December 1, 2007 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 406

Turkey's Parallel Policies – One for Peace, One Against

December 1, 2007 | By R. Krespin*
Turkey | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 406

Two conferences took place last week in Turkey. The first, a summit held November 13, 2007 in Ankara, was dedicated to advancing the peace process, with the participation of Turkish President Abdullah Gul, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

The second, held November 15-17 in Istanbul and titled The Al-Quds International Forum Meeting, was dedicated to support for jihadist organizations' quest for Jerusalem, and was hosted by Turkey's Waqf for Volunteering Organizations (TGTV), founders and members became AKP officials, current and former MPs, and government ministers and which has been linked in international intelligence reports to other Islamist organizations suspected of transferring funds to Al-Qaeda.

I. The Ankara Peace Summit

Hosts and Participants

The November 13, 2007 peace summit in Ankara was hosted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, with the participation of Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. These two leaders addressed the Turkish parliament and delivered messages of peace, in what was described by both the Turkish and Western media as an historic event.

During their visit, Peres and Abbas also signed an agreement that would pave the way for implementing the Industry for Peace project - an initiative by Turkey's private business sector for an industrial park in the West Bank that would employ thousands of Palestinians.

II. The Istanbul Al-Quds Forum Meeting

Hosts and Participants

The Al-Quds International Forum meeting, held November 15-17, 2007 in Istanbul, was organized by Turkey's Waqf for Volunteering Organizations (TGTV), whose leaders include AKP officials, current and former MPs, and government ministers. [1]

In addition, the TGTV has actively supported AKP election campaigns. Hurriyet columnists Ertugrul Ozkok and Ahmet Hakan wrote that the TGTV had printed and signed campaign posters headlined "Stars of Democracy" depicting former Turkish premiers Adnan Menderes and Turgut Ozal, along with PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Also, the TGTV worked extensively for the election of Abdullah Gul as president. [2]

It is also noteworthy that international intelligence reports indicate ties between the TGTV and other Islamist organizations that are suspected of transferring funds to Al-Qaeda. [3]

To accompany the conference, the TGTV also organized an exhibition in support of the Palestinian cause, featuring photographs, paintings, books, and pamphlets. In one display, portraits of President Gul and PM Erdogan depicted near Al-Aqsa were positioned next to a painting of a child suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt.

The Al-Quds meeting was attended by over 3,000 representatives of Islamist organizations from over 60 countries, including: high-level Hamas and Hizbullah leaders; prominent spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi; Iranian presidential advisor Ayatollah Ali Akbar Mokhtashemi; Lebanese Jama'a Islamiyya president Faisal Mawlawi; Organization of the Islamic Conference Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu; Islamic movement in Israel head Sheikh Raid Sallah; and British MP George Galloway. Also present were Turkish prime ministerial advisor Nabi Avci and former AKP MP Nevzat Yalcintas (See Appendix I: The Declaration of Istanbul in Support of Al-Quds).

Media Coverage

The Mainstream Media

The mainstream media saw the peace summit as a wise move that would help Turkey emerge as a regional power and mediator, and secure its place at the upcoming Annapolis peace conference. At the same time, it criticized the Al-Quds International Forum meeting.

a. High-Circulation Secular Daily Milliyet:The Al-Quds Meeting is "A Call For Jihad"

In a front-page headline, the secular high-circulation daily Milliyet described the Al-Quds meeting as a "call for jihad from Istanbul." [4]

b. High-Circulation Secular Daily Hurriyet: "I Listen to the Slogans at This [Al-Quds] Meeting - They Talk of Wiping Israel Off the Map - Do We Have Such a Policy [in Turkey]?"

Hurriyet editor Ertugrul Ozkok wrote: [5] "A bizarre meeting was held in the heart of Istanbul, to show solidarity with the Palestinian people. And what is the propaganda material? A child with explosives wrapped around his belly. Not even a child - a baby. [...] It should be known that a 'cause' that exploits its children in this manner will never win a war.

"[...] I listen to the slogans in this meeting. They talk of wiping Israel off the map. Do we have such a policy [in Turkey]?

"The other day, when Israeli President Peres complained about the Iranian threats to wipe Israel off the map, Turkish President Abdullah Gul responded, 'It's only rhetoric' [...] Now the same slogans are voiced here, in a meeting organized in Turkey. Let no one say 'Oh well, this is organized by some organizations,' trying to wash his hands of it. That meeting is taking place in a location that belongs to the Istanbul municipality. People from the prime minister's close circle are attending the meeting. In that meeting, photographs of live-bomb babies are exhibited, as symbol of heroism. [...] So we too are doing the ugly thing. [...]

"If you continue like this, you'll find no one to stand with you in your fight against the PKK barbarism."

c. Secular Daily Cumhuriyet Columnist: "Which Is the Real Turkey?"

In a column titled "Which Is the Real Turkey?" Mustafa Balbay of the center-left, anti-Islamist Turkish daily Cumhuriyet wrote: [6]

"At the beginning of the week, Turkey was in the world media for being 'a host country to peace initiatives'; in the second half of the week it became a country that 'hosted battle cries of warmongers!' One cannot but ask: Which of these is the real Turkey?

"At the beginning of the week, Israeli President Peres and Palestinian President Abbas were in Ankara. [...] It was like a 'rehearsal' for the upcoming meeting in the U.S. [at Annapolis].

"The Ankara [summit] was one side of the coin. Let's look at the [other side - ] the situation in Istanbul. The TGTV organized a meeting in Istanbul called the Al-Quds International Forum meeting, with over 3,000 participants; this [meeting] created a picture that belied [the] Ankara [summit]. [At this meeting,] the common view was 'taking back Jerusalem from Israel, using all kinds of violence.'

"What is the common denominator connecting the search for peace in Ankara and the declaration of war in Istanbul? The AKP."

The Islamist Media

The pro-AKP papers Yeni Safak, Vakit, and Milli Gazete gave the Al-Quds meeting front-page coverage, often headlining their reports with jihadist slogans from the conference such as "Israel will be wiped out."

a. Yeni Safak Columnist: "[The Al-Quds Summit is] a Meeting that Ankara Will 'Appear' Not to Support [...] But In Reality, This Is a Meeting that Turkey Supports"

Ibrahim Karagul, of AKP's unofficial mouthpiece, the Islamist Turkish daily Yeni Safak, wrote in a column titled "The Road to Jerusalem Goes through Istanbul": [7]

"[...] Are the pictures from Ankara [i.e. the peace summit] and the three-day [Al-Quds Forum] meeting in Istanbul really two different fronts - or are they two elements of the whole! [...] The [TGTV], which includes over 100 NGOs, and the Al-Quds Institute organized an Al-Quds meeting in Istanbul.[...] Over 2,000 came from abroad. The meeting opened with over 3,500 people, including participants from Turkey.

"It is very important for former presidents, prime ministers, ministers, intellectuals, community leaders, and representatives of NGOs from 80 countries to talk about Jerusalem in Istanbul. [...] This is an initiative that complements Turkey's foreign policy. [...] This meeting will naturally disturb Israel. It will certainly be perceived as an anti-American front. [It is] a meeting that Ankara will 'appear' not to support. [...] But in reality, this is a meeting that Turkey supports [...].

"Some people with narrow perspectives were opposed when Hamas representatives were invited. They will do the same thing again. But the meaning of Turkey's bringing so many people together is this: Just as Fatah was hosted [at the] Ankara [peace summit], so Hamas will be hosted in Istanbul."

b. Yeni Safak Columnist: AnkaraSummit "Nauseating," Al-Quds Meeting "Magnificent"

On November 17, 2007, columnist Hakan Albayrak of Yeni Safak, who participated in the Al-Quds meeting, called the Ankara peace summit a "nauseating show" and the Istanbul Al-Quds meeting "magnificent." He went on to refer to the "Annapolis plot" and to say that "the solution can only be found on the Hamas-Hizbullah line." [8]

On the final day of the Al-Quds meeting, Albayrak wrote an article referring to Jewish immigration to Palestine: [9] "This is a call to the U.N. and to Spanish King Juan Carlos: Accept that the Iberian Peninsula is Muslim land and allow the founding of an Islamic state there![...]

"The existing 'State of Israel' was founded on the premise that the Jews had been exiled by the Romans, and therefore had a right to return to their land. Prior to being exiled, the Jews lived in Palestine for 500 years - whereas the Muslim Arabs and Berbers lived in Iberia for about 800 years. The Jews were exiled from Palestine 2,000 years ago - whereas the Muslims were exiled from Iberia only 500 years ago. [...]

"If the Jews' immigration to Palestine [...] is justice, then the return of Arabs and Berbers to the Iberian peninsula [...] is more justice [...]"

Criticism in Parliament of the Al-Quds Meeting

Opposition MP Criticizes Al-Quds Meeting As Supporting Violence and Terrorism

MP Mehmet Sevigen, from the leading opposition party CHP, submitted a request to Parliament to discuss the government's policy of allowing a conference that "supported violence and terrorism." He asked whether Turkey's security authorities and judiciary had initiated any action against the organizers of the Al-Quds meeting, and raised the question of why, "at a time when Turkey has hosted meetings promoting peace and a resolution to the Israel-Palestine problem, and when foreign leaders have spoken in the Turkish parliament for peace, an anti-peace, pro-violence and pro-terrorism conference is being permitted." [10]

*R. Krespin is the director of the Turkish Media Project.

Appendix: The Declaration of Istanbul in Support of Al-Quds (Official English Version)

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

We are the participants of the Al-Quds International Forum in Istanbul, with the slogan of: 'The Face of Civilization, We Protect It';

At the conference, held during 15-17 November, 2007, more 5000 individuals attended representing intellectuals, Christian religious figures, political and intellectual leaders as well as representatives of syndicates, institutions and the civil society, including literary and media personalities;

After studying the situation of the Palestinian people; the people who have stood unwavering in the face of occupation and the trials of Judaiziation or eradication; those who are persevering to retrieve their human and political rights while facing unjust and continuing siege in Gaza and the West Bank;

After discussions on the serious aggression, which the holy Christian and Islamic sites are facing, especially the continuing excavations under the holy Aqsa Mosque which are threatening it with collapse, as confirmed by the Turkish delegation reports;

After discussions on the different situations the Ummah, the region, and the world as a whole have been through, especially the situation in the Arab and Muslim nations under occupation, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia;

In clarification of the general foundations related to Al-Quds and the Palestinian cause, historically and practically, in the rights of the Palestinian people, humanitarian and political, and in the nature of the continuing colonialist, Zionist occupation, we hereby issue the following declaration:

The Declaration of Istanbul in Support of Al-Quds

Saturday November 17, 2007

1. Al-Quds, the city of peace, the cradle of civilization and the sacred and holy land with which humans find tranquility, and with aggression on it, struggles and wars erupt; it must remain as a an model of dialogue among civilizations and a symbol for the most sacred meanings of human forgiveness, justice and tolerance.

2. Al-Quds, the authentic city which was built by tribes that came from Arabia, more than 5000 years ago; they called it 'orsalim' or the city of peace. In spite of the many tribes that came onto the city, its people of the Arab Canines and Palestinians, and those who came after them in the waves of Arab tribes that followed, continued to build it without discontinuity. They are the ones who gave Al-Quds its Arab identity and they cannot be contested in any of their rights in that land.

3. The Zionist occupation of Al Quds - its Western part in 1948 and its Eastern part in 1967- is racist and terrorist, based on settlements and replacements. It goes against the flow of history and represents the remains of the colonial phenomenon that was based on injustice, oppression, and exaction of rights. Occupation must end in Palestine, the Golan Heights, and the Shebaa Farms. Thus, the powers that struggle against colonialism, injustice, and occupation must back the Palestinian people's resilience and resistance for the sake of freeing their nation.

4. The Zionist movement is racist and terrorist; and the United Nations has before decided that Zionism is a form of racism, as was confirmed in the Durban Conference in 2001.

5. It condemns and rejects the racist, colonialist measures that seek to wipe out the character of Al Quds and to encroach upon the national and religious rights of its resilient citizens. This is primarily done through besieging it with settlement blocs and suffocating it by the Separation Wall in order to displace its people and isolate it from its Palestinian context.

6. The assaults on the Muslim and Christian holy sites -- in particular Al Aqsa Mosque, which is undergoing excavations that risk its existence with the aim of establishing the Zionist temple --threaten the peace and stability in the region and world. These assaults further constitute an attack on the historical heritage of the human civilization. This obliges the nations of the world to take the immediate responsibility of confronting and putting an end to these assaults.

7. The continuation of the Zionist occupation of Al Quds and Palestine, with its nuclear weapons and expansionist aspirations, is an element of tension and a cause of worry for all those who seek peace and support human rights all over the world. This occupation will persist as a pivotal source for devastating the region with more wars, and will act as an impediment to the international peace and the development of humanity.

8. It reiterates the right of return to Al Quds as well as the rest of Palestine, since this is the individual right of all the refugees and those deported; a right that cannot be negotiated or withdrawn. It also reiterates the right of the Palestinian people to exercise all their civic - including political - rights in historical Palestine, like other peoples of the world.

9. It requires Arab and Islamic nations, and all peace-loving countries; and international organizations to exert every effort to end the Zionist occupation of Al Quds and reserve its Arab identity and Islamic and Christian holy sites. It also requires them to implement all the projects that support the resilience of the people of Al Quds and help them free their city from occupation. Such projects are to be economic, social, cultural, educational, as well as media-related. It also demands stopping all forms of normalization with Zionists.

History of nations in general, and the experience of struggling with the Zionist enemy in particular, have reasserted that all forms of resistance - resistance that is based on national unity and free public participation - is the most successful way to face the occupation and free the land of Al Quds, Palestine, and all occupied regions in our Arab and Islamic countries and the rest of the world. Resistance has also proven the worthlessness of international conferences held under the auspices of the United States. The United States has always been keen on supporting the occupation; providing justification for its crimes; selling out the Palestine Cause; serving the projects of internal division; and tearing apart Arab and Islamic coherence.

10. It requires the United Nations - most of the resolutions of which were the reason behind the Palestinian people's catastrophe -to fully commit to ending the aggression and siege that Palestinians are subjected to. It also requires the UN to activate the role of The Committee on the Protection of Jerusalem, established in 1947. We also require Arab and Islamic nations, and all peace-loving nations to end the siege and provide Palestinians with all they need.

11. This international forum has constituted an embodiment of the unity of humanity in support of Al Quds and Palestine. It addresses all the free people of the world, inviting them to the biggest humanitarian gathering and international movement to save the Palestinian people and establish justice and peace on earth. It also calls upon the brothers and sisters under siege in Palestine to unite against the occupation. It reminds them of the Quranic verse, {And obey God and His Apostle; and fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart} [8:46]. The Forum also hopes that this gathering be an incentive for retrieving dialogue and understanding among the supporters of the same cause.

We are all working for the sake of Al-Quds,

Hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, together on the way to Al-Quds

Resilient no matter how long it takes, no matter how dear sacrifices have become

Today we meet for Al-Quds and tomorrow we meet in Al-Quds insh'Allah.

[1] These included recent industry and trade minister Ali Coskun, former interior minister Abdulkadir Aksu, former justice minister and current deputy PM Cemil Cicek, former AKP MP and Islamic Development Bank advisor Nevzat Yalcintas; former Welfare Party culture minister Ismail Kahraman; President Abdullah Gul's friend Rasim Cinisli, formerly president of the now-banned Islamist National Turkish Students Union (in which Gul was a central executive committee member); Sabahattin Karasu and Ahmet Tevfik Paksu, partners in Islamic Financial institutions such as Ensar Waqf and Faisal Finance; and Korkut Ozal of the Al-Baraka Turkey financial institution. See Cumhuriyet, November 19, 2007

[1]The TGTV is an umbrella organization for many waqfs and organizations, out of which most AKP MPs have emerged. Cumhuriyet, November 19, 2007.

[2] Hurriyet (Turkey), November 17 and 18, 2007.

[3] These organizations include the Saudi organization Rabita (aka Global Relief Foundation) in the U.S.; the Al Baraka Turk financial institution, and Saudi terror financier Yassin Al-Qadi. Last year, PM Erdogan defended Yassin Al-Qadi on national TV, vouching for him personally. Further, when transactions of millions of dollars were handled by the Al Baraka Turk financial institution came under question, AKP Finance Minister Kemal Unakitan was serving on its executive board. Milliyet, July 1, 2006; Canalturk TV, November 20, 2007.

[4] Milliyet (Turkey), November 16, 2007.

[5] Hurriyet (Turkey), November 17, 2007.

[6] Cumhuriyet (Turkey), November 17, 2007.

[7] Yeni Safak (Turkey), November 16, 2007.

[8] Yeni Safak, (Turkey), November 17, 2007.

[9] Yeni Safak, (Turkey), November 17, 2007.

[10] ANKA News Agency (Turkey), November 17, 2007.

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