Saturday, February 21, 2009

Blowback from Erdogan's comments at Davos

Turkey's strained ties to the West - The Boston Globe

David L. Phillips criticizes Erdogan for supporting Hamas, but he misconstrues Erdogan's comments, which focused on Israel's killing of civilians as war crimes not on supporting Hamas. In that regard, Erdogan was hardly unique. War crimes allegations against Israel have been made by a variety of NGOs and individuals, and have been sufficiently general that Israeli officials have expressed alarm that army officers will face individual prosecutions. The International Criminal Court is reportedly analyzing how to proceed with prosecution. The result is a skewed article that carefully stays within the lines of political correctness associated with many discussions of Israeli behavior in the U.S.

Phillips calls for Turkey to take a variety of steps to prove it bona fides as a western state, including opening its borders with Armenia and opening its ports to vessels from the Republic of Cyprus, which now enjoys EU membership. He might have also noted that the mediated reunification of Cyprus was endorsed by the island's Turkish Cypriots and rejected by its Greek Cypriots.

Phillips predicts that the Congress may indeed pass a resolution on the Armenian genocide this year. He may prove to be right, but as I have argued recently the Israeli-Turkish relationship is strategically crucial to Israel and I expect that influential pro-Israel groups--however offended they may be by the Davos incident--will ultimately lobby for Turkey and against the resolution. We'll see. I have my own views on the horrors inflicted upon the Armenian people, but they are not relevant to my point.

The oped is accompanied by a photograph taken by Mustafa Ozer of AFP. "The caption reads: Supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) waved national and Palestinian flags as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived at the airport in Istanbul last month." That is accurate. Yet, in the text Phillips refers to the crowd waving the green flag of Hamas.

The picture does not show that at all. Most of the flags are Turkish, and a few are the flags of Palestine. The Hamas flag displays the Muslim's profession of faith ("There is no god but God....") known as the Shahada, usually in white Arabic script on a green field. It does not look at all like the Palestine flag. Perhaps Phillips has seen another picture, but the one published with his article does not substantiate his claim. Furthermore, a 2:40 video of Erdogan reception in Istanbul also features Turkish and Palestinian flags, not Hamas flags. The IHT report of January 30, 2009, which covers Erdogan's warm welcome in Istanbul notes Turkish and Palestinian flags being waved. The picture that accompanies the IHT story does not show Hamas flags at all.

So Mr. Phillips, please produce your picture.


Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not so sure all of those people were AKP supporters. Some, sure, but all?

arn said...

Of course, Anonymous is quite correct. This points up the fact that not only AKP supporters but Turks in general were outraged by the Israeli actions in Gaza, as reflected in polling.