Beware Turkish Hypocrisy

Algemeiner 25 February 2013
By Noah Beck

Recent Turkish pressure on France and Germany regarding accession to the European Union heighten the need to question Turkey’s strategic intentions and political identity. Is Turkey a moderate, pro-Western democracy? Or is it run by Islamists embracing policies and regimes hostile to the West?

Turkey wants to be treated as a member of the West, calls itself "European,” and expects EU membership alongside its NATO credentials. But Turkey has dissented on key policy issues like Iran sanctions, antagonized the only Middle East country with Western values (Israel), and – until the Arab Spring ruined relations with Syria – courted many regimes dangerously opposed to the West.

The Syrian war has undermined Turkey’s "no-problems-with-neighbors” strategy and exposed its bluster. In August 2011, Turkey threatened military action against Syria but only if other nations joined it. In June 2012, Syria shot down a Turkish warplane over the Mediterranean. The Turkish response: consultations with NATO followed by much sound and fury. So when Israeli warplanes allegedly attacked Syrian military targets earlier this month, one would have expected Turkey to praise tiny Israel for taking risks to address a regional threat that the much bigger Turkey has found too daunting to confront alone. Instead, according to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged Syria to attack Israel, suggested that Assad’s inaction was due to "a secret agreement” with Israel, and vowed that Turkey would not sit still in the face of an Israeli attack on any Muslim country. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Not to be outdone by his foreign minister, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Israeli airstrike in Syria "state terrorism.” Does Erdogan call the countless Turkish airstrikes into Iraq "state terrorism?” What about airstrikes by the international force that Turkey would presumably join if the West ever mustered the courage to intervene in Syria? Any sane observer must wonder if Erdogan and Davutoglu know how absurdly inconsistent they sound or if they actually believe their own propagandist drivel.

A sober look at Turkey’s past and present reveals a darker side that the EU is trying to overlook – presumably for the economic benefits of Turkish EU membership and the hope that such membership will reform Turkey. The past: the Ottoman Turks slaughtered approximately 1-1.5 million people in the Armenian Genocide almost a century ago. Rather than apologize and make reparations à la Germany, Turkey has whitewashed history and used Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code prohibiting "insulting Turkishness” to silence those brave enough to speak out about the issue – like journalist Hrant Dink (who was assassinated in 2007 for doing just that).

Indeed, today’s Turkish democracy falls short of EU standards. According to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey is the "the world’s leading jailer” of reporters. Dissidents are jailed under vague anti-terror laws, and human rights organizations have documented many other abuses (often relating to the Kurdish conflict), including extrajudicial killings, "disappearances,” torture, and restrictions on free speech. (continue reading...)