Turkey’s hypocrisy on Arab hypocrisy
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is furious about U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Even when Washington openly said it would continue to arm Syrian Kurdish groups that Turkey has linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Erdoğan avoided directly hitting out at Trump.
But the U.S. president’s Jerusalem decision seems to have lifted his immunity from being targeted by the Turkish president. Apparently the plight of the Palestinians carries more prominence for him than the Kurdish issue, which the Turkish state considers an existential threat.
On a regional basis, Erdoğan has every reason to be angry at Trump, whose decision will no doubt further fuel turmoil in Turkey’s neighborhood. But from another perspective, Trump has helped Erdoğan out.
He has provided relief from an embarrassing agenda created by Reza Zarrab, the Iranian-Turkish businessman whose confessions once again put the Turkish government under the spotlight of corruption claims.
Thanks to Trump’s Jerusalem move, Erdoğan was able to preach to the West about human rights at a time when Turkey has its worst record in a decade in terms of respecting fundamental rights.
Trump’s decision will lead to a new peak in the decades-old violations of Palestinians’ rights.
In Turkey it also hijacked the agenda of World Human Rights Day, celebrated on Dec. 10 every year. While we should have discussed the alarming rise in violations of fundamental rights at home, we had to listen to Erdoğan lecturing the West about human rights.
This does not mean that the West should be immune to human rights criticism.
Although originally a Western concept, the Transatlantic community often seriously fails critical tests, from the war in Bosnia to the recent migration crisis.
One would hardly expect Erdoğan to hold a mirror up to the situation in Turkey, he was (as usual) unbalanced in his criticism of the outside world.
Balance is the key missing ingredient. Erdoğan has blamed the West for Israel’s seizure of Palestinian territories without criticizing Arab Muslims for allowing it to happen.
If Trump thought today was the right time to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, this was largely because of the state into which Arab administrations have locked themselves.
The Arab world cannot take a unified stance without the consent of Saudi Arabia or Egypt. The House of Saud, as well as Egypt’s current military ruler Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, both need U.S. support to maintain power and also to stand against Iran, which they see as gaining predominance with its advances in Iraq and Syria.
Getting a meaningful outcome from the Islamic Cooperation Organization (OIC) summit, due to be held in Istanbul on Dec. 13, will be very difficult, not least because neither Riyadh nor Cairo currently harbors good feelings for Ankara.
Erdoğan will undoubtably deliver a highly emotional speech at the start of the summit.
He will criticize the Islamic world for prior inactivity.
In the aftermath, the press will not be told about Egyptian and Saudi efforts to soften the tone of the meeting’s outcome.
And Erdoğan will continue his uneven critisism: Constantly hitting out at the “Christian West” but remaining silent on the “Muslim East.”