We Americans tend to hold Israel to a higher standard than most other nations on earth. As friends of Israel, this is our right. None of us want to see Israel behave the way Russia, Iran, China, Sudan, Sri Lanka or countless other callous nations act. I’m glad that while imperfect, Israel continues to show greater restraint, more respect for human life, and a deeper thirst for peace than any other country facing similar challenges.
Yet sometimes the hypocrisy gets difficult to take. When nations with far worse records criticize Israel in the harshest of terms – and are taken seriously while doing so – the higher standard by which we judge Israel starts looking more like a noose than a halo.
In recent months, Turkey has leapt to the front of the always fast-moving anti-Israel bandwagon. This is a most regrettable turn of events. Until recently, Turkey has been one of Israel’s most treasured allies. As a Muslim nation capable of warm relations with the Jewish state, Turkey offered hope to all Israelis for a normal future in the Muslim Middle East. And the Turks have had a long tradition of resisting anti-Semitism. Indeed, the Jewish population of Turkey thrived like few others in the Muslim world.
Yet whether or not Israel could have better managed this relationship – including the recent interception of a Turkish vessel bound for Gaza – it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this decline in relations is a deliberate Turkish policy. For some time now, Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been distancing his country from Israel and cozying up to Iran, Syria and Hamas. In the process, Erdogan has burrowed to new lows in hypocrisy.
Erdogan was one of the leading critics of Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead, in which Israel sought to stop Hamas terrorists from firing thousands of rockets into Israel’s southern cities and towns. Yet when Turkey suffers so much as one attack, it does not hesitate to strike hard at those responsible. We were reminded of this fact on Saturday, when Turkey retaliated for an attack on a military outpost by the Kurdish group PKK with a series of air raids against Kurdish positions in northern Iraq. Erdogan has vowed to press ahead with the fight against the PKK “until the terrorist organization is eradicated.” Yet he demands that Israel not only refrain from fighting Hamas, but also allow Hamas to be fully restocked and resupplied.
Turkey has criticized Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza despite repeated Israeli offers to hand these territories over the Palestinians – offers which have been consistently rejected. Yet Turkey remains unwilling to even discuss its occupation of almost 40% of Cyprus and the displacement of Greeks from the Turkish zone. Turkey’s occupation is deemed illegal by the European Union and the United Nations and recognized by only one nation: Turkey.
Finally, Turkey has singled out Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as the most serious of human rights offenses. Erdogan has gone so far as to publicly confront Israel’s President Shimon Peres – a leading Israeli dove – and shout at him: “When it comes to killing, you know well how to kill.” Yet Turkey is famously prickly about anyone trying to criticize its treatment of its Kurdish and Armenian minorities. Turkey reacts with fits of rage every time nations so much as debate recognizing the killing of over one million Armenians at the close of World War I as a genocide.
And Turkey coddles those who perpetrate genocide today. Erdogan has welcomed Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to Turkey even though Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges crimes against humanity for his role in the genocide in Darfur. Erdogan defended his action with the disturbing claim that “It’s not possible for a Muslim to commit genocide.” Erdogan has also warmly welcomed Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – a man guilty of incitement to genocide against Israel. Earlier this month, Turkey voted against imposing new nuclear sanctions on Iran in the United Nations Security Council.
I pray that relations between Israel and Turkey improve and do so quickly. And I hope that Israel does everything in its power to facilitate such reconciliation – Israel has certainly made its own mistakes and diplomatic missteps. Yet when the hypocrisy is this great, one wonders if Israel’s actions could ever placate Erdogan and his colleagues. If the only way to please Turkey is to sit back and absorb thousands of rockets from Gaza without any effective response, then the price is too high. Perhaps we should save our most fervent prayers for the next Turkish election, when Erdogan could be replaced by more reasonable voices.
David Brog is executive director of Christians United for Israel. David’s new book, In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity being published July 6th. You can follow David on Facebook by clicking here.