Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TV Movie Jihad: Turkish Government Tries to Foment Islamist Hatred of Israel and Jews

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By Barry Rubin

You know that the Islamist-oriented Turkish government has cancelled a military exercise with Israel, made a military cooperation alignment with Syria, and aired an antisemitic film. Here’s what you don’t know about the film.

Entitled “Separation – Love and War in Palestine,” the expensively made film was aired in prime time on a state-owned television network. Previews of it were shown in the Istanbul’s small subway system.

The ultimate hypocrisy is that while the government excuses its anti-Israel policy by saying, in the prime minister’s words, “ We cannot be oblivious to the feelings of the Turkish public,” it is doing everything possible to stir up passionate hatred on the part of that public which wasn’t there beforehand. The film is, in a real sense, a hate crime, the kind of thing that goes on daily in the Arabic-speaking world and for which there is absolutely no equivalent in Israel or the West.

When the film opens there is a street battle between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen. A Palestinian boy is killed as the two sides fire at one another. So far, this is possible. But what happens next is that a beautiful young girl then is shown walking down an empty street and an Israeli soldier just shoots her for no reason at all. There is no evidence that any such event has taken place ever.

A group of elderly Muslims wanting to go on the pilgrimage to Mecca is shown being stopped at a checkpoint by Israeli soldiers and their papers are thrown in their faces. In fact, Israel has facilitated Palestinians going on the pilgrimage for many years.

So why didn’t Gazans get to go in the real world? Because the Palestinian Authority didn’t want to let Hamas, which rules Gaza, issue the papers and the Saudis refused to accept them. Israel had nothing to do with it. But for an audience of Turkish Muslims, such an act is a basic attack on Islam that would justify Jihad by themselves in response.

In another fictional event made to stir hatred—though Palestinians testifying at the Goldstone hearings made such claims without providing a single example—a husband and his pregnant wife are prevented at a checkpoint from going to a hospital. When she gives birth an Israeli soldier shoots dead the one-minute-old baby. Oh, and the wife dies from bleeding and the husband is killed by another soldier.

Interspersed with such scenes are those of Jews praying and an Israeli soldier is portrayed as saying this is a war of religion not one over territory.

So aside from their humanitarian impulses, Turks are being told by their government that Israelis are murdering and warring on Muslims. What should be their response? Why to hate Israel but also—at least this is how some Turks are likely to interpret it--to kill Jews.

In another scene, viewers are told that their Ottoman ancestors ruled this land for 400 years and there were no problems back then. In another country, this would be seen as a prelude to trying to seize control of that land once again but the Turkish government isn’t interested in that, nor in the Palestinian Authority (PA) taking over, but only in an Islamist regime ruled by Hamas there. (The Turkish government never talks about events on the West Bank because it views Hamas and not the PA as its ally. By the same token, it shows that it doesn't care about the Palestinians but only Islamist-ruled ones.)

By acting to provoke such hatred and possibly even an anti-Jewish pogrom within Turkey—the first time a Turkish government has behaved this way since the republic began—the current regime has taken one more step to bash Israel while still seeking its tourists and trade, as well as a diplomatic role as diplomatic mediator between Israel and Syria .

Turkish Jews--who have always believed that keeping a low profile and waiting out any problems--are taking the hint. Some are leaving; most are thinking about it.

The policy toward Israel or this particular film are not isolated events. They are parts of the regime strategy to do three things:

--Impose the maximum possible Islamist program on Turkey (how far they will get is unclear).

--Create a political and institutional basis for never yielding power. This is being done by a takeover of media, transformation of large elements in the educational system, promoting pro-AKP businesses or intimidating those in the opposition in order to give the regime a powerful economic base, revising the constitution, and taking other such steps. It hopes to become an institutionalized government party like the Republican People’s Party was during the first three decades of the republic. This doesn't mean that the AKP will declare an open dictatorship and cancel elections. Rather, the goal is to be sure it always wins the elections.

--Reorient Turkey’s foreign policy toward the Muslim-majority world, and building an alignment with Iran and Syria, while minimizing any cost in terms of its relations with the West. If forced to choose, however, it will pick the Muslim orientation, especially since the government assumes (though it is still trying) that it won’t get European Union membership any way while the Obama Administration smiles and nods at Turkish policy as more proof that the regime is a “model moderate Muslim democracy.”

Onlookers should have no illusions about what is going on. Nor should any U.S. policymakers—for plenty of other reasons as well—still view Turkey’s government as a reliable ally.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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