I do not speak a word of Turkish, but it is quite clear when conversations are circulating around Israel’s recent mess. From the small tourist town of Fethiye where the TV plays a cartoon of one of the Israeli boats turning into a pirate ship, to Istanbul where the whole press corp seems to be temporarily camped out in the airport. Israel is a hot – and necessary – topic.
Due to only a surface knowledge of regional issues, I will refrain from commenting extensively. However, here are a few interesting links.
Hakura (who I am quite sure is sitting across from me right now and arguing over an article online) looks at Turkish public opinion and the Israeli bungle. One passage of particular interest:
Yet the key reason for the shift is the continuing democratisation of Turkish society. It was previously the norm for the Turkish state establishment to ignore, or downgrade, the influence of public opinion on foreign policy. That is no longer the case. Today, as Turkey proceeds along the path of greater democracy and civilian rule, public opinion is becoming a crucially important ingredient in foreign policy choices.
I make no presumption to know much about Turkey, but a few Turks I have spoken to are of the opinion that Turkish society is ‘regressing’ towards stronger Islamic fundamentalist beliefs (Iran) and away from the secular, democratic and fair Turkey. Comments?
Another article highlights Turkey’s pivotal role in the aftermath of the event:
By attacking the relief flotilla, Israel picked a fight with Turkey, a more dangerous foe than Hamas. The quarrel has been brewing for the past several years, and it’s a huge strategic change in the Middle East. Once Israel’s most important regional ally, Turkey now seeks to challenge Israel’s hegemony as the local superpower. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a Muslim populist with a charismatic message: We won’t let Israel push us around. Where Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is often a buffoon, Erdogan is a genuinely tough if erratic rival.
In Syria, even to an outsider, it is understood that Turkey was no longer seen as a viable broker between Israel and Syria. Stability is not expected.
In such a loaded atmosphere, it seems reasonable to look at the legality of all this. See Opinio Juris for a few thoughts on the Gaza blockade. And EJIL: Talk! for thoughts on proportionality. Here’s a Q and A, also on the legality of the blockade itself, from Reuters.
Of course, the US’s reaction is decisive in what is to come. Here’s a short commentary on the current state of American Jewish opinion and their increasingly liberal proponents.
And, finally, your token conservative. He does make a point when emphasizing that the so called ‘pacifists’ on board were perhaps not ‘pacifists’. However, it has also been determined that the facts behind the whole event are not yet clear. Little speculation should take place without them.
Finally, I would urge everyone, after the initial “Uh, oh, Israel’s done it again” moment, to exercise reason over emotion.