BURAK BEKDİL > “We as Muslim Turks…”

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I was saddened when I read my sparring partner’s column and learned that he was put in a confinement room at Rafic Hariri International Airport and had to wait 10 long hours there before he was deported to Turkey because his passport contained a visa entry into Israel (How I got deported from Lebanon, Mustafa Akyol, Dec. 22, 2012). But I was also relieved because something worse could have happened. Only a few days after Mustafa was deported, the Turkish Embassy in Beirut issued a travel advisory, warning Turks against travelling to Lebanon.

I have no intention to spar with my sparring partner over an unfortunate incident he had to experience, and my sympathies for him about how he was treated by the Lebanese passport police are most sincere. We may often disagree or even spar but we are partners. And I found in his confinement room chronicles something very important.

“There is a larger picture that concerns me,” Mustafa wrote, “As a Muslim Turk whose sympathies are certainly with the Arabs in the Arab-Israeli conflict, I am deported and treated as a criminal not in Israel but in an Arab country.”

That can be a view shared by an overwhelming majority of Turks but when it also becomes the fundamental pillar of Turkish foreign policy it turns out we behave in the way we condemn others of when they do the same. I don’t mind if Mustafa or anyone else thinks that “as a Muslim Turk my sympathies are certainly with the Arabs in the Arab-Israeli conflict.” But I feel alarmed when very important men in Ankara think alike.

When religious adherence becomes the principal criteria with which we “take sides” in political disputes, we shall have no right to object when others do the same. I think it would be equally childish and dangerous for everyone if the Russian foreign minister formulated Moscow’s position along the line of, “We as Orthodox Russians should sympathize with the Greek Cypriots in the Cyprus dispute.” And is this not the same thinking we vehemently condemn when we claim the EU discriminates against Turkish membership because Turkey is Muslim? The “of course as a Muslim Turk...” reasoning legitimizes any European objection to Turkish membership on Christian vs. Muslim grounds. “We as Christian Europeans...”

That thinking could also have other practical problems in the complex world of international politics. It may fuel sectarian divides like it did in the Christian world in the past and as it does in the Muslim world today. Is this not why our sympathies are with the Syrian opposition since, “we as Sunni Muslim Turks...”

But what about conflicts between the same sects of the same religion? Or how should the adherents of a third religion feel about a conflict between two religions? How would the “as a Muslim Turk” thinking explain where Christians should stand in the Arab-Israeli conflict? Where should atheist, Hindu, Buddhist and Shinto states stand? And why did the pious Muslim Turk, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sympathize with the Christian allied forces during Muslim Iraq’s occupation? What about the Jews who campaigned against Israel’s Gaza blockade? Should they have behaved along the lines of “we as Jews...”?

Politics, especially in the Middle East, has always been too complex to be explained with identities of nationality and religion. History is full of examples of bizarre alliances based not on common faith but sometimes the opposite. It is precisely for that reason why the “we as Sunni Muslim brothers” thinking has repeatedly failed to find peace between Turks and Kurds. If, in the case of common faith, we take out faith from the equation, what is left behind is that all Kurds should be thinking that “we as Kurds...” and unite against “them as Turks.” God forbid! It’s simple: If we don’t like that hooligan solidarity when others do it, we should not do it ourselves.

Never mind, Mustafa. One day you and I will go to Lebanon with Israeli stamps on our passports; the day when Ahmet Davutoğlu goes to the Palestinian capital of Jerusalem.


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Notice on comments

Ken Alden

1/22/2013 6:54:36 AM

Here is what then Israeli P.M. Menachem Begin said in 1982: “In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian army concentration in the Sinai approaches did not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him."” Based on above, Is't Israel the agressor, did't Israel as preluce, attacked and destroyed the grounded Egyptian Air Force on the Ground, even before starting the he Ground attack? Does U.N. matter anylonger?

jd pomerantz

1/16/2013 12:59:03 AM

Baris, read past the large print & tell me what you think "long-term truce" means, particularly as its bound to a decision of the putative Palestinian state to continue therein;ie no solid guarantee of anything save Hamas' chance to rearm & retrench. I see no advantage whatsoever for Israel in swallowing such fool-bait.


1/15/2013 4:51:57 PM

jd pomerantz, you said ""...Hamas has said pre 67 borders would end hostilities" is exactly what I'm asking you to prove, & you still haven't cited a source" The Reuters source I've given you starts with the words "Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has stated explicitly that the Palestinian Islamist group will end its armed struggle against Israel if the Jewish state withdraws from Palestinian land it occupied in the 1967 Middle East War." . I've given you what you've asked but you just can't see it.

jd pomerantz

1/15/2013 3:05:03 PM

Baris, is your native tongue English? "...Hamas has said pre 67 borders would end hostilities" is exactly what I'm asking you to prove, & you still haven't cited a source. What does "end hostilities" mean: temporary cease-fire while we rearm? peaceful coexistence? asymmetric warfare or cold war? cold peace? Do elaborate, or you've provided nothing more meaningful than Chamberlain's "piece of paper." No nation is obligated to negotiate its own demise with those sworn to its destruction

rosie de meyeres

1/15/2013 4:30:01 AM

Oh my word! you obviously haven't a clue about what the politics of the 'Arab-Israeli' issue is about? What a sad reflection on a paper that is supposed to be composed of educated and balanced individuals. For your information Christian palestinians are suffering the same fate as the Muslim brothers, being denied basic human rights and dignity due to the racist Apartheid policies of the Israeli state. The conflict is about the lack of SOCIAL JUSTICE not religion. Please get an education!


1/15/2013 1:02:31 AM

jd pomerantz, are you, in fact, reading what I write? Let me ask you again, where in my posts have I said that Hamas accepted israel's right to exist? What I have actually said, if you read it properly, is that Hamas has said pre 67 borders would end hostilities. And here’s one reference for you, search for “Hamas renews offer to end fight if Israel withdraws” and follow the Reuters link. I can also post some Jewish links if you wish.

jd pomerantz

1/14/2013 7:51:13 PM

Exactly my point, Baris - you've said but not cited. I remain unaware of any conciliatory gestures by Hamas becase there haven't been any. The Hamas founding documents call for Israel's cessation as a state - neither conciliatory nor open to negotiation. So Hamas sows, so Hamas reaps.


1/14/2013 1:15:37 AM

jd pomerantz, where in my posts did I claim Hamas accepted Israel's right to exist? They haven't yet, and they should. This is essential for long term peace, as is Israel's withdrawal from all occupied territories, including EJ. And therein lies the problem, since neither side is willing to take these necessary steps. I've said Hamas leaders have stated that pre-67 border solution will end hostilities, and it's true. End of hostilities may well lead to Hamas recognising Israel.

jd pomerantz

1/13/2013 10:22:11 PM

Baris, perhaps you know something I don't, but I don't recall any statement from Hamas that moving back to the pre-1967 War of Arab Aggression borders will result in recognition of Israel's right to exist cum cessation of all hostilities. Do cite a source. As for American Jews, Art Spiegelman would entitle a graphic novel about them "Lemming."


1/13/2013 2:11:31 PM

jd pomerantz, things have moved on since 67. People's perceptions and political climate have changed. Pre 67 solution is seen as the only realistic option by the vast majority, which include the UN and Israel's Staunchest allies (e.g. USA and EU). It is supported by many Jews and Arabs. Even Israeli leaders (e.g. Ehud Olmert) and Hamas Leaders (e.g. Khaled Meshal) have said it is acceptable as a basis for the end of hostilities.
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