Israel’s Gaza offensive from a focal Turkish perspective
By: Ceylan Ozbudak
Since the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) launched Operation Protective Edge, a significant number of Palestinians have lost their lives. We have seen the images of a young girl mourning over the dead body of her fiancé, fathers carrying the bodies of their baby daughters and mothers tending the funerals of their only sons. Every life counts and every loss hurts.
The world has turned its eye to Gaza and grieved with the families who lost their loved ones. Some leaders criticized Hamas launching rockets into Israel and others have criticized Israel for using disproportionate force in Gaza.
But how realistic is it to expect ‘proportionate force’ from a nation, which finds itself under direct attack? As a Muslim, I would like to see Israel settling this matter at the diplomatic table rather than using force to suppress Hamas. But to be frank, Muslims have killed far higher numbers of fellow Muslims in the post-WWII era than the non-Muslims ever have.
Turkey is able to help overcome this unending hatred between the sides.
We do not want to see the IDF harming the families living in the Gaza Strip, but Assad’s forces and extremist elements in Syria have also killed many Palestinians in the Yarmouk refugee camp and neither situation is acceptable. Palestinians in Lebanon have gone through various persecutions before, during and after the Lebanese Civil War and after six decades of existence in the country, they still aren’t granted citizenship. ISIS (now calls itself the ‘Islamic State’, or IS) even ‘proudly’ documented how they loaded thousands of Shiite soldiers onto trucks and executed them. Iraq suffered under the U.S. invasion and for a couple of decades before that under the U.S.-led embargo, but the conflicts between Muslims started well before any American troops put their boots on the ground and those conflicts accelerated faster than ever after they have left. Also, the Egyptian military coup led by General Sisi cost thousands of Muslim lives; al-Qaeda has been butchering those who dare to oppose them for years; Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped en masse by the extremist group, Boko Haram. All of these events combined have not created as much anger as the Israeli air strikes.
If we are Muslims, and if the reason for our outrage is stemming from religious togetherness, how then do we explain the silence against the relentless tide of mass murder going on in the region? If we are all fellow Muslims, according to which source are we supposed to manage our lives and decide who is wrong and who is right? The right answers to these questions are neither politics nor history; the answer is to become true Muslims and follow the religion, which states quite clearly that attacks during a time of peace, without a direct threat to one’s life are unlawful.
Justice for the Palestinians
If we desire our Palestinian brothers to get justice, the way to do this is not by showing innocent people on the other side as legitimate targets. Such attacks during a state of truce will invite reprisals anywhere in the world. Civilians in Israel are living in fear in shelters due to rockets being fired from Gaza. It is true that the number of casualties is not even close between the Arab and Israeli sides, but the idea that any war would ever inflict equal casualties on both sides is in any event unrealistic, there is almost always a predator and a prey.
There has been blind conflict between the two sides for many years now. These two peoples who should be living side by side in peace in those ancient, beautiful lands, are instead fighting one another and engaging in a vicious circle of tit-for-tat. Countries cannot choose their neighbors; however, they can choose the sort of relations they will have with their neighbors. The Arab world has been vehemently opposed to Israel for the last six decades, yet this still doesn’t change the fact that Israel is a Middle Eastern neighbor and as much as many would like to see Israel somehow disappear, that is simply not going to happen.
Turkey can help reconcile Israelis and Palestinians
Turkey, on the other hand is a Muslim country that has much better relations with Israel and has done so since 1949, when Turkey recognized Israel. Turkey is able to help overcome this unending hatred between the sides. Despite some ups and downs, and occasional disagreements, the relationship between Turkey and Israel is far from breaking down. In practice, the ties between the two nations grew over the last decade. Turkey managed to increase tourism with Israel 80% even after the Mavi Marmara incident.
The new energy resources in the Mediterranean have contributed to bettering relations and all the long-standing military and trade agreements have stayed intact. On the other hand, Palestinians should have no cause for hurt feelings because of this partnership, since it is has been Turkey who is allowed to deliver building materials to the Gaza Strip. Turkey built a university in the Gaza Strip and contributed greatly to the business life of Palestine. The Jerusalem Arbitration Center (JAC), which was established to solve the problems between Israeli and Palestinian businessmen, is led by a Turkish president. The JAC can solve business related problems with the consent of both sides without having to resort to Israeli or Palestinian courts. Turkey is already immersed in many daily events in the Palestinian territories.
Yesterday, Erdogan warned Israel, saying the bombardment of Gaza was blocking efforts to patch up relations.
The task of finding the middle ground again falls to Muslims. Turkey needs to partner with Egypt (which is perhaps easier now that the President Gul officially congratulated and contacted President Sisi) and work with the Israeli and Palestinian sides to help bring a sustainable peace to the region. Both sides need a long-term solution, and Turkey can certainly assist in bringing that about. Putting the flames out is imperative to bringing peace and stability to not only the immediate region, but throughout the Muslim world as a whole.
Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. As a representative of Harun Yahya organization, she frequently cites quotations from the author in her writings. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak