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You shall not kill!

HDN | 3/15/2011 12:00:00 AM | BURAK BEKDİL

PM Erdoğan has said he does not discriminate on the basis of religion when children are killed, but he has been mute since Israeli settler children were killed Saturday.

It was 2010, and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was speaking, as tempered as always, to a crowd as tempered as the prime minister could be.

“These [people] even see babies in their cradles as a threat. They have killed babies in their mothers’ arms,” he boomed.

“These people,” naturally, were the Israelis.

Addressing Israel’s leaders from a public rally in Turkey, Mr. Erdoğan said in both Turkish and English: “You shall not kill.” Then he showed his linguistic capabilities and went on: “You still don’t get it? Then I shall speak to you in your own language: Lo tir’tsach!” He was referring to the sixth of the 10 commandments in the Old Testament.

In various other speeches, Mr. Erdoğan claimed that his fits of anger toward the death of children were “indiscriminative” of race and religion. “Wherever, whenever,” he often said, “a child has been killed,” he would fiercely stand against the murderers. All the same, he has been mute since Saturday.

In the early hours of Saturday, a Palestinian broke into a house in the settlement of Itamar and stabbed to death a couple and their three children, aged 3 months, 4 years and 10 years old. The slain bodies were discovered by the couple’s 12-year-old daughter who was not at home when the murder was committed.

The “Imad Mughniyeh” cell, with alleged links to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, claimed responsibility for the attack. The terrorist group is named after the “phantom” terrorist Imad Mughniyeh who was killed in a car bomb attack in Damascus which Hezbollah blamed on Israeli agents. Mr. Mughniyeh, or the “Shia bin-Laden,” was one of the world’s most wanted men (wanted in 42 countries) while he was enjoying a safe haven in the Syrian capital prior to his assassination.

Most predictably, we have not heard Mr. Erdoğan saying "You shall not kill" in Arabic, and we probably never will. That’s hardly surprising since we have never heard Mr. Erdoğan speaking “indiscriminately” in the past against the killing of children and defenseless people in Itamar, or elsewhere in Israel – for Saturday’s attack in Itamar was not the first of its kind. In May 2002, a Palestinian killed a 14-year-old boy and wounded another teenager in the same settlement. A month later, another Palestinian killed a woman and her three children. In July the same year another Palestinian stabbed and wounded a couple. And in August 2004, a Palestinian killed a resident of Itamar.

The killing of a 3-month old baby reminded me, inevitably, of what a “Palestinian warrior” told me in Ramallah in 2006. When he praised his suicide bomber sister who had injured a 95-year-old woman (and killed herself) in an attack, I asked him what was the point of injuring or killing elderly women or toddlers when young Palestinians also died in these attacks. He smiled and explained as simply as he could: “For us, even a 1-year-old Israeli baby is a soldier. And that [95-year-old] woman was also an Israeli soldier!” I thought it might not be safe to ask him any further questions.

But in 2008, this time in London and speaking to another Palestinian, I felt more comfortable and dared question the logic of the act that “indiscriminately angers our prime minister.” I reminded him of a verse in the Quran (4:93): “Whoever kills a believer intentionally, his recompense is Hell wherein he will abide eternally, and Allah has become angry with him and has cursed him and has prepared for him a great punishment.”

My Palestinian friend counter-attacked with another verse (17:33): “And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden, except by right.” Then came his loud and tempered explanation: “The verse 4:93 forbids killing a believer. Israelis are not believers.” I looked out from the window of the pub where his orange juice vs. my wine stood on the table like two objects silently telling us why we could never agree.

For a moment, I thought about reminding him that Jews, too, are believers, like other non-Muslim believers, or ask him if the Quran (in verse 4:93) permitted the killing of atheists. But he loudly went back to verse 17:33, with radiating eyes satisfied with the near victory in our little intellectual duel. “You see, that verse forbids killing ‘except by right.’ And it is evident that some killings fall into the category of ‘exception by right.’”

I sipped my wine and got lost in thought, wondering how a doctoral candidate of engineering from a decent British university could defend the murder of innocent people only because they belonged to a faith other than his. How could he twist his own (and my) holy book so as to find holy justifications for the killing of innocent people?

“Never mind,” he interrupted my thoughts, “You are not Muslim anyway. It is normal that you don’t understand.” “Wait a minute,” I protested, “What does it mean ‘you are not Muslim anyway?’” “I see that you are drinking wine,” he replied. “I hope you don’t mind if I leave you alone now. I have an appointment,” he smiled and left the pub.

I didn’t mind because he left. But one does mind when someone tells him that he does not belong to the religion to which he thinks he belongs. I cursed the missed opportunity of reminding him of the verses and hadiths that forbid Muslims from judging other people’s faith by a man-made faith-meter. But then I thought my cute friend would find a way to twist them, too. 

The hypocrisy over the killing of innocent people is not coincidental in any way. Last month, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hosted, in Tehran, a delegation from the disastrous Turkish flotilla Mavi Marmara, comprising the “Mavi Marmara mujahedeen, ghazis and families of the shahids.”

The delegates participated in Iran's Revolution Day ceremonies, and the head of the Turkish delegation noted that: “We are here today with the longing and the determination to build a Middle East without Israel and America, and to refresh our pledge to continue on the path of the Mavi Marmara shahids.”

On Feb. 12, the same Mavi Marmara activist reiterated “the promising words of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran… that 'only a short time is left for the building of a Middle East without Israel or America in it, and we are praying for the quick arrival of that bright day, when all of us will meet in a free al-Quds [Jerusalem].’”

With five “Jooos” having disappeared from earth after the Itamar attack, that bright day must be arriving sooner.

I am still curious, however, about what rank the 3-month old Israeli “soldier” held. Captain? Lieutenant colonel? Certainly too young to be a general.

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