August 16, 2006 No.

Turkish PM Erdogan Says ‘Nobody Should Expect Us to Remain Neutral’: Reactions from the Turkish Media to the Middle East Crisis

In June 2006, the Turkish media reported on two recent surveys, by Pew and by Princeton Survey Research Associates. The Pew study, which was conducted in 15 countries between March 31 and May 14, 2006, found significant erosion of positive feelings towards the U.S. among the Turkish people. The Princeton study showed that most Turks have negative feelings towards Jews and Christians - more than in other Muslim countries and Arab countries - and that most do not believe in democracy, despite the common belief that Turkey is the most democratic country in the Muslim world.

The secular mainstream daily Hurriyet reported that the survey results showed anti-Americanism on the rise among Turks. While Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was chosen by 25% of respondents as the most trusted leader, President George W. Bush came last, with only 3%. [1]

Hurriyet's Ertugrul Ozkok warned in his column that Turkey was becoming the most fanatical and hostile country towards Christians in the Islamic world, pointed out that this anti-Western trend was evident among secular ultra-nationalists as much as among Islamists, and opined that Turkey was headed towards catastrophe. [2]

The centrist, secular daily Sabah reported that there was widespread disbelief in Turkey that Arab terror groups were behind the 9/11 attacks. [3]

Since the outbreak of fighting, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's has repeatedly blamed Israel. [4]

Turkey's Islamist media voices the jihadi views of Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizbullah in headlines, accuses Israel of using chemical weapons, and calls on the Turkish people to attend mass rallies against Jews, the U.S., and the U.N. The secular media - with the exception of a few columnists - has expressed similarly hostile views.

Some of the Turkish media likens Israel to Hitler and the Nazis, denies or justifies the Holocaust, and blames the Jews for everything wrong in the world. The U.S. is often portrayed as the "Great Satan" and as a bloodthirsty vampire that plans to occupy and divide Turkey, while Hizbullah and Hamas are described as legal organizations fighting to defend their homelands.

PM Erdogan has made repeated statements to the effect that "nobody should expect us [Turkey] to be neutral and impartial." [5]

The following are some excerpts from the Turkish media:

OIC Sec-Gen Ihsanoglu: Israel is Committing "State Terror," "A Crime against Humanity, and a War Crime"

The Turkish media reported on comments at a press conference by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the secretary-general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), who is Turkish:

"Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the Turkish secretary-general of the 57-nation OIC, yesterday denounced an Israeli offensive in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon as 'state terror' and criticized the world's silence […]. 'These offensives, which have claimed hundreds of civilian lives, destroyed the infrastructure of Lebanon and Palestine, and violated all principles of international law… qualify as war crimes. What is being done has reached the level of state terror. This is an obvious crime against humanity, and a war crime.' Ihsanoglu was speaking after a meeting [in Istanbul] of nongovernmental organizations from the OIC countries." [6]

Turkish MPs: "Israel is Inflicting the Pain of the Holocaust on Innocent People"

The Islamic Turkish daily Zaman, the centrist, English language Turkish Daily News, and secular, mainstream Hurriyet reported:

"'What Israel is doing gives the impression that it is inflicting the pain of the Holocaust on the innocent people of the Middle East. Israel will one day be punished for this. This is a crime against humanity. Those who commit crimes against humanity will definitely be punished for this,' said [AKP deputy] Mehmet Elkatmis [who is chairman of the Turkish Parliament's Human Rights Commission]. [Elkatmis] also slammed the U.N. and the international community for failing to take action against the current wave of state terror.

"Elkatmis, speaking at [a press conference following] the emergency session of the [Human Rights] Commission, also called on the world's war crimes tribunals to take action to investigate what he called Israeli 'state terror'. […] The parliamentarian said the future was being destroyed and humanity was being massacred in the Middle East. […]

"'Are they waiting for the killing of more Lebanese and Palestinians? Or Palestine and/or Lebanon to be erased from the map? Why do the U.N. Security Council, the E.U., and the world powers remain silent and indifferent against this brutality?' the statement read.

"The […] commission accused the U.S. and other Western countries of supporting Israeli state terror […]" [7]

AKP MP: "Israel is Carrying Out Jihad"; "Turkey Could Be Next"

The Islamic Turkish daily Zaman reported: "Deputy Chairman of the [Turkish] Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Commission, AKP deputy from Ankara Eyup Sanay, said 'Turkey could be next'. […]

"Sanay said: 'After Gaza, Israel entered Lebanon. After this, Syria may fall, and Iran may be next. It is probable that Turkey's turn will come too. This is not a conspiracy theory. There are plots against Turkey, with the involvement of the U.S. […] Everything Israel does proves that the Arz-i Mev'ud ["The Promised Land"] is not just a theory. We know that [the Turkish city of] Urfa, up to [the Turkish city] Sivas, is within [Jewish] aspirations. Maps dividing our country decorate walls in the U.S. military and strategic institutions. […] All developments show that the U.S. and Israel are plotting bad things for Turkey. They wait only for the right time and conditions.'[…]

"The world does not consist only of the U.S. and Israel. […] There will come a day when countries with a conscience will stand up and say 'No' to Israel. Sanay, who claimed that Israel was carrying out its own jihad, said: 'This is a sacred war for Israel. The Ten Commandments say that non-Jews can be attacked, killed and be charged interest. That is why they feel no guilt for the massacres they are committing. […]

"Turkey should never send soldiers to Lebanon; this would mean protecting Israel. […] The U.S. wants to neutralize Lebanon and Syria by using Israel's hand. After that, they want to paralyze Iran, who opposes them. They have plans to divide Iran along ethnic lines. They are playing the game of provoking ethnic unrest in the region. The hand behind all these plans is easy to see.'" [8]

Saadet Party Chairman: Hamas, Hizbullah are Heroes Fighting for the Entire Islamic World

The Islamist Turkish daily Milli Gazete reported on a speech by the chairman of the Saadet Party [SP], Recai Kutan, at a convention of local authority heads from his party: [9] "Chairman of SP Recai Kutan said […] that the Palestinian and Lebanese mujahideen were fighting not only for Palestine and Lebanon, but for the entire Islamic world. 'This is our struggle. This noble struggle will continue with no softening and no reduction.'"

CHP Parliamentarian: Israel has "Legitimate Right to Defend Itself"

The CHP opposition party deputy Nuri Cilingir spoke to the centrist, secular Turkish daily Sabah, which wrote:

"When members of the inter-parliamentary Israel caucus resigned en masse [causing it to dissolve], in reaction to Israel's attacks, CHP's Nuri Cilingir was the only voice that justified Israel. He said that Israel is a state recognized by the U.N., and that every state has the legitimate right to defend itself. He said that fighting against Israel was, not a state, but organized groups of terrorists, and added: 'They are bombing Israel with arms they obtain from questionable sources. So shouldn't a sovereign state hold them accountable and defend itself?'

"He added: 'There is a terror organization there. We watched a Hizbullah demonstration with women completely covered in black, with bombs tied around their waists. Is it befitting to Turkey to support an organization like that?... '" [10]

Turkish State TV Cancels Airing of The Pianist

Columnist Ahmet Hakan of the secular, mainstream Hurriyet wrote: "The administration of TRT [Turkish state television] decided to cancel the scheduled airing of Roman Polanski's film The Pianist, which tells about the Jewish Holocaust, because… TRT decided that screening a film telling about the 'Jewish Holocaust' at the time of Israel's atrocities in Lebanon, when 37 children are murdered in Kana, would cause a public outcry. What a mistake! On the contrary, this is the right time for The Pianist, as it would present us with the opportunity to make comparisons.

"[…] If The Pianist was screened, we would have seen how the 'victims of cruelty' have themselves become 'the cruel.' We would have seen how those who lost their children to savagery, today savagely murder innocent children. How people once persecuted by an 'inhumane' mentality have today lost all humanity. […] It is not too late. TRT must screen The Pianist. Moreover, another TV channel must screen Schindler's List too. This is because the news bulletins of today are filled with images that make it possible to compare between the oppressed of yesteryear and the oppressors of today." [11]

"Turkey is Slowly and Gradually Distancing Itself From the West"

In a column titled "Why Are the Turks More Anti-West than the Arabs?" Turkish columnist Semih Idiz of the centrist, secular Milliyet wrote: "A Syrian friend of mine asked me, '[…] Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has [good] relations only with Turkey and not with the Arabs. This relationship has begun to be of strategic importance. Why do the Turks do what the Arabs don't?' He means, 'Why are the Turks more royalist than the king?' And really, why is it that the Turks dislike Christians more than the Arabs [dislike Christians]? In what direction is Turkey going? […]

"Erdogan's harsh words towards Israel - which surpass those of the Arabs - and his failure to even mention Hizbullah and Hamas, is obviously aimed at a certain [i.e. the Islamist] sector. […] All this hints at the change of direction in Ankara's foreign policy. It is obvious that Turkey is slowly and gradually distancing itself from the West, with its 'strategic interests' overlapping with those of Iran and Syria.[…]" [12]

"Does the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey Think Like the Iranian President?"

Columnist Ozdemir Ince of Hurriyet wrote: "Here I write again: Hizbullah is responsible for the Lebanon war. The Israeli-Hizbullah war is not Turkey's war. But the Islamists […] are doing all they can to put our country in the middle of this war.

"[The Islamist] Yeni Safak printed the photograph of PM Erdogan's handshake with [Iranian President] Ahmadinejad (August 4, 2006) with the following words printed between them: 'The real solution is the elimination of Israel.'

"[This is] the same scandalous phrase that is often repeated by Ahmadinejad and his cronies. Ahmadinejad says these words - which could be considered a reason for declaring war - at the OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference] summit [in Malaysia] in front of presidents, prime ministers and ministers. Nobody protests - who knows, maybe they even applaud. […] Turkey has recognized Israel since 1949. [It] conducts trade [with it and] is a signatory to bilateral military agreements […].

"But there is no reaction from our prime minister to this phrase. What is the meaning of his silence? Does the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey think like the Iranian president? Is 'elimination of Israel the real solution?'

"[…] PM Erdogan, with his speech at the OIC, and Foreign Minister [Abdullah] Gul, with his article [slamming the U.S.] published in The Washington Post, have declared to the world that they stand together with the Iran-Syria-Hizbullah coalition.[…]" [13]

Tomorrow's Sun Will "Rise on a World Without Israel"

Turkish columnist Ayhan Bilgin wrote in the Islamist daily Vakit: "[...] The rabid attacks by Israel, the golem created by America that feeds on Muslim blood, are diminishing its chances of existing on the sacred [Muslim] land. Nobody should be surprised when tomorrow's sun rises on a world without Israel [...] Not much time remains until the great war." [14]

PM Erdogan "Must Know Best How Dangerous the Rampant Antisemitism in Turkey Can Be"

Columnist Ilter Turkmen wrote in Hurriyet: "[...] In PM Erdogan's approach to foreign policy, it is easy to see the signs of his emotional reactions and his maniacal world view. The same thing happened at the OIC summit [in Malaysia]. The prime minister lacks nuance and frequently falls into contradictions. While he completely ignores the massacres in Darfour, in Sudan, he blows fire at Israel for the human drama in Lebanon.

"The prime minister should calculate the effects his statements have on the world and on Turkish public opinion. He must know best how dangerous the rampant antisemitism in Turkey can be." [15]

[1] Hurriyet (Turkey), June 15, 2006.

[2] Hurriyet (Turkey), July 7, 2006.

[3] Sabah (Turkey), June 23, 2006.

[4] Excerpts are from a televised July 11, 2006 interview with PM Erdogan, on NTV.

[5] Turkish Daily News, August 1, 2006, citing PM Erdogan's July 31, 2006 address to the nation.

[6] Turkish Daily News, August 2, 2006.

[7] Zaman (Turkey), August 4, 2006; Turkish Daily News, August 4, 2006.

[8] Zaman (Turkey), August 1, 2006.

[9] Milli Gazete (Turkey), August 6, 2006. Milli Gazete is an Islamist Turkish daily affiliated with the political Islam [Milli Gorus] movement founded by former PM Necmettin Erbakan. In 1980 and, more recently, in 1997, Erbakan was removed and banned from politics by military intervention, due to fears of the Islamization of Turkey. The AKP and PM Erdogan are offspring of this movement, and now share an electoral base with the Saadet Party.

[10] Sabah (Turkey), August 3, 2006.

[11] Hurriyet (Turkey), August 3, 2006.

[12] Milliyet (Turkey), July 22, 2006.

[13] Hurriyet (Turkey), August 6, 2006.

[14] Vakit (Turkey), July 2, 2006.

[15] Hurriyet (Turkish) August 8, 2006.