The nations of the Middle East will be here forever, Trump won’t
For my generation of reporters who have witnessed the historic White House handshake of the late Yasser Arafat and Yitzak Rabin with their own eyes, and who have met and covered Simon Peres’ numerous trips to Turkey, it was a nightmare to witness the May 14 events in Gaza. Within two decades Israel has moved from being a country of law and order to, sadly, a rogue state that has to be contained.
It started with elections in the late 1990s in which Labor and Likud lost their relevance to the new immigrant population. I remember visiting a scholar’s press conference in Tel Aviv in which he said that with the current demographic trends Israel could be ruled by an Arab in 2020. Those figures became a fear and that fear turned into bombs on Monday.
Israel built a highly disputed wall and called it “fence.” One diplomat told me that suicide bombs had been “cut like a knife” after the fence. But if Israel has become so powerful and safe, why did it do what it did on May 14?
There were once liberal Israelis who wanted to live side by side with Palestinians. There were young Israelis who would not hesitate to rally for their Arab neighbors. There was an intellectual Israel that would resist the urge to support Donald Trump’s policies. Where did they go on May 14?
Historically, Israel will not be able to carry the burden of what happened on May 14, 2018. All those lavish celebrations for the opening of the U.S. Embassy against dozens of Palestinians getting killed will haunt the conscience of Jews all around the world. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be signing the beginning of his political end.
There are things you can do for your country and there are many others you should do for humanity. The contrasting images of May 14 will define the Middle East for the years to come and they will be the beginning of an awakening in the Muslim world. I hope to believe it will also be the dawn of a new kind of politics in Israel. If Israel wants to survive in the region, it should bear in mind that Trump may not stay in office for longer than four years. But Palestinians, Syrians, Turks and Iranians will be here forever.
Intellectuals, artists and human rights activists in the U.S. also have a responsibility. It is not enough to detest Trump’s policies in the U.S. while staying silent on issues outside your borders. On the 50th Anniversary of 1968 student uprisings and the Vietnam War, Americans should say something about how Israel, their best friend in the Middle East, treats people.
And here are a couple of thoughts on what we as Turks should do. Our Jewish friends are Turkey’s Jewish citizens and we will not let them be taken hostage by Israel’s policies. We should not let violence blind our eyes and our minds. It is encouraging to see the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the İYİ (Good) Party and the Saadet Party stand side by side on the issue of Palestine. Let us hope that this united stand continues not only in big rallies but also on foreign policy issues like Syria.