Hearts in Turkey are beating for Palestine, but...

Hearts in Turkey are beating for Palestine, but...

It is perhaps Turkey that has demonstrated the strongest reaction against Israel’s latest operations against the Palestinians in Gaza so far.

All four parties represented at Parliament in Ankara issued a joint declaration on June 18, condemning the attacks on civilians in Gaza and demanding that Israel immediately stop the operation.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül also said Israel was “fuelling radicalism” around the world by committing such actions, adding that the latest operations might trigger worse developments to come. He went to Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport to welcome visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was set to attend an iftar dinner hosted by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan on the night of July 18.

The strongest remarks, however, came from Erdoğan, who labelled the Israeli operations “genocide” against Palestinians and said Israel had become “a threat to peace in the world.”

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, meanwhile, has denied the accusations of the Egyptian and Israeli foreign ministers, who both claimed that if Turkey (and Qatar) had supported the deal, Hamas could have accepted the ceasefire offer prepared by them. Davutoğlu said Palestinians deserve a bilateral ceasefire, not a unilateral one. Gül, on the other hand, said those allegations were “cruel and unfair” to Turkey, which he said is ready to do everything for the peace and wellbeing of the Palestinian people.
Abbas, however, said the Palestinian side was the one that would have benefited from the cease-fire, to expose Israel’s bad intentions.

These sentiments have been carried to the streets, not only by NGO members but also by government and opposition MPs together. At the extreme end, some demonstrators stoned the residence of the Israeli ambassador in Ankara - though the house is empty anyway, after the two countries both withdrew their ambassadors more than two years ago - which prompted Israel to recall the families of its remaining diplomats.

Across the political spectrum, hearts in Turkey are beating for the under-fire Palestinians, in contrast with the rather cool-blooded reactions from both the Western and the Islamic world. Erdoğan who has already accused the United Nations of doing nothing to stop Israel, also accused the Islamic countries of not showing a unified and strong reaction for the Palestinians. There have been statements from the U.S. (which vetoes almost all U.N. resolutions that do not favor Israel), Britain, Germany and France that all underline Israel’s right to defend itself, only expressing sorrow over the loss of hundreds of civilian lives.

The video footage of Israelis cheering outside as shells pound populated quarters of Gaza show that the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system is giving the necessary protection to Israelis against continuous the rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas. So, one can ask why Israel is using such disproportionate force against Gaza itself, not only specific Hamas targets? The answer is probably because they can.

In the past, Turkey was able to extend its hand to the Palestinians in need; either via Israel itself, or via Egypt. But now, because of political conflicts, Turkey has no ambassador in either of those countries, or in neighboring Syria. Turkey’s recent Middle East policies have actually crippled its ability to extend a helping hand to the Palestinians.

Palestinians, especially those who are trapped in Gaza, are perhaps living the most isolated and lonely times of their lives, (also thanks to the terrible leadership of Hamas), and Turkey’s moral support is not enough to actually deliver assistance to them.