A Rift in Relations: Israel vs. Turkey

By Anait Brutian

Speaking in Toronto, during the G20 Summit, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that ‘his country has closed its airspace to some Israeli military flights.’ Turkish officials said that the ban would not affect commercial flights and that ‘each flight request would be assessed case by case.’ But since “military planes are required to obtain overflight permission before each flight,” the ban already affected at least one military plane that was denied permission immediately after it took effect. On Sunday, Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported that “Turkey had barred a jet carrying Israeli military officers en route to a tour of memorial sites in Auschwitz … to fly over Turkish airspace.” As a result, the aircraft with more than 100 officers on board “was forced to make a detour to reach its destination.” Even though the IDF refrained from commenting on the incident, the “rift in relations” between Turkey and Israel occurred after its raid of the Freedom Flotilla and its lead ship Mavi Marmara.  

On May 31, 2010 a convoy carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece, Turkey and aid workers, volunteers, observers, journalists from 32 nations had been attacked by Israel in international waters, more than 70 miles off the coast of Gaza. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman admitted that the attack “happened in waters outside of Israeli territory,” but added: “We have the right to defend ourselves.” This so called self-defence caused 9 deaths and many more injuries.  The International Community felt indignation and condemned Israel’s barbaric action. The UN issued a carefully worded statement on Israel’s attack. Yet, none were as brave as the Turkish Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who threw the glove right at Israel’s face. It was time for someone to stand up to Israel’s arrogance in a statesmanlike manner, and Mr. Erdogan did it. 

One cannot claim self-defence in international waters. The Turkish Prime Minister understood it – he called it “piracy,” “state terrorism,” and condemned Israel’s action particularly on account of the humanitarian goals of the ship’s personnel and cargo: “We know, war as well as peace has its laws. In war you do not attack children, in war you do not attack women, old people, in war you do not attack civilians or religious functionaries, in war you do not attack those who are hoisting the white flag, health and rescue personnel; not in wartime, but in peace time, those who do these things not only violate the law, at the same time they trample humanity under their feet, they abandon humanity.” 

Israeli attack on Mavi Marmara should not surprise Mr. Erdogan. Israel has pillaged Palestinian land and property since the establishment of the “Illegal Settler State,” has aided in massacring women and children of Sabra and Shatila in September of 1982, has committed war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, to name just a few of its criminal activities. The Turkish Prime Minister, somewhat idealistically, thought that Israel should feel ashamed of the international community and regret the incident. Not so! Israel is convinced that it is above the law and that because it deludes itself with deception, it can do the same with other nations. Mr. Erdogan’s speech proved that this wasn’t the case: “Israel’s attitude at this stage is being watched by the world’s people, the public opinion is forming its views. Those who are affiliated with the effort are in touch and are coordinating with the countries whose citizens are in the flotilla.” 

The Turkish Prime Minister is right in suggesting that Israel, by attacking Mavi Marmara, carrying volunteers from 32 nations, has “trampled” on all “humanitarian virtue,” “defied the world,” and has “wounded” World Peace. Indeed, all of these grave accusations are well-founded. One has to wonder if Israel ever cared for these ideals. Mr. Erdogan’s description of Israeli policies – “a government, having made lying its state policy and does not blush on account of the crime it commits” – certainly proves that as in the past, so too at present, the “Illegal Settler State” has no regard for honourable behaviour, accepted internationally by all legitimate states.

Mr. Erdogan is right in observing that “despots, gangsters, even pirates” follow rules of conduct and live by “specific morals.” “The ships, before they left, openly declared to the entire world their cargo, their intention, their mission. As witness to this openly humanitarian aid from the world and our country 60 journalists have entered the ships as well. In international waters, in open sea, this armed attack against 600 people and 6 ships which were carrying aid to oppressed people, poor people, to starved people, to people whose homes were destroyed – this was openly an attack against the basic philosophy of the United Nations.”

Israel’s piracy in the open seas proves its lawlessness, its total lack of morality and its disregard for the principles of the United Nations. Indeed, a state that has snuffed at over a hundred United Nations Security Council Resolutions has no right to boast of legitimacy and certainly no right to claim Self-Defence when attacking a ship carrying humanitarian aid. Mr. Erdogan’s account describes it most vividly: “The ships which set sail, be it from Turkey, be it from other countries, were completely stocked to carry out the humanitarian purpose, having aid material. They were, according to international traffic rules, strictly controlled. At the same time on the ships were no other passengers than civilians and aid volunteers. The ships were flying white flags. Despite all those conditions, the ships were subject to an armed attack.”

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin confirmed that the images from those ships clearly indicated that the passengers “were civilians and peaceful in nature, with medical supplies on board.” Yet, the most brutal attack took place. The Turkish Prime Minister’s evaluation of the event touches the heart of the matter: “Attacking humanitarian aid ships with arms, to massacre innocent people, treating civilians as terrorists is in terms of humanity a great defeat.” A “major shame,” “a black mark,” “a despicably” vicious act of violence are the only descriptions befitting the Israeli attack. Indeed, no other state would think of massacring aid workers, “handcuffing heavily wounded innocent people they had shot at.”

Did Israel justify these acts of violence? No! On Monday, June 21, 2010 Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defence Minister said: “For Israel, the Gaza Strip today is an Iranian military base three kilometres from the closest Israeli city, and 60 kilometres from Tel Aviv.” Bluntly denying the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Barak declared: “The ships that were organized throughout the last few weeks to ‘break the blockade’, are actually pure provocation, since there is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.” A barrage of cunningly-worded lies and constant claims of Self-Defence that have worked for Israel in the past flooded the Zionist Media. But did these worn-out tricks impress Mr. Erdogan?  Certainly not! Ankara has “withdrawn its ambassador from Israel” and has “cancelled joint military operations” as well. In all likelihood, trade ties will suffer too, “unless Israel apologizes for the raid,” “returns the seized aid ships,” “agrees to an international investigation” and “offers compensation for the victims.”

Israel objected to an impartial international enquiry, setting up “its own investigative commission.” Jacob Turkel of the Israeli commission said that it “will summon” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Military Chief of Staff Gabby Ashkenazi to testify. One can anticipate another show of defiance and countless “proofs” promoting the fable of Self-Defence. If this doesn’t work, Israel will probably resort to its “weapon of choice,” and the venomous accusation of anti-Semitism will be hurled at the face of the Turkish Prime Minister and those that justify his legitimate feeling of indignation. As well as these ludicrous lies have worked for the “Illegal Settler State” in the past, they seem to lack the potency to convince Mr. Erdogan. The acid charge of anti-Semitism has lost all credibility since people like Noam Chomsky, Jimmy Carter, judge Richard Goldstone have been tagged anti-Semites. As for the claim of Self-Defence, it runs short of the logic prevalent in Nature as well as in all human affairs – the logic that antecedent precedes the consequence. Thus, the severing of diplomatic ties with Israel was the consequence of the Israeli raid. The necessity of sending six ships full of humanitarian aid was the consequence of the inhuman blockade of Gaza. The Palestinian resistance is the consequence of Israeli land grabs, and the freedom fighters (officially known as terrorists) are the consequence of a brutal occupation.

– Anait Brutian (B. Mus. with Honours in Theory, McGill University; M. A. in Music Theory, McGill University) is a student in the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill University. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact her at: anaitbrutian@videotron.ca  and visit: http://goldenlimits.wordpress.com.

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