Turkish officials blow AIPAC claims out of the, uh, sea

on 28 Comments

This is a crosspost from Cobban’s site, Just World News

Several strongly pro-Israeli members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have stepped up their campaigns against NATO ally Turkey over the past week, in a campaign that has been quietly orchestrated by the big pro-Israel organization AIPAC. (See, for example, the ‘Related Materials’ linked to on this page of the AIPAC website.)

First prize for anti-Turkish rabble-rousing has to go to Rep. Shelley Berkley (D- Nevada), who told a press conference convened Tuesday to discuss the recent flotilla murders incident that “Turkey is responsible for the nine deaths aboard that ship. It is not Israel that’s responsible.”

The Jerusalem Post reported that Berkley also "pointed to Turkish funding and support for the expedition."

The always-excellent M.J. Rosenberg has more details about the anti-Turkey campaign here. He also notes that, "The bash-Turkey movement did not start with the flotilla incident. It began when Turkey spoke out against Israel’s bloody invasion of Gaza in 2009.

Luckily, however, Turkey’s currently-ruling AKP (Justice and development Party) sent a high-powered delegation over to Washington for most of the past week, where they worked hard to get Turkey’s side of the story heard. Some details about their meetings are here. The Middle East Institute conference that I live-blogged Friday morning (here and the next four posts) was just one of the team’s engagements.

During the morning, as reported in those live-blog posts, conference participants heard from Adana deputy Ömer Çelik, the AK Party’s chairperson for external affairs, İbrahim Kalın, the chief foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Turkey’s ambassador in Washington, Namik Tan. The three men went to great lengths to refute some of the most damaging accusations that AIPAC and others have launched against the Turkish government, and to explain its position.

As they all noted, the current disagreements are not only over the flotilla murders incident, but also over Turkey’s role, along with Brazil’s President Lula Da Silva, in brokering the May 17 enriched uranium exchange agreement with Iran, and in voting against the latest round of sanctions that the Security Council imposed on Iran.

Here are some of the crucial points the three men made– both in the open session of the conference and in a smaller press gaggle held in conjunction with it:

1. The men strongly denied that the Turkish government had played any role in organizing the aid flotilla. Kalin told the press gaggle: “We advised them not to go but this was an international NGO initiative and we couldn’t prevent them."

2. Like many of the other governments from whose ports boats sailed to join the aid flotilla, the Turkish government gave a thorough pre-sailing inspection to the passengers and freight on the Mavi Marmara and the other two boats that sailed from Turkish ports, to ascertain that no weapons were on board and to register the names of passengers.

3. In an additional attempt to forestall violence, the Turkish government also coordinated directly with the governments of the U.S. and Israel while the boats were preparing to sail. In the press gaggle, Kalin said, "We discussed it with the U.S. and the Israelis. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was on phone with our foreign minister many times before sailing and we understood they would act very differently from way they did act with the boat."

Celik said of the Mavi Marmara:

    It had been thoroughly checked before it sailed. If Israel had concerns about the ship it could have informed Turkey and Turkey would have taken necessary measures.

    Before the ship sailed Israel didn’t say anything. The Israeli forces could have disabled the steering and towed the ship to Israel.

4. On allegations that the Turkish government favors Hamas over the (western-supported) Fateh Party and its leader Mahmoud Abbas, Celik told the press gaggle:

    I’m not here to defend Hamas but all the parties do need to be at the table. We have excellent relations with all parties inside Palestine. [Hamas head] Khaled Meshaal has visited Turkey only once, right after the 2006 elections, which Hamas won, while Mahmoud Abbas has been to Ankara God knows how many times including very recently and stretching back to the time that he and Israeli President Shimon Peres visited Ankara together in the lead-up to the Annapolis Peace conference and they addressed our parliament together.

    The reason we insist Hamas needs to be at table is we don’t want anyone pushed out of the table when they represent half of the Pal people.

He also said that Turkey has used its relationship with Hamas to continue pushing Hamas towards support for the two-state solution. "It took the Hamas people a long time to come to the idea of the two-state solution, but they did," he said. He cited Meshaal’s recent

interview with Charlie Rose

as evidence for this.

5. On claims that Turkey’s current policies are motivated by anti-semitism or anti-Israeli feelings, Celik said,

    We always want to have good relations with the American Jewish community. But if the Jewish community wants to change our behavior on issues of importance to us we can’t accept that. We have a long history of good relations. We invited all the Jewish community representatives here in DC to come and meet with us. Some came and some didn’t come. Those who didn’t come made a mistake.

    .. Remember that we gave our support to Israel’s OECD membership. Turkey is Israel’s only true friend in region.

    Friends do not threaten each other. If they threaten each other, then they’re not friends.

    Israel’s friends should ask “What is the cost to Israel to lose Turkey’s friendship?”

6. At points throughout the conference, the three men noted that not only is

Turkey a longstanding member of NATO

, and its only majority-Muslim member, but also that it currently has troops deployed alongside American troops in Afghanistan and in the waters off Somalia. I can note (which the three Turkish speakers graciously did not) that Israel is not a NATO ally, and has no troops risking their lives in risky, US-led NATO deployments anywhere in the world.

7. One last note came in the panel discussion that I missed a lot of, due to the press gaggle. There was a question near the end that I did hear, as to whether Turkey is now seeing an intensification of the years-long struggle between its secularizers and its Islamists (of whom, the AKP are a politically moderate but very politically successful part)– with the suggestion that the current uproar among Turkey’s 74 million people over the flotilla murders is somehow being manipulated by the AKP and other Islamists.

The answer was given by Cengiz Candar, a very pro-American Turkish journo whom I’ve known a bit for decades, who is also extremely secularist in his views. His answer was, basically, that the "secular-Islamist struggle story" inside Turkey is old news, and no longer particularly intense; and that Turkish people’s feelings about the flotilla murders have nothing to do with that divide. That was interesting. It reminded me of some conversations Bill and I had when we were in Turkey last summer, when several people who are strongly associated with the secularizing stream in Turkish society said they thought the AKP was doing a generally excellent job in governing the country– including on issues of minority rights for ethnic and religious minorities, women’s rights, and so on.

… Bottom line: Turkey, which is an important and "emerging" power in the Middle East in its own right, as well as a crucial U.S. ally, looks as though it is not about to back down in the face of attacks and intimidation from the rabidly nationalist Netanyahu-Barak government in Israel or their politically powerful backers in the U.S. political system.

What I also heard from the Turkish leaders and representatives who spoke at the conference, though, was that they were eager to overcome the current, sharp disagreement with Israel; that they recognized that, given the strong emotions aroused among the peoples of both Turkey and Israel by the flotilla raids, it would be hard for the Erdogan government and the Netanyahu government to overcome this agreement on their own– and that therefore they strongly wanted help from the U.S. administration in mediating and de-escalating this conflict.

The three men repeatedly made the case that (presumably in comparison with what some political forces inside Turkey are urging them to do) the demands they are making of Israel with respect to the flotilla are modest. "Israel must apologize for those killings, and accept the international inquiry as called for by the U.N. Secretary General," said Amb. Tan.

Of course, in any kind of a similar case of a civilian vessel being attacked by the military forces of another state while on the high seas, many much weightier demands could also be made.

We could also note that one of those killed in the Israeli raid was a Turkish-U.S. dual national, Furkan Dogan. Ibrahim Kalin confirmed at the conference that the Turkish autopsy found that Dogan received four bullet wounds in his head and one in his chest. "This was not shooting in self defense, this was unjustified killing," he said.

Thus far, however, the U.S. government has done nothing to try to bring Dogan’s killer to any form of account. (Are some U.S. citizens more equal than others, I wonder? Especially, if some of them happen to be Muslims?) And at a broader level, there are no signs at all that the Obama administration is prepared to do anything at all to help Turkey’s anguished government and people win the apology from Israel and the "credible, international inquiry" that they say they so urgently need.

Last Sunday, as we recall, the Obama administration came out with strong support for the (navel-gazing) Israeli-dominated whitewash body constituted by the Israeli government.

No word of any U.S. support for Turkey’s request for an Israeli apology for the killing of nine of its citizens and the wounding of many more.

I am ashamed of my government.

About Helena Cobban

Helena Cobban is the owner of Just World Books. She’s been blogging since 2003 at JustWorldNews.org. Her 1984 book The Palestinian Liberation Organisation: People, Power, and Politics, was published by Cambridge University Press and is still in print. Her early-1990 study “The PLO and the Intifada” was published in The Middle East Journal (Spring 1990).

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28 Responses

  1. bijou
    June 20, 2010, 9:04 pm

    You can’t miss the latest installment of this saga — another Caroline Glick video, this time mocking Erdogan, Assad, and Ahmadinejad — circulated by AIPAC!!

    Also from MJ Rosenberg – you can see this lunatic effort here.

    • Psychopathic god
      June 20, 2010, 9:40 pm

      keep pushing pissrael.
      the Kristallnacht clock is ticking

      • Chaos4700
        June 20, 2010, 10:07 pm

        Let’s not hope for Kristallnacht to be repeated. On the other hand, it bears mentioning that inflaming that sort of activity is exactly what AIPAC is angling to accomplish.

        When you privilege one ethnic or religious group among others, and particularly at the expense of other groups, and especially if one of the vehicles of pursuing your agenda is to fan those sort of activities against other specific groups… the natural product of your activities is resentment toward the people you claim to represent — and effectively, those you betray.

      • Psychopathic god
        June 20, 2010, 10:40 pm

        nobody’s hoping — no, change that — MY comment does not intend a HOPE for Kristallnacht to be repeated.

        My comment is an observation and a warning to Israel, to Israel advocates in the US, and to the US government most especially, that IF a people is pushed too far, they will respond violently; IF the social contract a people form with their government is not honored by their government, that contract being that the people surrender their rights to exact justice and to punish offenses against the commonweal, then the people may wrest that power back from their government and enact vigilante justice.
        Nature demands equilibrium.
        Either government fulfills its duty to provide equal justice for the murder of a US citizen, or the people will exact equilibrium.

      • MRW
        June 20, 2010, 10:56 pm

        Pissrael. Good one.

  2. Psychopathic god
    June 20, 2010, 10:00 pm

    Furkan Dogan was NOT a dual citizen, he was an American citizen.

    An American resident in Antalya, Turkey, interviewed Dogan’s father and posted the interview on DailyKos last week — the only reporting I have seen in US media of the execution-style killing of an American citizen by Israel.

    According to the diarist, Dogan was 18 years old (Turks count that as 19), the age at which he could apply for Turkish citizenship. He had not yet done so.

    What he HAD done, however, was to complete his college application papers and leave them with his father, against the possibility that he might have been detained by Israelis. He planned to study medicine.

    www dot dailykos dot com/story/2010/6/13/875146/-Furkan-DoganU.S.-Citizen-Killed-on-the-Mavi-Marmara

    father Ahmet Dogan and son Furkan Dogan – U.S. Citizen Killed on the Mavi Marmara

    • Chaos4700
      June 20, 2010, 10:09 pm

      The sad thing is, if he did have Turkish citizenship too, then there would at least be a chance that a government would pursue justice for his murder.

    • MRW
      June 20, 2010, 10:55 pm

      He had a Turkish resident card. His passport was American.

  3. Psychopathic god
    June 20, 2010, 10:02 pm

    If it is the case that Turkey has a list of passengers who were aboard Mav Marmera, are all passengers accounted for? What of the mysterious six passengers missing? Were there Mossad agents among the passengers?

    • Sumud
      June 20, 2010, 10:59 pm

      I’ve been wondering about those missing 6 passengers too PG. They were mentioned and then not again. Perhaps they were among those that remained in Israel longer to receive medical treatment. Surely if they were still unaccounted for someone would be making some noise?

  4. Debonnaire
    June 20, 2010, 11:24 pm

    This Israel crowd is really pushing it.

  5. azythos
    June 21, 2010, 12:50 am

    Fact is, Zionist attacks against Turkey have intensified even more during and after this conference.
    The PM has stated that statements by at the highest levels of Israeli government are equivalent to open calls for a military coup.
    There was an attack on Turkish military base in Alexandretta (Iskenderun) on the very day of the act of piracy against the flotilla. Interesting features: This is the port where a possible Navy intervention for the flotilla would have departed from; it is definitely not in Kurdish territory; it doesn’t look as if the PKK (the Kurdish armed nationalist party) has definitely endorsed it (and of course, imagining any connection is totally absurd as per Tom Friedman)
    There was another attack on a military post right on the Iraqi border (the Kurdish area that’s said to be lousy with Israelis) day before yesterday; eleven soldiers and twelve guerillas died.
    All this after a cease-fire of a year or longer, and when the conditions were definitely getting better for the Kurds (with of course the usual amount of obstacles and trouble from the army and the courts, who are open enemies of the government)
    Also, day before yesterday the High Court, in total in-your-face illegality, managed to release different officers and a DA on trial for 2 military coups and a large number of murders; another court released a guy who had assaulted a Kurdish leader in public, and the spirits are getting overheated.
    On top of all this comes the relentless bombardment of the government by harsh criticism (and shameless lies & propaganda, too) from all possible domestic and foreign allies of Israel and the US during the last 3 weeks.
    All conspiracy theories, huh?

    • hayate
      June 21, 2010, 1:03 am


      Thanks for the wrap—-up. I knew about the israeli attacks on the naval base the same day as their war crimes against the aide workers on the Gaza convoy, but not the others.

      • hayate
        June 21, 2010, 1:16 am

        The zionists and their american colony are also now going after Lulu of Brazil.

  6. Shmuel
    June 21, 2010, 1:07 am

    Thanks for showing us how a real journalist covers a story – as opposed to that NYT guy who somehow managed to fashion a column out of some random conversations over cocktails in Istanbul and his own prejudices.

  7. hughsansom
    June 21, 2010, 1:24 am

    Turkey has cards that, sadly, Palestinians never have — real strategic leverage. Turkey is an important route for oil and gas pipelines (if you want to avoid Russia and the former Soviet Republics). It straddles the Straits of Bosporus. It remains a bridge between Europe and the Middle East. It’s population is over 72 million. And, as noted above, Turkey is a member of NATO, committing the US legally (not that the US has cared much about international law at any point in the past 30 years).

    So Turkey can be a real test case of just how much power (as opposed to hot air and racist bluster) the Israel Lobby actually has.

  8. Richard Witty
    June 21, 2010, 7:28 am

    There was an enormous failing, an enormous lie, posed with the Brazil/Turkey/Iran negotiation.

    That is that what is implied by the negotiation is that Iran will turn over ALL of its enriched uranium stocks to international enrichment facilities, suitable ONLY for civilian reactors.

    But, the terms of the agreement was that Iran would turn over only half of its uranium stock-piles, leaving 1/2 in its own custody.

    That accomplished everything for Iran, and NOTHING for Iran’s neighbors. It still left them in the position of actively enriching uranium, still prospectively for nuclear weapons.

    A grand deception. Who knows the future. Iran has a non-reconciliation policy with Israel. It sees the sea of green (in the wikipedia map of the religions of the world) with the blue dot, and insists that it be only a sea of green. No islands allowed.

    Progressives urge and work for diversity, not for unanimity.

    There is a fundamental conflict, literally fundamental, between the pan-Islamic aspirations of Iran and apparently Turkey, and progressive democracy.

    There is a fundamental conflict between a halachic Zionist vision (growing as Akiva Eldar wrote about this morning in Haaretz) and progressive democracy.

    But, there is far far less conflict between a liberal Zionist vision and progressive democracy, than there is with the pan-Islamic movement that sees Israel existing as a microbe, from whatever sequence of bias combined with actual experience.

    • Psychopathic god
      June 21, 2010, 9:07 am

      nothing about the Turkey-Brazil-Iran deal was a lie, Witty: the agreement was posted for all to see. Yes, Iran would remain in possession of enriched uranium — Iran is entitled to enrich uranium.

      Tzipi Livni, Ephraim Halevey, and Ehud Barak have all said that Iran in possession of nuclear weapons is NOT an ‘existential threat’ to Israel.

      why is it such a problem to you?

      What’s Iran going to do with one bomb when Israel has between 200 and 400, and the US has several thousand? Think rationally not ideologically.

      • Chaos4700
        June 21, 2010, 9:21 am

        But of course, Witty says it’s a lie because it’s all brown people involved. Where’s the white Jewish overseer to make sure the deal is kosher, eh?

      • Mooser
        June 21, 2010, 10:11 am

        “Think rationally not ideologically.”

        For Witty to think ideologically requires a degree of intellectual consistency he just ain’t got. He doesn’t think with his ideology, he thinks with his bigotries. And tries to escape the knowledge that he bears a tremendous responsibility for facilitating the waste of his son’s mind, simply because that was easier than dealing with it.

    • Chaos4700
      June 21, 2010, 9:20 am

      The “liberal humanist Zionist” pulls a Bushism and rallies for sanctions against Iran for nothing. You really are hungry for another Crusade in the Middle East, aren’t you?

    • eljay
      June 21, 2010, 11:58 am

      >> That is that what is implied by the negotiation is that Iran will turn over ALL of its enriched uranium stocks to international enrichment facilities, suitable ONLY for civilian reactors. But, the terms of the agreement was that Iran would turn over only half of its uranium stock-piles, leaving 1/2 in its own custody. … A grand deception.

      Sounds like a policy of ambiguity. If it’s good enough for Israel, it’s good enough for Iran.

      >> Who knows the future. Iran has a non-reconciliation policy with Israel. It sees the sea of green (in the wikipedia map of the religions of the world) with the blue dot, and insists that it be only a sea of green. No islands allowed.

      Israel appears to have a non-reconciliation policy with Iran. Time for Israel to make the better argument, to nurture the other and all that other bullshit, eh?

      Oh, and no matter how often you repeat the lie, Judaism is not a “blue dot in a sea of green” – it is a religion that is practised around the world. You need to stop living your narrative “mythically”.

    • annie
      June 21, 2010, 1:19 pm

      witty, That accomplished everything for Iran, and NOTHING for Iran’s neighbors. au contraire. if you had bothered reading any of the links provided by helena you would know this is not so. on friday , the first day of the conference (available here @ helena’s liveblog link in the post) this issue was pursued and explained (excuse me for a generous copy/paste)

      Turkey received an invitation from the west to take part in the nuclear negotiations with the Iranian side. Since the western community cannot deal directly with Iran, they asked Turkey to help and Turkey gladly accepted.

      As a result, Turkey and Brazil both persuaded Iran to engage in unprecedented serious negotiations on nuclear issues. I’m sure most of you know the details and the substance of this deal, which was about the transfer of enriched uranium for one year and certain provisions about Iran’s inspections regime.

      The objective of preventing Iran getting nuclear weapons is a joint interest of Turkey and the US. We are categorically opposed to Iran getting nuclear weapons. But we are also opposed to anyone in the region having a nuclear weapon…

      There have now been four sanctions packages at the UN against Iran. The first three were not successful. This fourth one was a softer version that took the interests of China and Russia into account. So imagine a scenario where an Iranian ship sails into the Persian Gulf and there are allegations against its cargo and a Gulf country is asked to board the ship and check the allegations. Can you imagine the result?

      The reason we voted no in the Security Council was to ensure the continuation of negotiations between Iran and the western world.

      There were those who presented the No vote as if Turkey was turning its back on the west or sliding to the east, but nothing could be further from the truth.

      With its vote, Turkey declared that the Tehran deal is still on the table. If Turkey hadn’t voted like that, we might have seen very unfavorable developments in Iraq or in Lebanon. If there is a hot conflict between Iran and the west, then Iraq will destabilize and probably the government of Lebanon will slide into instability and we’ll see more instability throughout the region.

      By casting a No vote Turkey helped prevent these possible instabilities and shored up the chances for stability in the Middle East, an interest that it shares with the US.

      After a short while, I believe that the meaning of Turkey’s No vote and its impact on our shared interests in the Middle East will be well understood. Just yesterday the ambassadors of US, France, and Germany visited our Foreign Ministry in Ankara and they said Turkey’s efforts were appreciated.

      Let me make this analogy. In the past when we reached out to make good relations with Syria, we received similar criticisms from the west… but we continued our outreach to Syria and we always told the Syrians to adhere to the desires of the international community and look now the US is returning an ambassador to Syria.

  9. Citizen
    June 21, 2010, 8:39 am

    Turkey is our ally in all the specific ways mentioned so far on this blog today, and more–the question remains, in what sense(s) is Israel a (at least de facto) ally of the USA? Clearly, Israel is a welfare recipent of the USA, more so than any other sovereign state by far, but an ally? How so?

  10. Psychopathic god
    June 21, 2010, 9:12 am

    Citizen, if you listen carefully to Israel advocates talk to American audiences, you will note that what they say –actually, what they INSIST — is, “US is Israel’s ally.” I have never heard an Israel advocate say, “Israel is US’s ally.”

    That’s what’s really annoying about many Israel advocates: they presume to tell Americans what Americans think: “Americans share Israel’s values.” “Americans prefer Israel over Palestine — polls show….” (standard tactic = create bogus polls.)

    the jig is up. how long are we going to have to watch the stinking corpse of zionism rot its way out of US political culture?

  11. annie
    June 21, 2010, 1:07 pm

    phil, thanks for posting helena. she’s one of my favorite bloggers (for years now) and i was following her liveblogging over the conference last week. invaluable. i also enjoy her engagement in the comment sections at her blog.

  12. piotr
    June 22, 2010, 3:38 am

    Witty: “That accomplished everything for Iran, and NOTHING for Iran’s neighbors. It still left them in the position of actively enriching uranium, still prospectively for nuclear weapons.”

    Hm. Grammatically, does it mean that the hapless neighbors of Iran are still left in the position of actively enriching uranium?

    Assuming that “them” is actually Iran, who are those neighbors for whom “that accomplished nothing”? Turkey? Turkey is in a better position to judge what accomplishes something for them, and what does not. Armenia? Azerbaijan? Turkmenia? Afghanistan? Pakistan? Iraq? Did a single country on that list made any complaints about Iran’s uranium enrichment? Does any country on that list any reason to worry?

    The unvarnished truth is that both Iranian uranium enrichment program and Western vehement opposition to that program are a theater of absurdities. The absurdity on Iranian side is that they devote considerable effort to a useless program of securing fuel for power plants that they will not have as long as they persist in that program. The chief value is that (a) they actually have a right to do so under international treaties (b) they enormously and rather impotently irritate USA and Israel, thus providing useful exhibit to the Iranian population how their valiant government is humiliating imperialists and zionists.

    The absurdity on American/Israeli/European side is that “we” could not care less, in truth, if Iran has this program or not. As a little test, what are we ready to give up to convince Iran to give up their program? Are we even ready to give up all the sanctions that were imposed on Iran long time before it started uranium enrichment? Basically, ever since the revolution in Iran, the regime there is classified as enemy, and political allies as terrorist.

    Basically, as long as this crisis lasts, Iranian leaders can show their supporters how steadfast they are, and our leaders have plenty of “useful activities” to occupy them, conferences, resolutions and what not, and some actual gain: EU joining the sanctions that we want in force in ANY CASE (because they are the meanies who occupied our embassy etc.)

    As far as I can tell, the only resolution that would satisfy USA entail a thorough humiliation of Iran, namely, surrendering in exchange for certain, but not all, sanctions being dropped. And Iran is perfectly satisfied with the way we are humiliated. Nobody cares more about “saving face” except for Middle Eastern politicians — and for USA and Israel, where basically nothing else matters.

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