I attach a two-part article, titled “A tale of two cities: Istanbul vs. Jerusalem,” published on June 2 and 7, in the Turkish paper Hurriyet Daily News.
This analysis by Turkish journalist and commentator Burak Bekdil displays the kind of honest account of history that is extremely difficult to find in the Arab media – or indeed in much of the rest of the Turkish media.
In the first part of his article, Bekdil visits Jerusalem in June 1967. In the second part, he takes us to Istanbul in June 2011 (a city that was, of course, Constantinople until 1930).
Burak Bekdil was previously sentenced to an 18-month suspended prison term in Turkey, after he was found guilty of “insulting the judiciary” for exposing corruption within the judiciary. That sentence was widely criticized in the West.
(Above, protesters burn a Star of David during a demonstration outside the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul last year.)
WOULD TURKEY AGREE TO GREEK DEMANDS TO RETURN TO THE 1923 BORDERS?
For those who don’t have time to read his article in full, here, in summary, are a few of the points made in Hurriyet Daily News:
* “Let’s try to rid ourselves from the chains of religious ideology and try to be fair. The return to the 1967 borders means a no-loss bet, an oxymoron. It’s tantamount to betting money on a game, losing it and making a scene at the bet shop to take back the money. In warfare terms, this would be similar to Greeks proposing Turkey a return to the pre-1923 borders: They attacked, they lost, and they, unlike the Arabs, have no intention to capture central Anatolia in the 21st century.”
* “Would the United Arabia today agree to return to the 1967 borders if their glorious eight-nation united force had succeeded to annihilate Israel four decades ago?”
* “Although the opening of the Rafah crossing into Gaza [last month] has apparently made any aid flotilla meaningless, İHH’s president, Bülent Yıldırım, said the new mission is not aid but ‘justice.’ But which justice?”
“IF JERUSALEM SHOULD BE THE CAPITAL OF ‘FREE PALESTINE,’ WHY SHOULD ISTANBUL NOT BECOME THE CAPITAL OF ‘FREER GREECE?’”
* “Wisdom would ask our [Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet] Davutoğlu to perhaps encourage the İHH to send a flotilla to Latakia to break the blockade on protestors and stop the Syrian police killing them. The Syrian death count is already over 1,000, or 111 times bigger than the death toll on the Mavi Marmara, excluding over 10,000 missing or detained for torture and future death.”
* “Alternatively, if the foreign minister is so keen on the idea of freedom flotillas against illegal blockades, he can think of Varosha in Cyprus, which has remained a ghost town after the Turkish army fenced it off in 1974.”
* “The foreign minister often talks about his dream to ‘pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestinian Jerusalem.’ One wonders, though, if he would have kept his sympathetic smile if a foreign minister spoke of his dream to visit Diyarbakır as the capital of Kurdistan. I think we can guess.”
* “If we are talking about universal justice and legality, why are the conquests of Istanbul, Trabzon and Anatolia by the Turks, and of Jerusalem by Ayyubi good; but the repatriation of Jerusalem to Israel by re-conquest bad? Especially when the re-conquest was the result of self-defense in the face of eight enemy armies who attack to annihilate a legitimate state. If Jerusalem should be the capital of ‘free Palestine,’ why should Istanbul not become the capital of ‘freer Greece?’”
“OH SIR, I’LL MEET YOU FOR LUNCH IN TEL AVIV”
A tale of two cities: Istanbul vs Jerusalem (Part I)
By Burak Bekdil
Hurriyet Daily News - Turkey
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Recently there has been a good deal of talk on a return to the 1967 Arab-Israeli borders, including a fluid note by President Barack Obama. The first part of this mini series will visit Jerusalem in 1967, and return to Istanbul in 2011. First, a chronological anatomy of the events that led to the Six-Day War of 1967, and how the war was fought:
- Egypt’s charismatic leader Gamal Abdel Nasser is the darling of the Arabs. He is dreaming of a pan-Arab state, but, he thinks, the major obstacle standing in his way is Israel. Nasser died of heart attack three years after the six-day war. His friends said he died with a broken heart.
- Israel’s not-so-charismatic Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, is not anyone’s darling, especially during the diplomatic crisis, which led to the 1967 war. Many Israelis doubted his ability to run a country that was heading to war on multiple fronts. He, too, had a dream. It was not a pan-Israeli state, nor the conquest of Jerusalem. He dreamed of peace. And he, too, died with a broken heart, according to his wife.
- In the spring of 1967, Syria was harboring and training Palestinian militants who declared their holy cause as the “annihilation of the state of Israel.” In one incident, Israeli and Syrian fighter jets clash, and Prime Minister Eshkol issued a mild warning to Damascus.
- The Kremlin takes Eshkol’s warning seriously. In 1967, Egypt, like Syria, is on the Soviet camp. In the spring of 1967, Soviets secretly give startling news to Egypt’s parliament speaker, Anwar Sadat: In one week, Israel is poised to attack Syria. Sadat speeds the news to Nasser.
- Cairo orders four divisions to the Sinai border. It also calls thousands of reserve soldiers. Finally, 40,000 soldiers, more than 300 Soviet-made tanks, artillery and personnel carriers cross into the Sinai. Arab nations cheerfully support the Egyptian build-up on the border.
- Soviet intelligence proves to be a hoax. Israel does not attack Syria. But Nasser cannot step back from the idea of finishing off Israel militarily. He is under pressure from his own top brass, his own nation and the Arab world.
- Meanwhile, as Israel celebrates the 19th anniversary of its foundation, the war cabinet mobilizes one brigade, 3,000 men, and calls up reserves. Israel’s population is 2.5 million.
- A United Nation buffer zone manned with a few thousand soldiers separate enemy troops. The peacekeeping mission has been there for over 10 years. On May 16, Nasser orders the U.N. Force Commander Indar Jit Rykhye to evacuate his force within 48 hours. When Rykhye asks one Egyptian commander if Egypt was aware of the consequences, the commander replies: “Oh sir, I’ll meet you for lunch in Tel Aviv.” The force leaves, and Egypt and Israel are left alone.
- On May 22, Nasser closes the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, virtually a declaration of war. The move electrifies the Arab world, especially the Palestinians in East Jerusalem who had been displaced in 1948. Nasser talks about a return to the pre-1948 borders, meaning no Israel.
- U.N. Secretary General U Thant arrives in Cairo but fails to convince Nasser who tells him privately that he is afraid of a coup or assassination. The Egyptian generals want war, Nasser says.
- Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban goes to Washington, but fails to secure United States help as President Lyndon Johnson does not commit the U.S. to help if Israel is attacked.
- There is excitement and support in the Arab world for the coming war. Kuwait pledges its army to the United Command along with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal joins the coalition, and says, “We want to see the extermination of Israel.”
- On May 30 Jordan’s King Hussein flies to Cairo to sign a defense pact with Nasser. The Jordanian army will now be commanded by an Egyptian general.
- CIA tells Israel’s chief spy, Meir Amit, “We don’t plan to do anything if Israel is attacked.”
- At 7:50 a.m. on June 5, the Israeli Air Force takes off to hit every air base in Egypt simultaneously. In three hours, the Egyptian air force is totally destroyed, having lost 280 modern fighters and bombers. It takes two more hours to destroy the Syrian Air Force and minutes to destroy Jordan’s.
- Arabs dance on the streets as Radio Cairo broadcasts great victories against Israel. Israel orders total radio silence. Since Israel has destroyed Jordan’s communications lines, Jordan gets war news from Radio Cairo. In a telephone conversation, Nasser tells King Hussein that Egyptian planes are over Israeli skies. Encouraged with the (fake) news Jordan shells Israeli cities.
- The Battle for Jerusalem begins. Israel sends paratroopers to Jerusalem. In five hours, Jordanian resistance is broken.
- Nasser’s telephone conversation with Hussein is intercepted, in which the two argue whether they should blame the U.S. or the U.S. and Britain for the humiliating defeat. Both, they agree.
- At U.N. negotiations, Egypt and Syria refuse ceasefire and land for peace an agreement.
- The Egyptian army withdraws from the Sinai. Israel takes tens of thousands of prisoners whom it later releases.
- In four days, Israel defeats Egypt and Syria and controls all of Jerusalem. But Syrian shelling begins. On the fifth day, Israel attacks Syria and captures the Golan Heights. This time, at the U.N., Syria wants ceasefire but Israel resists. Israeli army forwards as close to as 40 miles from Damascus. Then Israel calls a halt and agrees to ceasefire.
- The Six-Day War is over. Israel now controls 3.5 times more land than it had six days ago, including Jerusalem. It offers to give back Sinai and the Golan Heights in return for peace. It is willing to negotiate over the West Bank but insists on keeping all of Jerusalem.
- One month after the war Arab leaders convene in Khartoum. Nasser is still the undisputed leader of the Arab world. Arab leaders refuse a joint U.S.-Soviet proposal for land for peace. The convention ends with four notes: No recognition of Israel; no peace; no negotiations; and all Arab states are to prepare for military action.
Let’s try to rid ourselves from the chains of religious ideology or just ideology and try to be fair. The return to the 1967 borders means a no-loss bet, an oxymoron. It’s tantamount to betting money on a game, losing it and making a scene at the bet shop to take back the money. In warfare terms, this would be similar to Greeks proposing Turkey a return to the pre-1923 borders: They attacked, they lost, and they, unlike the Arabs, have no intention to capture central Anatolia in the 21st century.
Here, the question is simple: Would the United Arabia today agree to return to the 1967 borders if their glorious eight-nation united force had succeeded to annihilate Israel four decades ago? The Arabs should be able to understand that they can always enjoy lunch in Tel Aviv, like Israel’s peaceful Arab citizens do, once they overcome their religious and ideological hatred of the “Jooos” and make peace with them.
A tale of two cities: Istanbul vs Jerusalem (Part I)
By Burak Bekdil
Hurriyet Daily News - Turkey
June 7, 2011
The first part of this mini series visited Jerusalem in June 1967. (Available at www.hurriyetdailynews.com/n.php?n=a-tale-of-two-cities-istanbul-v.-jerusalem-i--2011-06-02.) This sequel takes the mini series to Istanbul in June 2011, aboard the Mavi Marmara.
The organizers of the Gaza flotilla, a Turkish Islamist charity with dubious United Nation recognition, the İHH, have pledged to send a second flotilla later this month after the first one faced a deadly Israeli commando attack last year. Although the opening, and brief closure, of the Rafah crossing into Gaza has apparently made any aid flotilla meaningless, İHH’s president, Bülent Yıldırım, said the new mission is not aid but “justice.” But which justice?
The day after the Israeli raid that killed nine people aboard the Mavi Marmara, Mr Yıldırım explained his understanding of justice: “Last night everything in the world changed, and everything is progressing toward Islam. Anyone who does not stand alongside Palestine, his throne will be toppled.”
And in response to U.N., American and Israeli calls, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said governments cannot stop their citizens launching another flotilla to Gaza, and Ankara would not prevent private challenges to an illegal blockade.
Wisdom would ask Mr Davutoğlu to perhaps encourage the İHH to send a flotilla to Latakia to break the blockade on protestors and stop the Syrian police killing them. The Syrian death count is already over 1,000, or 111 times bigger than the death toll on the Mavi Marmara, excluding over 10,000 missing or detained for torture and future death.
Alternatively, if the foreign minister is so keen on the idea of freedom flotillas against illegal blockades, he can think of Varosha in Cyprus, which has remained a ghost town after the Turkish army fenced it off in 1974. But Mr Davutoğlu has other, preferred, responsibilities.
For example, the foreign minister often talks about his dream to “pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Palestinian [Muslim] Jerusalem.” He does not hide his ambition to see Jerusalem as the capital of a free Palestinian state. One wonders, though, if he would have kept his sympathetic smile if a foreign minister spoke of his dream to visit Diyarbakır as the capital of Kurdistan. I think we can guess. But he is not the only Islamist who habitually boasts multiple standards of indecent choice, all for the advance of political Islam.
Last week, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed a local crowd in Diyarbakır, saying that: “We are the grandchildren of Saladin Ayyubi’s army [soldiers] that conquered Jerusalem.” So, says the prime minister, the ancient capital of Judaism had been conquered by Muslims.
But, then, why would something taken by force from someone else belong to its occupier? Why is Jerusalem Palestinian if it had been conquered from its ancient possessors? And why should we be proud to be the grandchildren of someone whose army conquered other people’s territories?
A few days earlier, Mr Erdoğan, this time in Trabzon, reminded his party’s supporters that on May 29 “We proudly celebrated the 558th anniversary of the conquest of Istanbul.” And, he said, without the conquest of Trabzon, the conquest of Anatolia would have been incomplete.
It is not a coincidence that Fatih (conqueror) is a very common male name in Turkish. The Turks are proud to be the evlad-i fatihan (the descendants of conquerors). They are too happy to be living in the territories that once belonged to other nations. But all that is understandable since they are not the only nation which does so, with or without the others naming their children “conqueror.” All the same, there is a problem with the Turkish/Islamist case.
If we are talking about universal justice and legality, why are the conquests of Istanbul, Trabzon and Anatolia by the Turks, and of Jerusalem by Ayyubi good; but the repatriation of Jerusalem to Israel by re-conquest bad? Especially when the re-conquest was the result of self-defense in the face of eight enemy armies who attack to annihilate a legitimate state.
More questions. If Jerusalem should be the capital of “free Palestine,” why should Istanbul not become the capital of “freer Greece?” Why is Nicosia a divided capital? What were the Turks doing at the gates of Vienna in 1683? Was Süleyman the Magnificent’s army there to distribute humanitarian aid to the Viennese, like the İHH claims its Gaza mission is?
Forty-four years ago, the Arabs dreamed of “having lunch in Tel Aviv.” The dream cost them a major humiliation and Jerusalem, and the Middle East, peace. Today, the Turkish leaders dream of praying in the “Palestinian capital” Jerusalem while denying the Orthodox Patriarch of Istanbul his ecumenical designation. Luckily, the Turks, unlike Arabs, are the grandchildren of conquerors.
Keeping the ancient capital of Orthodoxy as the biggest Turkish city is fine. But please, Mssrs Erdoğan and Davutoğlu, at least try not to make too much noise in commemorating the day when we took it by force from another nation. And remember, gentlemen, claiming that Istanbul is a Turkish city by origin and Jerusalem is Palestinian sounds like too-dark black humor.
* Among other recent dispatches on Turkey, please see:
And for cartoons, please see here.