İSTANBUL (TURKISH JOURNAL) – By Janet Ekstract – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not one to shy away from speaking his mind, especially when it comes to voicing his outrage and profound disappointment as he did just three days ago, at the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit that he arranged on Friday, as an emergency gathering, in light of the tragic violence on the Gaza Strip.
To show solidarity with the Palestinians, Erdogan and his party summoned a huge political rally in Yenikapi, on May 18 – a large suburb of Istanbul where thousands gathered including leaders from the 57-member OIC. As Erdogan commented at the rally: “As Muslims, we do not and cannot do anything other than denounce.” He also made a rather cryptic remark, referring to the United States when he said, “One day, the mistakes of this administration will rebound on America.”
Currently, both Turkey and Israel are in a holding pattern – having each recalled their respective ambassadors and consuls. The Turkish President made no bones about his opinion when he told the press very firmly that “What Israel is doing is genocide.” He also took aim at the United Nations for what he had labeled earlier in the week, as a “collapse” of the U.N.
The Turkish president also sternly warned that “If Israel’s bullying is met with more silence, the world will rapidly be dragged into a chaos where thuggery prevails.” In the midst of Erdogan’s indignation and that of the OIC, Kuwait began circulating a new draft resolution in the UN that calls for the immediate cessation of all use of force. Ankara is putting pressure on members of the U.N. Security Council to take a more proactive stance under the circumstances but Erdogan mentioned he had not been able to reach Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres.
The last time Turkey and Israel broke off diplomatic relations was in 2010 over the Mavi Marmara incident where nine Turkish peace activists were killed when the Israeli Army stormed the Turkish charity’s vessel bringing aid to Palestinians in an attempt to stymie the Israeli blockade in Gaza.
In the latest developments, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has called for Israel to stand before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the shootings which have been labeled by many international organizations as “excessive and horrific.” Cavusoglu added “We are analyzing what kind of legal steps can be taken.”
Going even further in a more extreme step, Yariv Levin, Israel’s tourism minister has urged Israeli tourists not to visit Turkey: “I advise not to visit Turkey, and I would have said the same even before recent events,” Leving told the Ynet news website last Thursday. He added, “As long as Turkey treats us like it did, there is no reason to fly there.”
Those who have been critical of President Erdogan’s stance cite the fact that Turkey exports USD 2.5 billion in products to Israel, according to Turkish press reports. So far, one opposition party has suggested that the ruling party cancel all security, economic and political agreements with Israel yet no such proposal has been forthcoming from the Turkish government, according to current press reports.
Meanwhile, the leading opposition candidate, in the upcoming elections – Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party has accused President Erdogan’s party of not being brave enough to cut trade ties with Israel. Ince made his viewpoint very distinctly when he told a political rally in Amasya: “The only thing he can do is hold a rally and let me tell you, this is the only thing he can do, because he does not care about the Muslims in Palestine, he only cares about the upcoming election.”
Regardless, of criticism directed toward the Turkish President, it would seem that his outspoken and what many consider his courageous stance on Israel with regard to the Gaza Strip incident has managed to garner the U.N.’s attention. As current press reports indicate that The United Nations Human Rights Council has called for a full investigation into the tragic violence that left almost three thousand wounded and an estimated 60 or more dead.
While U.K. Prime Minister, Theresa May has already voiced her very clear upset regarding the Gaza violence, both the U.S. and Australia are opposed to any investigation into the Gaza violence that took place on May 14, according to current media reports.
One thing is certain in all this hoopla – a definite momentum has begun and sooner or later whether Israel or its allies agree, as the head of the UN Human Rights Council so succinctly stated recently, there must be “accountability.”