Thursday, January 15, 2009

What is Going on in Turkey?

In recent years, Turkey has been regarded as being a moderate nation in the Middle East with regard to both Israel and the West. Israel and Turkey's 'special' relationship has gone even further with both countries forging close security ties and Turkey even seeking to develop a role as a mediator between Israel and its enemies.

But now it would appear that an outpouring of grassroots anger over Israel's Gaza operation has rocked that special relationship and there are some alarming signs in its wake.

For context, Turkey abolished Islamic Law some 80 years ago, and has been proud of its secular tradition, but now, a large and growing group is calling for its return. Anti-Semitic sentiment was recently fueled when its 'moderate' Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared: "Allah's punishment for Israel's inhumane actions will lead to its destruction."

The week-end before, some people wrote, “We will kill you” on the door of one of the biggest synagogues in Izmir resulted in the closing down of synagogues. Near Istanbul University, a group put a huge poster on the door of a shop owned by a Jew: “Do not buy from here, since this shop is owned by a Jew.” A group put posters on his wall saying that: “Jews and Armenians are not allowed but dogs are allowed.” Some young people are even threatening others with violence if they are seen as pro-Israel in social networking websites such as Facebook and Hi5.

As of late, Turkish society has exploded with an influx of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric, this included billboards being posted with anti-Israel and anti-Jewish expressions. Private firms are also posting anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish statements on their Websites. Bardak, a Turkish company which manufactures custom coffee mugs for Toshiba, HSBC, Cargill, Acer and Canon, has a phrase across its front page: "JEWS YOU ARE GOING TO PAY EVERYTHING THAT YOU ARE COMMITTING."

Some Turkish commentators have said Erdogan's rhetoric smacked of anti-Semitism, but the prime minister rejected the accusation.

"Neither myself, nor my government, nor anyone from my party has ever given any premium to anti-Semitism," he said. "I am a leader who has said anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity."

Whatever Erdogan's intentions are or your opinion is on the conflict in the Middle East - those signs have to give you the chills, chills, chills.

No comments: