizens and borders. Nobody should try and test our determination on this subject.” On yet another oratorical opportunity Erdogan counseled Damascus not to attempt to assess Turkey’s “limits and fortitude.” He declared that Ankara “was not bluffing” when promising payback for each instance of “Syrian aggression.”
If Erdogan’s counterpart in Jerusalem had repetitively resorted to similar rhetoric, the global commotion would be deafening and damning. Israeli leaders need utter nothing to traumatize the international community. Mere hype about hypothetical bullying by ogre Jews suffices.
Israelis are culpable before sounding off, never mind before actually acting.
The world purports to know what we think and despises us for it. On the other hand, there is profuse sympathy for unfortunate Turkey’s unspeakable ordeal, as there is a tacit understanding for the counter-shelling with which Turkey is, alas, compelled to retaliate. On Turkey’s part, answering fire with fire is the unchallenged and self-evident course to take.
Russia failed in its attempt to sneak in a non-complimentary comment about Turkish reprisal bombardments. No such failure could be vaguely probable in Israel’s case. We actually get off lightly when our self-defense is cynically equated to the unprovoked rocketing of Israeli noncombatants (ongoing and premeditated for many years). That is our best-case scenario.
The knee-jerk Security Council proclivity is to deprecate Israeli self-defense and to exaggerate its proportions to the point of demonizing Israel and delegitimizing any deterrent or defensive strikes on its part.
Therefore, it’s clearly better to be a Turk.
Get the take of US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Erdogan’s cautions that his country “isn’t far from war with Syria.” Panetta was quite cool and collected about it and with studied composure informed all and sundry that “the US is using its diplomatic channels to relay worries about the fighting in the hopes that it won’t broaden.”
Not a hint from this prime representative of the Obama administration about strong-arming Turkey into restraint. The most Panetta could come up with was that “the continued exchange of artillery fire between Syria and Turkey raises additional concerns that the conflict may escalate and spread to neighboring countries.”
Such soft vocabulary choices are never used for Israel. Panetta, undoubtedly echoing his boss’s sentiments, serially and acerbically scorns our survival strategies. Put in a nutshell, he blames all regional ills on Israel. The inescapable corollary is that justice can only be achieved by righting wayward Israel’s wrongs and winning concessions from it.
Less than 10 months ago, pontificating at the Brookings Institute’s Saban Center, Panetta unambiguously placed all onus upon Israel, and urged Israel to take risks and “lean forward” to achieve peace with the Palestinians. Never mind that Israel had already taken risks aplenty – time after disastrous time – gaining nothing but more bloodshed and abuse for its sacrifices, while whetting appetites for yet more sacrifices.
What if our goodwill blows up in our faces yet again? “If the gestures are rebuked, the world will see those rebukes for what they are. And that is exactly why Israel should pursue them,” Panetta proclaimed.
Subtext: Israel needs to bare its throat to genocidal enemies, so that the watching world will admire its virtue. One would think Panetta, a former CIA director, has just surfaced from a sealed bunker, oblivious of successive displays of Israeli virtue that only intensified Israel’s vilification.
In other words, Panetta preached that we’d be better liked for being weaker and that getting weaker will improve our self-preservation prospects.
Indeed, weakening Israel is precisely the Obama administration’s definition of “just” and consequently the “pursuit” of a just solution means twisting Israel’s arms. This begins with reading it the riot act. Hence the recurring, rigorous warnings against a preemptive Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Likewise, Panetta pompously prods Israel to “reach out and mend fences with those who share an interest in regional stability – countries like Turkey and Egypt.” We might question how much stability has been furthered by either Egypt or Turkey, but Panetta left no doubt regarding who’s liable for the busted fences.
Panetta plainly expanded on this motif when he suggested that Israel undermines the Palestinian Authority and is at fault for not restarting moribund negotiations with it. That was why he hectored: “Just get to the damn table!”
Can anyone imagine such callous language and contemptuous tones used to browbeat Turkey? Obviously one set of rules applies to Turkey and quite another to Israel – without even configuring the incomparably more prolonged, frequent and menacing provocations against Israel.
That goes for the media too. One Syrian mortar shell that hit just inside Turkish territory last Sunday made headlines worldwide. Over 55 shells and rockets that barraged Israel that same night went largely unmentioned. Israeli pain is clearly not worth wasting airtime for.
To paraphrase Tevye’s plaintive exclamation in Fiddler on the Roof: “If only we were Turks!”