President Shimon Peres spent three days in Turkey where he was received with all the usual pomp and circumstance due to presidents. Peres, for his part, showered his hosts with compliments. They deserve every word of praise.
If we had to name the best world leader (admittedly from a pool of slim pickings), we would choose Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who heads the Justice and Development Party. Erdogan's party is Islamic-rooted, a fact which stirs the suspicion that it is a source of backwardness and terror.
It is not. Under Erdogan's rule, Turkey is rising like fresh bread for the baking in the world market. Erdogan, who was born in a poor suburb, sold bread in his youth and prays five times a day, is responsible for transforming his country into a modern state. Without him, belligerent Iran, medieval Saudi Arabia or shaky Pakistan (caught in the calipers of sinister madrasas and a state of emergency) would be setting the tone. Erdogan's Turkey is living proof of the existence of a different kind of state-sponsored Islam. The world knows - only through the model of Turkey - that Islam and democracy are capable of dwelling together.
But the hedonistic West is still afraid of it. You have 70 million Turks in your court, Europe. Instead of embracing Turkey, you are sending it scurrying hither and yon. Instead of proving that this is not a matter of ego, prejudice and xenophobia, you are humiliating the very sane alternative that Turkey represents.
As though the Turkish democracy is the only one that's not perfect, the only one whose laws are flawed and in need of amendment - the only one violating civil and human rights. Romania and Bulgaria, for example, were recently brought into the European Union - even though they are neither models of "good governance" nor lack corruption and organized crime. Romanians, Bulgarians and Latvians, however, are "Ashkenazim" whereas Turks are repugnant "Mizrahim" - to put it in other words. Only nations that come from good stock are admitted into the club. Pleas at the gates will not persuade the selectors. In so doing, Europe is destroying the only alternative to fundamentalism and jihad.
Erdogan is amazing in his restraint: He is ordering an attack in northern Iraq to eradicate the Kurdish rebels, the PKK. PKK members kill Turkish soldiers and civilians on a daily basis, and local public opinion is demanding revenge. However, the Ankara government is coolly calculating its response. If only the United States would do the same; if only we would do the same.
Precisely because of this, the Turkish attitude toward the slaughter of the Armenian people is disappointing. It is not clear why Erdogan is refusing to acknowledge his country's responsibility for a genocide. After all, no one is blaming the new Turkey, which is not being asked to pay any reparations. All anyone wants is acknowledgment that one people fell victim to another.
Such admissions have been made in throughout history: Sons have had the wisdom to disengage from the sins of their fathers.
In this case, it is a matter of great-grandfathers who lived in the Ottoman period. Others have had the wisdom to climb down from the pillar of history's moral turpitude, take off their filthy uniforms and don the garb of "a different Germany."
About a month ago, the Turkish Ambassador to Israel, Namik Tan, wrote a letter to the editor of Haaretz, chiding me for my article, "Turkey and Armenians / Today's denial is tomorrow's holocaust" (October 12). He even accused me of "personal interests," because I nominated myself for the position of ambassador to Armenia. He also taught me a chapter in the history of the Holocaust of the Jews and accused me of insulting it.
I will never understand such an irritable reaction: Why is anyone who protests Turkey's outrageous behavior toward the Armenian people immediately considered its enemy? With enemies like these, like me, Turkey does not need friends - and it has a great many enemies. (Who doesn't?) This sensitivity reminds me of a similar sensitivity to any and all criticism. Israel, too, sometimes mixes up friends and foes.
Peres' visit is therefore timely - the right visitor in the right place. Tan, too, is the right ambassador in the right place. Both are doing unto the Armenians what Israel and Turkey (and probably every other nation) would hate to have done to them.
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