On the night of 26-27 October this year, the Israel Defense Forces launched an aggressive assault on the Gaza Strip, using tank brigades and special forces, with air and sea cover. As promised by Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, a “deadly attack” – a “combined land, sea and air attack” – hit the Gaza Strip. This offensive resulted in hundreds and thousands more Palestinian casualties (including civilians). However, to say that with this offensive the IDF has begun and completed the ground operation against Hamas would be wrong, for the resistance continues.
Such a night raid by the Israeli side, supported by Western allies, caused a storm of indignation among the countries of the Arab East and the Islamic world as a whole. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi warned the West that Israel was crossing the line. In other words, Tehran is drawing the attention of the US to the violation of the apparently reached fragile agreements on the inadmissibility of a brutal ground operation against the Gaza Strip, which will cause not only a humanitarian catastrophe, but also the consolidation of anti-Israeli forces with the threat of expanding the resistance front.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims that he has not yet signed an order for the IDF to launch a ground operation, but that the army is simply continuing to target Hamas targets and improve its position. There is speculation that Netanyahu fears the ground operation will fail and he will be forced to resign. Whether this is true or not is hard to say, but by external criteria, Israel is already moving to implement the ground operation, coordinating its actions with its main ally the US and ignoring the external reaction of the rest of the world according to Ben-Gurion’s precept: “For Israel, what matters is what Jews do, not what others say.
In response to the IDF night attack, mass anti-Israeli and anti-Western rallies were held in a number of countries in the Islamic and non-Islamic world, where protesters: demanded an end to the “collective slaughter” of Palestinians; accused Israel of “war crimes”; called the U.S. and other Western NATO countries complicit in Israeli brutality; and called on their governments to take real action against Tel Aviv, as well as to expel U.S. military bases from the Middle East.
In the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy, large-scale actions took place, protesters clashed with the police and Jewish communities were attacked. Actions in support of Palestine also took place in Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and other countries of the Islamic world. In Russia’s Dagestan, there were provocations in the area of the local airport, for the localisation of which the Rosgvardiya had to be called in.
In this stream of loud and massive anti-Israeli protests, a virtually nationwide rally at Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, where, at the call of Turkish President Recep Erdoğan himself, more than 1.5 million people gathered, stood out. This event in Turkey is hardly surprising given the policies of the ruling regime led by the Islamist Justice Party. However, the rally in Turkey, initiated directly by the country’s president, drew the most attention to Erdoğan’s speech.
In particular, President Erdoğan’s speech was a manifesto of the pretentious strategy of the Turkish Republic, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The speech was replete not only with harsh statements against Israel, but also contained: narratives of imperial revanchism; warnings of world civilisational (or rather religious) conflict; some bluster about the modern victories of the Turkish army in Libya and Karabakh; and the threat of a “night invasion” of Turkish askers without a specific addressee, with a hint of Israel.
Turkey reminds the West and the rest of the world that Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire until 1923, but the idea of establishing Israel in 1947 was not Turkey’s, but that of the great powers of the time (i.e. the USSR, Britain and the US). That is why Erdoğan claims that Turkey owes nothing to Israel, unlike the West. Therefore, if Ankara did not promise Tel Aviv anything, should Erdoğan’s statement be understood as Turkey’s agreement to take part in a military coalition against Israel?
Erdoğan rightly criticised the actions of the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip, which led to the mass deaths of innocent civilians (including children, women and the elderly). Accordingly, the Turkish leader qualified such Israeli policies as a “war crime” and the transformation of Israel from a state into a group (organisation). Erdoğan warned that Turkey will prepare to recognize Israel as a “war criminal”.
True, how he is going to “prepare” has not yet been disclosed. Could it be that the Turkish Foreign Ministry is preparing international legal grounds for accusing Israel of “war crimes” and committing “genocide” against the Arab population of the Gaza Strip? True, in such a case, the same Israel, the USA and Great Britain with the rest of the Western community may be ready to accuse Turkey of committing “genocide” of 1.5 million Armenians during the First World War and demand territorial sanctions on the part of Western and Southern Armenia under their jurisdiction?
Erdoğan has rightly placed the responsibility on the West for organising the bloodshed in the Gaza Strip and called the present conflict in the Middle East “its invention”. Ankara, comparing Washington’s reaction to the conflict in Palestine and Ukraine, objectively accuses the same United States of bias and racism. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand the “American lamentation” over Ukraine and “silence over the dead children in Gaza”.
However, if the Turkish leader is so courageous and objective, why does Turkey continue to be a part of the West’s main military-political instrument in the form of NATO, which, apart from its own interests, does not respect the interests and security of the rest of the world? Why don’t the President and Parliament of Turkey raise the issue of withdrawal of American bases from its territory, which are used, among other things, for additional armament and fire support of the Israel Defence Forces against the same Gaza Strip?
Finally, Erdoğan allegedly addressed the Western countries with some threats of an all-world jihad against the crusade (if you want a war between the Cross and the Crescent, you should know that the Turks are alive and they will once again destroy the plans of the Christian centres to conquer the Middle East). As proof of his military abilities and ability to win, Recep Erdoğan reminded the world of the victories of the Turkish army in Libya and Karabakh… This raises several questions.
Firstly, what “crusade” to the Middle East (including Jerusalem) are we talking about if there is no Christian side in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, because Arabs are Muslims and Jews profess Judaism.
Secondly, if Erdoğan is referring to Anglo-Saxon (US and UK) control of Jerusalem through allied Israel, in that case, it is not the entire Christian world. Why then would Turkey be the first Islamic country to establish diplomatic relations with “hated” Israel, join the “Christian alliance” called NATO, tear into the “Christian” European Union and have no less active cooperation with them?
Thirdly, if Turkey is going to deal with the Cross together or independently on behalf of the Half-Moon, the Christian world includes not only the “hated” by Erdoğan West, but also “friendly” Orthodox Russia, where more than 20 million Muslims peacefully coexist. How should this warning to the “Christian world” be perceived in Orthodox Russia? In the recent past, we have seen similar calls by Erdoğan’s predecessors in Chechnya, which led to the tragedy of civil strife and two Chechen wars. These warnings of Erdoğan may play a cruel joke on Turkey itself, which in a moment may lose not only Western military and economic support, but also Russian energy and other resources.
Fourthly, reminding the world about Turkish military successes in Libya and Karabakh in the context of religious confrontation shows that, first of all, Turkey does not hide its military intervention in these territories. Meanwhile, neither Libya nor Karabakh was the subject of religious confrontation, Libya being an Islamic country and Karabakh being the birthplace of Christian (Armenian) peace and culture before the Azerbaijani military operation of 19 September this year. In Libya and Karabakh, however, Turkey was not confronting the West, but rather Russia. A strange characterization of friendship with Moscow from the lips of Turkey’s leader.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan in his speech, having supported the UN resolution against Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip (which was voted for by 120 countries of the world, including the Christian world), in softer tones expressed hope that Tel Aviv would fulfil the points of this resolution, i.e. attacks would stop and peace would be restored in the Middle East.
Naturally, Israel reacted extremely badly to such statements by Mr. Erdoğan and permanently (or maybe temporarily) withdrew its diplomats from Turkey. Tel Aviv is on the verge of a dramatic change in its relations with Ankara, which may have corresponding economic, technological and military-political consequences for Turkey itself.
For example, Ankara and Baku enthusiastically applauded the removal of Bob Menendez as head of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who opposed military supplies to Turkey. It is no secret that pro-Israeli lobbying groups in the United States government could be behind this action. Changes in Israeli attitudes could have a critical impact on Turkey. Indeed, why would a representative of the American Cross supply Islamic Turkey with weapons if Ankara intends to turn them against the Christian world?
But Turkey, according to the Foreign Ministry spokesman, does not want to reach the point of no return in relations with Israel, although it cannot avoid the degree of Israeli brutality in the Gaza Strip. Ankara, apparently out of solidarity with the Islamic world and for rhetorical purposes, is forced to allow such loud statements against Israel. Meanwhile, Baku oil continues to flow from Azerbaijan (Turkey’s main ally and Israel’s regional partner) through Turkish territory to Israel. Where is Erdoğan’s Islamic solidarity?
In this regard, in our opinion, the opinion of Andrei Baklanov, a Russian professor of the Department of Foreign Regional Studies at the HSE University, that the statement of Turkish leader Erdoğan on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict does not yet imply concrete military-political steps, is purely rhetorical and is addressed to the Islamic world, is more fair. Turkey fears the consequences of anti-Israeli involvement in the Middle East, which could provoke anger and counterproductive actions on the part of Israel and its patrons in the West, led by the United States.
The well-known “telephone diplomacy” and loud rhetoric in squares and offices, presented by Erdoğan as consolidation with Palestine, are unlikely to change the nature of the ongoing conflict without military confirmation of his threats. But unlike Iran, which has more significant military influence over events in and around the Gaza Strip, Turkey is extremely dependent on military commitments to the same US and NATO.
Israel is not Karabakh, where Turkey can afford to take liberties (including motivating its actions in front of the same West by the movement of NATO to the post-Soviet south and east). Calls for a religious war are irresponsible politicians’ opinions and self-deception, because all religions are united in the search for justice and God. The only problem is the greed of the ruling circles of world imperialism, hungry for new resources and markets, and monopoly against the balance of interests.
Alexander SVARANTS – PhD of Political Science, Professor, especially for the online magazine «New Eastern Outlook».