Not a Turkish-Israeli clash, it is about the Palestinians

Not a Turkish-Israeli clash, it is about the Palestinians


It is important for Turkey’s friends to understand that the Gaza killings of May 14 by Israeli security forces are not perceived by the Turkish people mainly as another blow to relations with Israel. Rather, the focus of relations is on the unfair treatment that the Palestinians receive.

Despite being among the first countries to recognize the state of Israel in 1948 - and despite being criticized for decades by other Muslim and especially Arab countries for being the first Muslim country to do so - Turkey has always stood up for the basic rights of the Palestinian people. The main reason for this is the belief that promises given to the Palestinians for a land have never been kept up to today. On the contrary, their lands have been getting smaller and smaller since 1948, despite the 1967 agreement, through wars or forced settlement projects.

Also contributing to Turkish sympathy for the Palestinians is the fact that the Turkish people believe the Palestinians are treated as underdogs by Arab countries in the region and their right to exist must be defended. Israel has the right to exist and defend itself, but this defense has exceeded its limits for a long time at the expense of the right to exist of the Palestinian people.

Hamas’ call on the people of Gaza to march on the border fences against Israeli troops may be seen by the Israelis as a provocation. But if that is the case then Israel could have avoided falling into that trap by trying to handle the situation with more care. The alternative to doing nothing against unarmed civilian protesters should not be opening wild fire on them; other security and crowd control measures should be taken.

It is a fact that the Israeli government could not act as recklessly as it now does without the unconditional and encouraging support of the U.S. administration. On the day when at least 61 people were killed, the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was taking place, despite protests by many countries including the closest allies of the U.S. It is also not possible to think that the U.S. pullout from the nuclear deal with Iran is not linked to Israel’s persistent demands against Iran’s rising military presence in Syrian territory thanks to the ongoing civil war there, as Russia watches on silently.

It seems ironic now that Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which once used to criticize Turkey for having good relations with Israel, are now acting like cautious advocates of Israel at a time when the Palestinians are suffering and need solidarity. If the Palestinians get the necessary legitimate international support for voicing their fundamental rights - excluding acts of terror, whether by Palestinian groups or by the disproportionate use of force by Israeli security forces - the risk of being manipulated by radical groups could easily be eliminated.

Despite the fact that the current crisis has a diplomatic row dimension, as Turkey and Israel are sending each other’s envoys back to their countries for forced leave, this is not a Turkish-Israeli crisis. That would be oversimplifying a complicated problem with deep historical background. The real issue that is still waiting for a sensible solution is about the treatment of the Palestinians.