Why Israel-Turkey Relations will not Change
Unlike diplomatic crises that often occur between friendly nations, the crisis between Israel and Turkey does not stem from a direct act or the result of an omission on the part of Israel. We all remember the mess following the Australian Passports snarl (and more recently, the Zygier affair) and the like; in these diplomatic crises, countries choose to cooperate to end the story quickly. The matter at hand is totally different.
Over the last decade, Turkish citizens chose an Islamist leadership and has turned from a friendly to a hostile country. The rise to power in 2002 of the Islamic Party marks an ideological process that is similar (though not identical) to that of the Ayatollah regime which came to power in Iran in 1979. The Israeli apology to Turkey, accordingly, fell on the ears of a person with a worldview closer to that of Ahmadinejad than the Australian prime minister.
In order to understand the current crisis between Israel and Turkey, firstly we should understand the source for Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ideological teachings and deep hatred of Israel, Jews, and Zionism. Two months after the "Justice and Development Party" (AKP) came to power, a valued pundit for the Hürriyet daily published an article in which he wrote: "Did you know that in 1974, when Erdogan was president of the 'young Muslims' in Istanbul, which was the young guard of Erbakan's National Salvation Party, he wrote a play entitled "Mskoiamh", which stands for Freemasons, Communists, and Jews? The message was in the combination of the three hateful satanic elements. The play was performed all over Turkey."
Earlier, in 1969, the same Necmettin Erbakan (In those days he was still a novice politician; later, the first Islamist prime minister) published a political manifesto, which he dubbed Millî Görüş, (National Vision). This manifesto reflects the credo of an Islamic political organization also called Millî Görüş, which has become a hotbed of several Islamic parties, and one of the largest Islamic organizations in Europe. Erbakan identified Turkey's national decline as deriving from Turkey's futile attempts to mimic the Western way of life. The solution, so he preached, was to gradually disengage from the West and from the EU (which he saw as "Zionist" and "Catholic"), while replacing them with economic cooperation with Islamic countries. In 2007, as part of his Islamist Happiness Party election campaign, he stated publicly that "The Zionists [meaning the Jews and E.U] want to control from Morocco to Indonesia [...] for 300 years two hundred nations of the world are controlled by one center, imperialist and racist Zionism. To diagnose this disease which aims to destroy the world's happiness, we have to diagnose its origins". He further stated that Zionism is a "bacteria" and that the Jews derive their enormous power from their dominance in international organizations. Earlier, in an article published in 2005, the daily Milli Gazette (affiliated with Millî Görüş), claimed that "Judaism is synonymous with treachery". Throughout the history, it was argued, the Turks helped the Jews -- but they, "like insects, gnawed in the Ottoman [Empire], and if that is not enough, they stabbed the Turkish soldiers in Palestine in their backs" .
"Bacteria," "insects," "world domination," "international organizations," "knife in the back;" there is no need to specify where these images are taken from. That is, indeed, Erdogan's ideology: Seeing Judaism (or "Zionism") not just as a worldwide conspiracy, but as an historical conspiracy to rule the world spanning centuries, and the belief that Christianity (and in particular, Catholicism), Freemasonry, and Communism are "Jewish" (or "Zionist"): that is, that they are the "public face" of the ongoing international Jewish conspiracy to rule the world, in different eras. Both of these views are not only common in Nazi propaganda, they are Nazi propaganda's two central pillars, and what's more, what Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler and so on apparently really believed themselves, motivating and justifying their actions. Indeed, these two ideas are not original with Hitler -- they were invented by late 19th-century German and British racists.
Erdogan and Turkish President Abdullah Gul were educated within this political framework introduced by Erbakan. But despite Erbakan's success in being appointed prime minister in 1997, he failed to realize his Islamist vision. The Constitutional Court and the military, the custodians of secularism in Turkey, removed him from power. December 2002 marked the revolution: against the background of the economic crisis, Erdogan's Islamist "Justice and Development Party" won in a landslide. Five years later, Abdullah Gul was elected vice president; this time, supporters of secularism in parliament have failed miserably.
Now, in light of Erdogan's ideological roots -- a man who himself was convicted by a Turkish court on charges of religious inciting -- it is easy to understand why he characterized Israel's struggle against Hamas as "state terrorism," along with his despicable behavior towards President Peres in Davos, the worldwide incitement against Israel during "Cast Lead" (and most recently in Operation "Pillar of Cloud"); and the Turkish Gaza flotilla -- which was designed and executed by a terrorist organization and with the full backing of Ankara. Even his statement from last February that Zionism is a crime against humanity is just more of the same.
So what to do? First, the glory days of Israel's relations with Turkey will not return to what they were as long as Erdogan's Islamist party is in power -- and no apology will change that. But we must see the rift in a much wider perspective: it is a cultural and religious struggle, not only a question of national honor: political Islam versus the West and its values. The West must clear its throat and defend itself.
Elad Uzan is a jurist and conducts research at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya (IDC) in Israel. He writes about law, culture, philosophy and Middle East issues. Uzan.firstname.lastname@example.org