As the world watched the events that happened on board the Turkish-led “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” it was also witnessing the deterioration of political relations between the governments of Turkey and Israel. Anger at the Israeli government is palpable in Turkey, and returning activists are being greeted by officials among hero fan-fare. As we evaluate the repercussions of these events within Turkey, the question must be asked: Can Turkish-Israeli relations be rebuilt?
An Extension of Turkish Foreign Policy
Israeli flags were burned in Istanbul, tens of thousands of Israeli tourists cancelled Turkish holiday reservations and a lawyer attempted to punch an Israeli cyclist off his bike today, as relations between the erstwhile allies plunged to depths not seen in decades.
flag seller #üsküdar used to sell only turkish flags, with or without portrait of atatürk. now he sells palestinian flags too. #turkey
It is important to note that the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was not sponsored by the Turkish Government, but the attack of the flotilla has now become an issue of national importance. Istanbul Calling explains this relation between the citizen-led flotilla and its effect on Turkish foreign policy:
Clearly, this rupture between Turkey and Israel has been long coming. As I've written before, Turkey has, for the last few years, pegged its relations with Israel to what happens on the Palestinian front (or, more specifically, on the Gaza front). Although technically not a bilateral issue between the two countries, the situation in Gaza has, in many ways, become the issue that defines the current relations between Israel and Turkey. In that sense, although the Gaza aid flotilla was organized by a Turkish NGO (the Islamist IHH) and was not sponsored by the Turkish government, it acted as a proxy for Turkish policy.
In fact a variety of Turkish bloggers and tweeters have asked the Turkish government to physically intervene by sending in the Turkish navy to protect the flotilla, such as in this tweet by Talk Turkey:
Why not Turkey send the Turkish Navy to protect the remaining ships traveling toward Gaza right now…
Questioning of Intentions
There have been significant reactions to the perceived lack of justification for Israeli aggression towards the flotilla. According to the Istanbullian:
There was no justification for the use of firearms against them. Especially on international waters… Facing knives and slingshots don't justify shooting on civilians, killing even sleeping people. Israeli forces should have waited until those ships are in Gaza waters. Then they should have forced the ships to reroute without boarding them. What Israel has done is definitely against international law and Turkey can easily win a case in international courts.
Idilx notes the following on Twitter:
Well then I guess #Israel set a precedent here. We are now allowed to shoot onto anything that we believe is smuggling arms. #flotilla
Oooo an icecream van.. BANG BANG. Oooo a 4 year old with a bulge in his pants.. HE MUST HAVE A GUN.. bang! Idjits. #Gaza #Flotilla #Israil
Some Twitterers have questioned the reactions (and possible future reactions) from the Turkish government to the flotilla incident, from Talk Turkey:
Turkey to declare war against Israel? … Not far fetched … All of this is part of a bigger ‘script’
And this one from fgeerdink:
turkish friend: ‘erdogan just orchestred this whole #flotilla thing to increase his popularity again’ he's serious #conspiracytheory #turkey
In any case, the deterioration of relations also raises questions of safety, from Idilx:
Is #Turkey becoming a dangerous place for Jewish Turks? It seems that racists are everywhere and their idiocy is endless. So easily fueled.
Time will only tell what will happen between Turkey and Israel. The last word in this post goes to the blogger and columnist The White Path as he describes the differences in Turkish philosophy and Israeli philosophy:
When I asked that question to an Israeli hawk some years ago, I received a very revealing response: “Might,” he said, “makes right.” Well, that might be a popular belief in Tel Aviv and Occupied Jerusalem, but not here in Istanbul. In fact our creed tells us that the exact opposite is true: Right, sooner or later, makes might.
The hundreds of heroes who sailed to Gaza last weekend had this faith in their hearts. Here in Turkey, 70 million more stand by them. We mourn for our fallen, but also know that they did not die in vain. Their sacrifice unveiled to the world not just the suffering of the innocents in the Gaza ghetto, but also the brutality of the rogue state that imposes it.
Read my lips: This spirit is really not going to die. We Turks will continue to stand for what is right, regardless of Israel's might. None of her lobbying, bullying or killing is going to change that.