Turkey shares the blame

June 02, 2010

The coverage of the unfortunate incident in the seas near Gaza has focused thus far on whether Israel acted appropriately, with much international condemnation predictably alleging she did not. What is ignored in the typical focus on Israel as the aggressor in any conflict in that part of the world is whether Turkey was justified in what may turn our to be an at least unofficially sanctioned act of provocation. I have read several reports that speculate that Israel's action in enforcing its blockade of Gaza has endangered its relationship with its "closest" friend in the region.

Turkey is currently governed by a "moderate" Islamist political party, which has sought for years to move Turkey away from its secular traditions and closer to Iran, and has taken to increasingly hostile rhetoric in other recent criticisms of Israel. The flotilla set sail from Turkey; the lead ship was a Turkish flagged vessel; and many of those on board were Turks.

Before the public and international community condemns Israel in knee-jerk fashion, it is important to understand that this was a clear act of provocation intended to bolster the interests of those bent on Israel's destruction, including Hamas and Iran, and to harm cooperation between Israel, the U.S., Egypt and others. It is no coincidence that these ships set sail for Gaza just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was about to visit Washington.

Israel feels compelled to maintain its blockade of Gaza as a means of maintaining pressure on its existential enemy, Hamas, and of ensuring that no goods that could be used for military purposes fall into the hands of Hamas. By highlighting the supposed injustice of the blockade, Turkey seeks to bolster Hamas' standing; curry favor with Hamas' sponsor, Iran, so as to divert the international community from criticism of Iran's nuclear program, and to improve the standing of Islamists in Turkey vis a vis the secularists.

I would urge readers to consider the bigger geopolitical picture before leaping to conclusions.

David Greenberg, Reisterstown

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