More lies about Turkey!

Istanbul-Kadikoy-pubs

An evening out in Kadıköy

I had a meal and a drink in Kadıköy with a mate last Friday. Or was it a drink and a meal? Anyway. Kadıköy, once known as Chalcedon, has a long history of Christian settlement, and consequently a flourishing alcohol-fuelled entertainment economy. Despite loudly expressed fears that the AK Party government is dragging the country back to a medieval nightmare of Islamic fundamentalism, the labyrinthine streets of Kadıköy are packed most nights with revellers of all ages, knocking back beer, wine, rakı, or whatever beverage takes their fancy, unmolested by religious police. Even during the holy month of Ramadan.

Anyway. Gunther and I don’t see each other that often these days. We used to work together at one of Istanbul’s plethora of private universities (forty-one is the most recent figure I could find – FORTY-ONE!!). Our meetings inevitably descend into political argument, although I do try to steer towards other topics. My mate is an outspoken critic of Turkey’s AK Party government. Well, I can handle that. I’ve heard a thousand times all the arguments churned out ad nauseam proving that RTE* is the worst thing that’s happened to Turkey since Thanksgiving (sorry, that was a stupid joke – I could have said Winston Churchill).

hitler_bushIt also happens that Gunther, as you might guess, comes from German stock – and is intensely proud of the fact. To hear him tell it, Germany is indisputably the greatest country in the world, its economy driven by superior German brains and hard work, its industries second-to-none. Well, leaving aside the question of why he has chosen to make his home in Turkey rather than the Teutonic paradise of his birth, I found myself gagging over some of the outrageous claims he made to substantiate his thesis. Admittedly I have no formal background in the study of German history – which Gunther claims to have. Nevertheless I read, and take an interest, as one does. After our latest heated debate, I came home and checked the facts that I thought I knew, and which Gunther had vehemently contradicted:

  • Germany’s economy was in tatters after the First World War as a result of the huge punitive reparations demanded by the victorious allies, France and Britain.
  • The Weimar government was saved from imminent disaster by funding from the United States, enabling them to meet their obligations to those creditors.
  • When Wall Street crashed in 1929, the USA called in its foreign loans, throwing the German economy again into severe recession.
  • Adolf Hitler’s rise to power was funded by German and American bankers and industrialists to keep out the Communists who had become enormously popular with the working classes as a result of the Weimar government’s misguided austerity measures.
  • The Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements was founded in Basel in 1930, and, among other dodgy activities, laundered ill-gotten Nazi money during the Second World War.
  • In 1953 a conference in London agreed to cancel most of Germany’s debt and “reschedule” the rest. The United States, under the Marshall Plan, gave $1.3 billion in aid to assist in the rebuilding of Germany after the destruction of WW2.

Why am I telling you this? This is a blog about Turkey, isn’t it? The thing is, some people vociferously assert misinformation and even outright lies from behind a façade of superior authority (academic or otherwise), relying on the ignorance of their listeners or their own loud voices to carry their arguments.

I was reminded of this when reading an article about Turkey the other day. The piece, Why Turkey Chose Qatar, appeared on a website, The National Interest. For a start, the byline attributed it to two people with Turkish names, Aykan Erdemir and Merve Tahiroglu , which you might immediately think gave them credibility. Moreover, Mr Erdemir was a member of Turkey’s National Assembly from 2011-2015, is a respected academic, and is now on the staff of the US-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). End of argument, you might think. Clearly this guy must know what he’s talking about. And in case he needed to check his facts, he had a helpful research assistant, Ms Tahiroğlu, backed by the no doubt exhaustive resources of the FDD.

Nothing daunted, I read the article, made a few notes, did a little research of my own, and here’s what I found.

First up, Aykan Erdemir was a representative of the CHP (Republican People’s Party), sworn enemies of Mr Erdoğan’s AK Party government, and frustrated losers of so many elections everyone’s lost count. Why did he leave political life after four short years in parliament? Who knows? Maybe he thought he could achieve his purpose better with American backing from abroad.

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What have the Yemenis done to Saudi Arabia or the USA?

Anyway. What were these two authoritative Turks writing about? Of course you are aware that the freedom-loving, democratic governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have imposed an embargo on Qatar on the grounds that their wealthy oil-rich neighbour is supporting terrorism. The “terrorists” in question are the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Iran – and the concerted Arab action was announced immediately after their governments had been visited by US President, Donald Trump. The Big DT didn’t actually mention that he had suggested the embargo, but he was proud to announce he had sign a deal with the Saudi royals for the supply of $110 billion worth of US military equipment, most of which is being used to terrorise the impoverished, starving people of Yemen.

Now some might argue, and indeed do, that the Muslim Brotherhood has been doing its best to work peacefully through the democratic process to bring change in Middle East countries. They actually won Egypt’s first truly democratic election in 2012, before being ousted by a military coup a year later. Turkey’s Prime Minister at the time, Mr Erdoğan, made no secret of his objections – which no doubt upset powerful interests in the USA and Israel. Some might also argue that someone needs to represent the interests of Palestinians suffering under the expansionist aggression of the Zionist Israeli government – and Hamas tries to do this. They might go further and suggest that US hawkishness towards Iran is driven by oil needs and their support for Israel, right or wrong.

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Mohammed Morsi – first democratically elected president of Egypt

But Aykan and Merve are not among those people. The main thrust of their argument is that Mr Erdoğan and the government of Turkey are acting purely from venal financial motives, largely aimed at increasing the personal fortunes of the Erdoğan family. I’m not going to dignify the argument by repeating it here. You can read the article for yourself if you’re interested.

More pertinent, I believe, is the way the writers seek to portray the Saudi coalition as the “good guys” in the current stand-off, and Turkey, Iran and Qatar as “cast[ing] their lot with Islamists”. Mr Aydemir’s paymasters, whoever is funding the FDD Defenders of Democracy, seem to have decided that the slave-based economies of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the oppressive military dictatorship of Egypt, are worthy of defending. The government of Israel is staying on the sideline, but if I were a betting man I’d put safe money on their being involved in the whole shady business.

Turkey is depicted as being in “a downward spiral of isolation due to its reckless foreign policy”, “estrang[ing itself] from the region’s Sunni camp, led by Saudi Arabia”. Well, Turkey’s people may be mostly Sunni Muslims, but their moderate brand of Islam bears no resemblance to the extremist Wahhabi hypocritical Shariah violence of the Sauds. Erdoğan is accused of nurturing some kind of “game plan” for Washington, trying to curry favour with President Trump after “ruining his relationship with Barack Obama”. Well he certainly seemed to hold his own in the macho hand-shaking competition, which you can still view on Youtube despite the fact that their administrators keep removing the clips.

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Well worth a look

Incidentally, I checked out “The National Interest” website. As you might expect, with a name like that, they unabashedly admit that their business “is not . . . about world affairs. It is about American interests . . . guided by the belief that nothing will enhance those interests as effectively as the approach to foreign affairs commonly known as realism—a school of thought traditionally associated with such thinkers and statesmen as Disraeli, Bismarck, and Henry Kissinger.” THINKERS! Not war-mongers, you’ll notice. And according to the FDD website, their “distinguished advisors include Sen. Joe Lieberman, former National Security Advisor Robert “Bud” McFarlane, former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, former State Department Under Secretary Paula Dobriansky, Gen. P.X. Kelley (ret.), Francis “Bing” West, Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, Weekly Standard Editor William Kristol, former CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Richard W. Carlson,  and Forbes CEO Steve Forbes.” Interesting company for our two Turkish academics to be keeping.

tellalieonceBut I’m saving the best till last. That article about Turkey and Qatar was chock full of links to other sites, suggesting that the material had been exhaustively researched, and was therefore beyond reproach. Just on a hunch, I decided to check one out at random. The final paragraph sums up the writer’s case and includes this statement: “For all these reasons, Turkey chose Qatar in the recent Gulf crisis. Indeed, it would have had little choice to discard such a lucrative partnership at a time of brewing economic crisis at home.” That link will take you an archived OECD report written in 2001, a year or so before the AK Party came to power, when Turkey had been plagued for decades with incompetent coalition governments, embedded hyper-inflation and regular military coups. The leaders it refers to are the Prime Minister and President at the time, Bülent Ecevit and Ahmet Necdet Sezer. OUT-RAGE-OUS! Check the other links if you have time. They are probably equally dishonest. Disinterested academics? Phooey!

I read a sad article in our local Hürriyet Daily News the other day, informing me that Over 8.5 million Turks received psychological treatment in 2016”. Statistics released by the health Ministry also showed that the use of antidepressants increased by 25.6 percent between 2011 and 2016” and “one out of every eight people . . . has applied to a hospital for mental and neurological disorders”. 

9aa63d24f038b03f13bdffdc7582c30dFor some reason, the newspaper chose to seek comment from Independent Member of Parliament, Aylin Nazlıaka, who expressed the opinion that “The solution is to remove the common perception and belief that the justice system is not objective and fair. The solution is getting rid of the pressure on people who have opposing views and thoughts. The solution is creating a Turkey whose people are hopeful about today and tomorrow, that produces [opportunity] and that has equality of opportunity. The solution is the normalization of Turkey by removing problems such as terror and unemployment.”

Well, Ms Nazlıaka could be right – and it may help if the CHP leader, Mr Kılıçdaroğlu finds the “justice” he is seeking on his current protest march from Ankara to Istanbul. On the other hand, some of those depressed citizens might try looking around to see the good things happening in their beautiful country instead of paying heed to the self-seeking and biased criticisms of foreign leaders and dishonest “academics”.

 

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  • Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
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Wheels within Wheels – Israel’s relationship with the Saudi Arabs

The following items are sourced from Al Jazeera:

After Saudi Arabia and other GCC nations cut ties with Qatar, a series of surreal decisions were taken against it

These are two of them:

TerroristsTo stem the flow of negative reactions Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain took steps to curb their citizens from expressing opinions that opposed their policies.

The UAE Attorney General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi announced that any objections to the UAE’s strict measures against the government of Qatar or expression of sympathy with Qatar would be a crime punishable by a prison sentence of 3-15 years and a fine of no less than $136,000 (500,000AED), whether on a social media platform or via any written or spoken medium.

Hotel residents in Saudi Arabia can no longer watch Al Jazeera channels, after the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage warned against airing Al Jazeera inside any hotel or tourist establishment.

The commission stressed that all channels belonging to the Al Jazeera Media Network are to be removed from the list of satellite stations in “all hotel rooms and touristic facilities and furnished residential units … including the TV lists kept within”, in order to avoid punishments that included fines up to $27,000 (100,000 Saudi riyals) and a cancellation of the hotel’s licence.

The Qatar-Gulf crisis has given Israel an opportunity to normalise its presence in the region, analysts say

The current Qatar-Gulf crisis has offered Israel a golden opportunity to normalise its presence in the region, undermine the Palestinian cause and deliver a diplomatic blow to the Islamic Resistance movement, Hamas, analysts say.

Israel arabUnder the pretext of fighting “terrorism”, the anti-Hamas, anti-political Islam coalition seems to be emerging with the Saudi-led bloc and Israel at its heart, they added.

Researcher and expert on Israeli affairs, Antoine Shalhat, believes that Israel’s rapid adoption of the Saudi position confirms that the two countries share Israel’s vision on regional developments and the Palestinian cause.

Shalhat told Al Jazeera that Israel is hoping to make political gains from the Gulf crisis and the blockade on Qatar by weakening Hamas and undermining its influence in the Gaza Strip, and demonising it in the Arab world under the pretext of “terrorism”.

He added that the Saudi attack on Hamas and its portrayal of the movement as a “terrorist organisation” serves the Israeli agenda and is consistent with Israel’s goal to eliminate the Palestinian cause.

US legislation threatening Qatar for Hamas support is tied to donations from UAE, Saudi, and Israel lobbyists

US legislation threatening to sanction Qatar for its support of “Palestinian terror” was sponsored by 10 legislators who received more than $1m over the last 18 months from lobbyists and groups linked to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. 

For Trita Parsi, author and founder of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a nonprofit that aims to strengthen the voice of US citizens of Iranian descent, the similarities between the US-allied Arab nations’ “terror list” and HR 2712 show growing cooperation between Gulf Arab states and Israel.

The-Scarlet-Letters

Defending democracy

“The coordination between hawkish pro-Israel groups and UAE and Saudi Arabia has been going on for quite some time,” Parsi told Al Jazeera. What is new, he continued, is pro-Israel groups such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies “coming out with pro-Saudi [articles] and lobbying for them on Capitol Hill”.

Israel’s influence on US policymakers is clear. HR 2712’s sponsors received donations totalling $1,009,796 from pro-Israel individuals and groups for the 2016 election cycle alone, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics, an independent research group tracking money in US politics and its effect on elections and public policy, and then compiled by Al Jazeera. 

“They’re not traditional pro-Saudi legislators. They’re in the pro-Likud camp,” Parsi said, referring to the party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The bill has bipartisan sponsorship. Five of the legislators come from the House Committee on Foreign Relations (HCFR), including sponsor Brian Mast, a first-term Republican congressman from Florida, and Ed Royce and Eliot Engel, the ranking Republican and Democrat of the HCFR, respectively.

Royce received $242,143 from pro-Israel sources for the 2016 election cycle, $190,150 went to Engel. Mast, who volunteered with the Israeli military after he finished serving in the US Army, received $90,178.

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And incidentally:

King Faisal

King Faisal, son of King Ibn Saud, fought in the military campaigns in the 1920s and ’30s that helped forge modern Saudi Arabia. He later served as Saudi ambassador to the United Nations and in 1953 was made premier upon the ascension of his older brother, Saud. In 1964, King Saud was pressured to abdicate, and Faisal became the absolute ruler of Saudi Arabia. As king, he sought to modernize his nation, and lent financial and moral support to anti-Israeli efforts in the Middle East. In 1975, Faisal was assassinated for reasons that remain obscure, and his son, Crown Prince Khalid, ascended to the throne.

Source: History.com

Interestingly, Faisal’s assassin was one of the family, subsequently declared insane and executed (in the normal humane Saudi fashion, by decapitation).

 

‘The War I Experienced’ – A Palestinian teenager’s vivid memory

My university classes are quite cosmopolitan these days. The Ottoman Empire was characterized by ethnic and religious diversity, but its successor, the modern Republic of Turkey became, at least ostensibly, more homogeneous. In recent years, however, migrants, students and refugees from Middle Eastern neighbours and some African countries have been altering the ethnic mix. My classes include young people from Libya, Jordan, Malta, Syria and Iran.

One young man, Yaser, a recent arrival from Palestine, wrote this short piece when asked to share a vivid memory. I want to share it with you:

palestine-rubble_1‘It was about two years ago. I was living in Gaza when the war came. I was 15 years old and the war started with twenty killings by the Israeli ‘terrorist’ army. I was very angry about that and afraid at the same time – not for myself but for my family and the people I love.  

‘The war lasted three months. One day I was watching a movie with my family to forget the war a little bit. While we were watching the movie outside in the garden, Israeli planes bombed the house of a family near ours. They fired rockets. I remember the sound of it, it was so loud! I couldn’t hear anything else at that time. I ran to help my mom and my little brothers go into the house. There were rocks flying and people crying for their children. There was a lot of dust and flames reaching up to the sky; smoke and the smell of burning people. It was really a terrifying day.  

‘We lived our lives like we would die tomorrow. One day we will free Palestine. I feel so angry about the things that happened in my country. They killed peaceful people, children and old people – and the Israelis say we are the terrorists! Can someone be a terrorist in his own country?  

‘When the war ended after three months there were 2,500 killed by Israel’s army, and more than 10,000 injured.’

palestinian-loss-of-land-1946-2010

The Desperation Driving Young Palestinians to Violence

When an article like this can be published in Time Magazine, maybe the message is starting to get through. What’s the biggest stumbling block to achieving peace in the Middle East?

Explosion from an Israeli rocket strike in Gaza

Explosion from an Israeli rocket strike in Gaza

Last December, 22-year-old Baha Allyan posted a list on Facebook of things to be done after his death. Number one on that list: “I ask that the political parties do not claim responsibility for my attack. My death was for my nation and not for you.”

On Tuesday, Allyan, a graphic designer from the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood Jabel Mukaber, was killed by Israeli security forces after allegedly trying to carry out an attack in Jerusalem.

In a sandwich shop in Jabel Mukaber, men watch footage of clashes on Palestinian television. Youth throw rocks, and Israeli soldiers respond with a barrage of tear gas. “No one is encouraging these youth,” says Hamdan Hadid, a 20-year-old Palestinian who works in the shop. “They are encouraging themselves.”

Mourning Palestinans in Gaza carry the body of a 5 year-old boy killed in an Israeli strike

Mourning Palestinians in Gaza carry the body of a 5 year-old boy killed in an Israeli strike

For Palestinians in Jabel Mukaber, life was tough even before the latest restrictions. Towering blocks of Israeli settlements line the roads into the neighborhood. The Palestinians here pay taxes like Israelis residents, but comparatively few services. The streets are filled with potholes and Palestinian residents are restricted from building new homes or expanding existing ones, even as Israeli settlements rise around them. Frustrations are simply boiling over.

For young Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank this anger and resentment has no political outlet. They are part of what has been called the Oslo Generation—those raised on the promise of peace and an independent Palestinian state laid out in the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 by Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. Instead, two decades later, they have hundreds of thousands of new Israeli settlers on some of the territory promised to them in the Accords, territory that remains under Israeli military control.

“It’s a joke,” says Ismail Shkrat, 23, standing outside his family’s lamp shop. From here he can see the edge of an Israeli settlement a few hundred feet away and the separation wall in the distance that slices through Jerusalem neighborhoods. On the road in front, a line of Palestinian vehicles wait to pass the Israeli checkpoint.

Read the whole article

Why the Hate? Is there something I’m missing?

Business Insider is not a source of news I visit regularly. If you asked my opinion, I’d probably say that anyone who would call their website that, or work for such an organisation, must be a selfish jerk of majestic proportions.

The answer can't be b, so it must be a

The answer can’t be b, so it must be a

Nevertheless, in my roaming around the Internet my attention is occasionally grabbed by some outrageous headline, and so it was just the other day: ‘Turkey’s flirtation with terrorism is falling apart’ (Sept 16). I don’t know who the writers are – a guy and girl, Natasha and Michael, and I can’t be bothered googling them. I’ve had some negative feedback in the past after checking the backgrounds of foreign ‘journalists’ writing smear stuff about Turkey, and publishing their connections to Israeli Zionism.

This particular article claims that A key Hamas official who operated out of Turkey for years was sanctioned [whatever that means] last week by the US Treasury Department for his role in organizing and inciting terrorism in the West Bank and Israel.

And given Ankara’s history for working with US-designated terrorists — and some of the disastrous implications by those connections [strange preposition] — the most recent designation [??] shows how Turkey’s quiet dance with terrorism finance is falling apart.’ [Does this sentence make sense?]

Well, the name ‘Natasha’ has bad connotations in Turkey – but I’m not going into that. Neither name sounds particularly Jewish, and maybe those young business insiders are not aware that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, forms the largest part of Palestine. 80% of the population is Palestinian Arabs – and the 500,000 Israeli settlers are considered illegal by the international community (apart from the USA). It may well be that the US government considers Hamas a terrorist organization – but some might ask what a red-blooded Palestinian should do when Israel and their American backers ignore United Nations appeals to stop their racist Zionist expansionism.

From the Tea Party website. Will the real religious nutcases please stand up?

From the Tea Party website. Will the real religious nutcases please stand up?

I don’t know how many of Natasha-and-Michael’s claims are true. How do they know that Ankara has provided $300 million to Hamas, for example. But being ‘journalists’, they don’t have to list their sources, so we are expected to take their word for it.

What I find surprising is the amount of hatred I see expressed regularly in American news media towards Turkey and its democratically elected government. After all, Turkey has been a key member of NATO since it was formed after the Second World War, and acted as a crucial buffer state against Soviet expansion during the Cold War. Turks even allowed the Yanks to site several nuclear missile installations targeting the USSR in those days, obviously putting themselves at serious risk in the fight to make the world safe for democracy and capitalism. You’re supposed to be on the same side, guys! What’s going on?

A few days later, our Natasha went out on her own with an even more unpleasant piece: Turkey has a huge problem that it has no idea how to deal with’ (Sept 21). While recognizing that Militias in eastern Turkey aligned with the insurgent Kurdish PKK have taken the war against the state to the streets’ and ‘reportedly killed 33 police officials in recent days’ the young lady appears to be criticising the government of Turkey for responding with escalating force. I wonder what she thinks of the Israeli government’s murderously disproportionate response to the occasional violent protest by desperate Palestinians.

How can we account for the apparent glee expressed here by a US news source when a key ally is struggling to contain vicious attacks on police and civilians by members of an outlawed group recognised as a terrorist organisation by NATO and the European Union? The United States government has applied considerable pressure on Ankara to join the fight against ISIS/Daesh – whoever they are – who, as far as I know, have posed no actual danger to anyone on American soil.

Turkish democracy 1980-style - with US govt approval!

Turkish democracy 1980-style – with US govt approval!

Natasha does quote a source this time, a certain Halil M Karaveli, a rabidly anti-Turkish journalist who I did take the trouble to check out a year or so ago. His young protégé employs the same journalistic techniques of logical non-sequiturs, unsubstantiated assertions and unexplained innuendo. For example:

‘President Recep Erdogan’s renewed war with the Kurdish PKK has raised questions about how much political power he will ultimately cede to the military.’ Whose war? The PKK have been carrying out terrorist attacks on Turkish security forces and innocent civilians. Whoever is asking those questions clearly has no knowledge of the political system in Turkey.

‘As Halil M. Karaveli noted in the New York Times, Erdogan’s imposition of “de facto emergency rule” throughout Turkish Kurdistan has forced him to give political control back to the Turkish military, effectively reversing what was once a cornerstone of his presidency.’ ‘De facto’?? There is no such place as ‘Turkish Kurdistan’, or any other Kurdistan, for that matter. Is the writer suggesting that the military has been given political control of Turkey? If this is ‘journalism’ these people deserve to be locked up.

‘Before his party lost its parliamentary majority back in June, Erdogan had been trying to expand his presidential authority beyond its mostly symbolic role.’ So Mr Erdoğan has no actual say in the day-to-day governing of Turkey – and changing the constitution requires a 60% majority of the democratically elected parliament.

‘The unexpected loss effectively derailed Erdogan’s efforts to consolidate more power, prompting him to call for a snap election if talks to form a coalition government — which he reportedly opposed from the outset — failed.’ Doesn’t the AK Party’s failure to win an absolute majority clearly show that the election was not rigged in any way? The other three parties refused to cooperate in a coalition with AK Party, but hate each other almost as much as they hate the government.

‘New elections have been set for November 1st, but what happens before then may determine whether or not those elections are legitimate.’ See the previous point.

“How far will Erdogan go in violating Turkey’s democratic norms,” asks Foreign Policy’s Nick Danforth, “and how effective will they prove in constraining him?” In fact Turkey didn’t have a great record of democratic government before the appearance of Mr Erdoğan and his AK Party on the scene. Three actual military coups and a virtual one took place between 1960 and 1997. What is Nick Danforth’s point?

I have been reading for some years reports that Turkey has more journalists in prison than any other country in the world. Figures vary considerably, so I can’t tell you how many there actually are. What I can do is quote from a recent article published on Huffington Post (15 September) written by an assistant professor at Istanbul’s Marmara University. In the course of the article, the learned gentleman says of Tayyip Erdoğan:

Like the Ottoman sultans of centuries past, Erdoğan resorted to all manner of intrigue to undermine his political opponents and protect himself.

Erdogan is saying to voters: give me the majority I need to change the constitution, or suffer the consequences — i.e., political turmoil and social instability.

Since June 7, Turkey has gradually begun to spiral out of control, with a plummeting currency and a rapidly deteriorating security situation.

In the midst of a political and security crisis, it is doubtful whether Turkey can hold truly free and fair elections six weeks from now. Why then has Erdogan opted for such chaos and conflict?

[Opposition leader] Kılıçdaroglu has stirred up controversy in the past by referring to Erdogan as the “prime thief” and the AKP government as a “kleptocratic regime.”

Many Turkish officers who were opposed to the ceasefire to begin with surely feel that they are being used as political pawns by Erdogan, who is now asking them to give their lives fighting the PKK.

In his final paragraph, the professor stops just short of calling on the Turkish army to oust Mr Erdoğan by force, but the wish seems to be in his mind. I have been reading this kind of inflammatory rhetoric posing as journalism in this country’s media since the AK Party came to power 13 years ago, and I wonder what those imprisoned ‘journalists’ had to do or say to get themselves locked up.

Illustrating the apparently irreconcilable contradictions in the barrage of criticism directed at Mr Erdoğan since his days as highly popular and successful Mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s, another recent article in a foreign source had this to say:

Erdogan, who became prime minister in 2003 and president in 2014, has become the single most important force driving today’s Turkish foreign and domestic policy—the new sultan, as both his critics and admirers have dubbed him. He has emasculated the nation’s once-powerful military as a domestic political force: Starting in 2007, his government launched a massive investigation into an alleged several-years-old coup plot, accusing top generals and officers, opposition leaders, journalists, and academics of conspiracy and, by 2013, jailing nearly 300 of them. This helped cement his position as the most potent leader in modern Turkey’s history, with the exception of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, its founder.’

So who's fighting for democracy and freedom of speech?

So who’!s fighting for democracy and freedom of speech?

So he is a sultan without an army. The writer seems to regret that Turkey’s military is no longer a domestic political force. Some would argue that military interference in Turkey’s domestic affairs over a 40-year period was anything but democratic – and some believe that, if Erdoğan and his government had not pulled the teeth of the generals, there would have been a fifth military coup to oust his popularly elected government.

The writer, Yigal Schleifer, has an interesting CV. As well as appearing in the New York Times, the Washington Post and Foreign Policy, it seems he also writes for Christian Science Monitor and the Jerusalem Report, so who knows where his perspective on world affairs is located – but I have my suspicions. Anyway, his article here is subtitled WHY TURKEY’S RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN MAY BE THE NEXT PUTIN.’

Once again, it’s not easy to pin down exactly what is meant here. Can we expect Erdoğan to pursue a political career in Russia if he is shunned by Turkey? Or is Yigal Schleifer making some value judgment about Vladimir Putin’s presidency and suggesting a comparison with Turkey’s man? I read an article the other day on Bloomberg Business reporting that bankers and financiers were fleeing Russia as a result of President Putin’s policies. Well, if that is the case, those policies may well be worth a second look. Maybe President Obama could pick up some tips on how to get Wall St under control. An article in Newsweek complained that Putin’s Gambit of Destabilizing His Independent Neighbors Is Working.’ If the Russian leader is pursuing such a policy, it would only be emulating what Israel and the United States have been doing for decades. Turkey under AKP rule, on the other hand, followed a ‘Zero problems with neighbours’ foreign policy for some years – and was soundly mocked for it.

To round off this quick overview of the semi-hysterical vitriol I constantly see hurled at the Turkish government, let me refer to an article that appeared in England’s Independent back in August, entitled, While Erdogan is ensconced in his opulent new palace, Turkey is on the brink of civil war.’ Robert Ellis vents about Erdoğan’s ‘delusion of neo-Ottoman grandeur’, suggests he is ‘intent on creating what many see as his own caliphate’, and ends with a rhetorical flourish and classical allusion: ‘President Erdogan is safely ensconced in his opulent new palace like the Roman emperor Nero who fiddled while Rome burned.’ On the contrary, many anti-government Turks believe Erdoğan gets out too much in an attempt to influence the vote for his party. Who’s right? And does anyone ever refer to the DC White House as Obama’s palace? As far as I know, it goes with the job. Finish your term in office – move out. Same in Turkey I guess.

Till death do us part - and maybe beyond . . .

Till death do us part – and maybe beyond . . .

Well, we had a torrential downpour in Bodrum yesterday – shops and houses flooded, cars washed away down flooding streets. Act of God, you might say – but I hear some folks are blaming Turkey’s President! Of course, no one is forced to love the guy, but I do find it hard to understand the almost fanatical hatred he has seemingly aroused, at home and abroad.

Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to prison for corruption, and Nicolas Sarkozy could go the same way. Barack Obama has broken, or failed to perform on, most of his first time election promises. George Dubya Bush and Tony Blah led their respective nations on a crusade to destroy a far weaker country on the basis of lies and deceit; Britain’s David Cameron has been reported as having a history of kinky relations with deceased barnyard animals – yet none of these guys seems to field a fraction of the venomous fury that Mr Erdoğan has suffered for the better part of twenty years. What’s it all about?

Who is Supporting the Terrorists?

I’m passing on this article by Ralph Lopez
 from Global Research that was published on February 24, 2015

Bush Family Ties to Terror Suspects Re-opened by the 9/11 Classified “28 Pages”

As pressure builds to make public 28 pages of a joint congressional inquiry on 9/11 which was classified by President George W. Bush, the Bush family’s well-documented relationships to Saudi and other foreign terror suspects are again coming to the fore.

bush_war_criminalNorth Carolina Republican Congressman Walter Jones told the New Yorker last September, of what is now commonly known as the “28 Pages”:

““There’s nothing in it about national security…It’s about the Bush Administration and its relationship with the Saudis.””

Prominent in the rise of the political fortunes of both the 41st and 43rd presidents is the support of figures listed by the US government as terrorist financiers, as well as some connected to the now closed, Saudi-controlled criminal enterprise known as BCCI.

Two major investors in the 43rd president’s early business ventures, Arbusto Energy and Harken Energy, were Salem bin Laden, Osama’s older brother, and Khalid bin Mahfouz, a 20% stakeholder in BCCI, who was himself accused and investigated for financing terrorism. Mahfouz, who died in 2009, was known as the personal banker of the Saudi royal family.

The Saudi-controlled BCCI played a central role in acting as a conduit for renegade CIA operations run by Lt. Col. Oliver North and General Richard Secord, with the elder Bush overseeing the operations from his position as vice president to Ronald Reagan and as a former director of the CIA. Known as the Iran-Contra Scandal in the Eighties, the renegade operation illegally sold thousands of Stinger missiles to the new Revolutionary Government of Iran, in exchange for Iran hurting President Jimmy Carter’s prospects for re-election by holding onto American hostages in the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis. (Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report)

pc_8488f8a3328d56b827a6b4eff8b1718aThe Kerry-Brown Committee also reported on international groups, in particular Israeli, assisting in gunrunning and other illegal operations in league with BCCI. The report stated:

““In April 1989, a network of Israeli arms traffickers, operating out of Miami, made a shipment of 500 Israeli manufactured machine guns through the Caribbean island of Antigua for the use of members of the Medellin cartel. Later, one of these weapons was used in the assassination of Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan, and several other of the weapons were found in the possession of cartel kingpin Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha after his death in a gunfight with Colombian drug agents.””

At the center of the Israeli gun-running operation which provided weapons to the Medellin cartel was Israeli national and BCCI banker Bruce Rappaport.

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Who are the Terrorists? The search for justice in Jerusalem

Back in January 2009 the then Prime Minister of Turkey, Tayyip Erdoğan, made international headlines by publicly confronting his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres. The stage was a debate at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Among other things, Mr Erdoğan accused the Israeli regime of murdering children, referring to the 6th commandment of the ‘Ten’ sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians – ‘Thou shalt not kill.’

Turkey's president Tayyip Erdoğan

Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdoğan

Mr Erdoğan was mocked in some circles in his home country for his limited English, and his insistence on his right to speak by repeating the phrase ‘One minute!’ Subsequent events in the Middle East might suggest, however, that world opinion is moving towards support of his position. Most recently, in the last few weeks, events in Jerusalem, particularly focusing on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, have highlighted the injustices perpetrated against Palestinian Arabs by the state of Israel, supported by the United States of America.

Jerusalem is, and has long been, a major focus of conflict among the world’s three great monotheistic religions. Jews, Christians and Muslims all ascribe enormous significance to the city. For Jews the Temple Mount is ‘one of the places where God’s divine presence was manifested . . . from here the world expanded into its present form and where God gathered the dust used to create the first human, Adam’. It is the site of the legendary Temple of Solomon, though archaeologists have as yet found no signs of that building’s existence. It is known,however, that a ‘second temple’ was constructed in 516 BCE and survived until destroyed by the Romans after a Jewish rebellion in 70 CE. The Romans finally razed the Jewish city in 135 CE, since when, until the founding of the modern state of Israel in 1948, no Jewish political entity existed in the region.

When the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as a state religion, the Emperor Constantine had Jerusalem rebuilt as a Christian centre in 335 CE, and had erected the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. His mother Helena, while on a pilgrimage to the city, claimed to have discovered the very cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. Jews were banned from the city under the rule of the Christian Graeco-Romans.

The Dome of the Rock - one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture

The Dome of the Rock – one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture

From 638 CE Jerusalem was under the governance of Muslim Arabs, in the course of which the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque were built. During this time Christians and Jews were both permitted to live and worship in the city. The oldest synagogue dates from this period, having been built in the 10th century. This period of tolerance, however, came to an end with the Crusader conquest in 1099, when, in the spirit of brotherly love, most of the Muslim and Jewish inhabitants were massacred and the mosques converted for use as shrines of Christian worship.

The holy city was reconquered by the Muslim leader Saladin in 1199, and tolerance of religious worship was reinstated – but for the rest of the 13th century Jerusalem passed through many hands, ending up with the Egyptian Mamluks, who also allowed Christians to visit, restore their churches, and even construct a Franciscan monastery. The Ottoman Sultan Selim I added Jerusalem to his dominions in 1519, and freedom was granted to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. Ottoman rule continued until the dissolution of that empire after the First World War, when, one might say, most of the current problems began.

So, from a purely mathematical point-of-view, if we consider the 2,464 years up to 1948 for which there is conclusive evidence, Jewish occupation counts for 651 years (ending 1,813 years previously), Christians maybe 400 years, leaving the remaining, and most recent 1,313 years to the Muslims. And if you wanted to award a prize for the religion that accorded most tolerance to others, Muslims would win it without a contest.

But life and history aren’t always fair. I’ve been reading a book on the recent history of Palestine called ‘The Origins and Evolution of the Arab-Zionist Conflict’[1]. The author is Michael J Cohen, professor of history at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, credentials which must give him some claim to objectivity, if not to pro-Israeli bias.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque - the 3rd holiest site in Islam

The Al-Aqsa Mosque – 3rd holiest site in Islam

Professor Cohen suggests that Arab nationalism began with the conquest of Egypt by Napoleon in 1798, but made little headway until the First World War. At that time much of today’s Middle East was ruled by the Ottomans and there was no political entity corresponding to Palestine. The British Government, motivated by stalemate on the Western Front and the imminent failure of the Gallipoli Campaign, began to see merit in encouraging the Arabs to rise up against their co-religionist rulers. Despite the widely disseminated myth of Lawrence of Arabia, Cohen gives little credit to TE Lawrence, and suggests that the British used Arab forces as propagandist window-dressing to encourage further revolt, with the aim of transferring control of the region to themselves. According to Cohen, the British High Commissioner for Egypt, Henry McMahon, acting with the authority of the Foreign Secretary, wrote a letter dated 24 October 1915, admittedly a little ambiguous in its wording, to Husayn, one of the most prominent Arab leaders, which the latter understood as containing a British promise to support Arab self-governance in an area that included Palestine.

Sykes-Picot 1916 - You can see why the Turks might not have been happy

Sykes-Picot 1916 – You can see why the Turks might not have been happy

Emerging around the same time towards the end of the 18th century, however, Europe witnessed the political emancipation of the Jews and the rise of Zionism, whose main aim was the return of Jews to their ancient homeland in Palestine. Without getting bogged down in detail, we can say that there was a trickle of Jewish migration into Palestine in the latter half of the 19th century, but a British census taken in 1922 recorded an overwhelming majority of Arabs in proportion to Jews (about 9:1). By that time, however, control of the region had passed from the now defunct Ottoman Empire into the hands of the French and the British. The Sykes-Picot agreement, signed between those two allies in secret in May 1916 had divided the ‘Near East’ into mandated territories and spheres of influence, which goes to explain why the British were conducting that census.

Subsequently it began to occur to the British Government that the establishment of a Jewish state in the southeast Mediterranean would serve the useful purpose of providing extra security for the Suez Canal, the all-important imperial link to India. There was the additional advantage that encouragement of Zionist aims could be presented as enlightened idealistic support for the dispossessed Jewish community. Furthermore, there was the not inconsiderable influence of a rather muddled religious belief which saw merit in returning Jews to the Holy Land. The result was the Balfour Declaration of November 1917 in which among other things, the British Government would ‘Favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish People.’

Wikipedia informs me that the use of the word ‘perfidious’[2] to describe England dates back at least to the 13th century. It was apparently particularly popular with the French over the centuries, and the actual phrase ‘Perfidious Albion’ is said to have been coined by a French poet in 1793. It is not known whether Palestinian Arabs ever employed the term, but it seems they may have had good cause for doing so. The precedent set by the British Government back then in 1917 set the stage for the Arab-Zionist conflict that bedevils all attempts to bring lasting peace to the Middle East.

In those days, the First World War and afterwards, Great Britain and the United States were by no means of one mind in their ‘Near East’ policies. Britain had come to support Zionist aims (largely for their own strategic reasons) while the USA was, at least at first, keen to come to an arrangement with the Ottoman Empire – who for their part had begun to oppose unrestricted Jewish immigration to Palestine. Later, as US power increased and Britain’s influence declined, further conflicts of interest occurred, as for instance in 1956 when President Eisenhower forced Prime Minister Anthony Eden, with his allies, Israel and France, to back down over the ‘Suez Crisis’ in Egypt.

Nevertheless, or perhaps even because of these conflicts, leaders of the Zionist movement have, since 1948, been able to increase the area under the control of Israel. The issue is particularly sensitive because Jewish leaders, with the support of the United States and Great Britain, have argued successfully for the creation/existence of a Jewish homeland in the region of Palestine on the grounds that:

  • It is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, and
  • Jews have suffered so much persecution over the centuries that they need/deserve a haven of safety to call their own. This motive was particularly strong after the Nazi Holocaust came to light.

They have the useful additional argument that opponents are ‘anti-Semitic’ – a term with very unpleasant connotations. Opponents argue, however, with some credibility, that Palestine was not unoccupied territory when the state of Israel was established; the establishment required displacement of existing inhabitants; and the real Zionist aim is to create a homogeneous Jewish state.

UN plan for the partition of Palestine

UN plan for the partition of Palestine

Long before the actual foundation of Israel, Zionist leaders at least, and some pragmatic British politicians, were well aware that such a state could never be the peaceful refuge for Jewish people envisaged by idealistic Christians. Future problems were exacerbated by the British policy of dealing with and rewarding one or two influential Arab families, thereby perpetuating a situation where Palestinian Arabs had no political cohesion of their own to oppose the rise of Israel.

As an aside, this policy has been continued in the wider region by the United States, whose government, in spite of pious protestations to the contrary, clearly prefers to deal with autocratic dictators, hereditary monarchs if possible, rather than democratically elected leaders – in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and Egypt, for example.

The modern state of Israel was born in violence. The United Nations drew up a partition plan in 1947 dividing the region of Palestine into almost equal areas to be administered respectively by Jewish Israel and Arab Palestinians. The city of Jerusalem, in recognition of its importance to both peoples, would exist as an independent internationally administered enclave within one of the majority Arab areas. The UN plan was passed by a vote of 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions. Interestingly Turkey was one of the ten opposing votes, and the United Kingdom was among those abstaining.

As soon as the British gave up their ‘Mandate’ and withdrew, however, violence broke out which rapidly escalated into war. Exactly what happened is a little clouded by differences of interpretation, but some facts seem clear. Arab leaders rejected the UN-proposed partition and a strike was called with some violent incidents. ‘Yishuv’[3] occupied areas that had been granted by the UN to Palestinian Arabs. Troops from four Arab countries, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraq moved into the area and the 1948 ‘Arab-Israeli War’ broke out. Exactly how the ‘Israelis’ managed to prevail is not easy to ascertain. No state of Israel existed as this time, yet the ‘Yishuv’ apparently had sufficient trained soldiers, organisation and military hardware to defeat the armies of four neighbouring countries. Arab incompetence seems to me an inadequate explanation. American sources claim that they placed an arms embargo on both sides – which may deepen the mystery or merely dodge the issue.

Whatever the reason, the result was the creation of an unofficial state of Israel occupying a much larger area than had been envisaged by the UN plan. Egypt and Jordan managed to retain the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively for the displaced Arab refugees. Despite the failure of its partition plan, the United Nations, in May 1949, accepted the new country of Israel as a member, fait accompli. Interestingly, again, in the Security Council vote, Great Britain abstained.

The Iron Dome - Why Hamas rockets don't do much damage to Israel

The Iron Dome – Why Hamas rockets don’t do much damage to Israel

In the years since, wars of greater and lesser scale have broken out, and Israel has gradually increased the size of its territory, again, in defiance of United Nations warnings. Israel took full control of Jerusalem after the ‘Six-Day War’ of 1967, and claims that city as its capital – a claim which the international community does not recognise.

So the cycle of violence continues, with no end in sight. Last Tuesday five people were killed in a bloody attack on a West Jerusalem synagogue by two Palestinians from East Jerusalem’. Israeli spokespersons label it terrorism – and of course no one can condone the killing of innocent people in this way. One man’s terrorist, however, is another man’s freedom fighter, We may understand how the frustration of Palestinian Arabs can burst out into acts of apparently senseless violence because:

  • The very existence of Israel is perceived by many Arabs as having been imposed by outsiders for the benefit of outsiders.
  • Modern Israel is perceived by some as an exclusive ‘apartheid’ state bent on extending its borders and removing Arabs and Muslims. They see the United Nations powerless to enforce its resolutions on Israel, and eventually recognizing the fait accompli.
  • Palestinian Arabs consider that they have been prevented from establishing a state of their own, and consequently have no political leadership able to fight for their rights on the international stage. They find themselves faced with an effectively invulnerable enemy whose military superiority is largely financed by the United States of America.

In a disturbing recent development, the President of Turkey, Tayyip Erdoğan warned the international community that Israel’s actions in Jerusalem, especially with respect to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, could lead to a ‘new Intifada’ – an uprising of Muslims that could have worldwide implications. Mr Erdoğan has long been suspected by some of having Neo-Ottoman aspirations for his country. If he does indeed harbour such ambitions, failure of the international community to heed his warning could be playing into his hands. Turkey has shown itself capable in the past of taking unilateral action when such failure occurs – as in the case of Cyprus. Constant failure to stand up for justice, and weak acceptance of a status quo established by right of might creates dangerous precedents whereby rogue states get a clear message: We have carte blanche to do what we want. Terrorist activity thrives where injustice prevails.

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Further reading: ifamericansknew.org

[1] University of California Press, 1987

[2] treacherous, untrustworthy, two-faced

[3] A term used to refer to the Jewish residents of Palestine before the establishment of the modern state of Israel