By Murat Cem Mengüç
Nowadays, the similarities between Israel and Turkey are ever more striking. Both countries are populated by a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-lingual demographic. And, both are ruled by governments/states which insist on a uniform national identity. The ruling elite in both countries consider themselves as chosen people who would realize a heavenly fiction. They both oppress a particular ethnic community more than the other ethnicities, to the extent that they murder them in thousands. And, both countries suffer from the consequences having toyed, or toying with apartheid.
Historically speaking, Turkey and Israel have been good allies. But, when the last diplomatic riffraff happened, namely the Davos and the following Mavi Marmara crisis, many of us thought the good days of this relationship was over. Mavi Marmara incident particularly suggested that Turkey was serious about its support of the Palestinian cause.
Then came the real earthquakes, a series of revolutions in North Africa, Tahrir in particular and the ensuing civil war in Syria. It was in that context that I tried to explain, to myself more than anyone else, how the next stage of the emerging political shift will be the emergence of Kurdistan, and perhaps a Palestine. I believed Tahrir announced not only the dismantling of the regional neo-liberal dictatorships, but also the end of democratized religious fundamentalisms in the Middle East. I believed Muslim Brotherhood and Justice and Development Party, along with the Zionist Israeli coalitions would come to an end, due to the new trend. I also thought that Israeli involvement in the emergence of a Kurdish state in the Middle East would be inevitable, as long as Turkish involvement in the Palestinian crisis ensued.
In the end, only my expectations of something similar to Tahrir happening in Israel and Turkey were correct. Soon, Israel had its social justice protest, and Turkey had its Gezi protests. But, neither were enough to challenge the current state of government in these countries.
Meanhwile, the most shocking revelation was Netanyahu and Erdoğan’s complete lack of vision. They and their elite did not understand the severity of the economic and political legitimacy crisis which rocked the world. They both failed domestically and internationally to seize to moment and steer their countries for a better future.
Erdoğan, who once was a populist, couldn’t articulate a meaningful political agenda that spoke to the majority after Gezi. He now faces a presidential election, results of which may not favor him. Netanyahu failed to understand that Israel was not immune to the crisis, to the extent that he is now faced with an international boycott of the country, an intifada from within the green line, and more military commitment to Gaza.
The Syrian civil war also showed that Israel and Turkey were not influential players in the region. Turkey is nearly excluded from having a say on the emergence of a Kurdish state in Iraq. Israel have been a spectator of the Syrian crisis, and the emergence of a new era of US-Iranian relations.
Both Turkey and Israel have moved away from each others affair perhaps in this context. The so called defender of the Palestinian statehood is still silent about the current crisis in Israel. And Israel is quite about the Kurdish development.
What each may have committed behind the scenes will become known in the future. But let us end with one more similarity, and a food for thought. Recently, I watched Five Broken Cameras, and the landscape of the urban frontier in Israel reminded me of Ecumenopolis, a documentary I reviewed about a year ago. In each landscape an artificial construction industry advances to exterminate the unwanted people. In each landscape, the victim is in an existential fight, while the predator destroys not for survival but for ideology. Both Israel and Turkey consider themselves power houses of construction business in the Middle East. Yet, in both countries the driving force behind the sector is foreign investment, and the industry only amounts to 5-6 % of the economy. This is not a small number, adding up to billions of dollars. But, isn’t it interesting that in each country the true function of it is to expand the cement frontiers of the capitalist globalization, rather than supplying an existing demand?