Using its temporary membership on the United Nations Security Council, Turkey is showcasing the ill-fated Gaza flotilla to promote its new eastward-looking agenda. A Muslim-oriented Turkish government — with a repressive record on the rights of its Kurdish minority and now excoriated for abuses against women by a recent judgment by the European Court of Human Rights — has forfeited its chances of joining the European Union.
For those Europeans who still believe that the EU must be something more than an economic arrangement and should also represent Western principles of human rights, Turkey is becoming an anachronistic society slipping deeper into its seriat (sharia) past. It has no place in Europe.
As Turkey’s window on the West closes, Turkey has been looking eastward. Turkey is not dreaming of remaking the Ottoman Empire, but it does want to become a regional power. And most of all it wants to build support in the Islamic world for a permanent seat on the Security Council.
No political event has a single agenda. The naïve leftist militants who thought they could weaken Israel by breaching the blockade of Gaza were a perfect vehicle for Turkey’s program. Like the politically immature Rachel Corrie, who was a sacrificial lamb for the International Solidarity Movement, the flotilla members were perfect fodder for Turkey’s ascending role as a regional Islamic leader.
There is more than adequate food and medical supplies in Gaza, and the Hamas elite and international media, who have helped perpetuate the fiction of a desperate Gaza, dine in fine restaurants along the Gaza coast.
The leftist militants, who year after year have initiated such flotillas, sought to weaken Israel by breaking Israel’s Gaza blockade or by precipitating a public relations crisis for Israel by making it appear that Israel is denying food to starving children. Those who seek to weaken Israel’s ability to defend itself believe that Israel has no right to exist.
Typical of these militants is Paul Larudee of El Cerrito, California, a local leader in the International Solidarity Movement. Larudee was among those flotilla participants who were safely and without incident towed to the Israeli port of Ashod, where Israel unloaded their cargo for transport to Gaza.
Not to be deprived of a strike against Israel, the Larudee family, according to Jane Stillwater, of the Israel-obsessed Berkeley Daily Planet, sent out emails stating that Israeli Consul General in Jerusalem (sic) Andrew Perkins (who is actually the U.S. consul general in Tel Aviv) informed them that a badly beaten Paul was languishing in an Israeli jail refusing food and medical treatment. Ironically, as the story of the badly injured Larudee was making its email rounds among our local leftist militants, San Francisco radio news was reporting that Larudee was among four local area residents released unharmed by Israeli authorities and already on his way back to the Bay Area. It remains to be seen what, if any, injuries Larudee will be sporting for the cameras upon arrival at SFO.
Hamas and Israel are in a state of war, and Israel, under the Oslo Accords, controls the Gaza coast. You won’t hear this in the mainstream media, but under international law a nation-state can stop vessels on the high seas and inspect them if its sovereignty is going to be breached. The U.S. Coast Guard stops hundreds of vessels every day in international waters without Mexico demanding an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
When Britain, France, and the Republic of Ireland intercepted vessels carrying Libyan arms bound for the Provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army, no one challenged their right to board these vessels and confiscate Qaddafi’s arms shipments. When John F. Kennedy set up the naval blockade off Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis, no one challenged America’s right to defend itself from Soviet aggression.
According to public sources, Israel has intercepted three large shipments of arms bound for Gaza: the Egyptian vessel Abu Hassin, the Karine A, and the Santorini. All were boarded in international waters, although unlike the episode involving the Turkish-flagged Marmara, the Israeli commandos were not using paintball guns as their first line of defense, and the crews were not organized into attack squads with lethal weapons.
Inadvertently, Sky News, no friend of Israel’s, got this one right in its observation that Israel made a mess of this. Not because Israel intercepted the Marmara, but because in an oversensitive gesture to political correctness it sent its commandos on board with paintball guns, thinking that the flotilla’s commanding vessel, with its Al Jazeera camera crews and Turkish militants linked to terrorist groups, would respond as did the other vessels. Israel lost control of the situation because it landed its troops into an armed lynch mob. And Sky News understood the implications. If Israel had met the situation with appropriate force, the militants would have realized the futility of bringing a knife to a gun fight.
Turkey knew that whatever the outcome, its status would be enhanced. This flotilla was better organized, supplied, and publicized than those previously organized by American leftists. If the ships had breached the blockade, the breach would have been accomplished by ships flying the Turkish flag. There would have been triumph among the leftist militants in fulfilling their agenda, but Turkey, as organizer of the flotilla and as the focal point of the Al Jazeera cameras, would have received the lion’s share of the credit.
Yet in some ways, the confrontation with Israel and the ensuing violence were better propaganda victories than breaching the blockade, for now Turkey can, from its temporary yet lofty place on the Security Council, lecture the world on human rights. This is the same Turkey that is yet to acknowledge the Armenian genocide; that has attempted to erase the history of the Kurds, who are cynically and malevolently renamed “Mountain Turks;” and that bans in Orwellian style the use of the letters “q,” “w,” and “x” because they appear in the Kurdish alphabet but not the Turkish alphabet.
Turkey would fit well into the UN’s normative structure. When it comes to hypocrisy, the UN, the organization that gave us the Oil for Food scandal, has no restrictions. Iran sits on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the committee that deals with the rights of women throughout the world. The UN Human Rights Commission (since renamed) has had an obsession with Israel but a convenient blindness toward any other country. Starvation exists in a lot of places on the globe, but not in Gaza, which thanks to the misplaced largess of the world community, Islamic propaganda, and the UN refugee program has a per capita income ($3,000.00) that exceeds nearly all of sub-Saharan Africa.
Turkey has scored a major propaganda victory in the Islamic world and a boost toward achieving a permanent seat on the Security Council, but the costs are still uncalculated. Making Israel feel less secure might bring joy to the “Allah Akbar “ crowd, but it will do little to bring peace to the Middle East. It also won’t create a modern, Westernized Turkey of which the Young Turk revolutionaries of the 1920s dreamed.