Tongues have been wagging since pictures surfaced online, of members of an Israeli EI AI flight posing with some Turkish nationals, both displaying their national flags. As expected, critics have started drawing inferences from the pictures to conclude that the Turkish government is hypocritical, as they also accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of being in cahoots privately with those he publicly vilify.
For one, pictures and other technological products can be deceptive. They hardly show the reality of a situation in most cases. This article is therefore an attempt to set the record straight. First of all, we need to take a look at the background to the event.
It is public knowledge that with the emergence of the novel coronavirus in the world, more countries and individuals have been badly hit with the effects of the virus in socio-economic terms. Countries are going down with economic recession and are in dire need of aids and relief materials to manage the situation.
Celebration in Turkey of the landing of the first Israeli Cargo plane in 10 years in Istanbul.
It seem's ErdogOOn's words about Israel are pure empty rhetoric and that Israel and Turkey remain best of friends. pic.twitter.com/aU3ti1tMrC
— Muhammad Waqas Khan (@AllahuAkbarr313) May 24, 2020
As a country blessed in the comity of nations and which understands the philosophy of being one’s brother’s keeper, Turkey rose up to the occasion and solely initiated a global project of sending relief materials to different countries of the world. Nigeria and a host of others, including Italy, UK, Israel, Palestine have all benefited from the gesture. Last weekend, on May 24th, the Israeli El Al flight landed in Turkey for the first time in 10 years, to pick the delivery of COVID-19 medical supplies meant for the US doctors.
As a mark of nationalism, both delegations displayed their national flags in the scene and pictures were taken. The pictures generated controversies on the cyber space and those who have old scores to settle with the Turkish president to further corroborate their claim that the negative remarks made by Erdogan on Israel’s plan to annex nearly part of West Bank, Palestine, during his Eid Al Fitr message are mere eye service and publicity stunt.
Several media outlets especially in the Arab countries published news and sponsored opinion articles to ‘mock’ Erdogan, who is considered by millions of Muslims and non-Muslims to be the leader of the contemporary Muslim world and the foremost defender of the right of Muslim globally.
Expectedly, for instance, Saudi Arabia’s al Arabiya English slammed the Turkish president in its news report, with the headline, ‘Erdogan lifts 10-year Israel cargo ban while condemning Israeli actions in Palestine’. In another show of enmity, Saudi Gazette used a “two-faced” to qualify Erdogan in it’s own news headline, “Two-faced Erdogan lifts 10-year Israel cargo ban and backs Palestine”. How did the Turkey ban Israel’s cargo flights? The two media didn’t provide further details other than “a cargo plane landed in Istanbul from Israel carrying cargo for the first time in 10 years on Sunday.”
But the truth is, there was no 10 years cargo ban between Israel and Turkey in the first instance. Therefore, lifting the ban can only exist in the figment of imagination of those peddling the rumour. As at 2012, the Israeli cargo flights were still navigating Istanbul from Tel Aviv. The only ban of Israeli flights, according to Haaretz, was restricted to those carrying “dangerous materials”, even though the Israeli media didn’t explain further.
In the story, ‘Turkey Restricts Use of Airspace by Israeli Cargo Planes’, published on February 26, 2012, the newspaper wrote, in part, that; “The ban affects El Al and CAL cargo flights carrying materials designated as “dangerous”, adding that, “From now on, Turkey is requiring that it be notified about flights of this type at least 10 days in advance, so that they may review whether or not to approve them.”
Evidently, the decades long robust relationship between Turkey and Israel which was first formalised in 1945 under secularist government began to dwindle when Erdogan’s party, Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, before May 31, 2010 (exactly today ten years ago) that saw Israel forces inflicted a devastating attack on Gaza Freedom Flotilla, causing the death of ten Turkish activists, who were aiming to break the Siege on the Gaza Strip.
President Erdogan was not happy with the development. He didn’t only describe the attack a “State Terrorism”, he immediately recalled its Ambassador from Tel Aviv and expelled Israeli Ambassador from Turkey. The event degenerated to the extent that in any international forum, especially at the United Nations, Erdogan harshly criticizes Israel for the Flotilla attack, as well as its oppression against the Palestinians.
Six years after the Flotilla incident, in December 2016, Israel’s new Ambassador, Eitan Naeh, resumed to further cement the relationship between the two countries which again collapsed in 2018 when Erdogan asked him to “go on leave” because of carnage in Gaza and US Trump’s decision to move its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as reported by multiple sources including Aljazeera English.
Evidently, the Turkish/Israeli relations have always been threatened by the Zionist’s incessant violence against the Palestinians’ rights. It is therefore mischievous for an individual and ridiculous for any country to question Erdogan’s unflinching love and support for the Palestinians due to the permission to allow El Al flight to evacuate the relief materials and the display of both Turkish and Israeli flags by its excited nationals, as circulated in the media. It only reflects either hypocrisy or crass ignorance of international diplomacy on the part of the critics.
For those who are unaware of how international diplomacy works, it may surprise them to know that, despite political hostility between the two countries, the interest of Palestine remains a major reason Turkey still maintains business relationship with Israel. Should Erdogan cut off relationship completely, Palestinians will surely suffer. This is because the only open route by which humanitarian aids could get to Palestine – either the besieged Gaza or the occupied West Bank, is Israel. Another option to get the aid across to Gaza is through Rafah border crossing, in eastern Egypt – which of course has it own difficulties and politics.
Sadly, the Arabs who criticised Erdogan through their media are not only reportedly normalising relationship with Israel, they have also given the go-ahead for Israel’s annexation of the occupied West Bank and Jordan Valley while they continue to publicly oppose the plan. Middle East Monitor (MEMO) quoted Israeli media, Israel Hayom, saying, the three Arab countries are, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt, adding that, “…the kingdom would not undermine its relationship with the United States for the sake of ‘hundreds’ of Palestinians.”
By Rasheed Abubakar and AbdulGaniy Abdullah
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