[Marxism] Turkish Cooperation—and Coffee—in Short Supply for Israel

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 21 07:19:16 MDT 2009

Turkish Cooperation—and Coffee—in Short Supply for Israel
Posted on Oct 20, 2009

By William Pfaff

It seems it is now hard to get a cup of Turkish coffee in Tel 
Aviv. Israel’s patriotic restaurant owners are giving Turkey the 
“freedom fries” treatment because of the Turkish decision to 
exclude Israel from the annual air combat exercises that since 
2001 Turkey has been sponsoring in collaboration with its allies.

But this is a more serious affair for Israel than the George W. 
Bush administration’s “punishment” of France for refusing to 
invade Iraq in 2003. Israel has for many years enjoyed a certain 
international impunity with respect to the civilian as well as 
military casualties of its wars. This was thanks to United States 
and West European reluctance to discuss the subject and because 
Israel’s longstanding association with Turkey has provided a 
certain international insulation for it in matters concerning Muslims.

Other than the United States, Turkey has been probably the most 
important of Israel’s allies, informal or otherwise. It is Muslim; 
it possesses the most democratic government of all the present-day 
Muslim states. Its major military and political links are with 
NATO, the United States and Western Europe. It has provided an 
important market for Israeli goods and a source of useful military 
exchanges. It sees itself as a modernizing state, allied with the 

Thus when the war in Korea broke out in 1951, Turkey was an early 
volunteer to furnish troops to the United Nations coalition that 
was placed under American command. These won a fabulous combat 
reputation in the Korea fighting, and in 1952 Turkey was invited 
to join NATO.

Turkey and Greece—the latter also sent troops to Korea—were the 
first two states to become NATO members, following the 12 original 
signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949.

After the 9/11 attacks, Turkey was the first Muslim state to 
volunteer troops to serve in Afghanistan. Turkey wants European 
Union membership, and is an official candidate, but faces 
considerable (and likely decisive) opposition because of 
reluctance among existing EU members to accept a Muslim nation 
with a much lower level of education and lower living standards 
than the rest of Europe as the second-most populous member of the 
union (next to Germany) and therefore as the nation with the 
second-largest representation in the EU Parliament.

The reason for Turkey’s rebuff to Israel is what Israel did last 
year to the population of Gaza. The disproportionate use of force 
in Gaza resulted in the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 
commission of a special investigation and report, recently 
completed under the leadership of Judge Richard Goldstone, the 
noted (and, incidentally, Jewish) South African jurist. 
Goldstone’s report accuses both Israel and Hamas—which controls 
Gaza—of acts that could be construed of as war crimes. It demands 
that further investigation be conducted by both sides and that 
each accept accountability for what its forces did. If that is not 
done, it is recommended that the report be forwarded to the U.N. 
General Assembly, for possible referral to the International 
Criminal Court.

Israel officially is outraged, blaming all this on anti-Semitism. 
But it is seriously alarmed at the threat of losing its alliance 
with Turkey, which it has considered a talisman in its foreign 
relations: a Muslim state that has at least symbolically supported 
Israel against its Muslim enemies.

It has perhaps counted too much on the Turkish army, custodian of 
the secular character of the state founded by Ataturk in 1923, 
responsible for maintaining Turkey’s distinct secular place with 
respect to the rest of the Muslim world, and its military and 
political links to those modern Western forces and societies with 
which the Turkish governing elite has wished to identify its nation.

The orthodox religious community in Turkey, which is increasing in 
influence, has been much affected by the Gaza affair. It has 
inspired anti-Israel demonstrations across the country, with 
definite anti-Semitic overtones.

The attack on Gaza has influenced the prime minister, Recep Tayyip 
Erdogan, as well as the Islamist community in which his party has 
its roots. Last weekend he said that his government defends the 
“oppressed” against the “persecutors,” obviously referring to 
Gaza. The head of Turkish diplomacy said that relations with 
Israel will not improve until “the human tragedy in Gaza” has 
ended. Israel’s assumptions of invulnerability to world opinion 
have become a danger to itself.

Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at www.williampfaff.com.

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