Friday, October 16, 2009

How to understand the Turkish Break with Israel and the West

Who lost Turkey?

Could Israel have done anything to avoid the apparent rupture of its relationship with Turkey? Could we have made it inconceivable for the Turks to air, on state television, a serial portraying the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a struggle between sociopathic Zionists and wholesome Palestinians?

No doubt, had Israel responded to the violent Palestinian "resistance" not with an Operation Cast Lead but with Gandhi-like passivity, with a declaration that so long as there were women and children in Gaza, our army would not shoot back - had Israel, instead of imposing a "siege," responded to Hamas's takeover of Gaza by supplying concrete for an airstrip that would accommodate Iranian cargo planes - Israeli and Turkish jets might now, we suppose, be conducting joint maneuvers.

But let us go further.

If tomorrow, Israel withdrew to the 1949 Armistice Lines, redivided Jerusalem, abandoned Judea and Samaria, strategic settlement blocs, the Jordan Valley - the whole kit and caboodle - in the name of "ending the occupation;" if we came down from the Golan Heights, accepted the influx of millions of Palestinians "returning" to our newly truncated, 15 km.-wide state; agreed not to contest the extradition of the IDF General Staff to The Hague to face trumped-up war crimes charges; and if the Jews held their tongues as their state was dismantled while Palestinian factions fought it out for supremacy - comity would likely reign in Turkish-Israel relations. We can even imagine the UN General Assembly deferring discussion of "the Question of Palestine."

Plainly, what is inhibiting this nirvana is Israel's stiff-necked insistence on the same right to self-defense other sovereign states enjoy.

THE TRUTH: Turkey's turn against Israel is best understood in the context of its evolutionary transformation from the secular, nationalist and Western-oriented ethos of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to the dogmatic, radical, pan-Islamic and Middle Eastern attitudes of its current rulers. This is most clearly reflected in Turkey's apparent decision not to actively pursue membership in the European Union because it has given up trying to reconcile what it wants for itself with what the West wants for it.

On Wednesday, Olli Rehn, the EU official in charge of enlarging the community, sharply criticized the Islamist government in Ankara for imposing punishing taxes on media outlets critical of the regime. But today's Turkey feels the EU needs it more than it needs the Europeans.

As for the military, which has historically served a homeostatic function whenever Turkish governments strayed from Ataturk's path, it has been politically neutered and made subservient to the regime.

IT IS senseless for Israelis to ask ourselves what we did to cause Arab, Persian and now Turkish rulers to ascribe the most villainous of intentions to us - for example, conspiring to demolish Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount, or relishing the systematic murder of Arab children. While not wishing to disregard the damage caused by this or that Israeli policy of commission or omission, in the final analysis, Israel did not lose Turkey any more than it lost Iran or the "moderate" Palestinians.

The Palestinian national movement, for all its self-destructive obduracy, appeared under Mahmoud Abbas and Salaam Fayad to be glacially inching toward grudging acceptance of a two-state solution. But it has been outmaneuvered by Hamas. Any move Abbas now makes in the direction of moderation - agreeing to temporarily shelve the reprehensible Goldstone Report for instance - gets pounced upon as perfidy. This environment has led even a sensible man like Fayad to hold cabinet deliberations on whether Israeli soldiers are stealing the organs of Palestinian youths. This week, he referred to a Palestine born of territorial compromise as a potential "Mickey Mouse state."

THE overriding explanation for what is happening in Turkey and among the Palestinians (and happened decades ago in Iran) is that these polities could not make peace with modernity. Instead, to varying degrees, they turned to radical Islam, which promised an end to ethnic and national rivalries and the promotion of socioeconomic equality.

These fragmented societies succumbed to the opiate of radical Islam because it provides absolute answers about right and wrong and uplifting distinctions between believers and infidels.

But it also ensures never-ending estrangement from those who have chosen another path.

Since this predicament stems from within Muslim civilization, so, too, must any solution.

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