Post-Flotilla Ties Between Turkey and Israel: Irreparable Damage or Just a Hiccup?


BEIRUT, Lebanon–I have been following with horror the news and discussion on the Israeli attack on the flotilla of ships carrying aid to Gaza. The outrage here in Lebanon and the Arab world is palpable. What is even more evident is the pride with which people here speak about Turkey’s “heroic stand” in the face of Israel.

On May 31, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in which it protested “in the strongest terms the use of force by the Israeli Defense Forces against the civilians from many countries who want to transport humanitarian assistance to the people in Gaza.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry wrote that “Israel has once again clearly demonstrated that it does not value human lives and peaceful initiatives through targeting innocent civilians…such actions against civilians who are involved only in peaceful activities cannot be accepted. Israel will have to bear the consequences of these actions which constitute a violation of international law.”

In turn, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “It should be known that we will not stay silent and unresponsive in the face of this inhuman state terror,” according to Hurriyet Daily News. “International law has been trampled underfoot,” Erdogan added.

Irony alert?
Of course, few Arab commentators said anything about the irony in the statements above, and the many similar statements coming out of Turkey today. That is not surprising. After all, Turkey–a strategic ally of Israel–has, in recent years, reached out to the Islamic world and presented itself as a defender of the Palestinian cause. Why rock the boat?

Some intellectuals, however, highlighted the hypocrisy of the Turkish state and of most Turkish commentators. On one online discussion board, Stergios Kaprinis, a psychiatrist from Greece, wrote: “There is no doubt that the events are tragic. The Freedom Flotilla attack by Israeli commandos can only be described as an act of piracy. However, I have been following the reactions of the Turkish government and I must say that I am appalled at their hypocrisy. In the past 15 years, the Turkish government has ethnically cleansed large parts of Turkey’s ethnically Kurdish southeast, has invaded Iraq more than a few times, and keeps occupying and colonizing the northern half of the Republic of Cyprus, a sovereign country, member of the UN and the EU. Yet today, the Turkish government has somehow managed to proclaim itself the defender of international law and protector of the oppressed. I am appalled at such hypocrisy, at the expense of the Palestinians…”

In an article published in the Huffington Post, Israeli writer Dana Agmon, noted: “And finally, a word to the sponsors–Turkey–did anyone float into Turkey when it murdered over a million Armenians? Or did anyone do it when you arrested hundreds of Kurds, including children, merely four years ago and violated their rights? Or maybe when you invaded Cyprus?”

An intellectual from Turkey told me that had the Kurds in Turkey had access to sea, “God knows what kind of horrors would befall on those who tried to support them.” Another noted how the discourse on the Palestinians in Turkey on one hand, and the Armenians and Kurds on the other, are so disparate, even among progressive Turkish intellectuals, that “the double standards sicken me to my stomach. States are, by definition, hypocritical. But when intellectuals who present themselves as the beacons of enlightened thought engage in such hypocrisy, is there any hope left?”

Irreparable damage?

On June 3, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said, “From now on, Turkish-Israeli ties will never be the same. This incident has left an irreparable and deep scar.”

The myth of “irreparable relations” seems to be floating around the entire Islamic world since the attack on the flotilla. Arab news sources and analysts in the Middle East continue to insist that Turkish-Israeli relations have been damaged beyond repair. Regardless of what Turkish officials declare in their public statements, this is naiveté and wishful thinking at best.

What the Arab world fails to see is that the Turkish state cannot and will not bury its strategic relations with Israel because of the flotilla attack or in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Ankara is playing an ambitious political game in the Middle East. Yes, its tactical maneuvers are already reaching beyond the bounds of its strategic capabilities (and it might soon be forced to fold back), but to view the Turkish state–or even the current government–as the extension of the Turkish street is self-deception.

Turkey and Israel will soon repair the damage done to their relations. There’s no two ways about it.


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  1. Christo said:

    Imagine the ATF or the SWAT team raiding a house and the occupants start attacking or wielding pipes and fake guns against the agents. What do you think the outcome would be? The so called “activists” are Al Qaida terrorist and supporters under the NGO IHH. This was a game concocted by these islamist turks and it was all a game, and the suckers were the arabs. Turkey has not stopped the IDF from upgrading their navy, a contract worth over a billion dollars, nor have they cancelled the drones that would be delivered to them in September of this year by IDF. One wonders, if this was not a planned event in order to show the arabs that RoT is actually the only voice that would be willing to be outspoken towards the Palestinians. I wonder if Y. Arafat is turning over in his grave. The rulers of the arab countries are self serving, greedy, ambitious and self defeatist dictators or self appointed monarchs. The days of these rulers were over 60 years ago, however, for whatever reason dictatorship, monarch, life long presidents are ruling this part of the world. If these rulers even cared about their nation, their people they would be able to become a super power with enough money to purchase the entire world. They quickly forgot that less than 95 years ago they were subjects of the Ottoman turks and their genocidal policy towards the arabs. Proof of arab genocide is all over the United States, Mexico, central and south America, where over 15 million decendents live today. It’s interesting that the arabs living in the Middle East have not objected or complained to the RoT of the revival of the old Ottoman Empire maps which depict most of these countries as subjects of the turks. However, it seems that arabs seem to think that there is a common denominator between them and the turks which is Islam. It’s sad that the state of Israel capitulated to international bickering and threats, they should have had military trials and imprisoned these so called “humanitarian activists.”

  2. Edward said:

    Christo youre 100%right.Who may be the instigators of this anti-israeli provocation-two-faced `Cold` Turkey???The Russians???Pres.Obama with his socialist faggot attitude towards the Israelis???Iran??? In this case their interests coincide and its sad to see Israel on the defence in front of international hipocrisy.Time will tell who did who and what.

  3. Alex Postallian said:

    Israel and YELLOW STAIN turkey need each other,no body in the civilized world wants their double dealing and crying,and mis-dealings.Will you keep it to a whisper,we are tired of hearing your idiotic behavior.

  4. Hagop said:

    Islamic factor is the turning point of damaging the relationship between Israel and Turkey. I disagree with the author of this article that the damage will be repaired. This is a hard lesson that Israel needs to learn by being itself a hypoctrat for not admitting the Armenian Genocide; instead, it followed what is politically correct!!! conforming Turkey with its anti Armenian Agenda: The Denial of the Genocide… yes Mr. Shamon Perez, that’s what you exactly you had stated before the world tribunal. Don’t we all learned the fact the western Europe confirmed Nazzis’ ambitions and did not face them(e.g. Sutterland…), but they ended up murdering 6 millions Jews…. So, Shoah is blessed, and after facts, Armenian Genocide is denied, what kind of eqaution is this? Atlast, let’s not mix papers: in this local incident, Israel has the right to defend itself, but it needs to react more properly to avoid loss of lives.

  5. john papazian said:

    It’s only a matter of time now.When will Isreal attack Iran? When will Turkey shun the west in favor of thier fellow fundimentalists?How can any Armenian not laugh out loud at Isreal or the US? I remember the news story and full page add in the New York Times when Isreal and Turkey normalized relations.I wonder how the Jews feel about there trusted ally now.Will an attack on an American vessle be far behind?And don’t worry Ed the 50/50 bar is only a one term wonder.

  6. Talin said:

    It is important to recognize who the real players are and who are the puppets and pawns; then and only then will the picture become clear.

  7. Norin Radd said:

    What’s amazing is that now on all the Jewish news outlets, you see Israelis and Diasporan Jews touting “Turkey don’t forget your past and the Armenian Genocide”. Armenian Genocide is not a historic punch line for you Jews to ONLY NOW bring up as a means to engage Turkey with their dirty past now that you’re up the creek without a paddle and damned by the entire world for this flotilla disaster.

    You Jews damn well know your own actions in the US in trying to block proper recognition of the historic fact of the Armenian Genocide. Year after year your organizations like the ADL and others helped Turkish Lobbyists block the proper recognition and reparation of the Armenian people’s pain.

    Now you’re “wonderful ally in the middle east” which you helped escape justice for their crimes against humanity has backstabbed you, degrades you on the world stage, and will soon ally with Iran, your greatest enemy in the region to help them achieve nuclear power, then Israel’s problems will REALLY begin. Had all you Jews truly stood on the side of “righteousness among nations” and not helped deny atrocities like the Armenian Genocide through your lobbies, you would have more friends today.

    Instead you now have 70 million blood thirsty Turks asking for your heads and things will only get worse from here on out, truly poetic justice worthy of the years of Jewish aid in denying the Armenian Genocide. You’ve made your beds, now lie in them, maybe now the Knesset will be motivated to properly recognize the Armenian Genocide and Abraham Foxman will shout his big fat lying mouth.

  8. Mike said:

    John —- Israel has attacked a US vessel before. USS Liberty in 1967

  9. Vrejouhy Atikian said:

    At this point I am more concerned about the people of Gaza and their needs , not the politics of Israel and Turkey .
    I worked in Gaza with Palestinian refugees and I know the situation there .

  10. john papazian said:

    Yeah I know, I was in grade shcool at the time and a neihbors son was on that ship.I was refering to Iran firing on American ships,with missles supplied by Turkey, during an Israeli air attack on Iranian nuke sights.

  11. Josh Brown said:

    The Flotilla was sailing in a neutral UN-bound sea path and did not enter Israel waters. Instead of finding more peaceful ways to stop the ship (which they had no right), the went in there like pirates and opened fire. It is the rights of all boatmen to defend themselves when such piracy happens