President Tayyip Erdogan’s recent roll-out of the red carpet to the leader of the ‘extremely racist government of the settler colonial regime’, is worse than mere betrayal, writes Iqbal Jassat.
After a Jumuh’ah prayer sometime in December 2020, Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan boldly declared: “The Palestine policy is our red line. It is impossible for us to accept Israel’s Palestine policies. Their merciless acts there are unacceptable.”
Fifteen months later, notwithstanding the fact that Israel’s “merciless acts” Erdogan found “unacceptable”, has escalated in vicious ferocity across Gaza and the Occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) – he ignores his own “red lines” by making a huge somersault.
Rolling out the red carpet for Israeli president Isaac Herzog on an official state visit in the capital Ankara, Erdogan proudly spoke of building a new alliance with the settler colonial regime. In making his utterances in public and in full glare of the world’s media, he seemed shamelessly oblivious of his earlier commitments to Palestine.
Having repeatedly condemned Israel’s occupation, Erdogan is on record as having slammed US-brokered rapprochements between Israel and four Arab countries. His attack at the time didn’t sit well with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco who had succumbed to American pressure to “Normalize” relations with Israel.
Astoundingly and shockingly, Erdogan who had been hailed by many Muslims as a revolutionary defender of Islam and the sacred mosque in Jerusalem, Al Aqsa, has deflated those hopes.
The opponent of Israel’s ethnic cleansing and “baby killer” as he famously rebuked former Israeli leader Shimon Peres, has now openly embraced the current leader of the same regime, despite the fact that there has been no letdown in the killing and murders of Palestinians including babies.
Though Turkey has always had ties with the Zionist regime, the crunch came during 2010, when Israeli forces raided the Mavi Marmara ship, part of a flotilla sailing to break the siege on Gaza, and cold bloodedly killed 10 civilians.
This brazen act of murder in international waters, led to Erdogan freezing ties, not severing relations, but soon thereafter in 2016, saw the return of ambassadors following a deal to “reconcile”, which in fact was a sellout of the justice sought by families of Mavi Marmara victims.
However two years later, it collapsed when more than 200 Palestinians were killed by Israel over a period of several months in Gaza. This period was known as the “Great March of Return” during which Palestinian refugees led weekly protests demanding right to return to their homes and lands in Israeli occupied areas, from where their families were forcibly expelled in an orgy of ethnic cleansing during 1948.
The protesters also demanded an end to Israel’s illegal blockade imposed on Gaza, rendering it as the world’s largest open air prison, and which remains under siege to this day.
So while the horrible oppressive situation Palestinians find themselves in has in fact gotten worse, Erdogan’s move to embrace the most extremely racist governments of the settler colonial regime, is worse than mere betrayal.
Palestinians under siege in Gaza as well as those under military occupation in the West Bank and in Jerusalem, in addition to millions of refugees in camps dotted around the Arab world, who collectively may have held out hope that Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership would leverage his position to advance their just cause, cannot be blamed if they now view him as a traitor.
His act of somersault is in effect much worse than the politics of “Normalization” by Morocco, Sudan, Bahrain and the UAE. These four are largely unelected despots lacking any democratic credentials and known to be American surrogates. Though Sudan’s history may differ slightly, the current coup and deals arising therefrom with the US and Israel, places it in the US/Zionist camp.
What is worse for Erdogan is that the pomp and glory he accorded Herzog, needs to be explained in the context of a growing international push to impose sanctions on Israel. The BDS movement provides the global community a platform to activate boycott campaigns in much the same way that the Anti-Apartheid movement mobilised against white supremacism in South Africa.
That he has chosen to embark on this disastrous route in a political climate that is extremely unfavourable to Israel given the overwhelming number of damning findings by human rights organizations against Israel’s inhumane policies and atrocities, makes Erdogan’s decision questionable.
To embrace Israel at a time rights groups such as Israel’s B’Tselem and Amnesty International have documented a litany of violations by it against international laws and the Geneva Convention, does not augur well for Erdogan’s credibility, especially among Muslims.
While details of agreements may be hazy for now, be sure that none will be to advance Palestine’s freedom struggle.
*Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the Media Review Network in Johannesburg, South Africa.