Turkey’s reaction to the synagogue attack isn’t surprising

Foreign policy experts have spent the last two years speculating about Turkey’s choices

Ceylan Ozbudak

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Foreign policy experts have spent the last two years speculating about Turkey’s choices. Turkey’s actions in Syria delighted the Gulf States and Iraq while they dissatisfied Iran and Russia. Turkey’s trade partnership with Iran dissatisfied the U.S. and Israel while comforting the Maliki led Iraq and Lebanon. Turkey’s trade and tourism agreements with Israel supported by joint peace missions on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus made the Arab countries scoff while pleasing our European neighbors and the U.S. and Turkey’s open criticism of Israel’s operations on Palestinian lands always made the greatest fuss in the Western media. The majority of the analysts may have speculated about Turkey’s foreign policy choices (maybe for the sake of speculation) but the lines and objectives of Turkey’s foreign policy are, as a matter of fact, quite clear. The Turkish government decides matters according to the collective conscience of the Turkish people.

Turkey condemns the synagogue attack

Five Israelis were killed and several others injured following an attack by two Palestinians on a Jewish synagogue in West Jerusalem, with the two attackers promptly gunned down by Israeli police. World leaders had an immediate response to the attack, condemning the murders in a holy place and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was among the first to condemn the attack, saying, “We condemn the attacks on holy places. Turkey had condemned Israel’s attacks on al-Aqsa Mosque as well. We are in a spiral right now; Israel’s reckless attitude towards Gaza continues, however there are no excuses for the synagogue attack either.”

The condemnation of the Jerusalem synagogue attack by Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is a sign that Turkey is opposed to inflicting terror on a group of innocent people

Ceylan Ozbudak

For those who seek to see Turkey’s steps as either black or white, this was interpreted as Turkey turning its back on the Palestinian leadership, which she supported during and after the Israeli offensives. However, this was also a result of the collective conscience of the Turkish people. As people, we know these scenes well. We were saddened for the people who lost their lives while praying to God. We were saddened not only for the destruction, but because we knew how the families of those people felt. We know that pain. We recognize clearly the hurt in the eyes we saw on the TV cameras. It doesn’t matter whether this was Kabul, Beirut or Jerusalem. We all bleed the same. In times like this, the racial distinctions evaporate and religious disputations fade.

Turkey is NOT anti-Semitic

Turkey’s attitude towards the people of Israel and the Jewish people in general has always been positive. I know my dissidents will raise their eyebrows after reading these lines, but let me explain the difference between opposing the policies of a state or government and simply weighing in against a country and its nationals as a whole. Those of us who can see things in a historical and philosophical context are aware of the fact that the narrative of opposing the existence of Israel started off as a purely political move in the Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser. In the newly flourishing pan-Arab Ba’ath world, the principle, which united the citizens of these newly independent nations - apart from their Arab identity - was opposition to the establishment of the State of Israel. The Ba’ath regimes clung to this message to effectively subordinate all other legitimate concerns among the public, including any attempts at local political reform or economic development.

While the anti-Israeli sentiment was ravaging the Arab lands, Turkey stayed out of this senseless mess. Turkey was one of the first states to recognize Israel. In the same way Turkey developed reasonable relations with the post-Ottoman era Middle East states, Turkish relations with Israel has been based on a new leaf on a five millennia old notebook. The frictions between Turkey and Israel always stemmed from policies and different ways of handling events. In the eyes of Turkish citizens, the state of Israel never had to apologize for simply existing. There have been pro-Palestinian rallies in Turkey as well, but the people of Turkey never inflicted a collective punishment on Jewish residents like in France, stereotyping the policies of the state of Israel as “Jewish behavior.” Stereotyping is lazy and counterproductive. The condemnation of the Jerusalem synagogue attack by Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu is a sign that Turkey is opposed to inflicting terror on a group of innocent people because of their attachment to a certain state, race or religion no matter which party it comes from. Turkey’s criticism towards Israel has no other depth than its criticism for Germany, and therefore it should not be evaluated as anti-Semitic. Contrary to popular belief, the Muslim residents of Turkey are proud of the Jewish and Christian communities in the country because their coexistence signifies civility in a world where the relationship between Jews, Muslims and Christians is increasingly deteriorating. In addition to all of this, both Turkey and Israel have a very complicated civil war on their borders. The Syrian tragedy has made both countries put aside their differences and tackle the humanitarian crisis together at times.

Turkey will condemn shooting down close to a thousand protestors on the street in Egypt, raining down bombs on civilians in Syria and targeting people praying in a peaceful synagogue in Israel. This tragedy, which shattered both Muslim and Jewish hearts alike, should progress into an opportunity to bring the two states closer to full reconciliation. The fact that bilateral investments have strengthened shows that the people of both states are expecting more warmth from the governments. In the end, old friends can’t be foes.


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

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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