Tag: AKP


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Turkey: "An End to an Era of Oppression": Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 8, 2015— For the first time since his Islamist party won its first election victory in 2002, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was nowhere to be seen on the night of June 7. He did not make a victory speech. He did not, in fact, make any speech.

Do the Turkish Elections Offer a Modicum of Hope in Preserving its Democracy?: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, June 8, 2015 — Regardless of the results of the parliamentary election on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is probably going to push ahead in consolidating power for himself and his party and continue to Islamize the state.

How the Kurds Upended Turkish Politics: Kimberly Guiler, Washington Post, June 4, 2015 — Turkish voters delivered a crushing blow Sunday to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which lost its 12-year majority in parliament and saw its vote share drop from 50 percent in the 2011 general election to 41 percent.

Young Turkish Jews Trickling Away From Shrinking Community: Ilan Ben Zion, Times of Israel, June 6, 2015 — Five centuries after Sultan Bayezid II welcomed Sephardic Jewish refugees to Istanbul, Turkey’s Jewish community is slowly dwindling.


On Topic Links


Turkey’s Unimportant Election: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, June 4, 2015

President Erdogan’s Growing Grip Faces Electoral Test in Turkey: Joanna Slater, Globe & Mail, June 5, 2015

Turkey's Flotilla: What Was It Really About?: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 4, 2015

Ahead of Polls, Erdogan Slams Foreign, ‘Jewish’-Backed Media: Times of Israel, June 6, 2015

Erdogan vs. the New York Times, and Democracy: IPT News, May 28, 2015




Burak Bekdil                                                                                                      

Gatestone Institute, June 8, 2015


For the first time since his Islamist party won its first election victory in 2002, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was nowhere to be seen on the night of June 7. He did not make a victory speech. He did not, in fact, make any speech.


Not only failing to win the two-thirds majority they desired to change the constitution, the AKP lost its parliamentary majority and the ability to form a single-party government. It won 40.8% of the national vote and 258 seats, 19 short of the simple majority requirement of 276. Erdogan is now the lonely sultan at his $615 million, 1150-room presidential palace. For the first time since 2002, the opposition has more seats in parliament than the AKP: 292 seats to 258.


"The debate over presidency, over dictatorship in Turkey is now over," said a cheerful Selahattin Demirtas after the preliminary poll results. Demirtas, a Kurdish politician whose Peoples' Democracy Party [HDP] entered parliament as a party for the first time, apparently with support from secular, leftist and marginal Turks, is the charismatic man who destroyed Erdogan's dreams of an elected sultanate. Echoing a similar view, the social democrat, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party [CHP], commented on the early results in plain language: "We, through democratic means, have brought an end to an era of oppression."


What lies ahead is less clear. Theoretically, the AKP can sign a coalition deal with the third biggest party, the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party [MHP], although during the campaign, MHP leader Devlet Bahceli slammed Erdogan harshly for the embarrassing corruption allegations against the president. At the same time, a CHP-MHP-HDP coalition is unlikely, as it must bring together the otherwise arch-enemies MHP and HDP. The AKP management may be planning for snap, or early, polls but there are hardly any rational reasons for it except to risk another ballot box defeat. Parliament may try a minority government, supported by one of the parties from outside government benches, but this can only create a temporary government.


Two outcomes, however, look almost certain: 1) The AKP is in an undeniable decline; the voters have forced it into compromise politics rather than permitting it to run a one-man show, with in-house bickering even more likely than peace, and new conservative Muslims challenging the incumbent leadership. 2) Erdogan's ambitions for a too-powerful, too-authoritarian, Islamist executive presidency, "a la sultan," will have to go into the political wasteland at least in the years ahead.


The AKP appeared polled in first place on June 7. But that day may mark the beginning of the end for it. How ironic; the AKP came to power with 34.4% of the national vote in 2002, winning 66% of the seats in parliament. Nearly 13 years later, thanks to the undemocratic features of an electoral law it has fiercely defended, it won 40.8% of the vote and only 47% of the seats in parliament, blocking it from even forming a simple majority.                                     




DO THE TURKISH ELECTIONS OFFER A MODICUM OF HOPE IN                                  

PRESERVING ITS DEMOCRACY?                        

Ariel Ben Solomon                                                                                                                                 

Jerusalem Post, June 8, 2015


Regardless of the results of the parliamentary election on Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is probably going to push ahead in consolidating power for himself and his party and continue to Islamize the state. The question is how fast he will be able to move. If the election results force his AK Party to form a coalition government, it could slow the pace a bit, but many of the state institutions have already been brought under his authority. The oft-repeated Erdogan quote bears repeating – “democracy is a train that you get off once you reach your destination.”


Rachel Sharon-Krespin, director of the Turkish Media Project at MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday evening that the preliminary results so far, showing that Erdogan’s AKP might be forced to form a coalition government, could provide some hope for Turkish democracy. “It would be an irony if the Kurds would save Turkish democracy,” she said, referring to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which was projected at press time to make the 10 percent threshold and get into parliament.


Sharon-Krespin wrote in a recently released report published by MEMRI that these elections are crucial as they will determine if Erdogan can become an absolute ruler or whether “his era has come to an end.” However, she said that in Turkey it is “highly expected that these elections would be rigged,” adding that a Twitter account, known as a whistle- blower and established to reveal truthful leaks, said a team has been set up by the AKP to rig the elections and have a presence at every ballot box. Asked what would happen if the final results will suggest tampering and rule out other parties making it into parliament, Sharon-Krespin replied that there would “definitely be protests,” particularly in the eastern and southeastern parts of the country.


However, if the Kurdish party is able to make it in, it could be good for minority rights, and that means it would be positive for Turkish Jews. Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, told the Post, “Let’s be clear, Erdogan got off the train of democracy several years ago. “The AKP has always been over represented in parliament, sometimes getting twice as many seats as they would have if other parties passed the 10% threshold,” he said.


If the Kurdish HDP and the previous main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) pass the 10% threshold, then the AKP supermajority is over, added Rubin. “But Erdogan has tasted dictatorship and he likes it. He does not care much for elections unless people vote for him,” continued Rubin, adding that just as “we saw in local elections in places like Ankara, he won’t hesitate to fudge the numbers when the votes are counted off site to ensure the right results. “Most Turkish politicians tell me he gets at least a 5% bonus from fraud.” Not only can he manipulate the results, said Rubin, but “Turkey’s democracy may be too far gone” since “Erdogan has staffed the bureaucracy with his cronies so elections may not change much.” “Erdogan looks in the mirror and sees a sultan,” he asserted, going on to say that this may be the last chance for voters “to let him and the world know that the emperor has no clothes.”


Daniel Pipes, scholar and president of the Middle East Forum think tank, told the Post that the significance of the elections are being overrated. “Now, it hardly matters how the elections come out, just as it hardly does in Iran,” he said. “Erdogan signaled long ago that he sees democracy as a means to an end. He rode the democracy bus until it brought him to near-dictatorship,” argued Pipes. Asked about Erdogan’s possible foreign policy after the election, he replied that “Erdogan is a brilliant political operator within the Turkish domestic context but far less capable abroad. His confidence leads him to take risks and alienate other governments.” “I expect something in this arena will bring him down,” he predicted.


According to an article by Pipes published in the Washington Times, he sees a possible foreign policy fiasco developing, perhaps with Russia in Ukraine, Israel in Gaza, the civil war in Syria or the gas fields of Cyprus. “And when that moment arrives, hardly a soul will bring up the results of the June 7 election; and none will remember it as a turning point,” he concluded.                                                       




HOW THE KURDS UPENDED TURKISH POLITICS                                                                         

Kimberly Guiler

Washington Post, June 8, 2015


Turkish voters delivered a crushing blow Sunday to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which lost its 12-year majority in parliament and saw its vote share drop from 50 percent in the 2011 general election to 41 percent. Although the party still earned a plurality of votes in the election, the result has all but doomed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ambition to rewrite the Turkish constitution and transform his office into a super-presidency, consolidating his grasp on power.


The elections also represented a significant victory for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which passed Turkey’s required 10 percent electoral threshold, increasing its vote share from 6 percent in 2011 to nearly 13 percent. HDP broadened its appeal by reaching out to secular and liberal Turks, especially those who coalesced during anti-government demonstrations in 2013. In addition, the party appears to have attracted former Kurdish AKP supporters, who had become disheartened by Erdogan’s increasingly hostile attitude towards the Kurdish peace process and disillusioned by widespread corruption and extravagant spending on the part of Erdogan and his inner cadre.


Voters who defected from the AKP may have also been responding to Turkey’s deteriorating economic situation. The country’s growth rate, which was 7.5 percent per year on average between 2003 and 2006, decreased to 2.58 percent by the end of 2014. On April 24, the Turkish lira reached a record low of 2.742 against the U.S. dollar, and levels of foreign direct investment have also been on the decline. These economic issues have been amplified by the erratic behavior of Erdogan, who has been interfering with the independence of regulatory bodies in an effort to determine central bank interest rate policies ahead of the election.


HDP was able to capitalize on mounting dissent by emphasizing a rights-based platform and urging the electorate to vote strategically. In particular, the party’s campaign materials argued that a vote for HDP was a vote against the presidential system and against a single-party AKP government. One campaign poster read, “In this election, a vote for HDP does not have to be a vote for those who comprise HDP. In such critical elections, voters can vote strategically. The most fruitful, most assured and shortest road for those citizens who want to get rid of the AKP and Erdogan regime is to vote for HDP and to help HDP pass the threshold.”


Although Turkey’s Kurdish population expressed jubilation over the election results — setting off fireworks and waving HDP’s flag in the streets of the primarily Kurdish city of Diyarbakir on Sunday evening — other voters in Turkey appear conflicted, if not angered, over the result. HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas’s post-election speech, in which he openly thanked Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) founder Abdullah Öcalan, set off a wave of incensed comments across social media as some Turkish voters wondered whether HDP’s assurances regarding inclusivity and democracy were just empty promises.


In coming days, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu will be tasked with the job of forming a coalition government. Turkish law stipulates that if a coalition is not formed after 45 days, Erdogan will be able to call for a new election. Pundits are already predicting that an early election is likely, as the leaders of the major parties have all stated in public speeches that they will not form a coalition government with the AKP.


Interestingly, whereas the AKP was able to form a single-party government in 2002 with only 34.28 percent of the vote, today the party will be unable to do so with a greater percent of the vote. The AKP’s unlikely rise to power in 2002, despite its relatively small share of the vote, occurred after all existing parties but two failed to pass the electoral threshold. As editor of the English-language Hurriyet Daily News Murat Yetkin shrewdly pointed out, the AKP may have been a victim of its own dependence on the unfair 10 percent threshold rule. If the threshold had been lowered to 5 or 7 percent, argued Yetkin, the AKP still would have been prevented from adopting Erdogan’s presidential system, but its parliamentary majority would have been salvaged.


Whatever the result of the forthcoming coalition negotiations, one thing is clear: Erdogan and the AKP no longer have the enthusiastic, broad-based popular mandate the party enjoyed during its heyday. At the hands of the Kurds, we may finally be witnessing the beginning of the end of Erdogan.





AWAY FROM SHRINKING COMMUNITY                                                                                          

Ilan Ben Zion

Times of Israel, June 6, 2015


Five centuries after Sultan Bayezid II welcomed Sephardic Jewish refugees to Istanbul, Turkey’s Jewish community is slowly dwindling. Faced with rising anti-Semitism, growing authoritarianism and dire economic circumstances, young Turkish Jews have increasingly set their sights on Israel, Europe and North America.


Despite a rich history under the Ottomans — rising to prominence as ministers, traders and buccaneers — and active involvement in public life in the early Turkish Republic, Turkish Jews no longer contribute significantly to the country’s political or cultural life. In 1948 Turkey was home to about 80,000 Jews; three years later nearly 40% had left. Talking with members of the community today, one is likely to hear the future for Jews in Turkey described as “bleak”.


The departure of Jewish youth is by no means an exodus. The numbers are small, but so is the community from which they’re leaving. Officially, 17,300 Jews live in Turkey today, the vast majority in Istanbul, making it the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world. A decade earlier, it was closer to 20,000.  This much is clear: class sizes in Jewish kindergartens are shrinking, the birth rate is dropping and the community is aging.


Hard statistics concerning the emigration of young Jews, however, are difficult to come by. The official figure, for example, doesn’t account for the rising number of high school graduates who have left for opportunities abroad. Mois Gabay, a columnist for the Jewish Şalom newspaper, wrote last year about the growing trend of young Turkish Jews moving abroad. He told Deutsche Welle in January that “40 percent of Jewish graduates chose to seek higher education abroad” in 2014. In 2013 it was half that figure. He said that number was expected to rise. “I cannot tell you if young Jews are leaving, or how many young Jews are leaving,” he said over the phone. He added, though, that the community couldn’t ignore the fact that collective anxiety was taking hold.


Faced with anti-Semitic rhetoric that’s been given free rein by the government in recent years and amplified by social media, some young Jews have also opted to move to Israel for ideological reasons. Immigration to Israel by Turkish Jews has remained steady at roughly 100 per year since 1980. In the past decade, 1,002 Turkish Jews have immigrated to Israel, according to statistics published by Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Ministry.


“I always felt I didn’t belong to the Turkish people, I felt like a stranger, like I didn’t belong to them,” Israel Maden, 29, said. He grew up in Istanbul’s Göztepe neighborhood, on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, and was an active member in the local Jewish youth club. Like many Turkish Jews, Maden has family living in Israel, and “the idea of leaving and coming to Israel was always there.” In 2009, he immigrated to the country whose name he carries. Maden’s experience compared to that of Lisya Malki, a 31-year-old mother of one who moved to Israel in 2008 and now lives in a small town north of Tel Aviv. “Even though I grew up there, we had our own holidays, our own culture,” she said in Hebrew tinged with a slight Turkish accent. “I was a Jew living in Turkey, that’s what I always felt.”


Alongside the ascendance of Islam and authoritarianism under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, the volume of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric in Turkey has grown in state-sponsored media. “Turkey has gained a much more conservative outlook that’s getting stronger day by day,” said Selin Nasi, an Istanbul native and PhD candidate in political science at Bogazici University. Islam has become “a way of conducting policy,” she said, and authoritarianism is on the rise.


Ahead of Sunday’s national elections, Erdogan on May 8 employed a Quran as a campaign prop — an unprecedented move in an officially secular government — waving it around onstage. His move was a cause of concern for Turkey’s religious minorities, including the Jews, and he was speedily accused of exploiting religion for political purposes. Erdogan and his party’s open embrace of political Islam has also translated into strained ties with Israel, and the country’s Jews. Despite largely symbolic gestures, such as the recent restoration of the Edirne Great Synagogue (which has no accompanying community), tensions run high.


“Bilateral disputes between Turkey and Israel have an undeniable impact on attitudes toward Turkish Jews,” Nasi said, referring to tensions between Ankara and Jerusalem over Israel’s relations with the Palestinians.

Previously close ties between Israel and Turkey were frayed nearly to the breaking point in May 2010 after Israeli soldiers boarded the MV Mavi Marmara, a ship carrying activists attempting to break the IDF blockade on the Gaza Strip. In skirmishes between activists and Israeli troops, nine Turkish citizens were killed, triggering a diplomatic crisis. Tens of thousands of Turks protested in Istanbul, and hundreds attempted to storm the Israeli consulate.


Similar attacks on the Israeli diplomatic mission took place last summer during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip, and latent anti-Semitic propaganda proliferated unchecked. While recent months have been calm compared to last summer, Turkish Jews nonetheless “come across hate speech on a daily basis,” Nasi said. “We know that some of the press, particularly close to the government, is involved in this hate speech and they are not sanctioned at all,” Nasi said. “The government totally turns a blind eye.”


Although anti-Semitism and ideology play a role in bringing Jewish youths such as Malki and Maden to Israel, Turkish Jews are also affected by the same socioeconomic pressures pushing middle class Turks to look abroad for a better life. Turkey’s economic boom in the first decade of the 21st century has slowed, and its currency has lost 20 percent of its value against the dollar in the past year alone. As tuition prices in Turkey’s increasingly competitive universities have skyrocketed in recent years, the quality of education lags behind schools in western Europe, the United States and Canada…


Another indicator of the anxiety pervading the community is the number of Turkish Jews who have jumped at the opportunity to acquire Spanish citizenship. The vast majority of Turkey’s Jews are descendants of Spanish exiles who were welcomed into the Ottoman Empire. Earlier this year the Spanish government announced its intention of extending citizenship to descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled in 1492. Shortly thereafter 5,000 Turkish Jews — roughly a third of the community — applied for dual citizenship, potentially opening the doors to life in Europe, according to a recent Financial Times report.


Leaders from the Istanbul community declined to respond to inquiries concerning the departure of young Turkish Jews. The community’s official organ is notoriously tight-lipped and maintains a low profile. Rifat Bali, a prominent Turkish Jewish native to Istanbul, on the one hand denied there being “an exodus of young Jews” and called reports of one a “baseless allegation.” On the other hand, he acknowledged that since the 1980s young Jews of “more or less well to do families,” like their Muslim counterparts, leave for education abroad. “As with all communities which are demographically so small and aged we will see numbers continuing to decrease,” Bali said by email.


Almost universally, the prognosis for the future of Turkey’s Jews, who have called Anatolia home for nearly 2,000 years, is grim. Malki, the young mother now living in Israel, said there are few Jewish men of marrying age still in Istanbul and, predictably, the birthrate is dropping. “In Turkey, there’s no future for Jews,” she said. “There is racism, there is anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.” There are a million and one reasons for Jews to leave, she said.


“We have to admit that even if there is not an exodus of Jews leaving,” Fishman said, in light of its gradual senescence and young Jews trickling away,” the overall future of the community is not looking very hopeful.”






On Topic


Turkey’s Unimportant Election: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, June 4, 2015— Almost every assessment of the national parliamentary election to take place in Turkey on June 7 rates it among the most important in the republic's nearly century old history.

President Erdogan’s Growing Grip Faces Electoral Test in Turkey: Joanna Slater, Globe & Mail, June 5, 2015—One weekday morning last December, Mehmet Emin Altunses woke up in a predicament familiar to most 16-year-old boys: He had overslept.

Turkey's Flotilla: What Was It Really About?: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 4, 2015—Five years ago this week, on May 31, 2010, a Turkish flotilla with hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists aboard sailed toward the Gaza Strip in order to break Israel's naval blockade.

Ahead of Polls, Erdogan Slams Foreign, ‘Jewish’-Backed Media: Times of Israel, June 6, 2015— Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday stepped up his attacks on foreign media a day ahead of legislative elections, telling the Guardian to “know your limits” and lamenting that “Jewish capital” was behind the New York Times.

Erdogan vs. the New York Times, and Democracy: IPT News, May 28, 2015—For 13 years, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has worked to impose his Islamist vision on Turkey's proud secular democracy, reshaping the country into a neo-Ottoman republic.







Israel Kasnett

Jerusalem Post, February 17, 2012

This week is the eighth annual Israeli Apartheid Week—the start of an annual campaign that seeks to delegitimize Israel and, according to the official website, “educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.…”

The events will take place from February 20 to March 10 in Europe, February 26 to March 3 in the US, March 5-11 in Arab countries and South Africa, [and March 5-9 in Canada]. The website encourages activists to “Join us in making this a year of struggle against apartheid and for justice, equality, and peace.”

To be clear, these activists are not pro-Palestinian as they claim, but rather are anti-Israel. In their blind vigor to delegitimize Israel, they fail to understand that a Palestinian society that kills its own young girls in “honor killings” is not just. A society that treats its own women as second-class citizens is not interested in equality. A society that glorifies suicide bombers is not interested in peace.

And there is no logical reason these activists should take any more interest in the Palestinians than they do in the causes of others. There are millions of people around the globe suffering from far worse, but these so-called activists have decided to launch a BDS campaign on the one democracy in the Middle East solely because it is Jewish. These are people who are not concerned that the Palestinians do not have a state of their own. Rather, they are concerned with the fact that the Jewish people do.

Anti-Israel events such as Israel Apartheid Week are damaging since they reinforce, for those who are easily swayed, the false notion that Israel is an apartheid state and deserves to be sanctioned by the international community.… Thankfully, numerous pro-Israel groups today…have managed to stem the influence that anti-Israel groups have on unsuspecting students.… Will pro-Israel activists change the minds of those who are bent on defending Palestinians unconditionally? The answer is no. But activists can steer the argument in the right direction.…

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time—a tremendous whack.…” Good luck to all of you on campus who fight for Israel daily. Don’t ever give up. You are the Diaspora IDF.

David M. Weinberg

Israel Hayom, January 22, 2012

“Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are,” goes the old adage. If that’s the case, Israel, America and the Western world are in big trouble. U.S. President Barack Obama has just named the semi-dictator of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as one of the five world leaders with whom he has a “friendship and bond of trust.” Woe be to us.

Obama told TIME Magazine that his diplomatic endeavors had been more effective because he shared “trust and confidence” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Erdogan, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, in that order.…

Israeli media, of course, played up the fact that Obama did not list Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.… But that, unfortunately, is not surprising, and it misses the point. The point—and the shocker—is that Obama does feel a kinship to Erdogan, one of the most anti-Western, anti-Israel, pro-Islamist and nasty leaders on the globe.

Erdogan has led a major reorientation in Turkish foreign policy away from the West and towards the West’s worst enemies, including Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Gaza, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Everyone knows that he has crashed Turkish-Israel relations, which are seen as a burden within the framework of the new Turkish foreign policy. Erdogan hardly lets a week pass without disparaging or criticizing Israel or the Jews. This undoubtedly fits well with the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiments prevalent in the Muslim world. But Erdogan is Obama’s friend, with whom Obama shares a “friendship and bond of trust.”

Erdogan has curtailed freedom of the press, the freedoms of academia and the independence of the judiciary in his own country, as he attempts to build a centralized, authoritarian presidential system to suit his ambitions. Human rights in Turkey have gone from bad to worse.…

Turkey has become a very unreliable member of NATO. Led by the AKP (Erdogan’s political party), the Turkish Parliament denied permission to U.S. troops to use Turkish territory to open a northern front against Iraq in 2003. During the Georgian crisis in the summer of 2008, Ankara was slow in responding to American requests to send ships into the Black Sea via the Bosporus Strait. An even more flagrant deviation from NATO values has been the nascent military relationship and “strategic partnership” (Erdogan’s words) between Turkey and China, including the unprecedented inclusion of Chinese warplanes in a 2010 Turkish military exercise, called Anatolian Eagle, that had previously included the U.S. and Israel.…

Turkey further deviated from the Western consensus by hosting Sudanese Islamist President Omar Hassan al-Bashir twice in 2008. Bashir was charged with war crimes and genocide in Darfur. Since then, Erdogan has hosted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Ankara and backed Hamas.

Erdogan has visited Iran numerous times since 2009 and has sided with Iran on the nuclear issue, declaring Turkish support for Tehran’s “peaceful nuclear program” and voting repeatedly against American-initiated sanctions against Iran.… Erdogan has agreed to establish a $2 billion crude oil-refinery in northern Iran in defiance of the U.S., and voted against every attempt to censure Iran for building secret uranium enrichment facilities. Turkish banks openly cooperate with Iranian banks to circumvent Western sanctions.…

Erdogan is so unhinged when it comes to Israel that in 2009 he preposterously accused Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman of threatening to attack the Gaza Strip with a nuclear weapon. More recently, he has threatened Israel with war over gas fields in the Mediterranean.

Turkey is an important country whose foreign policy reorientation changes the balance of power in the Middle East in favor of the radical Islamist forces. It is negatively affecting the pro-Western orientation of the Central Asian republics. It is considerably weakening the Western strategic alliance, and working assiduously to undermine Israel’s safety and security. Erdogan is directly responsible for this. But of all the world’s leaders, one of the five Obama feels closest to is Erdogan.… Unbelievable.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner

Jerusalem Post, January 23, 2012

In the wake of Gov. Rick Perry’s withdrawal from the Republican presidential race, pundits argue[d] over the reasons for his rise and fall. But one thing is for certain: Perry was the only candidate who told the truth about Turkey’s support for anti-Israel Islamic terrorists.

Perry was roundly criticized after he remarked, in the January 17 candidates’ debate, that Turkey “is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists.” In response, The US State Department called Turkey “a stalwart ally” of the United States that “plays a very positive and constructive role in the region.” The New York Times…asserted flat-out that Perry’s statement was “inaccurate” and characterized Turkey’s governing party as “moderate.” Huffington Post columnist Dorian de Wind mocked Perry as an “uninformed Texas cowboy.”

But within hours, Gov. Perry’s critics were left with more than a little egg on their faces as the foreign minister of Iran, the world’s leading terrorist state, arrived in Turkey for a visit aimed at further strengthening the already-friendly relations between the two countries. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali-Akbar Salehi announced in Ankara that trade between his terrorist regime and Turkey, which had been just $5 billion annually in the past, hit $15 b. in 2010 and will reach $30 b. by 2015. Salehi, by the way, has met his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, no less than 11 times in the past 12 months. How is that “positive and constructive”?

The truth about Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government is that they have become experts at playing both sides of the fence—making “moderate” noises when Western ears are listening, while collaborating with Islamic terrorists and terrorist regimes whenever they can get away with it.

Thus while the United States has been struggling to find ways to stop Iran’s nuclear development, Erdogan has been defending the Iranians. During his visit to Tehran…in October 2009, he denounced Western sanctions against Iran as “arrogant.…” Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad reciprocated by praising Erdogan for his “clear stance against” Israel.

In December 2010, Erdogan traveled to Libya—Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya—to receive the “Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights.” Erdogan was not the least bit embarrassed to accept such an award from one of the world’s worst human rights abusers.… He told reporters that relations between Turkey and Libya were “growing,” and that there was “much Turkish investment” in Gadaffi’s Libya. Three months later, the US was leading the NATO assault on Turkey’s Libyan friends.

Turkey’s support for the Hamas terrorists has been consistent, passionate and unequivocal. The Turkish government sponsored the May 2010 flotilla that was intercepted while attempting to bring prohibited materials to the Hamas regime in Gaza. Erdogan’s claim that the flotilla participants were peaceful civil rights activists crumbled as the whole world watched the chilling YouTube video of the Islamic extremists on board trying to beat an Israeli soldier to death with baseball bats. Other Israeli soldiers were stabbed and nearly drowned. Erdogan said it was the Israeli soldiers who were “terrorizing” the Muslim baseball players.…

[Erdogan also] told PBS’s Charlie Rose last May: “I don’t see Hamas as a terror organization. Hamas is a political party. And it is an organization. It is a resistance movement.…” According to media reports last month, Turkey intends to give Hamas $300 million in aid. And [in January], Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh received the red carpet treatment on an official state visit to Turkey.…

Those who befriend Iran and finance Hamas have made it clear that they are with the terrorists. Just like Rick Perry said.

Yesim Erez

Pajamas Media, February 1, 2012

Both U.S. policy and Middle Eastern Islamists have repeatedly held up the “Turkish model” as an ideal.… During the last year, Western governments and mass media have urged new, post-revolutionary Arab governments to follow the ‘Turkish model” as a way of achieving a moderate democracy. The problem with this approach is that the Turkish model is not so moderate, democratic, or admirable.

Since achieving power almost a decade ago, the AKP has built, step-by-step, a Putin-style permanent regime by knocking over institution after institution, changing laws to give itself more power, and intimidating opponents.

Now, the last two surviving institutions, [the military and the judiciary], have received this treatment. Top military officers have been forced to resign, and scores have been arrested and imprisoned on flimsy charges. In 2010 the AKP pushed through a series of constitutional amendments that included increasing the number of members in Turkey’s Constitutional Court—its equivalent of a supreme court—from eleven to seventeen, allowing the AKP to achieve a majority of its own supporters. The size of the Supreme Board of Prosecutors and Judges (HSYK), the body that approves judges and prosecutors, was increased from seven to twenty-two appointees. AKP filled the positions with partisans, ensuring itself absolute power over the judiciary branch of government in Turkey.

Under the AKP, Turkey has become a world leader in imprisoning journalists, students, and politicians of opposing viewpoints exercising their rights to free speech. According to the International Center for Prison Studies, the number of people in Turkey’s prisons doubled between 2006 and 2010. Close to half of them are being held without trial.

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2011 “Global Gender Gap Report” measuring the gap between men and women in economic participation, educational attainment, health, and political empowerment, Turkey bottomed at 122 out of 135—down from 106 in 2006, and heading in the direction of Saudi Arabia.…

Since Western governments and media don’t criticize [Erdogan’s] regime, it can claim that it has increased Turkey’s prestige and power in the world. But central to this strategy is the conquest of all national institutions, like the mass media. In 2009, for example, the Dogan Media Group—one of the largest media enterprises to be accused of being “anti-government”—was slapped with a tax fine of about $3 billion, an amount that exceeded its market value. The fine is held over its head as a way of achieving a more positive stance toward the government.…

If the current Turkish regime is the model for the entire Middle East or Muslim world, this is a rather questionable model.…

Kemal Kılıçdaroglu

Washington Post, February 5, 2012

Many in Washington have been debating whether Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) could be a model for the Arab Spring.… But the reality in Turkey makes clear that the AKP model does not hold.

On Nov. 9 I visited the Silivri prison where hundreds of journalists, publishers, military officers, academics and politicians are being held. Trials were opened in 2007 on charges that an ultranationalist underground organization had plotted for years to overthrow the government. Many of those indicted have been detained for years without trial. There has not been a single conviction to date. Justice is at stake—and, so far, has been flagrantly denied. At work is an insidious attack on the rule of law by Turkey’s governing party. These trials could have been an occasion for Turkey to achieve a much-needed catharsis for correcting past wrongs, but they have been turned into instruments to silence the opposition and suppress freedoms.

Among those being held are eight opposition members of parliament. Turkey’s high election board declared that these people were qualified to stand for elections, and all won seats in parliament. That they are incarcerated violates their rights under Turkish law as elected representatives of the people.

A universal norm of the rule of law is that one is innocent until proven guilty. Another is that evidence leads to the arrest of a suspect. In today’s Turkey, however, people are treated as guilty until proven innocent. One gets arrested; then authorities gather evidence to establish an infraction. Presumed guilt is the norm. Sadly, all opponents of the government are viewed as potential terrorists or plotters against the state.

The AKP is systematic and ruthless in its persecution of any opposition to its policies. Authoritarian pressure methods such as heavy tax fines and illegal videotaping and phone tapping are widely used to silence opponents. Even more disturbing is the AKP’s claim that such things are being done in the name of democratic progress. The latest government target is the primary vestige of our democracy, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which I lead.

While at the Silivri center in November, I likened the conditions to those of a concentration camp and said that prosecutors and judges were not meting out justice and did not deserve to be called upholders of justice. This month, I learned that the prosecutor’s office had opened an inquiry into my comments, contending that I was “seeking to influence a fair trial” and “insulting public officials.…” Clearly, an effort to single out the leader of the main opposition party ratchets up the pressures on freedom of expression.…

It all boils down to this: In today’s Turkey, when one criticizes the justice system, one is prosecuted. When one appeals to the courts, one is penalized. But here is why I stand behind my words: I have the right and duty to be critical of all that is wrong in my country. It is my inalienable right to point to injustices and to ask for justice. If the courts are not performing their duty, one can, and should, stand up and say so.…

Turkey today is a country where people live in fear and are divided politically, economically and socially. Our democracy is regressing in terms of the separation of powers, basic human rights and freedoms and social development and justice. Citizens worry deeply about their future. These points are, sadly, reflected in most major international indexes…which rank Turkey quite low in terms of human rights, democracy, freedoms and equality.…

A nation plagued by multiple forms of division and polarization is doomed to failure. Tactics such as oppression, preying on fear and restricting freedoms can help sustain a government’s rule for only so long. Never in history has a government succeeded in ruling permanently through authoritarian measures. Oppression does not endure; righteousness does. Turkey will be no exception.

(Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP),
the main opposition party in Turkey.

The Fall of the Israel-Turkey Relationship

On Sunday, October 23, a devastating magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southeast Turkey, killing hundreds and injuring thousands more. In a show of solidarity, Israeli officials called their Turkish counterparts to offer sympathy and relief aid. Turkey’s response prompted Commentary magazine editorialist, Jonathan S. Tobin, to pen the following:


“How determined is Turkey to repudiate its decades-long alliance with Israel? [The] decision by the Turks to…refuse assistance from Israel is a stunning indication of how far the Islamist government in Ankara is willing to go to make a point.… [Turkey’s Prime Minister Recip Tayip] Erdogan would apparently prefer to see his compatriots die rather than to allow Jews to help them.…”


Admittedly, Turkey did eventually accept Israel’s help, an act Defense Minister Ehud Barak hoped “may help reduce tension and open a new page in our relations with Turkey.” However, Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, quickly downplayed the gesture, reaffirming that the “political conditions remain” and that despite the support Ankara would not change its position vis-a-vis the Jewish state.


This episode begs the question: how did the once-strong Israel-Turkey relationship deteriorate to such a degree?


Many identify as the turning point the now-infamous May 2010 flotilla incident, in which nine Turkish nationals were killed when Israeli soldiers boarded the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish government-sponsored ship attempting to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza.


However, a closer examination shows that Turkey’s dismantling of its strategic partnership with Israel began long before.


Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline B. Glick notes that since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power in 2002, the regime “has inculcated the formerly tolerant if not pro-Israel Turkish public with virulent anti-Semitism.” Israel recently chastised Turkey’s Education Ministry for sponsoring an antisemitic website.


Glick also highlights the Turkish government’s support for terrorist groups like the al Qaida- and Hamas-linked IHH, which organized the flotilla to Gaza. Erdogan’s allegiance to Hamas, for instance, was already made overt following Israel’s 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead, when the Turkish prime minister acted as the “international community’s” most vocal critic of the Israeli incursion into Gaza. Most conspicuous was Erdogan’s public, and well-publicized, rebuke of President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009. Erdogan has also stated, “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization.… They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land.”


More recently, Erdogan’s National Security Council removed Iran and Syria as designated threats, but labeled Israel a “major threat.” With respect to Iran, in particular, Turkey has become the regime’s economic lifeline, allowing the mullahs to use Turkish markets to bypass UN sanctions. And Turkey is one of a handful of countries to have invited the President of the Islamic Republic, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on a formal visit.


It is worthwhile noting that Israel’s Operation Cast Lead has been largely vindicated. The military operation, aimed at halting Hamas’ indiscriminate firing of missiles at civilian population centers, provoked global condemnation, culminating in the UN’s issuance of the biased Goldstone Report. Yet Richard Goldstone, the UN fact-finding mission’s chief investigator, this year retracted many of his most dubious accusations—including charges of “war crimes” levied against IDF soldiers—in sequential op-eds written in both the Washington Post and NY Times.


This past September, after repeated delays at the behest of the Turkish government, the UN finally released the Palmer Report, the findings of an independent inquiry into the Mavi Marmara episode headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer. The report exculpated Israel for its defensive actions against Turkish militants aboard the ship, stating that IDF commandos “faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers…requiring them to use force for their own protection.” Moreover, the report confirmed the legality of Israel’s Gaza blockade: “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure…and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”


Israel accepted the Palmer Report’s findings. Turkey rejected them outright, declaring the report “null and void.” Ironically, it was Turkey that had initially demanded the official UN probe.


Immediately following the report’s release, Turkey elevated its confrontation with Israel to new heights. Erdogan’s government downgraded the Jewish state’s diplomatic standing to second secretary level, effectively giving Israel’s ambassador 48 hours to leave the country. Turkey froze military cooperation with Israel, fortified its naval presence in the Mediterranean, and warned that the Turkish war ships would escort future flotillas to Gaza.Turkey also pledged to refer Israel’s blockade of the Strip to the International Court of Justice—despite the Palmer Report’s corroboration of the legality of the blockade—while simultaneously threatening to sue the IDF soldiers who took part in the raid.Turkish officials even went so far as to harass forty Israelis on a Tel Aviv-to-Istanbul flight by sequestering them upon landing and subjecting them to humiliating “searches.”


Concurrently, Erdogan embarked on a tour of Arab states to support the Palestinians’ unilateral bid for statehood at the United Nations. Using the trip as a platform to up his anti-Israel rhetoric, Erdogan called Israel “a spoiled child,” and claimed “the Israeli people are [always] resorting back to the issue of genocide in history and…acting as if they are the victims all the time.” At a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, Erdogan stressed that Israel had to “pay a price for its aggression and crimes,” and subsequently accused Israel of committing “state terrorism,” claiming Israeli policies were “cause for war.”


Erdogan also steadfastly adhered to a previous demand that Israel apologize to Turkey for the flotilla incident, despite the Palmer Report’s recommendation that Israel only make “an appropriate statement of regret.”


Yet Turkey’s shift away from Israel was clearly predictable. Since taking office, Erdogan’s Islamist AKP party has reshaped Turkey in a manner that foreshadowed conflict with the lone democratic state in the Middle East. The government has used unlawful means to suppress and silence all significant organs of secularist opposition. The regime has limited press freedoms, blocking websites such as YouTube and imprisoning more than 60 journalists. According to the International Press Institute, Turkey has more jailed journalists than any other country in the world, including China and Iran.


The repression has also extended to Turkey’s military. The Kemalist constitution originally designated Turkey’s military as the protector of secular Turkey, bound to combat all threats posed by religious political parties. Over the past decade, however, the AKP has done everything possible to criminalize the military’s leadership and reduce its constitutional powers. To date, more than 160 officers have been charged with involvement in claimed coup plots. The witch-hunt peaked in 2007 with the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy, which resulted in the conviction of senior military commanders on trumped up allegations of attempting to topple the AKP government.


A government that suppresses internal freedoms can be expected to oppose and confront countries—including Israel—which maintain and promote freedom. Turkey fits the bill. In an interview earlier this year, former Turkish President Suleyman Demirel warned that the AKP has established “an empire of fear” in Turkey.


As a result, Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes in September wrote a National Post article designating Turkey, in addition to Iran, as “the most dangerous state of the region.” Pipes focuses on the AKP’s Islamization of the country, calling the phenomenon “Islamists without brakes,” and points to the abrupt resignation of four out of five Turkish chiefs of staff on July 29 as the end of the secular republic founded in 1923 by Kemal Ataturk.


“A second republic headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist colleagues of the AK Party began that day,” Pipes asserts. “The military safely under their control, AKP ideologues can pursue their ambitions to create an Islamic order.”


Today, Erdogan is well positioned to capitalize on his Neo-Ottoman ambitions. Flush with victory after June’s election, in which his AKP won 50% of the vote, Erdogan’s goal of expanding Turkey’s influence throughout the Middle East has been given new life.


“Believe me, Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul. Beirut won as much as Izmir, Damascus won as much as Ankara, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, and the West Bank,” Erdogan said of his landslide win.


Barry Rubin, director of Israel’s Global Research in International Affairs Center also believes “The elections in Turkey mark[ed] a revolution, an event every bit as significant as the revolutions in Iran and Egypt.” Like Pipes, Rubin claims that “The Turkey of secularism and Western orientation is finished. The Turkey that belongs to an alliance of radical Islamists abroad and at home has been launched.”


(Charles Bybelezer is Publications Chairman
for the
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)