Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a moderate man - moderate and polite. He eats with his mouth closed and speaks quietly to the man sitting next to him, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio da Silva (Lula ). While waiting in line for food, Erdogan doesn't push. This is not Gaza, there's enough for everyone - even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and other movers and shakers, aristocrats, presidents, revolutionaries, foreign ministers and heads of organizations.
After putting on his show at the UN Alliance of Civilizations Forum (held at the end of last month ), Erdogan is relaxed. They behave differently in the VIP club during the quasi-social part of the Rio de Janeiro conference. The Turkish leader speaks through a crouching interpreter to his neighbor at the table. He doesn't seem to mind that an Israeli happens to be sitting at the next table; though not a representative of official Israel, which is boycotting the convention. The arena is wide open for one-sided anti-Israel arguments. Hundreds of Brazilian youth, who had been invited to take in an international atmosphere, are exposed to the Palestinian side alone.
The United Nations established the Alliance of Civilizations, headed by former Portuguese president Jorge Sampaio, in 2005. Its lofty objective: to build a bridge to peace among nations. And from on top of that bridge, they attack Israel. Until recently, to show their identification with Israeli resentment, the Americans boycotted the organization as well. That approach has since been revised, however, and a rising star in the Obama administration, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Esther Brimmer - whose name may suggest a Hadassah veteran, but who is actually the Democratic Party's version of Condoleezza Rice - was sent to Rio; she spoke about a less explosive issue: the empowerment of women.
Erdogan did his part in delivering a belligerent anti-Israel speech - four days before the encounter between the Mavi Marmara and the Israel Navy. All of the other speakers - Lula, Ban, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal who quietly delivered a declaration from King Abdullah - simply spoke; Erdogan shouted. According to him, the children of Gaza are comparable to the 3,000 victims of the 9/11 attacks.
It was not the Turkish prime minister who spoke against Israel at the forum, it was an Islamist. He is disingenuous in his attempt to distinguish between Islamic terror, whose existence he denies, and ordinary terror, which is sometimes perpetrated by Muslims and sometimes by others. His denial does not change the reality. Islamic terror, whose goal is to restore the glory of Islam everywhere, certainly exists.
Israel has no quarrel with Turkey. On the contrary; they are natural allies. But Islamists cannot live in peace with Israel, and in that sense any natural alliance would be between Erdogan and Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas (but not Syria, certainly not as long as it is under Alawite rule ). This has nothing to do with one ship or another, nor to the situation in Gaza. In fact, global statistics reveal that the average Gazan is better off than the average Turk. An infant in Gaza has a life expectancy a year and a half longer than his Turkish cousin - 73.5 as compared to 72. Gaza should send assistance to Turkey.
In light of Erdogan's decision to join the Tehran-Gaza axis, Israel should rethink its attitude toward the Kurdish minority in Turkey. Although Erdogan initiated cultural autonomy for the Kurds, they remain an oppressed minority group. While it's true that the PKK is a terror organization - the Kurds' Hamas - that is no reason not to talk to the group and to recognize the Kurds' right to self-determination. And how are the children in the villages of southeastern Turkey at fault? Food should be sent to them, and in preparation for the snowy winter, blankets and fuel as well. There is no question the Turkish army will waive its country's sovereignty and allow the aid ships to arrive.
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