A modest proposal for a new ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ campaign

A guest post by Joe Geary

There is a country in the Middle East which makes a great play of being a democracy and about espousing Western ideals regarding human rights, and is forever bragging how different this makes it to its despotic Arab neighbours. But this self-same Middle Eastern country for decades now has been occupying the lands of one of its neighbours and conducting apartheid-like discrimination against its internal minority community. Its charismatic right-wing leader has one message for its close ally the United States and for the EU, with which it seeks closer ties, but quite another for its internal allies.

Isn’t it time this so-called democracy was held to account, and was made to face up to its hypocrisy? Isn’t it time the international community as a whole, and the International Solidarity Movement in particular, launched a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Turkey?

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The crux of the argument by those engaging in BDS against Israel is that, no, they don’t single out Israel because it’s a Jewish state or because it is an ally of the West. They choose to boycott only Israel, they claim, because it’s a democracy and should therefore behave like one – and because boycott of a tyrannical regime doesn’t work, whereas boycott of a democracy can influence its citizenry to lobby for change to the offending policies.

Well, dear friends of the BDS movement, now is your chance to prove that you are not just shills for terrorists and Arab rejectionism, that you are not closet antisemites or anti-western ideologues and that you really care for oppressed peoples everywhere.

Now that the eyes of the world are focussed on Turkey, here is your chance to say no to Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus. Here is your chance to say no to Turkey’s institutional discrimination against Kurds who, unlike the Palestinians, have no autonomy, no government, no parliament, no courts, no police, no education system of their own, and whose very language is suppressed by government edict. Now is the time to send your message to Prime Minister Erdogan and his cronies that the world will no longer tolerate their brutal repression of human rights.

So, you must lobby universities to boycott all Turkish academics; even if they personally oppose Erdogan’s thuggish ways, they are still complicit. You must urge all dignitaries not to visit Ankara and all politicians not to speak to their Turkish counterparts until the country mends its ways. You must lobby to cut all cultural contacts and exchanges. You must organise marches and university demonstrations against the racist Turkish entity. Above all, each and every one of you, must refuse to consume Turkish Delight and all other products of the region, and boycott and picket vociferously the shops and candy stores that sell them, even at the risk of appearing ridiculous in the eyes of the public. The cause demands it.   

If successful your campaign would of course hurt the people of Turkey, especially the poorest, who might well lose their jobs. But that is a small price to pay for your moral stance and your sacrifice, and surely the Turkish people, even if unemployed, would take the long view and be grateful for your selfless attention. They will surely understand that you single out Turkey for BDS, for cultural isolation and economic deprivation, because you are their friends.

Sadly the last BDS you organised – against, naturally, the Israeli people – didn’t turn out so well. Indeed, the Israeli economy is thriving like no other. But you might have better luck against, sorry, with Turkey.

Ahmad Hashemi: ‘Anti-Semitism is why the Arab Spring failed’

Ahmad Hashemi is a former Iranian foreign ministry employee who worked as an English and Arabic interpreter.  He was actively involved in the pro-democracy Green Movement protests in 2009, and in early 2012 was nominated to run for parliamentary elections.  However, he was disqualified from running by the Guardians Council.

In May 2012, he was dismissed from his foreign ministry job.

Beginning in early May 2012, he began to contribute articles to the leading reformist papers but was subjected to constant threats and restrictions from the Iranian regime.  He then fled Iran and is currently seeking political asylum in Turkey where he works as a freelance journalist.

He wrote a powerful essay at Times of Israel on April 9 titled ‘Anti-Semitism is why the Arab Spring failed - one which we strongly urge you to read.

No BDS for this intractable Middle East conflict

Cross posted at CAMERA’s blog, Snapshots

Dec. 29, 2011: Kurdish demonstrators gather at a rally in Istanbul to protest an airstrike that killed 35 people in southeastern Turkey. (Reuters)

July 26, 2012: The Prime Minister “warned that it might take action to stop groups it deemed ‘terrorists’ from forming” an autonomous region. “No one should attempt to provoke us. If a step needs to be taken …. we would not hesitate to take it (Fox News).”

July 25, 2012: “… forces killed at least 15 … in a raid near the country’s border … after tracking them with drones and attacking them with helicopters and on the ground, officials said on Wednesday.”

June 19, 2012 : “Fighting leaves 26 dead.”

March 25, 2012: “15 [were] killed…all of them women.”

Dec. 29, 2011: “… at least 35 people died most of whom were teenagers” from air strikes (“Attack on Civilians Tied to U.S. Military Drone, Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2012).”

Oct. 19, 2011: “… airstrikes and artillery attacks against the group’s bases… killing as many as 160 militants…”

1) Who is the Prime Minister who threatened to use his military forces to attack a neighboring state in order to stop militants from setting up an autonomous region?

2) Is the media complaining about the use of “disproportionate force” against the militants in these cases? 

3) Has the U.N. Human Rights Commission launched a special investigation like it did for the Israeli Cast Lead operation in 2009?

4) Have the Presbyterian and other churches set aside large blocks of time at their national conventions to debate and vote on motions to boycott and divest from companies that do business with this state because its forces utilize American technology, including drones, to crush the aspirations for autonomy of a dispossessed people?

The answer to question 1): Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Prime Minister. Erdogan’s unapologetic resort to military force in dealing with Kurdish militants contrasts with his condemnation of Israel’s response to the Gaza flotilla in 2010 which resulted in the deaths of 9 Turkish militants who attacked an Israeli boarding party initially armed with paint guns. Erdogan continues to demand an Israeli apology even though a UN investigation found Israel’s interception of the flotilla to be legal.

To questions 2), 3) and 4) the answer is no.
Major news media report on the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in a perfunctory and dispassionate manner. This contrasts with much of the reporting on Israel. The New York Times and the BBC, for example, do not routinely publish editorials, op-eds and columns lambasting Turkey for failing to show any willingness to accommodate Kurdish demands for autonomy. Compare the Times’smeasured handling of Prime Minister Erdogan’s bellicosity with its scathing treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Then consider the fact that the Turkish-Kurdish conflict has taken an estimated 40,000 lives, including many civilians, over the past 30 years. 

“Modern” Turkey: Where using Hitler to promote a men’s shampoo is considered “edgy”

Per Elder of Ziyon:

Biomen is a Turkish cosmetics company trying to make a splash in the local market. They hired M.A.R.K.A., an advertising agency known for its “edgy” ads.

The resulting ad( (aired on March 21) shows footage of Adolf Hitler, dubbed and subtitled as if he is speaking about men’s shampoo.

Radical Terrorist Chic on the high seas yet again

Apparently unmoved by the plight of victims of the recent earthquake in eastern Turkey or the quotidian slaughter of civilians in Syria, the semi-professional activists of ‘Free Gaza’ are back with another mini-flotilla, apparently set to reach Israeli waters by late Thursday or early Friday (the boats can be tracked here).

This particular publicity stunt is comprised of a mere two vessels, both of which participated in the failed flotilla of summer 2011. One is the Irish boat the MV Saoirse and the other the Canadian boat named ‘Tahrir’. According to their own publicity, the boats carry a total of 27 passengers from nine countries – a significant number of which appear to be journalists. Aboard the Canadian boat are a grand total of six activists along with five journalists representing DemocracyNow, Al Jazeera, the Iranian government’s Press TV and an Egyptian media outlet.

Of course there is no reason to suspect that during the long hours spent at sea the committed Canadian ‘human rights activists’ will be quizzing the Iranian reporter about the lack of rights for women and homosexuals in his own country or that they will address the fact that, far from being a victim of ‘Israeli apartheid’, their Israeli Arab fellow passenger Majed Kiyal is a student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The Irish boat appears to have seven passengers aboard, including former rugby player Trevor Hogan, Libyan/Irish citizen Hussein Hamed, the University of Limerick’s Zoe Lawlor, Belfast Friends of Palestine representative John Mallon, Waterford council member Pat Fitzgerald and Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy.

The boats’ cargoes apparently consist of letters of support to the people of Gaza from concerned Westerners as well as an alleged $30,000 worth of medicines. Apparently demonstrations are planned in Gaza and Ramallah on Thursday afternoon to demand UN protection for the flotilla, despite the fact that the UN commissioned Palmer Report deemed the partial embargo on Gaza perfectly legal.  

Here at CiF Watch we have covered extensively in the past the subject of the connections between the various ‘Free Gaza’ flotilla stunts and their extreme Islamist organisers. The facts behind these repeated operations are freely available for anyone to find, and yet the jaded scenario of Western ‘human rights activists’ engaging in PR stunts on behalf of a non-democratic, racist, repressive theocratic regime continues to be promoted by the supposedly ‘liberal’ Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood, who is apparently determined to avoid all serious investigative reporting at any cost. 

The Monday Morning Guardian Israel Hate Page

The Guardian Israel hate page this morning – as my dear friend MargieinTelAviv affectionately calls it – features a veritable choice of Israel-bashing articles to sink one’s teeth into.

 

First, there’s an article by Peter Preston, former Guardian editor, which contains a breathtaking insight into the malice with which he views Israel.   

As for Egypt itself, transition seems a puny word. Goodbye to Mubarak, and decades of autocracy; hello to dawning democracy, to millions on the streets, to outbursts of mass anger that, these past few days, can see Israel’s embassy while soldiers struggle for control. Maybe democracy and violent protest aren’t obvious bedfellows, but this time there is a connection – because now the crowd can come out spontaneously to make its feelings clear.[emphasis added]

Lets unpack this last sentence for a second. Preston seems to be drawing together two somewhat disparate themes: democracy and violence; the suggestion being that the freedoms associated with democracy have allowed the “Egyptian street” to express their true feelings toward Israel. However, the idea of democracy is not about unleashing the inner animal so that anarchy reins – but allowing freedom of expression to flourish within the confines of the rule of law. What Preston does through a rhetorical play on words is contextualize and justify violence against Israelis in the name of democracy.  

If that’s not enough, Preston then goes on to upbraid Israel for its stubborn refusal to commit suicide by refusing to recognize the Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood expected to take place at the UN later this month.  

Israel ought to be voting to recognise a Palestinian state too this week, coming to terms with change before change engulfs it. But is there any sign of such awareness in the bunkers of entrenched obliviousness? An Arab spring? Fear, rather, an Israeli winter.

The theme of unilateral declaration of statehood is then picked up by the perfidious Gerald Kaufman. Under the heading “Israel’s Choices” in the letters page, Israel is presented with one choice.

President Abbas is to be congratulated on persisting in applying for Palestinian statehood at the UN (Report, 9 September), despite all the pressure and blackmail trying to force him not to. The quartet has never done anything meaningful to give the Palestinians their independence. If the US uses its veto at the security council, this will prove the smug windbag Obama to be the puppet of Aipac. The hypocrisy of those countries which vote against or abstain at the general assembly will similarly be exposed. This brave Palestinian move will change the entire environment of the Middle East and tell the Israelis that they must negotiate meaningfully if they wish to be one of the states in a two-state solution.
Gerald Kaufman MP
Lab, Manchester Gorton

[Note how for good measure Kaufman breezily employs the rhetoric more commonly associated with Jewish conspiracy theorists Walt and Mearsheimer by stating that US support of Israel in the United Nations is the work of the US puppet master, AIPAC.]

Not to be outdone by Preston and Kaufman, Jerusalem correspondent, Harriet Sherwood adds her own two cents by posting an article suggesting that there is widespread approval for the support of a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in Europe.

The majority of people in the UK, France and Germany want their governments to vote in favour of recognising a Palestinian state if a resolution is brought before the United Nations in the next few weeks, according to an opinion poll.

The basis for such a claim, we learn, is a poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of Avaaz.

The poll was conducted by YouGov on behalf of Avaaz, a global campaigning organisation that is conducting an online petition in support of a Palestinian state. It is planning to deliver more than 913,000 signatories backing what it describes as “this new opportunity for freedom” to the European parliament.

We do not know what questions were asked in this poll – all we are told is, by way of footnote, that the poll was conducted online with 2,552 respondents in the UK, 1,017 respondents in Germany and 1,011 in France. However if the track record of Avaaz polling is anything to go by, the results are not to be trusted.    

And Avaaz has an even more checkered background as Daniel Greenfield observes,

Avaaz [is] a left-wing organization conducting a pressure campaign for Palestinian statehood. Avaaz’s video lays the blame for the violence on Israel, compares Israel’s Foreign Minister to Ahmadinejad and presents the unilateral Hamas-Fatah state as a way to bring peace to the region. Viewers are not told that few things are more certain to bring violence than unilateral actions by a fanatical terrorist group whose covenant celebrates the genocide of the Jewish people.

Like its video, Avaaz is not what it seems. Unlike most organizations, Avaaz does not list its staff openly; instead it claims to practice “servant leadership” with staffers letting members decide what to do. Only when the tax returns for Avaaz are examined, does a clearer picture emerge of who is really in charge.

Avaaz’s tax returns mention only one paid employee, its president, Ricken Patel, who pulls down a six figure salary—not bad for a ‘servant’. Patel was also a co-founder of Res Publica, the organization that co-founded Avaaz.

The Chairman of the Board, Eli Pariser, is the president of MoveOn.org which also co-founded Avaaz, and  along with Avaaz’s Secretary, Tom Pravda, is also on the advisory board of Res Publica. Patel and Pariser serve on the advisory board of J-Street, a Soros organization founded to undermine Jewish support for Israel.

What’s the difference between Res Publica and Avaaz? Avaaz looks like an international activist group, which is convenient when you want to appear to be a global movement, instead of a disguised branch of the same old American left-wing organizations.

Res Publica gets the majority of its funding from the Open Society Institute, which makes Avaaz another disguised George Soros project, just like J Street. The Economic Times hails Ricken Patel as “The Man Who Gives You Your Voice”, but it’s not “your” voice, it’s Soros’ voice.

And if the anti-Israel agitrop of Harriet Sherwood were not enough, there’s a Guardian editorial to top things off reveling in Israel’s regional isolation.

If post-revolutionary Egypt and an economically resurgent Turkey make common cause against their former common ally – and there is every indication that they will – Israel‘s isolation in the region will be profound.

In other words, just another day at the “world’s leading liberal voice”.

Unintentionally comical CiF reader comment of the day: CiF moderators are biased IN FAVOR of CiF Watch

I was about to post on yet another inexplicable deletion by CiF moderators of a pro-Israel comment beneath the line of today’s Guardian editorial, “Israel and Turkey: sailing into choppy waters“, when I came across this:

This reader’s comment – suggesting that CiF moderators are pro-CiF Watch – is especially enjoyable in light of our post yesterday about a Guardian reader who suggested to Bella Mackie (Alan Rusbridger’s daughter), in a CiF open forum, that CiF Watch may have agents placed in key positions at the Guardian.

While it’s certainly flattering that the anti-Israel Left may entertain notions of our blog’s global Zionist subterfuge, and conjure a grassroots media watchdog whose tentacles have even managed to penetrate a UK media Goliath as hostile to Israel as the Guardian, the notion that CiF moderators (who routinely delete comments with links to CiF Watch posts) are biased in favor of CiF Watch is simply hilarious.   

Oh, wait, this just in!

Guardian editorial on Palmer Report dismisses findings at odds with their desire to vilify Israel

When asked whether our blog’s efforts to combat antisemitism and the assault on Israel’s legitimacy is effective, and whether we are winning hearts and minds, I typically respond by first breaking the public into three (admittedly broad) categories:

1. Zionists and philosemites who we don’t need to convince of the righteousness of our cause, but may still appreciate our efforts to state the case for Israel clearly, and without apologies.

2. Those in the broad middle whose minds are open to our arguments.

3.  And those who possess a bigoted, or ideologically-inspired, hostility towards Israel – and often Jews as such – which is impervious to facts, reason, or moral persuasion.  

While our target audience are clearly those in the first two categories, the Guardian and those who take seriously the paper’s views on Israel fall squarely in the third category, are beyond reach, and simply need to be fought and exposed.

The Guardian editorial on Sunday, Sept. 4, “Israel and Turkey: sailing into choppy waters”, is a case study that the paper’s editors possess a hostility towards the Jewish state that is seemingly immutable.

Despite the Palmer Report’s findings that Israel’s blockade is consistent with international law, which characterized the IHH sponsored incursion as a reckless and dangerous provocation, and concluded that IDF Navy personnel was met by organized and violent resistance, a recent Guardian editorial on the continuing diplomatic fallout between Israel and Turkey demonstrates that the Guardian views the report – which wildly contradicts their initial coverage of the 2010 flotilla incident – as a journalistic liability whose conclusions should be ignored or undermined. 

The editorial line is clear by the second paragraph, which interprets the disagreements between Israeli and Turkish authorities over how best to repair the diplomatic damage as an example of Israeli intransigence.

The editorial argues:

“In offering regret and compensation but refusing to apologise, Binyamin Netanyahu’s government made a conscious decision: once again Israel chose a tactical victory over a strategic relationship.”

Naturally, it is simply inconceivable that the Guardian could conclude that, perhaps, by refusing Israel’s offer of an official expression of regret for the loss of life, and monetary compensation, Turkey is the obstinate party.

The editorial continues:

“Where the Mavi Marmara went, Turkey will follow by challenging the Gaza blockade in the international court of justice. And rightly so.”

So, not only has the Guardian learned nothing from the report’s findings, on the legality of Israel’s blockade – and the broader conclusions that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and that  that “all humanitarian missions wishing to assist Gaza’s population should do so through established procedures” – the paper’s editors seem to be egging on Turkey to continue their belligerence against Israel, and, further, provide moral encouragement to hostile groups intent on again challenging the blockade.

Such a strategy would seem, at the very least, egregiously inconsistent with the editorial’s seeming initial concerns over the diplomatic riff between Israel and Turkey.

But, the Guardian editorial then descends even further.

“If, as Palmer found, the siege is legal in international law, the occupation is too. This must be challenged in court.”

Now, even by Guardian standards, this is simply an unintelligible passage. The basis of the legality of Israel’s blockade stems from their reasonable determination that Gaza is a hostile state and that lsrael’s blockade has a legitimate security objective: “To  prevent weapons, ammunition, military supplies and people from entering Gaza and to stop Hamas operatives sailing away from Gaza with vessels filled with explosives”

But, finally, and most troubling, what “occupation” are they referring to?

Are they really advancing the perverse logic of Israel’s most implacable foes that Gaza remains “occupied”?   

Six years after Israel withdrew every last remaining Jew from Gaza, and five years after a plurality of Palestinians voted to elect a hideously antisemitic terrorist movement dedicated to Israel’s destruction – a government which has, since elected, launched thousands of missiles into Israeli civilian communities – the Jewish state, is trying desperately, as any state would, to defend her citizens.

Yet, the Guardian is not only unmoved by the plight of the Jewish democratic state, but increasingly parrots the the vile logic of her decidedly reactionary enemies.

This is what the Guardian has become:  Enablers, if not defenders, of the most explicitly antisemitic movements in the world today – a  grotesque moral perversion of what was once a truly liberal voice.

Neighborhood bully? The Guardian’s selective moral outrage

A guest post by Geary

On Thursday, the Middle East’s leading bully, with the region’s biggest army, began a brutal campaign of bombing and shelling of civilian targets against its neighbouring country, after claiming that eight of its citizens had been killed by what it calls terrorists, but what many outsiders would call freedom fighters. In two days, warplanes flew over a hundred missions while more than two hundred other targets were pounded by shells. The political leaders promise further violent action: “The cost of this will also be very heavy”, even against non-combatants: “Those who do not distance themselves from terrorism will pay the price”.

No news has yet to filter out on the number of civilian casualties since the aggressor refuses to allow any of its reporters in to the affected areas. The response of the international community to this wholly disproportionate use of force has been predictably … entirely absent. The self-styled “world’s leading liberal newspaper”, the Guardian, for instance, has not even bothered (to date) to post a piece on its Comment is Free site.

The bully is of course Turkey, and Turkey is allowed to get away with murder, indeed, mass murder in dealing with its “terrorist problem”. And Turkey has a “terrorist problem” thanks to decades, well, a century actually, of cultural – occasionally also physical – genocide against the Kurdish population unfortunate enough to reside in the territories governed from Ankara.

2010. Kurdish child held in Turkish prison. Many children as young as 12 face torture and other maltreatment: http://www.kurdishinstitute.be/english/1779.html

The first half of the 20th Century is a very sad story of humiliation, pogroms, internal deportations. Since then, “modern” Turkey has followed an aggressive policy of enforced Turkification of its minorities. No multiculturalism in Turkey I’m afraid.

For the “world’s leading liberal newspaper”, however, the Kurds are one of the Middle East’s forgotten people, along with the Copts, the Baha’i, the Asian slaves in the Gulf states, not to mention further afield, the beleaguered non-Muslims in Pakistan.

Now, since Israel suffered a terrorist attack this week too, this time by a group of terrorists – sorry, freedom fighters – from a rather less “forgotten people”, the Palestinians, it might be instructive to compare for a moment the plights of the two populations.

Since the Oslo agreements of 1993 the Palestinians have enjoyed a semi-autonomous political status. The Palestinians have their own government and parliament, their own judiciary, independent education and health systems (though many prefer to be treated in Israel – for free as it happens), and the Palestinian Authority manages most of the taxation regime. The Palestinians could also have a free press if only the PA would allow one. And ever since the Israelis withdrew from Gaza in 2005, there has even been an entirely free and independent Palestinian entity.

The Kurds in Turkey in contrast do not enjoy their own governmental or judicial organs, they are forbidden their own schools or universities. It is enormously dangerous to belong to any Kurdish political group but then, in Turkey, practically any form of political protest is a criminal offence. In a country with strict laws on “insulting Turkishness”, just refusing to be Turkish (or Muslim) can be considered an insult. Once banned altogether, the use of Kurdish language is strictly prohibited in official business, including mosques. Many Kurds feel that things are getting worse not better.

Kurdish women hold portraits of their missing sons on May 18, 2011. Thousands of missing Kurdish boys and men are presumed to have been killed by Turkish Authorities: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/tag/turkey/

And how does the “world’s leading liberal voice” view the man in charge of this monstrously illiberal State, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a man who orders the bombardment of civilians, upholds all of Turkey’s racist laws and even rails against the use of Kurdish in mosques? An Islamist zealot convicted in 1998 of inciting religious hatred? But of course it fawns on him. He’s “charismatic”, “pious”, “modest”, a “hero” to his people. Criticism of Erdogan’s Turkey draws a histrionic defence. One suspects the Guardian loves him mainly because, though head of a country which invades its neighbours, persecutes its minorities and occupies northern Cyprus, he gets vapours when berating Israel over Gaza and sends boatloads of provocateurs in the hope of making trouble. To deepen the irony still further, in the very same year as Cast Lead, Erdogan’s army was carrying on large-scale military operations against the Kurds in Iraq (how many Guardian readers knew that?). One presumes it was the combination of his hatred for Israel and the sheer chuzpah of his hypocrisy which made him CNN Arabic’s “Man of 2011”.

The Kurds have never been offered autonomy by the Turks. The Palestinians instead could have begun building their own state in 1947 and indeed have had several opportunities since, most recently in 2000 at the Camp David talks. The Kurds do not want to annihilate Turkey, just a little autonomous geographical space of their own. Hamas, among others, make no secret of their desire to destroy Israel politically and perhaps also genocidally.

But upon whom does the “world’s leading liberal voice” choose to pour its vitriol, now as ever? No prizes for guessing Israel which, unlike Turkey, has no right to retaliate the murder of its civilians (BTW the Turks killed recently by the Kurdish activists were all soldiers, the Israelis all civilians except one). A headline such as that used by the Guardian on Thursday “Israel attacks Gaza” cannot possibly be in good faith. “Israel attacks Hamas” I could just about swallow. Note also there is no corresponding headline “Turkey attacks Iraq”.

I wish the Palestinian people well and look forward to a Palestine at peace with all its neighbours. But I curse their leaders, at once intransigent and cowardly, belligerent and corrupt.

I wish the Kurdish people of Turkey very well indeed. But I curse the leaders of Turkey and I curse those like the “world’s leading liberal voice” who suck all attention away from the forgotten peoples of the Middle East in an obsessive quest to delegimitise Israel.

‘Freedom Flotilla 2′ Publicity Stunt Update

As reported previously, the American contingent of the ‘Freedom Flotilla 2′ – the ‘Audacity of Hope’ – will not be attempting to transport aid of any kind to Gaza. Its cargo consists entirely of activists, members of the media and some letters.

Now Irish activists intending to set sail on the ‘MV Saoirse’ have admitted that they too will not be carrying any kind of humanitarian aid aboard their boat. 

“Mr Murphy is travelling to Turkey today to join the MV Saoirse which is the Irish boat participating in the flotilla. 

He said that they will set sail from Turkey on Saturday and that they are likely to enter the waters around the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.

Unlike the other ships in the flotilla, the Irish one will not be carrying any cargo or humanitarian aid. 

‘Hopefully by going as passengers we are participating as part of the bringing of the cargo as well,’ he said.”

According to their respective websites, the US boat to Gaza cost $370,000 and the Canadian project some $340,000. If the flotilla is to be comprised of around ten boats as advertised, we should probably multiply the total of those two figures by five to get a rough idea of how much this publicity stunt is actually costing.

Just imagine how many genuinely important and life-changing projects could have been set up in Gaza with that money. 

The Syrian “Nakba” and 1948

A guest post by Akus

Syrians are fleeing into Turkey by the thousands. Of course, it remains to be seen how long Turkey’s Erdogan will stand behind the bravado of his statement that Turkey welcomes the refugees, who he described as “brothers”, as the number of refugees climbs.

There is a revealing lesson unfolding about the events in Israel in 1948, when some 650,000 – 700,000 Arabs fled to escape the war launched by the Arab states against the newly created State of Israel. We are seeing in real-time the response of civilians when their towns are engulfed in fighting between two groups – in this case, the Syrian Army and the “resistance”.

Despite all reports and research to the contrary, Israel’s opponents have never ceased to claim that Israel drove out the Arabs, rebranded in 1967 as the Palestinian refugees. This despite the obvious fact that hundreds of thousands of Arabs remained in Israel and their descendents live there to this very day, comprising approximately 20% of the population.

What we are seeing unfold in real-time on our TV screens is a similar exodus occurring in Syria.

No-one has claimed that the Syrians deliberately drove the civilians out of the town of Jisr al-Shughour, a border town of 50,000, into Turkey.  Yet the Washington Post reports that the entire population has vanished, except for perhaps 3,000 “unarmed men” – as the Washington Post describes them.

It is obvious that large numbers of civilians have no desire to be caught in the middle of this conflict and have left for Turkey, surrounding villages, or the hills just as happened in 1948.

Although tragic for the refugees who have escaped to Turkey, many apparently middle class Syrians – TV clips show some in posh sedans and many equipped with cell-phones – it will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Will Turkey keep the refugees in the refugee camp that has been established for them as has been the fate of those who fled from Israel into Arab countries or will it absorb them into its vast territory  and population of 78 million? Will the Syrians allow those who fled to return? Will they be like the two million forgotten refugees from Iraq now living in abject poverty in Jordan, Syria and elsewhere?

If all this results in a new group of Middle Eastern refugees huddled along Syria’s borders will there be calls in 60 years for a “Right of Return” to the village or villages abandoned? Will UNRWA divert resources to feed and house these refugees? Will Syria be faced with endless condemnation in the UNHRC and General assembly?

Finally – will the events of this “Arab Spring” be applied to better understand why hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled “Palestine” 63 years ago and Israel’s refusal to permit the millions of their descendents to return to its small territory?

Reductio ad Jew: CiF contributor engages in thinly veiled anti-Semitic attack

Cengiz Çandar’s defense of Turkey’s increasingly illiberal prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (CiF, March 28), included – for anyone possessing even a modicum of understanding regarding the popular tropes and lexicon employed by modern anti-Semites – a thinly veiled, but unmistakable, attack on Jews.

The Guardian approved polemic by Candar condemned those “pro-Israel” “hawkish” “neocons” engaged in a “dangerous alliance” attempting to smear the Turkish government – such as Commentary Magazine’s Michael Rubin.

Naturally, the piece elicited the following reader comment, which stated a bit more explicitly who the culprits truly are – a comment which still has not been deleted.

For those who want to know what’s really going on in Turkey, and why criticisms of the regime in Ankara aren’t merely a neocon conspiracy,  I’d suggest reading the blog of one of the most informed writers on the Middle East, Barry Rubin.

On Arab Dignity, Real and Imagined

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s minister of foreign affairs, posted an essay in today’s CiF titled “We in the Middle East have replaced humiliation with dignity” which managed a very tricky polemical feat: romanticizing to the point of absurdity the history of  Arab and Muslim rule in the region, while simultaneously attributing most if not all of their political maladies as the legacy of colonialism and Cold War alliances.

Indeed, its hard not to read Davutoglu’s plea for Arab unity – and his utterly fantastical view of the vast region as one which enjoys political, cultural and social homogeneity – as something of a throwback to the failed Nasserite pan-Arabism of the 50s and 60s.

Davutoglu casts blame for Arab failures thusly:

“there were two abnormalities in the last century: first, colonialism in the 1930s, 40s and 50s that divided the region into colonial entities…The second abnormality was the cold war, which added a further division: countries that had lived together for centuries became enemies”

Not content to simply blame the legacies of colonialism and the Cold War for Arabs’ political and social failures, he then suggests that outside forces have stunted the growth of unity and democracy:

“Now it is time to naturalise the flow of history. I see all these revolutions as a delayed process that should have happened in the late 80s and 90as in eastern Europe. It did not because some argued that Arab societies didn’t deserve democracy, and needed authoritarian regimes to preserve the status quo and prevent Islamist radicalism.”

“Some countries and leaders who were proud of their own democracy, insisted that democracy in the Middle East would threaten security in our region.”

Laying out his broad vision for the region, he says:

“But in order to undertake that restoration, we need a plan, a vision…we need to trust the masses in our region, who want respect and dignity. This is the critical concept today: dignity. For decades we have been insulted. For decades we have been humiliated. Now we want dignity.”

Oh yes,  Arab “humiliation”.  Anyone familiar with Richard Landes’s meditations on the Arab honor-shame culture wouldn’t be the least bit surprised at such a characterization.

Briefly, Landes defines the dynamic this way:

“A calculus…that must be resolved in victory over the humiliating enemy, and a mind-set of suspicion that views everything as zero-sum manoeuvres (I win, you lose), and interprets all concessions as acts of weakness not generosity.”

Many observers much more astute than myself have concluded that the first step in the Arab world’s political progress must be to acknowledge their own considerable role in perpetuating regressive political pathologies, and cease scapegoating others for this lack of progress.

Along this line, a CiF commenter, and diamond in the rough, named “HushedSilence” summed it up perfectly:

 

Such rhetoric, of course, represents a quite heterodox view among the Arab vox populi, regarding the root cause of the political problems in the Middle East – but are profoundly important ideas which the Turkish Foreign Minister, leaders throughout the region, and the Arab “street” desperately need to hear.

Why was this deleted?

A Dec. 12 CiF commentary,  in praise of Turkish political ascendancy in the Middle East, “Can Turkey show Arab states the way?”, by Marco Vicenzino is a curious piece of writing.  Its less than subtle praise of the Turkish Prime Minister contains some passages which read as if they were written by the Turkish foreign office or Mr. Erdogan’s official biographer.  The first paragraph sets the tone:

Although Palestinian survival has been largely sustained by Arab countries, it is the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan that has emerged as the Palestinians’ most resolute spokesman. By backing its rhetoric with diplomatic muscle, Turkey most recently influenced Brazil and Argentina to recognise an independent Palestine. Other Latin American countries will soon follow. In addition, Turkey is actively harnessing international support to end the Israeli blockade of Gaza

Of course the assertion that Palestinian survival has been sustained by Arab countries is patently absurd to anyone willing to peek beneath the surface of Arab leaders’ platitudesuttered repeatedly, as if by roteabout the “rights” of Palestinians.

Indeed, the culture of Palestinian victimhood, as well as their continued statelessness, are dynamics which are cynically maintained by the Arab world to use as a moral bludgeon in their continuing war to delegitimize Israel, and as a way to divert attention away from their own continuing political, social, and economic failures.

This is a theme advanced by a the following commenter:

And, then:

The commenter doesn’t engage in an ad hominem attack against the writer or fellow commenters; there’s nothing that’s racist or inflammatory; it’s certainly not off-topic.  It’s merely a rebuttal of one out of many highly dubious claims made by the author.

“Why was this deleted” is a staple at CiF Watch as such posts serve as concrete illustrations of CiF moderator bias.  While the fairness, or lack thereof, of at least some moderator decisions are admittedly open for debate, the decision to delete this comment by DrDelaney is just baffling.

The Turkey that Prime Minister Erdogan doesn’t want you to see

Courtesy of FreeMiddleEast, this video exposes the fact that – while Turkey begins to flex its diplomatic muscles – three dark Turkish crimes continue to haunt the world: Armenian Genocide, Kurdish ethnic cleansing and the occupation of Northern Cyprus.

Warning, some graphic footage is included.