Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Turkish Criticism of Israel or Anti-semitism?

If Turkish PM Erdogan criticizes Israel, is it antisemitism?

Because of recent developments, Israel is again being accused of hypocrisy and attempting to deflect legitimate criticism of its policies, by claiming that its accusers are antisemitic. Erdogan himself recently made this claim in an interview. I think this warrants a cool headed analysis.

Firstly, let me state that disagreement with Israel's policies is legitimate and not intrinsically antisemitic. Within the Jewish and Israeli communities, we have highly charged and sometimes bitter disagreements about Israel's actions. Its is certainly completely acceptable for other countries to do so as well. When, however, does legitimate debate cross the line into racism and bigotry, of which antisemitism is a subset?

I think the question can by analysed on two levels:

1. Motive. Although we can never really know what resides in the hearts of men, the context and history of an accuser cannot be seperated from the content of his words. If Bin Laden was still alive and was to criticise Israel's blockade of Gaza, I don't think anybody could deny that his accusations are antisemitic. This is because of what governs his logic. He wants the blockade broken not because of humanitarian concerns, but rather because the Jews are infidels, he doesn't think that the Jew's state has a right to defend itself and because he wants harm to befall it. This would be antisemitism. Erdogan himself denies antisemitism and had not taken any actions against the Jews in his own country. Perhaps his motives are to restore Turkey's position as a regional superpower and to the glory of the days of old. We don't know for sure. One can suspect Muslim antisemitic instincts, but this would be hard to demonstrate objectively.

2. Content. Here is where I think Erdogan's claims fail. While Palestinian/Islamic rockets target civilians and fall on Israeli communities, he is conspicuously silent. The same goes for other terrorist attacks on Israel. No claims of "inhumane" behavior, terrorism, ignoring international laws, etc. He is not even a party to the conflict, as the Gazans are. Yet, when Israel takes any actions to defend the Jewish State from such attack (whether violent, such as the Gaza invasion, or non-violent, such as the blockade) , Erdogan calls us inhumane violators of international laws and child murderers, and that the naval blockade is a war crime. Setting aside for the moment that his statements are factually wrong (as evidence by the UN's Palmer report which Turkey itself agreed to), what we see here is the sign of a double standard. What is legitimate for the Palestinians (firing rockets) and for Turkey (attacking the Kurds), is illegal and immoral for the Israeli state, when attempting to protect Jews. This is pure hypocrisy, racism, and therefore antisemitic. Therefore Turkish denials of antisemitism are simply lies. True, it is veiled and subtle antisemitism, not foaming at the mouth Nazi-like propoganda. But its in the same league as Iranian President Ahmedinejad's holocaust-denying venom.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Tom Friedman and the "Arab Spring"

Ever since a Tunesian man self-immolated in December 2010, a wave of protests has shaken the Arab world. Romantically referred to as the "Arab Spring", these events have inspired optimism for many in the western world, who were quick to joyously proclaim an Arab embracing of democracy. "The Arabs are ready for freedom", we were told. Tom Friedman of the New York Times was quick to adopt this theme, hailing the "Facebook generation" of youth who will bring enlightenment and democracy to Egypt and other countries. Well, it hasn't taken long for us to sober up and receive a bucket of cold water in our faces. Those of us in Israel and elsewhere who were skeptical and warned of the threat of extremism, were ridiculed as naysayers and hypocrites. If we enjoyed democracy, we were asked, how could we deny others the same rights?

Well, the answer has come more quickly than I anticipated. Egypt has decended into chaos, with the very real possibility of Muslim extremists being voted "democractically" into power. The Sinai desert has become a haven for a wide assortment of gangs and terrorists. Yesterday, a crazed mob attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo, while security services stood by. Only frantic calls from the White House induced the Egyptians to intervene and rescue the trapped embassy staff, avoiding a bloodbath. Protesters, foaming at the mouth with hatred and pumped up on testosterone, hailed the "victory", having restored Egypt's national "dignity". Am I living on another planet? Lynching an embassy restores dignity?

Elsewhere, Libya and Yemen have decended into civil war. Syria is on its way, with blood flowing in the streets. Although there was no revolution in Turkey, which used to be a loyal pro western ally, it has "democratically" moved into the same orbit as the Islamic extremists in Iran. It is no longer a reliable NATO nation.

So, Tom, where is your Facebook revolution? How'd that work out for ya? I know you'd love to blame Israel's Palestinian problem for everything, but that would be too much even for your rhetoric.