Friday, January 15, 2010 at 8:05
The Jerusalem Post's Michael Freund has criticized public demands for Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon's apology and bombarded Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an opinion piece, "Going Cold Turkey":
Since the start of the week, Israel's media have been in a tizzy. With all the frenzied fury at its disposal, the press has been relentlessly targeting Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, slamming one of the country's most talented diplomats for his handling of a meeting at the Knesset on Monday with the Turkish ambassador.
Ayalon had called in Ankara's envoy to protest a new Turkish television show called The Valley of the Wolves which seems primarily designed to foment anti-Semitism. Among other things, it depicts Israeli agents abducting Muslim children in order to convert them to Judaism against their will.
The program comes just three months after a Turkish government-run station broadcast a series, Ayrilik, which portrayed IDF soldiers as callous murderers, shooting Palestinian children at point-blank range and massacring innocents by firing squad.
Aiming to underline Israel's justifiable displeasure with this crude incitement, Ayalon sought to choreograph the meeting so that the Turkish ambassador would understand that such shenanigans cannot and will not be tolerated.
SO HE kept the envoy waiting, seated him on a lower chair and did not smile obsequiously in their meeting, as diplomats are often expected to do.
And it is precisely that choreography which has now earned Ayalon the ire of various talking-heads and pundits, many of whom cannot seem to tolerate the idea of a proud Jew standing up for this country's honor.
"Humiliation is not a policy," screamed yesterday's Haaretz, as it blasted Ayalon for what it described as his "display of scorn" and "disgraceful theatrical language" toward Turkey.
Writing on Ynet, Alon Liel asserted that, "What we have seen here is causing damage to our Foreign Ministry and turning international diplomatic rules into a laughing stock." He accused Ayalon of carrying out "a new kind of diplomacy," and wondered rhetorically, "If next week we will see another anti-Israel TV show produced in Turkey, what will we do to the ambassador then? Ask him to crawl into the room? Beat him up?"
There is something truly pitiful about such responses, which say a lot about the limited Jewish self-esteem of those who proffered them. Rather than focusing on the outrageous anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric that Turkey's Islamist-oriented regime is whipping up with increasing frequency, they prefer to turn their fire on Ayalon for deviating from what is considered standard diplomatic practice.
Frankly, I don't think Ayalon has anything to apologize for. The days when Jews must cower in fear and fawn over those who spit in our faces are over. As a sovereign state, we have the right and the obligation to berate those who sully our honor, and Ayalon should be commended for standing up and demonstrating some good, old fashioned Jewish pride.
INDEED, HIS critics are missing the mark. Like it or not, Turkey has been steadily embracing a more radical stance ever since Recep Tayyip Erdogan's rise to power earlier this decade. Under his stewardship, the once proudly secular and pro-Western country has shifted gears, cozying up to the likes of radical states such as Iran and Syria. In the past year, Turkey has openly defended Teheran's nuclear program, signed various cooperation agreements with Damascus and moved to expand trade and cultural ties with the two rogue regimes.
And in the process, it has increasingly demonstrated outright hostility and antagonism toward the Jewish state. Take, for example, Erdogan's remarks this past Monday at a joint news conference in Ankara with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
With barely-concealed contempt, Erdogan said that Israel "threatens global peace" and enjoys "disproportionate power," and asserted that the IDF had attacked Palestinian civilians in Gaza with white phosphorus shells, which he labeled "weapons of mass destruction."
During his tirade, Erdogan also condemned Israel for defending itself by carrying out an air strike in Gaza Sunday in which three Islamic Jihad terrorists planning attacks against Israelis were killed. "What is your excuse this time?" he said, as if we owe him an explanation.
SOMEONE NEEDS to remind Erdogan that before he goes about lecturing Israel, he would do well to set his own country in order. Just ask the Kurds of southeastern Turkey, who have been targeted for decades by a policy of displacement and forced acculturation. Last month, Erdogan sent the Turkish police to arrest dozens of Kurdish political leaders and activists as part of an ongoing crackdown on the community.
He also detained Muharrem Erbey, the president of Turkey's national Human Rights Association, who has been an outspoken advocate on behalf of the Kurds. I wonder what Erdogan's "excuse" is for this.
And while the Turkish premier feels free to criticize Israel for its "occupation" of the Palestinians, he does not seem overly troubled by the fact that his own forces have been occupying part of Cyprus since July 1974. An estimated 30,000-40,000 Turkish troops are currently on the island, where they prop up the government of northern Cyprus in defiance of international law and have effectively severed the region in two.
Sure, Turkey is a powerful player in the eastern Mediterranean, and it once held out great promise as an example of a secular Muslim democracy. But those days appear to be over, as Erdogan and his Islamist colleagues are clearly leading the country in a very different, and far less friendly, direction.
For its own reasons, Turkey has gone cold on Israel, and there doesn't seem to be much we can do about it. However frustrating this might be, we must recognize the reality for what it is, rather than cling to what we might wish it to be.