Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Showdown in Davos

Earlier this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan walked out of a televised interview with Israeli Prime Minister Simon Peres. After listening to Peres justify the killing of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, Erdogan said that he needed to reply to his Israeli counterpart's remarks. The moderator only gave him a minute or so to speak before cutting him off. Erdogan protested, saying that Peres had been allowed to speak about the Israeli point of view of the Gaza crisis for 25 minutes, while he (Erdogan) was allowed only half that time to speak earlier in the interview. When the moderator continued to interrupt him, Erdogan said that he wouldn't be returning to Davos again, got up and left the stage.

Normally, I would say that Prime Ministers should hold themselves up to a higher standard of conduct. But the fact that it was the Turkish Prime Minister who acted this way makes me think twice before saying anything of the sort. Turkey, after all, has long had a peaceful relationship with Israel - in fact, it has perhaps been the friendliest Middle Eastern neighbor to Tel Aviv.

On March 28, 1949, the Republic of Turkey became the first Middle Eastern country to recognize Israel. Since then, the two countries have cooperated militarily, politically and economically, and they became trade partners due to their geographic proximity and friendly ties. In addition to all this, Turkey has been a driving force for peace between Israel and many states in the Arab world. Most significantly, it was conducting indirect peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, two countries that have been on a collision course for decades.

The fact that this longstanding Israeli ally is outraged by Israel's operations in Gaza, and the Israeli Prime Minister's subsequent justification of his country's actions, is perhaps a reflection of the world's growing impatience with Israel's conduct in the Palestinian territories. For 60 years now, Israel has violated all forms of international law in its occupation of Palestine, from expansion through the creation of illegal settlements, to the subjugation of Palestinians to what some have called apartheid-like policies. And the loss of life witnessed under the Israeli occupation is a whole other issue in and of itself.

Last month's attack on Gaza reminded the world of the violence and death that have resulted since Israel's creation in 1948. Six decades on, it seems that people are beginning to say enough is enough. The Palestine/Israel Question must be answered, and soon. Before any more lives are lost. Justifying an attack like the one on Gaza does not get us anywhere closer to a solution, and that seems to be the message Prime Minister Erdogan hoped to send through his decision to leave Davos.

It seems like many of us across the world have listened up. Let's hope that the Turkish Prime Minister's message will be taken to heart by those who are in the position to change the course of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Only then can this period of bloodshed come to an end.

Read the transcript of the interview here, and watch the video of Erdogan's comments just before leaving the Davos interview below:

Some reactions to Erdogan's move:


Nicholas Karavatos said...

"Before storming out, [Turkish PM] Erdogan told Shimon Peres, the Israeli president: "You are killing people." http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2009/01/20091303153967187.html

Well, if this isn't the pot calling the kettle black.

When a Turk points a righteous finger and says, "You are killing people," that finger is dripping with Greek blood and Armenian blood and Kurd blood.

Turks have an illustrious history of raping, pillaging, murdering, and carrying out ethnic cleansing campaigns. Yet, Erdogan assumes he has the moral authority to point a righteous finger and say, "You are killing people."

Turks have always denied their genocides. If you don't believe the Greeks or the Kurds, just ask the Armenians. The official position of Turkey is that there was no Armenian Genocide. Yet, Erdogan assumes he has the moral authority to point a righteous finger and say, "You are killing people."

Free exchange of ideas?

Try that in the land of the Turkmen where intellectuals go on trial for writing books and articles that critique what is seen in their mirror.

Free speech?

Until recently you would languish in prison for printing or broadcasting or educating in the language of the Kurds, an indigenous population denied their ancestral homeland (sound familiar?).

Yet, Erdogan assumes he has the moral authority to point a righteous finger and say, "You are killing people."

Human rights?

Displeased with "the current constitution [which] obliges the government to ensure equality for all - a clause that women's groups fought hard to include," his Islamic Justice and Development Party has wanted to changed "the document [so it] describes women as a vulnerable group needing [the] protection" of men.(1)

The Sixth Commandment?

Nothing like cherry-picking a document for supporting quotes, ignoring unsupportive quotes.

Body language?

I just think it is childish at worst and adolescent at best for a grown man, the prime minister of a nation, to "storm out" after saying his piece. I've seen men do that at meetings and all I felt was "what a baby."

Denier of atrocities and genocides against Greeks, Kurds, and Armenians as an official government stance, the Turk PM assumes he has the moral authority to point a righteous finger and say, "You are killing people."

Turk atrocities aren't all ancient history, and the older ones shouldn't be considered so in a Middle East that "remembers" the Crusades as if these were contemporary.

Should Jews go back to where they came from? Maybe.
Should Turks go back to where they came from? Maybe.
Should we all go back to where we came from? Maybe.

But where would that be?

I've been wondering: if the Roman Empire hadn't changed the name of that Eastern Mediterranean region to "Palestine," what would we be calling the “Palestinians” today? I've asked several people but no one has ventured an opinion. I don’t know myself.

If anyone reading this post thinks that it (or me) is *denying* anything that has actually happened in Gaza, that would be intentionally missing the point.

My point is that the Turks have so much blood on their hands – Greek, Kurd, Armenian, even Arab blood – I doubt they have the moral authority to say to the Jewish State, “You are killing people.”

The world over, bloody hands shake under the table.

(1) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7025294.stm

Jeremy said...

Your argument seems to be "he who hath not commited imperialism and/or genocide shall cast the first stone". The problem there is that I can think of no people who don't have blood on their hands if you look at them hard enough. Should the Turks take a long and critical look at their own policies and history? Certainly, as should any number of nations. If we quieted all but the innocent, however, future crimes would be met by nothing but silence.

Ravza said...

There are so many things to say about what Mr. Karavatos said. But I will not respond all of these biased comments; I will not respond to hatred with hatred.

The topic was about Israel and Palestine, but some people are unable see the pain of Palestinians and even the dead bodies of hundred of babies because they have historical obsessions and hateful feelings towards "Turks". And for some people a "Turk" is not a word describing an ethnicity but a connection to all the horrible attitudes of humankind. And 70 million people can deserve to be connoted with raping, murdering, or pillaging since they are "Turk".

Here, I would bring the genocides of France in Algeria, or the genocide by Britain in Australia and all the awful historcial events to show how there people are "evil" as Mr. Karavatos said. But of course I am ethical enough not to make such generalizations... and my hearth is not full of hatred. I am a "Turk" Mr. Karavatos, and I never murdered or harmed anyone... Is it hard to imagine for you, and I can point my righteous finger for equality or freedom, do not I have right to do that? Of course I will not ask you to do that; I am a human being, and I will be against all the inequalities while pointing my finger... I pointed this finger with my Kurdish friends in many demonstrations... and I even pointed my finger for an Armenian journalist when he was died... Is it hard to imagine a Turk loves a Kurd or Armenian, if you cannot I want to invite you to place I live in to see in the fist place... But with full of hatred, it might be hard for you Mr. Karavatos... As I told you, I can refute your argument, which is more an biased assult in a better wording, historically... But I don't attempt...As I prefer to leave you with your hatred and anger... I will go back to my country and tell your words to one of my best friends. Her name is Damaris, is the mane familiar to you, Mr. Karavatos. Because Damaris is a Greek and lives in Istanbul... And your hatred is not enough to make us enemies... Because we "Turks" also can love as all the humanbeings...And I know you do not represent your people also with all these unfortunate words...But unfortunately people like you stop us, the youth, to have a better world and live in peace... However, I hope we will not be like you... We will not full our hearths with hatred...And our Prime Minister will not ask your permission to protest any terror; you can keep your precious comments with you... He did not ask your comments when he started the friendly relationships with Armenians, making almost the half of his cabinet Kurdish origin Turkish, and working towards EU... I strongly believe that he will continue his journey of virtue regardless of people's hateful attacks... Because he is not stucked in the past, but aiming a better future, for us, for the young people...

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