June 17, 2010 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 616

Arab Positions on Turkey in Wake of Flotilla Clash: Support vs. Fears of Its Growing Regional Influence

June 17, 2010 | By R. Green*
Turkey | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 616

The central role played by Turkey and its prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Gaza flotilla events, and the international uproar that ensued, was greeted with immense sympathy throughout the Arab world. However, the Arab press remained divided regarding Turkey's increasingly prominent status in the Middle East. Some writers extolled Turkey, crowning Erdogan as leader of the Arab world, while criticizing the flaccidity of other Arab regimes in dealing with the siege on Gaza. They argued that the flotilla heralded the emergence of a Turkish-Arab alliance or even a Turkish-Arab-Iranian alliance. Others, especially in the Egyptian press, expressed suspicion towards Turkey and its intentions, claiming that the country was merely exploiting the Palestinian cause to generate political capital for itself while attempting to displace Egypt's role as a key player in the Arab world. Yet others posited that Turkey's aid to the Palestinians represented a welcome counterbalance to Iran's intervention and aspirations in the region.

Demonstration in Beirut.

Hizbullah Supporters: Allah, Watch Over Erdogan

Demonstrators in Gaza, Damascus, and Beirut waved Turkish flags and pictures of Erdogan at massive pro-Turkey rallies and marches (see photo, above). At one such demonstration in Lebanon, Hizbullah supporters shouted: "O Allah, O Merciful One, watch over Erdogan."[1] Text messages from viewers displayed on Al-Jazeera TV during Erdogan's June 4 speech in Konya said: "Erdogan, you are king of the Arabs," and "Son of the sultans, you have restored the glory of the Ottomans." The daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that a resident of the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip had changed his children's names to Recep, Tayyip, and Erdogan in appreciation of the Turkish prime minister's recent actions. The same man also hung Turkish flags in the coffee shop that he owned, and screened episodes of the antisemitic Turkish program "Ayrilik" in the shop as well.[2]

Expressing his admiration for Turkey and disappointment in the Arabs, a Qatari columnist declared: "From now on I am a Turkish citizen... I have chosen the Turk Erdogan as [my] leader. From now on I divorce everything Arab, even my Arab wife... [Erdogan] made firm decisions that no Arab leader dared to even think about... True, Turkey has not severed its relations with Israel... and has not retaliated for the murder of its citizens in the 'Freedom Flotilla,' but what it has done up till now is a million times better than the Arab position on the matter."[3]

Al-Quds Al-Arabi Editor: Erdogan Is More Arab than the Arabs; We Have Not Seen Such Resolve Since Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser

Writers associated with the "resistance camp" enthusiastically welcomed Turkey's involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict, dubbing Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan the leader of the Arabs. 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, editor of the daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, wrote an article in praise of Erdogan, describing him as "more Arab than the Arabs" while harshly criticizing the Arab leaders for their passivity: "...Turkey's keen and forceful entrance into the arena of the Arab-Israeli conflict has begun to bear fruit at [a quicker] pace than we are used to. The Security Council met several hours after [the flotilla events] to discuss the Israeli massacre. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak immediately opened the Rafah crossing. The Turkish lands boiled over with demonstrations demanding vengeance for the blood of the shahids. When did the Security Council [ever] meet so quickly in response to an Arab request to discuss Israeli aggression?...

"Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, was more Arab than the Arabs themselves when he acted firmly and bravely and opposed this Israeli crime; when he demanded that the Security Council and NATO hold urgent meetings; when he immediately recalled the Turkish ambassador from Tel Aviv;[4] when he demanded that Israel immediately end the siege on the Gaza Strip; when he described the attack on the Freedom Flotilla ships as despicable and as state terrorism; and when he warned the Hebrew state that Turkey's patience was coming to an end. We have not heard such language since the death of the Egyptian leader Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser..."[5]

Jordanian demonstrators in 'Amman holding pictures of Erdogan.

Al-Akhbar Chairman: Turkey Is Compensating for the Incompetence of Arab Leaders

Ibrahim Al-Amin, chairman of the board of directors of the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, claimed that those who opposed Hamas and Hizbullah because of these organizations' ties to Iran and the Shi'a were now accepting Sunni Turkey and its prime minister Erdogan as their leader, and in so doing joining the resistance movement. He assessed that the flotilla would soon be followed by similar initiatives as part of the lead-up to an all-out war that would bring about Israel's destruction. Al-Amin wrote: "Unlike the Palestinians and many Arabs who support Nasrallah, large groups had yearned for a leadership unconnected to Iran or the new jihadi Shi'a... They rejected Hamas and accused the Palestinian jihad movement of being an instrument of Shi'ite Iran. Now Turkey has emerged to compensate for the incapacity of the leaders of the Arab regimes.

"Erdogan [has emerged as a figure] whose portrait can be displayed in homes, on billboards, and on cars. When all is said and done, the integration into the resistance movement of those who [had] hesitated is now being achieved through the gate of Islam. Turkey has validated what Khomeini said: 'The issue of Jerusalem is an Islamic one before it is an Arab one.' The Turks themselves now recognize that Iran's prosperity, as well as Syria's, is due to the united stance of the resistance forces. Palestine has become a name that cannot be ignored in any matter that concerns the Arabs or Muslims, or even the Westerners. Israel, which can no longer count its enemies, finds itself faced with a new wave of hatred, the wave of Turkish speakers, which has joined [the wave of] Arabic and Farsi [speakers].

"There are questions which Israel cannot answer. The Freedom Flotilla has motivated [other] individuals and small groups to seek similar initiatives. This summer, the Gaza sea will witness raids of a different sort... Israel will find itself faced with two options: [either] to admit defeat and return home, or to confront [the activists] and fill the sea with blood. Israel recently learned to recognize new equations, which stipulate that any blood spilled [by Israel] will be matched by the blood of its own people. In this game, the ball is rolling toward a great conflagration which, even if delayed for a while, will soon engulf U.S. – though Israel does not want to acknowledge [this fact]. [Prominent American journalist] Helen Thomas... said several days ago that 'the Jews should get out of Palestine and go home' [sic]. When asked where their home was, she replied: 'Poland, Germany, America.' Do you comprehend the significance of [this statement –] that the next war will change the face of this region?"[6]

Syrian Press: The Flotilla Has Vindicated Syria's Support of the Resistance; A Tripartite Arab-Turkish-Iranian Alliance Will Protect the Region

Responses to the flotilla in Syria focused mainly on the country's contribution to the formation of a Syrian-Turkish Iranian front against Israel that will support the resistance forces in the region. Waddah 'Abd Rabbo, editor of the Syrian daily Al-Watan, wrote of the importance of the resistance in the struggle against Israel, stressing Syria's role: "...Until a few days ago, the world was admonishing Syria for its support of the resistance. Delegations arrived in Syria to 'advise' it to give up on the resistance and its people.

"Now, following [the flotilla events], the world will thank Syria for supporting [the resistance]. Some of the Arabs and non-Arabs who consistently criticized Syria will [now] realize the reason for President Bashar Al-Assad's rapprochement with Turkey; for our desire for an Islamic, unified, independent Iraq free from occupation; and for our rapprochement with countries that support the restoration of rights and the enforcement of international justice. The world will realize why Syria is striving to establish a new regional order, based on resistance to foreign plans supported by Israel – beginning with [the plan to] redraw the map of the Middle East by force, on to 'compromises' for restoring our rights, and ending with the tempting terms of surrender that the West has tried to force on Syria and which [Syria] has resisted.

"Syria's policy was, is, and will continue to be based on the way of resistance and refusal to surrender. This was the way [adopted by] the flotilla, whose activists gave their lives in resisting those who raided their ships and hijacked them..."[7]

'Abd Al-Halim Saud, a columnist for the government daily Al-Thawra, wrote: "Erdogan's statement that Turkey is the Arabs' right hand[8] is true and indisputable. Doubtless, he also meant [to imply] that the other hand is Iran, hinting at an Arab-Turkish-Iranian alliance. As for Israel – with the aggression and occupation it represents and the terrorism and crimes it commits against humanity – it will remain a foreign body or a malignant growth that must be eliminated, whether by pulling it up by the roots or by limiting the danger and threat it poses."[9]

Talal Salman, a columnist for the pro-Syrian daily Al-Safir, likewise spoke of a tripartite Syrian-Turkish-Iranian alliance protecting the region: "Damascus need not issue statements of support for the Turkish position [on the flotilla]. It sees itself as part of [that position] and not as merely [standing] beside [Turkey]. It had a hand in altering Turkey's stance [regarding the Palestinians]. [Furthermore,] Turkey is not canceling out Iran or its role in the region; [Iran and Turkey] complement one another, and Syria [also] has an important role on this arena. The tripartite [alliance] is not in opposition of others, but is an element promoting the security of the region."[10]

Lebanese boy in a military uniform decorated with Turkish flags, in front of a Hizbullah flag

Qatari Daily: Qatar and Turkey Are Spearheading Arab Campaign Against Israel

The Qatari daily Al-Raya argued that Turkey, which had played a central role in the flotilla, and Qatar, which offered to finance a lawsuit against Israel for attacking the flotilla, are spearheading the struggle against Israel: "With its clear positions, Turkey revealed the Arabs' true colors. Qatar, in pledging to bear the costs of the legal proceedings against Israel, proved to the world that it is always the first to support Arab rights. As such, it is the conscience that senses the pulse of the Arab and Islamic public, which demands that Israel be held to account and that the exploitative siege on Gaza be ended. It is no wonder that, spearheaded by Qatar and Turkey, the Arab and Islamic public is demanding an international account from Israel and an end to the siege on the Palestinians...

"The Arabs must understand that turning to the Security Council is of no avail regarding Israel, since it will [always] find someone [in the Council] to support it. It is the Arab leaders that must immediately find a way to break the siege on Gaza. Only thus will they rise to the level of their peoples. They must know that Turkey, in its firm stances vis-à-vis Israel, has put all the Arab leaders to a difficult challenge and test, and that Qatar, in its absolute support of the Palestinians and of Turkey's position, has drawn a roadmap for the Arab [leaders] – who need to meet the challenge and the goals of the Arab and Islamic public..."[11]

The Egyptian Press in a Quandary

Editors of Egyptian Dailies: Erdogan Is All Talk; Turkey Is Exploiting the Palestinian Cause

The Egyptian government press found itself in a quandary following the events of the Gaza flotilla. On the one hand, Egypt is concerned that Turkey's involvement in Gaza might threaten Egypt's own status and stability. This position was expressed in a number of articles which claimed that Turkey was merely talking and not taking action regarding the siege on Gaza, and that Erdogan sympathized with Hamas due to his membership in the Muslim Brotherhood rather than out of any real concern for the Palestinians. On the other hand, Egypt wishes to maintain good relations with Turkey and not to be viewed as indifferent towards the Palestinian cause. This was reflected in articles that pointed out the advantage of cooperation with Turkey.

Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim, editor of the Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhouriyya and member of Egypt's Shura Council, was prominent among those who expressed reservations about Turkey. He questioned its sincerity and condemned its dependence on the U.S.: "Erdogan, the Turkish hero we have glorified, has shown that, like many of his allies in Doha, Damascus, Beirut, and elsewhere, he is only good at talking. He is incapable of doing anything else, since it would anger the U.S. The freedom flotilla incident proved that the Turkish role [in promoting the Palestinian cause] is nothing but illusive dreams and empty words, while the Egyptian role is permanent and staunch. Turkey is perhaps good for a political show, like what happened in Davos when Erdogan walked out of the council [after a confrontation with Israeli President Shimon Peres], but it is no good at opposing the U.S. – unlike Cairo, which has rejected dozens of American proposals and requests. Egypt is not dependent on [any of its] allies. It [makes] independent and sovereign decisions and submits to no one..."[12]

'Abdallah Kamal, editor of the Egyptian daily Roz Al-Yousef, claimed that Turkey was exploiting the Palestinian issue for selfish reasons: "Turkey is putting on a show aimed at achieving political gains at the expense of the key parties in the [Palestinian] dossier, without considering what the Palestinians would gain from it. The clash at sea that Israel turned into a massacre is the best possible proof that Turkey is not working in the interests of the Palestinians, but rather using them as a bargaining chip to achieve its own goals. The most important of these [goals] is its desire to mediate between the West and the East, as a step [toward enabling it] to join the European Union.

"Now Turkey is left paralyzed – it did not protect its citizens, nor has it [retaliated] against Israel, avenged the victims, brought the [humanitarian] aid [to Gaza], imposed diplomatic sanctions against Israel, or succeeded in scoring additional points in the broad propaganda campaign for its renewed role [as a regional leader]... The Justice and Development Party [headed by] Erdogan, which rules the Turkish government, is in essence a group of Muslim Brotherhood members. This is a pretentious party which hopes to be seen as a new and modernized version of political Islam... [However,] the reality and developments have forced it... to reveal its [true] nature as a group that is part of the Islamic Brotherhood's international organization."[13]

Former Editor of Egyptian Weekly: Turkey Is Not a Foe

'Abd Al-Qadr Shahib, chairman of the board of directors of Al-Hilal Publications and former editor of the Egyptian government weekly Al-Musawwar, expressed a different view, calling upon Egypt to coordinate its political positions with Turkey: "It is a mistake to treat Turkey as a foe, just when it needs our support, following the Israeli crime against the Freedom Flotilla ship Marmara... The best way to deal with Turkey is through dialogue and an attempt to reach an understanding and coordinate positions. This way will prompt the Turks to regard U.S. sympathetically and to [align themselves] more closely with our interests, in such a way as to serve us and support our positions."[14]

Muhammad Othman, a columnist for the Al-Ahram daily, wrote in a similar vein: "The Egyptian-Turkish ties are strong and must be protected from reckless attacks… Turkey and Iran could have [easily] played an important role in the region by choosing Israel's side, which is supported by the U.S. However, both states decided to support the Palestinian people and enter into an open confrontation – even if only a verbal one – with Israel, and this choice creates many difficulties for them… It is not fair that those who support the Arab right should be rewarded with insults, [especially] considering that we complain about the international community's unfairness towards us."[15]

Saudi Dailies: Turkey Is Helping U.S. by Counterbalancing Iran

The dilemma over Turkey's role in the region was also reflected in the Saudi press, with some writers praising Turkey and viewing its recent actions as welcome competition with Iran, and others worrying that these actions weakened the Arab states. The Saudi daily Al-Watan advised the Arabs to continue developing their relations with Turkey, inter alia in order to distance Turkey from Iran: "[The Arab world] does not oppose Turkey's aspirations, since Turkey, as opposed to Iran, is a reasonable country, particularly in terms of its foreign policy. Turkey's role in the region remains acknowledged and welcome... [This country] aspires to a highly influential regional role. As such, it has placed itself among the region's prominent countries, along with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Egypt. The [common] destiny of Turkey and Palestine, about which Erdogan spoke, has put Turkey in the same boat as the Arabs. The latter, and especially Saudi Arabia, must work with Turkey more exigently and deeply, in such a way as to ensure a division of roles with it... before Turkey's political sphere expands to encompass the [entire] region. Turkey today is rational, and striving to deepen ties with rational [forces] is the best thing [the Arabs can do]."[16]

Several senior journalists took an intermediate position, viewing Turkey as usurping the Arab leadership over the region, but at the same time regarding the country's involvement in the Middle East as a welcome counterweight to Iran's influence. In her column in the daily Al-Hayat, senior analyst Raghida Dergham wrote that Sunni Turkey had taken back the reins on the Palestinian issue from Shi'a Iran: "Iran is worried by Turkey's burgeoning role [in the region], particularly [in light of the fact] that the Freedom Flotilla, which exposed Israel's ruthlessness, sailed to Gaza… under Turkey's political sponsorship, and not as just another humanitarian [mission]. This means that Turkey has decided to take the Palestinian cause, which has been appropriated by the Shi'ite Iranians, and return it to Sunni hands. [In fact, the Turkish sponsorship of the flotilla] means that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking two [parallel] courses in dealing with Iran. One is the course of the nuclear dossier, [where Erdogan is attempting] to incorporate Turkey into the superpowers' negotiations on the Iranian issue. The second course is [the attempt] to snatch the Palestinian banner from the Shi'ite powers, represented primarily by Iran but also by Hizbullah."[17]

Jihad Al-Khazen, former editor of Al-Hayat, defended Turkey, and said, citing anonymous Turkish "decision-makers," that the country planned to form an alliance with the Arabs against Israel. In an article that was published by the English edition of Al-Hayat, he wrote:[18] "I recently heard some open criticism of Turkey’s role, and an accusation that the 'Turkish troika' – Abdullah Gul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ahmet Davutoglu – was exploiting the Palestinian cause. I say to the critics: [You should] exploit [the Palestinian cause] yourselves, because clearly this exploitation is beneficial, as evident from the rising popularity of the Turkish prime minister in every Arab country…

"I know that Erdogan is seeking a Turkish-Arab alliance against Israel. This is not [just my personal] opinion, which could be correct or incorrect. I heard this from decision-makers in a [closed] discussion not for publication. I also know that Egypt has begun [to form] a tripartite alliance with Turkey and Syria against Israel, though my sources tell me that [this will not be proclaimed openly], so as to avoid negative reactions from the United States and Europe. A Turkish official told me, 'We and the Arabs are a hundred times more important than Israel, and the U.S. and Europe will be forced to deal with us on this basis.'"

Al-Arabiya TV Deputy Director: The Arabs Are Becoming a Marginal Force in the Region

Daoud Al-Shiryan, deputy director-general of Al-Arabiya TV, claimed that the flotilla had succeeded in breaking the siege on Gaza, thus exposing the inability of the Arab regimes to act in the name of their people. He wrote: "The question that arises, after seeing Arab League secretary-general ['Amr Moussa] entering Gaza through the Rafah crossing, is why Moussa did not take this step last year, or the year before that. What is behind the subservient Arab compliance with international resolutions, no matter how unjust and biased they may be? Why do Turkey, Iran, Argentina, and other countries in the world rebel against biased resolutions, debate them and negotiating over their implementation, while the Arabs submit and compete in satisfying the Western countries? What is the meaning of this degradation and inadequacy? Why do the Arabs follow [while] others [lead]?

"There is no doubt that 'Amr Moussa's visit to Gaza, after the defenseless activists of the Freedom Flotilla broke the siege on it, is a sign that the Arab regimes have become a marginal force in the Middle East conflict, and that the Arabs will never again be able to act or respond… What is certain is that the Freedom Flotilla exposed the incapacity of the Arab regime and its inability to act or to initiate, not to mention to make bold decisions. The siege on Gaza is a painful reprise of the siege on Iraq. It is a case of the civilian population being punished for political errors that are not its fault. Nonetheless, the Arabs kept silent over the starvation of Gaza's inhabitants."[19]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Editor in Sarcastic Article: If the Turks Are Taking Charge of the Region, We Have a List of Things for Them to Do

Alongside these careful Saudi positions towards Turkey, Tareq Alhomayed, editor of the daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, responded sarcastically to a statement by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The latter said at the Turkish-Arab economic forum in Istanbul that Turkey's role stretched from the Bosphorus to the Strait of Hormuz and Miqras, and to Mauritania. Alhomayed noted in response that if, in fact, Turkey was taking charge of the region's affairs, the Arabs had a list of urgent requests for the "returning sultan."

Some of these requests, he said, were to resolve the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict; to spread secularism in Middle East, since the U.S. had failed to spread democracy; and to convince Iran to stop interfering with the countries of the region. He added, "I hope Turkey can teach Hamas what democracy is, and what regular changes of government are, and solves the problems in Lebanon."

Alhomayed also expressed his hope that Turkey and Iran would stop attacking the Kurds in Iraq, saying, "the Kurds are also our flesh and blood, like the people of Gaza." Alhomayed concluded with a scathing remark: "If Turkey fulfills [even] half of these requests, we will proclaim it Sultan for another 500 years. The question is, what has Turkey done for us in the past 500 years?"[20]

Harsh Criticism of Turkey from Columnists in Gulf

Saudi Columnist: Erdogan – A "New Ottoman" Seeking to Control the Arab Countries

Saudi writer 'Abdallah Nasser Al-'Otaibi called Erdogan a "new Ottoman," no different from the old Ottomans who exploited the Arabs and invaded their lands. He added that the "arrows" Erdogan had directed at Israel were merely verbal, while the arrows that his ancestors, the original Ottomans, had shot at the Arabs were poisonous.

Al-'Otaibi said further that in attempting to become an icon, Erdogan was becoming arrogant: "After his victorious return last year from the Davos forum [where he confronted the Israeli president], he was welcomed by thousands of Turks at the airport, and gained the admiration of Arab circles. Since then, he has gone the way of the leaders during the First and Second World Wars and the Arab leaders of the 60s and 70s – a vainglorious way that achieves nothing... In the middle of the last century, when Germany and Italy were led by... Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, the peoples of these countries suffered violations [of their rights], moral coercion, and degradation on numerous pretexts, the chief of which was national security.

"Erdogan wants to revive the Ottoman belief that in order to be strong and stand proud, they must conquer the Arab minds... When Erdogan says that 'Jerusalem cannot be separated from Istanbul, [and] Khan Younis, Ramallah, the Galilee, and Bethlehem cannot be separated from Ankara,' he really means it. In his eyes, the Turkish capital is the true center of all the Middle East countries (except for Israel, to which he is still tied financially, militarily, and diplomatically even now). The age-old Turkish dream to rule all the Arab lands has now been resurrected, and the Turks have no qualms about exploiting the Arabs' fateful causes, on which they have been silent in the past 60 years... [Erdogan's] party is in line with Hamas... Where was Erdogan when Israel massacred the Palestinians and Fatah was on the front of the Palestinian struggle?"[21]

Kuwaiti Columnist: Turkey Is Working to Establish Islamic Emirate in Gaza

Salah Badr Al-Din, a columnist for the daily Al-Siyassa, wrote that Erdogan's party is trying, as part of the Muslim Brotherhood, to help Hamas consolidate its regime in Gaza and replace the PLO as the leader of the Palestinian cause: "...The Turkish government [was] the primary force in the Freedom Flotilla, by means of the Foundation for Humanitarian Relief [IHH], which is close to [Erdogan's] Justice and Development Party and to the global Muslim Brotherhood movement...

"For some time, the Islamic party in power in Ankara has exploited the geopolitical location of Turkey, which borders [both] the East and the West, and the Obama administration's difficulties in Afghanistan and Iraq, in order to escape its own internal problems, the chief of which is the Kurdish issue... The political Islam organizations in the region, the branches of the Muslim Brotherhood, and specifically the ruling party in Turkey, are striving by all [available] means to perpetuate the internal Palestinian schism and to establish an Islamic emirate in Gaza. [Their goal is] to turn Gaza into the first part of the world to be ruled by one of the Muslim Brotherhood's branches, separate from and in disregard of the PLO...

"[They are striving] to change the Palestinian cause from its root, and transform it from [a struggle] for national liberation into a religious [clash] between Islam and Judaism."[22]

Kuwaiti Columnist: Turkey, as an Imperialist, Has No Right to Criticize Israel

Some writers in the Gulf harshly criticized Turkey's hegemonic ambitions and Erdogan's role. Nabil Al-Fadhl, a columnist for the Kuwaiti daily Al-Watan, said he held Turkey responsible for the "Death Flotilla" and claimed the country had no place criticizing Israel, considering its present policy toward Kurds and past policy toward Arabs and Armenians. He wrote: "To us, Turkey represents an abhorrent history of hundreds of years of imperialism, oppression, and coercion from which the Arab and Muslim world suffered. Even the non-Muslim Arabs suffered the disgrace of racial slavery and murder [perpetrated by Turkey]. [Turkey's] barbaric murder of Armenians will not be forgotten... A country with such a history has no right to criticize the history of other imperialistic countries...

"To this day, Turkey occupies a large part of Kurdistan and does not hesitate to invade Kurdish territories under Iraqi, Syrian, or Iranian control. It kills Kurds with unparalleled brutality, while incitingly scorning the sovereignty of the counties which claim these Kurdish territories... Today we can ignore Turkey's abominable past of imperialism and of the enslavement of Arab peoples through the 'Sublime Porte' [a nickname for the Ottoman sultan]. We can pretend that Turkey did not occupy Arab and Kurdish lands, and we can turn a blind eye to the fact that Turkey exploits and harms the Kurdish people within its borders as well as in neighboring countries in a manner more despicable than that of Israel.

"We can ignore all this, but we cannot accept the stupidity of regarding Turkey as a bright star in the Middle Eastern skies. We do not accept the foolishness and indignity of some among us who dub the Turkish prime minister 'His Excellency Prime Minister Erdogan.' Erdogan is no Excellency, and his fate will be the same as any cleric who deals in politics. It is a disgrace that there some who wave Turkish flags in welcome of those returning from the Death Flotilla to Gaza."[23]

PNC Member: Iran and Turkey View the Arab Region as Part of their Lebensraum

Wassef Mansour, a member of the Palestinian National Council, came out against the takeover of the Palestinian liberation movement by Iran and Turkey. He wrote: "Adolf Hitler invented the theory of lebensraum... according to which some countries feel that their status does not match their military or economic power and therefore interfere politically or militarily in [the affairs of] neighboring countries, especially when those countries are militarily weak...

"Following the demise of the charismatic Arab leaders, the disintegration of Iraqi military power, and the Arab summits' abandonment of the military option, Iran and Turkey began to see the Arab region as part of their lebensraum...

"I have no quarrel with Iran's and Turkey's right to strive to protect their vital interests and rights. Furthermore, I have no doubt at all that the Muslim peoples of Iran and Turkey wish to participate in the liberation of Palestine, in light of the religious sanctity of Jerusalem and Palestine. However, I reject having Turkish flags raised above ours in demonstrations of solidarity with Palestine or above the legions of jihad fighters coming to liberate Palestine.

"I reject what some people have begun to say, namely that victory is nigh thanks to Erdogan or Ahmadinejad – despite my hope that it will be achieved some day. I reject insulting or forgetting the losses of our Arab peoples for the sake of Palestine, and the notion that victory and liberation will be achieved only by Turkish or Farsi [speakers]."[24]

*R. Green is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), June 8, 2010.

[2] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 3, 2010.

[3] Al-Arab (Qatar), June 3, 2010.

[4] In fact, Turkey did not recall its ambassador from Israel.

[5] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), June 2, 2010.

[6] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), June 8, 2010.

[7] Al-Watan (Syria), June 3, 2010.

[8] Erdogan said this at the opening of the Turkish-Arab economic forum in Istanbul. Al-Hayat (London), June 11,2010.

[9] Al-Thawra (Syria), June 14, 2010.

[10] Al-Safir (Lebanon), June 7, 2010.

[11] Al-Raya (Qatar), June 5, 2010.

[12] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), June 3, 2010.

[13] Roz Al-Yousef (Egypt), June 3, 2010.

[14]Roz Al-Yousef (Egypt), June 10, 2010.

[15] Al-Ahram (Egypt), June 14, 2010.

[16] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), June 6, 2010.

[17] Al-Hayat (London), June 4, 2010.

[18] Al-Hayat (London), June 4, 2010. The original English has been edited for clarity.

[19] Al-Hayat (London), June 4, 2010.

[20] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 13, 2010.

[21] Al-Hayat (Saudi Arabia), June 9, 2010.

[22] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), June 5, 2010.

[23] Al-Watan (Kuwait), June 3, 2010.

[24] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), June 16, 2010.

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