It has been exactly one year since the Mavi Marmara flotilla and its tragic end, but great developments have happened in this year as well. The Rafah border is now open for Gazans, there is a unity deal between Fatah and Hamas, and the elite corruption has been revealed thanks to the Palestine Papers, which hopefully will force Palestinian politicians to become more accountable towards the public. However, Turkish-Israeli relations came to a halt due to the escalated crisis. Unfortunately, not only on a level of politics but also on the level of masses, there is anger on both sides. While Turkish society was mourning its 9 deaths, Israelis were condemning Turks for supporting the so-called terrorism. Not only pious Turks or Islamist have mourned for these people who were killed under the Israeli fire. Most of the public denounced the Israeli coercion, and piracy in the international waters. It seems as though international law has been violated countless times by Israel. It is ironic that the country with most UNSC resolution violations is Israel… followed by Turkey. The humanitarian aspect of the crisis was much more vociferously underlined. And now, after exactly one year, Turks were on the streets. It was impossible to count the crowd, yet it was probably as high as people protesting the internet bans two weeks ago.
My first impression was about how solid and organized the whole protest was. After just a few minutes, I could see why; there were volunteers from IHH, the humanitarian charity which organized the flotilla. They were wearing white vests and white hats, organizing people and lining them up. The protest was not chaotic at all. IHH has been notorious. It has been said that IHH was ‘helping and assisting Islamic terrorism ‘. I don’t think it is coincidental that all the fuss about IHH started right after the flotilla. IHH has been active for many years all around the world and not even once it was called ‘terroristic’ before the flotilla crisis. But, I guess terrorism and especially ‘Islamic terrorism’ is a great way to manipulate perceptions, especially after 9/11. Unfortunately, the masses organized under IHH that I saw today was somewhat indirectly supporting this argument about their nature. The masses were obviously very much anti-Zionist and anti-Israeli. Rather than mourning for 9 activists who were massacred, it was more of a ‘we will take our revenge’ protest going on. A slogan I remember was ‘Muslims are supporting Hamas, shoot Israel! We are with you!’. Nobody seemed to discern Israeli state from its people. On the contrary, most of the slogans and chants were blurring the line between the state and people. Similarly, a week ago, an Israeli theatre company, Cameri, known for its pro-peace stance, had to cancel a play in Antalya. The reason was lack of security and planned protests against the company. Rather than trying to understand the other side of the conflict, it seems that Turks, especially Islamic activists, are distancing themselves from the other. Which means that the conflict will probably escalate for a while. This somewhat reminded me of the twisted mindset which argued; ‘Palestinians voted for Hamas, Hamas kills Israeli civilians. Ergo, Gazan civilians are as guilty’ when I was complaining about the excessive use of force and civilian deaths back in 2008 Gaza War. Is it really too much to ask for to separate truth from fiction when angry masses march.?
It is possible that there will be a new flotilla in the upcoming weeks. I don’t even want to think about what is going to happen. The best case scenario: Israeli state will forcibly drag ships to the port of Ashdod and then send them back to where they come from. Maybe I’m drawing a bleak picture but I don’t think its even possible for those activists to assist and give much needed materials to the Gazan people. I hope I’m wrong and I don’t even want to talk about worse scenarios.
All in all, it was possible to see the hatred of people against the Israeli state today. It is unfortunate when nine activists are killed and tragedy turns to hate. Yet, it is crucial for the masses to live their sadness with dignity, without shedding blood or using force. Today, there were more protestors who came to ‘become new martyrs’ than people who came to mourn for their losses. I hope one day angry masses can also show the world that they have a right to mourn behind those who passed away. All in all, it was interesting to see once again that Turks are opening themselves to their close surrounding. Not only Islamic activists but I have witnessed many different groups empathizing with ‘the other’, and today was just one example.
For more of Kerem’s writing, check his blog http://www.allaboutmideast.com/
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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