Turkey Humiliates Israel, Courts Radical Islam
When Turkey announced last Friday that it was suspending military ties with Israel and kicking the Israeli ambassador out, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said the “steps announced today were just the first phase.”
On Monday, 40 Israeli passengers on board a flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul experienced the beginning of phase two of Turkey’s row with Israel.
When the Turkish Airlines flight touched down in Turkey’s capital, the visitors, mostly businessmen, were separated from the rest of the passengers. While the other passengers passed through easily, the Israelis had their passports confiscated and were put into interrogation rooms where they were forced to strip down to their underwear.
Isolated and half-naked, passengers were then grilled one by one for up to 90 minutes each. “They made me undress to only my underwear. A woman officer did it, but she wasn’t particularly gentle. It reminded me of stories my grandma told me of her past,” said one Israeli passenger. When each bullying session was done, passengers were told they could get dressed and repack their bags. They were then escorted to a room where they were made to stand and wait. They weren’t even allowed to use the restroom.
Turkey’s actions are in retaliation to the recently released United Nations’ Palmer Report. The report largely exonerates Israel’s actions in 2010 when the Israel Defense Forces killed nine people while boarding Turkish ships attempting to breach the naval blockade designed to prevent terrorists helping Hamas in Gaza. While it has expressed regret at the situation and even offered to pay compensation to the families of the Turkish casualties, Israel refuses to apologize for boarding the vessels.
Though the intimidation and humiliation of Israelis visiting Turkey marks a new low point in the Israel-Turkey relationship, there is more at stake. As the Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick wrote on Monday, “No, Israel wasn’t the target audience the Turks were playing to on Monday. Their target audience was the Islamic world generally and the Arab world specifically” (emphasis added throughout).
In her column, Glick recalled Turkey’s strategy over recent years to shed its moderate identity and reposition itself as a more conservative Islamic state. Needless to say, the chief means of appealing to the Muslim world has been to fire regular volleys at the Jewish state. “Given how well scapegoating Israel has served him, [Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan clearly believes it is a no-risk strategy for raising his star from Cairo to Algiers,” Glick wrote.
Incredibly, in spite of Turkey’s distinct animosity toward Israel—which now includes strip-searching Israeli passengers as they disembark planes—many in Israel fail to grasp the seriousness of Turkey’s intensifying detestation of the Jewish state. Few, it seems, are prepared to accept the grim reality. What is that reality?
“We need to recognize that what we are experiencing now is the beginning, not the end, of Turkey’s slide into the enemy camp,” Glick wrote. “Erdogan is openly taking steps to transform Turkey into an Islamic state along the lines of Iran. And the further he goes down his chosen path, the more harshly and aggressively he will lash out at Israel.”
2011 is turning out to be a horrific year for Israel. In the last six months it has has experienced the loss of both Egypt and Turkey as strategic allies. In fact, not only has it lost these two countries as partners, both are now clearly pitching their tents in the enemy camp!