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Turkey's Islamists take a bath

Turkey's Islamists take a bath Author: Joseph Loconte Categories: Turkey    

Claiming victory for his Justice and Development party (AKP) in last week's historic national election, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was defiant. "This election has shown that the backbone of Turkey is the AKP," he told supporters at party headquarters in Ankara. "The AKP is the only party that is in all of the regions, all provinces, and embraces all of the citizens." An analyst with Al Jazeera television, a sometimes boosterish outlet for the AKP's Islamist agenda, offered a rougher assessment: "It was an image of confidence on a very bad night."

Turkey's election/How Iran will use its nuclear deal windfall

Turkey's election/How Iran will use its nuclear deal windfall Categories: Iran, Turkey, Updates    

Today's Update features some comment on Sunday's dramatic parliamentary election result in Turkey - with the ruling AKP party and its increasingly authoritarian leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan suffering a major setback. Plus, it also contains some important new analysis of the likely regional effects of the expected monetary windfall Teheran is expected to get as a result of any nuclear deal.

Is Hamas searching for a new home after Qatar reportedly asked it to leave?

Is Hamas searching for a new home after Qatar reportedly asked it to leave? Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Middle East, Turkey, Updates    

Qatar had been shunned by Egypt and the Gulf States for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates declared a terrorist organisation. However, last month Qatar decided to mend its relationship with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and is now expected to decrease its public support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, including in Al Jazeera coverage.

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The Kurdish Moment

The Kurdish Moment Author: Ofra Bengio Categories: Iraq, Turkey    

In an interview, Rudaw Huseyin Celik, a spokesman for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), stated that "the Kurds of Iraq can decide for themselves the name and type of the entity they are living in."

Such a far-reaching statement should not come as a great surprise to those following developments in Iraq and the kind of relations that have been developing between the Kurds and Ankara.

Talking Turkey

Talking Turkey Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Israel, Turkey    

After three-and-a-half years in the doldrums, Israeli-Turkish relations seem to be climbing the road to recovery, though that road appears no less bumpy than most other affairs in Turkey these days.

Israel's relations with the strongest country in the Middle East had generally been good, and at times even intimate, until last decade. When Recep Erdogan's religious government took office in 2003, it slowly began hammering at Turkish-Israeli relations, bringing them to full crisis in May 2010.

Scribblings: Erdogan's Dubious Friends

Scribblings: Erdogan's Dubious Friends Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Terrorism, Turkey    

Here's a fascinating - and very telling - story from Turkey which has not really made it into the Australian media.

On Jan. 14, Turkish police staged a sweep in which they arrested 28 people alleged to be recruiting or otherwise working for al-Qaeda in raids across six provinces. Police also raided an office of the IHH, a Turkish Islamist NGO best known for coordinating the Mavi Marmara flotilla to Gaza in 2010.

Islamism after the Fall of Morsi

Islamism after the Fall of Morsi Categories: Egypt, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Turkey, Updates    

This Update looks at the future of the Islamist political movement, especially in Egypt, in the wake of the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood-led Morsi government there early this month. It also includes an analysis of the state of Islamist politics in another important nation - drawing conclusions about Turkey's Erdogan goverment based on its handling of the recent unrest in that country.

Views on Egypt, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and Turkey Categories: Egypt, Israel, Palestinians, Turkey, Updates    

Today’s Update looks at the ongoing developments in Egypt; the attempts to coax the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table; and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s increasingly offensive statements.

First, top Israeli media commentator and analyst Ehud Yaari - who enjoys some of the best contacts in the Middle East - talks to the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre on the outlook for Egypt, Hamas and Israel. Yaari explains that Israel’s main challenge relates to the freedom of movement enjoyed by armed jihadists in the vast and largely lawless Sinai Peninsula.

Scribblings: "Turkish Spring" brings out Middle East pathologies

Scribblings: "Turkish Spring" brings out Middle East pathologies Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Antisemitism, Iran, Turkey    

Up until the recent outbreak of unrest, Turkey was widely held up as the model of democracy for the Muslim Middle East. And it is undeniable that Turkey has a had a couple of decades of pretty free and fair elections and democratic transitions.

But the recent unrest has exposed that Turkish "democracy" is not yet anything like a mature liberal democracy - as well as offering a timely reminder that democracy has a lot more to it than regular elections.

Israel talks Turkey

Israel talks Turkey Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: Israel, Turkey    

During his visit to Israel in March, US President Barack Obama arranged a dramatic telephone call on March 22 between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Erdogan. Netanyahu spoke of Israel's "regret for certain operational errors" in the commando assault on the Mavi Marmara. Compensation, he said, would be paid to each of the nine families of the victims killed on the flotilla. The two leaders ostensibly undertook to put their acrimonious three-year-old dispute behind them and normalise relations.

Media Week - No experience necessary?; Flotilla details sink; McGeough shrugs; Doubting Thomas; One among the pack; Relationships advice

Media Week - No experience necessary?; Flotilla details sink; McGeough shrugs; Doubting Thomas; One among the pack; Relationships advice Author: Allon Lee Categories: Anti-Zionism, Israel, Media/ Academia, Palestinians, Turkey, Updates    

Ahead of PM Julia Gillard's cabinet reshuffle Michael Danby's name was touted in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald (March 25) as a potential foreign affairs parliamentary secretary (in the end he got the gig for the Arts instead).

Danby of course has excellent foreign policy credentials...Unfortunately, unlike the five other MPs profiled whose professional experience was touched upon, Danby's only qualification appears to be that he is a "staunch supporter of Israel", according to the Fairfax papers.

How the Turkish Prime Minister condemned himself by calling Zionism a ‘crime against humanity’

How the Turkish Prime Minister condemned himself by calling Zionism a ‘crime against humanity’ Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Turkey, United Nations, Updates    

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan on March 1 offensively equated Zionism to racism and fascism at the "Fifth Alliance of Civilizations Forum" in Vienna. During the forum, Erdoğan reportedly stated: "Just like Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it becomes unavoidable that Islamophobia must be regarded as a crime against humanity."

Erdogan's decision to refer to Zionism, which is the foundation of the Jewish state and the movement of Jewish self-determination, as a "crime against humanity" is inflammatory, wrong and dangerous.

Australia’s Woodside Petroleum goes to Israel

Australia’s Woodside Petroleum goes to Israel Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Australasia, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Updates    

Australia's biggest oil and gas firm, Woodside Petroleum has announced it is buying a 30 percent share, valued up to $2.5 billion, in Israel's Leviathan natural gas field.

Israel, a nation once thought to be devoid of natural resources in recent years has found vast amounts of natural gas deep under its Mediterranean waters.  The gas finding may not only make Israel energy self-sufficient for decades but also a world leader in energy exports - including possibly to Europe and Asia.

The Woodside deal also highlights the changing political and economic ramifications of the new gas fields in the East Mediterranean.

Reports show Turkish democracy - held up as a regional model - is under threat at home

Reports show Turkish democracy - held up as a regional model - is under threat at home Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Antisemitism, Turkey, Updates    

As Islamist parties and groups gain power in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya in the aftermath of the upheavals in the Middle East, and with growing chaos and uncertainty in neighbouring Syria, Turkey has been seen by many analysts as a model for balancing political Islam and democracy. But in this debate about whether the "Turkish model" can be exported and successfully implemented in other countries in the region, the many flaws of the Turkish democracy have often been ignored, overlooked or downplayed. Some concerning new reports from Turkey suggest that, rather than regarding Ankara as a possible model to be exported, the question that should be asked is whether democracy will survive even within Turkey itself.

Turkey and the Syrian Civil War

Turkey and the Syrian Civil War Categories: Syria, Turkey, Updates    

This Update focuses on analysis of the growing tension between Turkey and Syria, in the wake of a series of confrontational incidents, including Turkish shelling of Syrian territory in response to a Syrian shell which struck Turkey, an earlier incident involving Syrian fire on a Turkish warplane, and most recently, Turkey forcing down a civilian  plane claimed to be illegally smuggling Russian arms to Syria.

Pew Survey of Middle East reveals complex and sometimes conflicted feelings about democracy

Pew Survey of Middle East reveals complex and sometimes conflicted feelings about democracy Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Afghanistan/ Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Middle East, Tunisia, Turkey, Updates    

The Pew Research Centre's Global Attitudes Project has just released the results of surveys it conducted throughout the Middle East in the wake of the "Arab Spring." The surveys reveal some interesting insights about attitudes in the Middle East in the wake of the recent uprisings, including how Middle Easterners weigh democracy, Islamism, economic strength and political stability in their own societies.

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Does Iran have a right to enrich uranium? / The Islamicisation of Turkey

Does Iran have a right to enrich uranium? / The Islamicisation of Turkey Categories: Iran, Turkey, Updates    

This Update leads with two important pieces discussing the claims and counter-claims being made as part of the Iranian nuclear talks.

First up, Iran scholar and recent visitor to Australia Emanuele Ottolenghi offers a good de-bunking of the constant Iranian refrain that their right to peacefully develop nuclear energy is being denied them. Ottolenghi makes it clear that the key point to understand is that Iran, as a Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty signatory, has this right only as long as it meets its NPT obligations - but the International Atomic Energy Agency has been very clear that Iran is not doing so.

Israeli musicians transcend political divides to connect with Middle Eastern fans

Israeli musicians transcend political divides to connect with Middle Eastern fans Author: Andrea Nadel Categories: Anti-Zionism, Iran, Israel, Libya, Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

Boycotting and isolating Israel culturally, economically, and politically has long been one of the goals of many of Israel’s neighbours in the Middle East, and more recently, of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It is revealing, then, that growing numbers of people throughout the Middle East are themselves disobeying the call of the anti-normalisation and BDS movements by listening to music by Israeli artists.

Is Turkey flipping Democracy the bird?

Is Turkey flipping Democracy the bird? Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Turkey, Updates    

While many in the international media have recently "coronated" Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as "King" of Israel following his formation of a national unity government, surely the use of the term, with its non-democratic connotations, would be more apropos when referring to Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.

Erdogan truly has been consolidating his power in non-democratic ways, silencing his critics, and taking steps that are moving his country further and further away from democracy.

A divided Palestine makes for a hopeless peace process

A divided Palestine makes for a hopeless peace process Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Jordan, Palestinians, Turkey, Updates    

An AFP report yesterday indicated that, as predicted, Hamas and Fatah are dragging their feet on actually implementing the latest reconciliation deal.

This suggests that the current deal will go the way of the three previous deals: all have been introduced to much fanfare and then quietly lapsed as, once away from the public eye, no agreement could be reached on how to actually implement the requirements. The reason for this is that while "Palestinian unity" as an idea is appealing to both factions, they...

      Turkey admits to massacre, world yawns

Turkey admits to massacre, world yawns Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Turkey, Updates    

A news story which received little coverage in Australian media surrounds the tragic news that Turkey committed a massacre that killed 35 civilians in an air strike into Iraq near a Kurdish village along the Turkish border on 28 December 2011.

Turkey has admitted that the attack was an error. Turkey claimed that it intended to target suspected Kurdish militants, but that the victims turned out to be civilians not terrorists. The victims of the attack are believed to have been villagers involved in smuggling cigarettes into Turkey from Iraq.

The attack was one of the deadliest attacks since the PKK took up arms in 1984 in a conflict in which more than 40,000 people have been killed.

AIJAC UPDATE - The political and moral costs of the failure to sanction Syria

AIJAC UPDATE - The political and moral costs of the failure to sanction Syria Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Europe, Iran, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Lebanon, Middle East, Palestinians, Syria, Turkey, United Nations, Updates    

Today's Update looks at Syria, Iran and Turkey against the backdrop of the veto by China and Russia of sanctions by the UN Security Council against the Assad regime in Damascus for its ongoing violent crackdown against anti-government protesters. The resolution was supported by nine members but, significantly, Lebanon, which occupies a temporary seat on the Security Council, abstained from the vote, as did South Africa, India and Brazil. After the vote the EU indicated it intended passing its own sanctions against Syria. Meanwhile Turkey's PM Recep Erdogan continues to use the Syria issue and relentlessly attacks Israel for his own regional ambitions. We offer a number of articles that reveal the changing dynamics in the Middle East that are are not receiving sufficient attention in Australia and elsewhere.

Editorial: Autumn follows Spring Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Turkey    

It has become increasingly clear that, sadly, the Arab upheavals that swept the Middle East this year are not resulting in a democratic "Arab Spring". Rather an "Islamist awakening" seems to be occurring alongside a resurgence of extreme Arab nationalism.

The middle class crowds demanding "freedom" and "democracy" seem to have lost the battle for the streets in Cairo and elsewhere. The old demons of violent, conspiratorial anti-Americanism and antisemitism, which seemed so blessedly absent in the initial demonstrations, are back with a vengeance.

Europa Europa: Turkish Delight Author: Douglas Davis Categories: Europe, Israel, Middle East, Turkey    

It is hard to remain unmoved by acts of blatant cynicism. Not those small, nasty gestures of crass stupidity that seek to advance a particular vested interest, but grand acts of faux-statecraft that leave the observer unsure whether to laugh or cry. Last month's antics of Turkey's Islamist Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, offered a textbook example.

Setbacks and Opportunity

Setbacks and Opportunity Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Egypt, Israel, Middle East, Turkey    

The year was 1958 and Israel had noticed that Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser's agitation across the Middle East was disagreeable to many of his non-Arab neighbours. Israel therefore emerged with what came to be known as the "Periphery Strategy", which focused on Ethiopia, Iran and Turkey and even wooed Lebanon's and Sudan's Christian minorities, Iraq's Kurds, and Morocco's Berbers.

WikiLeaks - Over as a “cause celebre”

WikiLeaks - Over as a “cause celebre” Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Antisemitism, International Security, Israel, Turkey, Updates    

There is little doubt that the phenomenon of WikiLeaks has lost the excitement and positive glow it once sparked among journalists, pundits and activists. Infighting in the organisation, the lack of anything terribly surprising in most of the more recent releases of information and the loss of novelty partly explain this change. But the recent "accidental" release of the entire unredacted database of US diplomatic cables not only led to widespread condemnation, but helped put the final nails in the coffin of WikiLeaks as the global "cause celebre" it once was among many, including in Australia.

Now Nick Cohen of the Guardian has written a piece suggesting the possibility that the unredacted cable leak could well have been an intentional act by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange...

What is really behind Israel’s worsening relations with Egypt and Turkey?

What is really behind Israel’s worsening relations with Egypt and Turkey? Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Egypt, Israel, Palestinians, Turkey, Updates    

There is no question that Israel's strategic environment at the moment is looking grimmer than it has in a while. Its long-standing good relations, at times something close to an alliance, with Turkey appear to be history. Meanwhile, following the Cairo embassy attack last Friday, it became clearer than ever that the cold peace that has prevailed between Israel and Egypt for more than 30 years - a core component of Israel's security planning - is at serious risk...

There is a tendency to assume among many editorialists and pundits that this deterioration must have occurred because Israel has supposedly been intransigent, particularly in terms of offering insufficient concessions to the Palestinians.

Noted American journalist Jeffrey Goldberg has pointed out that this automatic, conventional analysis actually has it backwards.

Turkey reaches new level of hypocrisy

Turkey reaches new level of hypocrisy Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Turkey, Updates    

Following the release of the UN "Palmer Report", which vindicated Israel's blockade of Gaza, Turkey has not only rejected the findings of the Report and maintained that Israel's blockade is illegal, but the Turkish government has been engaging in extremely provocative posturing regarding its stance towards Gaza, even threatening what could be construed as an act of war against Israel.

For starters, there was the threat that Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan was to visit Gaza from Egypt on his upcoming trip around the Arab countries in North Africa whose regimes have recently fallen. This embrace of Hamas terrorists has just been revoked, but would have been a snub to the US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority if it had gone ahead. That said, Reuters has reported that Turkey is now threatening to send Turkish warships with any future flotilla to Gaza, in order to "protect them from Israel"...

The Palmer Report into the Gaza Flotilla

The Palmer Report into the Gaza Flotilla Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Turkey, Updates    

Over the weekend, the UN's Palmer Report into the Mavi Marmara maritime incident last May was published - the full report is available to read here, a good summary of its key provisions is here.  That report - which takes Israel's side on most questions relating to the Gaza blockade and the background to the incident - has led to an intensification of the crisis in Israeli Turkish relations - with Turkey expelling the Israeli Ambassador and threatening to cut off trade relations.  The response of the Israeli Government to the report - it was accepted with some reservations - is here.

UN Palmer Report - Blockade of Gaza is Legal

UN Palmer Report - Blockade of Gaza is Legal Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Turkey, United Nations, Updates    

The United Nation's "Palmer Report" into last year's flotilla incident on the Mavi Marmara has vindicated Israel by finding that the naval blockade of the Gaza strip, including Israel's right to enforce the blockade including in international waters is legal under international law and it has also rebutted many of the false assumptions that have been made about the flotilla incident.

The Palmer Report found:

"Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law."

The Palmer Report also urged that all future efforts to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza should be done "through established procedures and the designated land crossings in consultation with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority", discouraging future Gaza flotillas.

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Turkish Troubles

Turkish Troubles Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: Israel, Turkey    

Cabinet divisions over a US-brokered reconciliation deal to resolve the Mavi Marmara crisis, and, it was hoped, allow Turkey and Israel to renew a normal strategic dialogue, have exposed a deep suspicion and distrust in Israeli political circles of Ankara's ruling Islamist government. Prospects for emerging regional realignments once the wider revolutionary turmoil in the region subsides have not dispelled these concerns.

The two countries appear headed down a path of increasing confrontation, following Israel's definitive "No" last month to Turkey's demand for an apology over the May 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla, where violent resistance from mainly Turkish activists led to a clash in which nine activists died aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara.

Double standards - Dead Kurds don't count Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Israel, Turkey, Updates    

Media and NGOs have always been quick to condemn Israel, yet are often silent about real and much more extensive human rights abuses in other countries.

Therefore it should come as no surprise that news that the Turkish military had killed approximately 100 Kurdish people, while wounded more than 80, and done so across an international border was barely reported in the media.

Syrian Dictator clutching at straws?

Syrian Dictator clutching at straws? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Syria, Turkey, Updates    

As a post on the blog Harry's Place notes, with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad running out of things to blame his current predicament on, he appears to be ramping-up violence to compensate. This is characterised by yet another watershed moment in the ongoing turmoil - Assad shelled the city of Latakia from the sea over the weekend, reportedly killing 21 people..

This week has been marked by a turning point in the Syrian uprising.

After playing the terror card, the Palestine card, the resistance card and the sectarian card, and with no sign of the Syrian uprising slowing down, this week the Assad regime has gone for broke by using gun boats to shell the city of Latakia... What do you do after gunboats? Aerial bombing campaigns?

To illustrate the extent to which the Syrian authorities are clutching at straws...

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Syria Under Fire as Assad Slowly Loses Supporters

Syria Under Fire as Assad Slowly Loses Supporters Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Iran, Syria, Turkey, United Nations, Updates    

Another stark reminder of the astounding brutality displayed by the Assad regime in Syria surfaced last week when the Guardian translated and published a harrowing account of Syrian woman Samar Yazbek's shocking torture at the hands of Syrian authorities.

Two huge men entered the room. They stood in readiness, in plainclothes. One of them stood to the right and the other to the left. With a signal from his eyes, each seized me by the shoulders, though not roughly. They seized me as if I were some object, easy for them to move. I did not resist when they started to lift me out of my chair. I even stood up, surprised at what was happening...

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What of Turkey if the Palestinians and Kurds get their way?

What of Turkey if the Palestinians and Kurds get their way? Author: Allon Lee Categories: Iran, Iraq, Israel, Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

If two million Palestinians in the West Bank deserve a state, what of the 18 million Kurds in the region who have endured 100 years of persecution?

This is the tantalising question posed by Israeli analyst Dr. Guy Bechor who argues that Turkey should be careful what it advocates on behalf of Palestinians as it seeks regional popularity and leadership.


Turkish democracy hanging by a thread?

Turkish democracy hanging by a thread? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Turkey, Updates    

While democratic reform seems to have been sweeping the Middle East, the strongest Muslim democracy in the region may have been quietly moving in the opposite direction. This morning's Jerusalem Post editorial took a rather down-beat tone concerning the retirement Friday of several of Turkey's top military officials - the latest episode in the ongoing struggle between the military, the traditional defender of Turkey's secularity, and the soft Islamism of the ruling AKP.

Ominous changes are afoot in the old seat of the Ottoman Empire. In a stunning and unprecedented turn of events, Turkey's entire military brass - including chief-of-staff General Isik Kosaner and the commanders of the army, air force, and navy - resigned en masse Friday. The immediate cause was a crackdown waged by the judiciary on the army's top ranks, which put...

If Assad Falls...

If Assad Falls... Author: Reuel Marc Gerecht Categories: America, Middle East, Syria, Turkey    

The US administration's policy toward Syria is shaping up to be potentially the greatest missed opportunity of Barack Obama's presidency. If Syria were to break the right way and the regime in Damascus were to fall, the most tenacious state-sponsor of terrorism in the Arab world - Teheran's strongest ally and the lifeline to the terrorism-loving Lebanese Hezbollah - would be taken out. Alas, an administration that came into office only a little less eager to engage Damascus than Teheran seems stuck in its stillborn Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the turmoil of the Great Arab Revolt.

Arab Spring yields a Murky Summer

Arab Spring yields a Murky Summer Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: Egypt, Middle East, Syria, Turkey    

The acclaimed "Arab Spring" has given way to a murky summer, dominated by uncertainty, fog and danger as much as democratic hopes, according to academic experts. Some of the movements for reform which blossomed across the region earlier this year may take a long time to mature into democratic regimes resembling those in Eastern Europe which emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Others may simply wilt and decay.

Israeli-Turkish impasse remains as report is delayed for a third time

Israeli-Turkish impasse remains as report is delayed for a third time Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Turkey, United Nations, Updates    

While this year's Gaza flotilla barely caused a stir, the ongoing saga of last year's continues. Last night, the UN's Palmer Commission confirmed rumours that the report that the release of the report they have prepared on last year's effort will again be delayed in the hope that Israel and Turkey will settle their differences. As Herb Keinon reports in The Jerusalem Post:

The United Nations on Monday officially confirmed that the planned release Wednesday of the UN's Palmer Commission report on the Mavi Marmara has been postponed until late August. UN spokesman Martin Nesirky gave no specific date for the much-delayed report, which officials in Jerusalem said on Sunday was now expected on...

Sectarian Explosion beginning in Syria?

Sectarian Explosion beginning in Syria? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

The situation in Syria took an even graver turn yesterday. As the ruling Assad regime continues to brutalise dissenting citizens, some Syrians appear to be lashing out at the regime's minority Alawite sect. In retaliation, several Allawites went on a rampage of their own. Nada Bakri reports in The New York Times:

On Sunday, residents of Homs, Syria's second-largest city, discovered the bodies of three Alawites mutilated and dumped in a deserted area, according to Omar Idlibi of the Local Coordination Committees, a group that helps organize and document protests. All three were armed government loyalists, he said...

AIJAC UPDATE - How the 2011 flotilla flopped/The controversial "anti-boycott" law

AIJAC UPDATE - How the 2011 flotilla flopped/The controversial "anti-boycott" law Categories: Anti-Zionism, Antisemitism, Islamic Extremism, Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria, Turkey, United Nations, Updates    

AIJAC's latest email Update looks at why and how the 2011 Gaza flotilla gambit fizzled out. In contrast to 2010's headline-grabbing political stunt that acted as a Trojan Horse for the Turkish Islamist IHH charity resulting in needless deaths and injuries, this was no replay.

US belatedly condemns Syria as Assad flaunts Western concerns

US belatedly condemns Syria as Assad flaunts Western concerns Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Europe, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

This blog has been following the baffling hesitation that the West has been showing towards making criticisms of the Assad regime in Syria, despite intense crackdowns on civilian protestors, noting how Syria is interpreting this hesitation as a free pass to continue brutalising its civilians.

After months of ongoing strife within the country, the US and French ambassadors both made the decision on Friday to visit the besieged city of Hama, a rebel stronghold on which Syrian troops have been mounting a vicious assault over the last few days. As The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Saturday...

Will the failed flotilla participants change course?

Will the failed flotilla participants change course? Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Anti-Zionism, Iran, Syria, Turkey    

As Stephen Pollard's column in the Guardian explained last night, Israeli diplomacy has all but prevented a repeat of last year's flotilla debacle.

So successful has Israel been in stymieing the flotilla that what is actually setting sail amounts to one small boat with nine activists on board, leaving two weeks late. It is barely worth noting, and poses no threat to the Israeli naval commando unit, Flotilla 13, which played out a range of scenarios in expectation of a more substantial group, from a peaceful takeover of the boats to dealing with activist violence...

Palmer Report will justify legality of the Gaza blockade

Palmer Report will justify legality of the Gaza blockade Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Israel, Turkey, Updates    

Although the UN ‘Palmer report' on last year's Mavi Marmara raid was postponed until July 27 to enable talks to continue between Israel and Turkey, it is expected to justify Israel's blockade of the Gaza strip.

The UN investigative committee was headed by former Prime Minister of New Zealand Sir Geoffrey Palmer who is an expert on maritime law and was established by the UN to examine the Israeli raid on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara in May 2010.

The Jerusalem Post reported on July 7, that Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, commenting on drafts of the Palmer report, indicated the report would rule mostly in favour of Israel. Stenitz stated: "From what we understand, the report justifies the [Gaza] blockade. It says the blockade is legitimate, that Israel took legitimate steps."


Turkish-Israeli Talks - Do they signal a shift?

Turkish-Israeli Talks - Do they signal a shift? Author: Geoffrey Levin Categories: Israel, Middle East, Syria, Turkey, Updates    

While AIJAC has covered news about this summer's attempted Gaza flotilla in several recent posts by Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz and Tzvi Fleischer, the story of last year's flotilla has still not come to an end. Haaretz reported that the release of the UN's report on last year's flotilla incident, due to be issued yesterday, has been postponed until July 27 pending current talks between the two governments.

While the delay itself does not come as a surprise, the fact that the talks are occurring may highlight a major shift in the priorities of the Turkish government and the future of Turkish-Israeli relations. Coming amidst the recent break in relations between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad due to the latter's violent crackdown on protesters, these talks may very well offer the possibility of a turning point that sees Turkish foreign policy somewhat realigning itself with Israel and America and moving further away from the rejectionist front led by Iran. 

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Greek-Israeli Relations at historic high

Greek-Israeli Relations at historic high Author: Geoffrey Levin Categories: Europe, Israel, Turkey, Updates    

In a sign of growing ties, the Israeli and Greek air forces have held a fourteen-day cooperative drill at Greece's Larisa Air Base. Joint drill participants included several elite Israeli squadrons, the IDF's top rescue unit, and their equivalents in the Greek military.

The exercise took place as Greece has been working to stop the second Gaza flotilla from leaving its ports for Gaza. As reported in a recent post by Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz, Greek authorities arrested the captain of one boat several days ago for failing to ensure that the boat had proper safety equipment. More recently, the Greeks proposed a compromise, accepted by the Israeli government, which would involve the Greek government transporting the flotilla's aid to Gaza under UN supervision.

Flotilla will not sail from Greece

Flotilla will not sail from Greece Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Israel, Middle East, Turkey, Updates    

After Greek authorities ordered a directive on Friday that no ship aiming to sail for Gaza be permitted to leave from a Greek port, the captain of the US vessel The Audacity of Hope, deliberately named as an affront to US President Barack Obama, has been arrested - effectively preventing the ship from sailing out of Greece. As Scott Sayare reports in the New York Times:

A judge contended that the boat, The Audacity of Hope, was not carrying proper safety equipment and charged the captain, John Klusmire, with...

Sick No More

Sick No More Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Middle East, Turkey    

"The sick man of Europe," is what one Russian Tsar called the declining Ottoman Empire, alluding to its rapidly shrinking domains and ballooning debts.

Today, less than a century after the Ottoman Caliphate was succeeded by a post-imperial, secularist, and introverted republic, Turkey is reasserting itself as an economic, political, and diplomatic force to reckon with. These efforts are embodied in the character, record, and visions of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


Gaza flotilla blind to Hamas

Gaza flotilla blind to Hamas Author: Arsen Ostrovsky Categories: Australasia, Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians, Turkey    

NEXT week a flotilla carrying so-called activists from various countries under the guise of "humanitarian concern" will set sail for the Gaza Strip, determined to break what they call "the siege of Gaza". Four Australians, including former Greens MLC Sylvia Hale, will be aboard.

This latest anti-Israel provocation comes on the anniversary of last year's ostensibly "humanitarian" flotilla which, likewise, sought to breach Israel's legal naval blockade of Gaza.

During that incident, nine Turkish passengers on board the Mavi Marmara died following a premeditated and vicious attack on Israeli soldiers by a group of shipboard activists.

Last year's flotilla was organised by the Turkish group IHH, which has extensive links to Islamist terror groups, including Hamas. Although IHH has now pulled out of the upcoming flotilla, citing "technical reasons", it has nonetheless been extensively involved in its preparations.

In a press release a few weeks ago, the Australian contingent said their goal was to "break the Israeli blockade of Gaza".

They believe that "Gaza will not be free so long as the Israeli siege destroys the territory's economy".

No, Gaza will not be free so long as Hamas continues to control the Gaza Strip. But then again, there was not a single mention of Hamas in their press release. Why?


Turkey's Election outcome/Lebanon's Hezbollah-dominated government

Turkey's Election outcome/Lebanon's Hezbollah-dominated government Categories: Lebanon, Turkey, Updates    

This Update focuses on the outcome of the Turkish election on Sunday, while also offering expert comments on the new Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese cabinet.

First up is Soner Cagaptay, an analyst focussing on Turkey at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Cagaptay highlights some of the problems with the past 8 years of rule in Turkey by the Islamist-leaning AKP party of PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, especially its legal persecution of journalists and media outlets critical of the government, and other illiberal means to suppress political opposition. But he is optimistic that the failure of the ruling party to gain enough seats to change the constitution or pass major legislation unassisted may mean it will compromise with the reformed and increasingly liberal opposition CHP party.

The Latest IAEA Report on Iran/ Turkey's Referendum Categories: Iran, Turkey, Updates    

As noted in the previous Update, last week the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) revealed some frightening information on Iran's nuclear program in connection within their latest quarterly report - including that Iran has perhaps three bombs worth of low-enriched uranium and has passed the crucial technical hurdle of enriching uranium to 20%.

Scribblings: The BBC Pre-empts Flotilla Inquiries Author: Tzvi Fleischer Categories: Israel, Middle East, Palestinians, Terrorism, Turkey    

Israelis have been much focused in recent weeks on the testimony of various top officials to the Turkel inquiry - looking into the flotilla clash off Gaza on May 31 that left nine Turkish activists dead. On top of this, the Israeli government has made an unprecedented decision to cooperate with an inquiry under former New Zealand PM Geoffrey Palmer set up by the UN Secretary-General.

Essay: The Turning of Turkey

Essay: The Turning of Turkey Author: Abigail Chernick Categories: Iran, Israel, Middle East, Syria, Turkey    

Since its decisive re-election in 2007, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been re-aligning the country's foreign policy. Under Erdogan's governance, Turkey has been moving away from its 20th century Western orientation and towards an alliance with Iran, Syria and their proxies. But with the upcoming 2011 elections, hope remains for a retreat from these policies and re-alignment with the West, especially if the US and the EU move quickly to demonstrate to the Turkish people what the costs of such a permanent change of alignment would be.

Flotilla Military Probe Outcome/ Gaza revisited Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Turkey, Updates    

This Update features a look at the details that have been released from Israel's military investigation into the Gaza flotilla incident on May 30 (obviously, the major state inquiry led by Justice Turkel is still under way, as is an investigation by Israel's Controller-General.) It also includes some additional examinations of the situation in Gaza more than a month after the flotilla incident.

Editorial: The Truth About Gaza Author: Colin Rubenstein Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Turkey    

There could be few greater blows to peace hopes than an unconditional lifting of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Empowered by Iranian funds, expertise and armaments, Hamas would become much better able to take on both Israel and the PA, with its reputation vastly enhanced. Hezbollah in non-blockaded Lebanon, now armed with Scuds and other advanced weaponry, would be the model.

Print edition

Collateral Damage Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Palestinians, Turkey    

There is general agreement here that Israel has made mistakes before and during its navy's May 31 fatal clash with the flotilla's main vessel some 100 kilometres into the Mediterranean, southwest of Tel Aviv. However, there is also general agreement that the broader picture is about tectonic movements that Israel in no way caused, and whose damage it must prevent. In the narrow military sense, the IDF concedes it walked into an ambush, when it landed a minimally armed and vastly outnumbered commando squadron into a mob wielding iron bars, axes, clubs and knives. The subsequent battle, which left nine of the boat's 600 passengers dead and eight of the 50 commandos who confronted them wounded – caught Israel off guard militarily, politically and strategically. The military failure, Israeli experts generally agree, was not in terms of the battle's management once it had erupted. On the contrary, for a small unit that boarded the ship incrementally with the naïve plan of paintballing a crowd of presumably non-violent activists, the troops' performance was actually impressive. The speed, poise and efficiency with which they shifted to battle mode were proof that the IDF’s naval commando is as resourceful and well trained as he is widely assumed to be. The problem was in the intelligence.

Turkey, Israel and the West Author: Soner Cagaptay Categories: Islamic Extremism, Turkey    

Ever since the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) assumed power in 2002, Turkish foreign policy has made a 180-degree turn. The country's once-strong ties with the United States and Israel have been weakened, and entry talks with the European Union have stalled while Ankara has come to the defence of the Iranian nuclear program and Hamas. The reason for this shift is simple: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government believe that Samuel Huntington was right, that there is a clash of civilisations. Only they are on the side of the Islamists, not the West.

Israel's Gaza Flotilla Inquiry Categories: Israel, Palestinians, Turkey, Updates    

This Update focuses on some of the details of the Israeli decision to appoint an independent public Commission of Inquiry to look into the events of May 31, when 9 Turkish citizens were killed in a clash at sea as Israeli forces attempted to halt six ships running the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Tales of violence on the high seas lack context

Tales of violence on the high seas lack context Author: Lauren Jones Categories: Islamic Extremism, Israel, Op-eds, Palestinians, Turkey    

That five of the six boats were taken peaceably indicates that Israel never intended to harm any civilians. Israel was wise enough to film the incident, thereby providing irrefutable evidence that its soldiers were attacked first, and acted in self defence. Fortunately, the violence was confined to one boat and the aid on board the flotilla will reach Gaza in one piece.