Israeli Couple's Arrest in Turkey Diplays Israel's Hypocrisy

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gestures during a welcome ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia, in August.
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Sometimes it seems as if there are no limits to hypocrisy and double standards, that Israelis have a record-breaking lack of self-awareness and the Israeli media can obscure and deny reality and brainwash the public to its heart’s content. Granted that the camel never sees its hump, but one can assume that it at least knows it has one. Israel, on the other hand, is unaware of its own hump.

An Israeli tourist couple, who are apparently innocent, are arrested in Turkey. The suspicions are weighty and the atmosphere is charged, coming after reports that 15 Mossad agents were discovered in Turkey. Beyond that, Turkey is not a model country when it comes to the rule of law.

Several days after their arrest, the couple manage to meet with their lawyer. The Israeli consul brings them clothing and food. They are barely questioned, certainly not beaten or tortured, and the conditions of their confinement are apparently reasonable. At the moment, this is a sad and perhaps Kafkaesque story of false arrest unless proven otherwise, one that, it is hoped, will end well.

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At the cynical direction of the media – that national enterprise that traffics in emotions and inflames passions – Israel is anxious. It won’t be long before every window in the country is festooned with a yellow ribbon in support of the release of our Natalie and Mordi Oknin.

They are the subject of headlines, special reports and breaking news delivered by special correspondents who were immediately dispatched to Istanbul. And everyone knows it’s Erdoğan and how cruel he is. Sometimes it’s moving to witness the concern over a single anonymous couple. But sometimes it’s off-putting for its crazy exaggeration, and it is always detached from reality.

Israel, and particularly the Israeli media, have no moral right to get all out of joint over a single false arrest. A society that takes no interest in the daily false arrests of its own doing and a media scene that never reports on them as it should – lest it anger its clientele – lack any right to cause a fuss over one false arrest in another country and to take its regime to task as it has.

Turkey is clearly governed today by an undemocratic regime, but it’s certainly no more dictatorial than Israel’s military rule in the territories. Furthermore, in certain respects, the military government in the territories is even more cruel and totalitarian than Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s reign of terror.

Our Natalie and Mordi are now the apple of the eye of Israeli society. It’s that same society that has never cared about the masses of Natalies and Mordis who have been arrested in the territories, in a large portion of cases through no fault of their own.

They undergo an ordeal of questioning and humiliation that Natalie and Mordi will never experience. They could only dream of a consul visiting them and bringing them food and clothing, and they are sometimes sentenced to many years in prison over nothing – by an obedient political-military-judicial system that has no connection to doing justice.

Yet most of the Israeli press remains uninterested in what’s going on there at the same time that it dispatches special correspondents to Istanbul who tell about the Turkish system of justice. Israelis love stories about Jewish victims, but it would never occur to them to drive an hour from home to visit a Palestinian detainee, one who has been on hunger strike for five months in protest at his detention without trial and without charges against him.

Mordi and Natalie have been “abducted,” say those who would never resort to the same language in describing the brutal abductions that the Israeli army carries out every night on orders from the Shin Bet. In Israel, it’s always called an arrest and a war against terrorism.

If concern for human rights were what guided Israeli society and the Israeli media, then one could understand the intensity of the shock over the detention of the Oknins. “Natalie asked for socks,” the lawyer who visited her recounted, while in Israel people wiped away a tear.

But what about socks for Kayed Fasfous, who is dying in the hospital on hunger strike? Natalie asked about her children and cried. But what about Fasfous’ weeping and his longing for his own daughter, Joan?

People in Israel have complained that the Turkish media have not reported on the arrest of the Oknins. And really, how is it possible that innocent people are falsely arrested and that the propagandist media doing the government’s bidding don’t report on it? How strange, how shocking.

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