Even civil society must ‘obey’

Even civil society must ‘obey’

One of the rare good steps the Turkish government took lately was the reconciliation with Israel, which came after six years of low relations. As I noted before, this reconciliation is good for Turkey, good for Israel, and good for the Palestinians as well. For thanks to this agreement, Turkey will be able to send aid and help build infrastructure both in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. 

So, can we all be happy with this deal? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Not too surprisingly, some Islamist circles, which normally support President Tayyip Erdoğan on most issues, proved to be not too happy with the deal with Israel. In particular the İHH, the Islamist charity that spearheaded the Gaza flotilla back in 2010, did not seem content with the deal, which would nullify the criminal cases they supported against Israel for the killing of 10 civilians on the Mavi Marmara. That is why, a few days after the Turkish-Israeli deal, the İHH released a critical statement that ended with a strong sentence: “Those who cover themselves with Israel will find themselves naked.” 

Erdoğan did not take this lightly, though. A day later, he gave a long speech at an iftar dinner, and after defending the deal with Israel, he turned his attention to the Gaza flotilla people. “Did you ask me before you set sail?” Erdoğan asked. “Did you ask my permission?” In other words, with just one stroke, Erdoğan disowned a campaign that he has passionately used in the past six years, in dozens of political speeches. Had he said, “I respect the memory of the dead on the Gaza flotilla, but we need to be pragmatic with Israel,” I would have totally agreed with him. But, as usual, the tone he preferred was perfectly conceited and intimidating. 

What was even more significant was the way the İHH responded to this jab. Instead of defending their position, they rather released an “apology.” Their statement was quoted out of context, they said, and they never meant to target Erdoğan.

What does this episode show us? On the one hand, it shows what fellow Daily News columnist Semih İdiz wrote a few days ago in these pages:  “Islamists are angry but have no one else to turn to.” Moreover, it also means that in the Erdoğanist universe, everybody has the duty to obey the government and its great leader, even if they carry the title of “NGO.” 

Luckily, there are some exceptional voices who are from that particular universe but who still dare to raise their voice against this pyramid of hierarchy. One of them is Hakan Albayrak, an Islamist journalist, and a Mavi Marmara veteran. (I had written about him in this column last December as, “An Islamist critic of Erdoğanism.”) Yesterday, in daily Karar, he wrote a significant piece. There is a new cadre of Erdoğanists, he explained, who blame everybody who dares to disagree with Erdoğan, from writers to civil society organizations, for “treason, ‘coupism’ and oligarchy.” To save yourself from their wrath, he explained, you just have to shut up and obey “the state,” which has no tolerance for any “partner.” 

Albayrak explained that this political philosophy is not just ridiculous, but he also put a name to it. He called it “fascism.” And while the F word is often used with exaggeration, he had a point, for the phenomenon he describes really does reflect the key motto of fascism: “Everything for the state,” as Mussolini put it, “nothing outside the state; nothing against the state.”