People above Politics: Political Deal will not Hamper the Turkish-Palestinian Bond
04 August 2016
By Ramzy Baroud
Hyped emotions, and political opportunism aside, the Israel-Turkey
normalization deal, signed on June 27 is unfavorable for Palestinians and
for Gazans, in particular.
There is much that is being said to blame Turkey or placate the damage of
seeing Turkey which has for years been one of the most visible backers of
Palestinian Resistance reaching out to Israel. Yet, no amount of text,
statements and press releases can diminish the psychological defeat felt in
Gaza following the announcement.
Gazans are emotionally exhausted after ten years of siege, dotted by
devastating wars and the lack of any political horizon. Aside from their
resistance, undying faith and legendary steadfastness, Palestinians in Gaza
have looked up with much hope and anticipation to a few friends. One was
The relationship was cemented in May 2010, when Israeli commandos raided the
'Freedom Flotilla' in international waters, killing nine Turkish humanitarian
activists aboard the 'MV Mavi Marmara'. A tenth activist died later from his
wounds. Since then, many Palestinians, as well as many Turks, have felt that
the relationship between Palestine and Turkey entered a new phase, not that of
words, but deeds. They had more in common than sentimental gestures of
friendship, now, blood and tears.
There is no question that Turkey, an important NATO member and an American
ally in the region, has been under much pressure since it demoted its
diplomatic ties with Israel in 2011. But the fact is, normalizing ties with
Israel without the latter lifting the suffocating and deadly siege on Gaza was
not a criterion for Turkey. Neither the Turkish economy, political stability
nor national security was exceedingly damaged by the Turkey-Israel rift.
The little known fact is that the rift hardly affected trade between both
countries. ''Though political relations had hit rock bottom, both Turkey and
Israel knew business must go on,'' Turkey's TRT World recently reported.
''Business and politics were separated by a Chinese-Wall like efficiency.
Trade not only continued, but expanded by 26% compared to 2010.''
Moreover, 2013 and 2014 were one of the busiest years for Turkish Airlines
carrying passengers between Turkey and Israel and, in 2015, trade between both
countries had risen to $5.6 billion, according to Turkish Statistics
Institute, cited in TRT.
Still, thanks to what seemed like a principled Turkish position on Gaza,
Turkey's status, at least among Muslim nations, has been elevated like never
Perhaps, Turkey has felt embattled as a result of the war on Syria, the rise
of militant violence, uncertain economic forecast, the flood of refugees, its
conflict with Russia and the political crack within its ruling party. But
Palestinians have played no part in that.
If Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, felt the need to re-evaluate
his political course as a result of whichever political calculation he found
urgent and reasonable, what sin did Gazans commit to be disowned in such a
It is a ''stab in the back'', Gaza Professor Haidar Eid wrote. It is a ''cheap
manipulation of the Palestinian cause,'' complained Gaza journalist, Ghada
Albardawil. While others tried to maintain conciliatory language, the
disappointment in Gaza in fact, among most Palestinians is unmistakable.
Gaza-based Dr. Ahmad Yousef refused to blame Turkey for failing to lift the
siege. Yousef, who is also the former political adviser to Hamas' Gaza leader,
Ismail Haniyeh, told Al-Monitor that ''Hamas believes that, under the
Turkish-Israeli agreement, Turkey achieved as much as it can to ease the
blockade on Gaza, which has been plagued by economic crises.''
This reasoning, however well-intentioned, is off the mark. Turkey, of course,
cannot be blamed for the failure to lift the siege. The siege is an Israeli
one, and its deadly outcomes are the moral and legal responsibility of Israel,
its regional partners and western supporters.
However, it is still incumbent on Turkey, as it is on every other country in
the world, not to do business with a government accused of war crimes,
including that of Crime of Apartheid, in addition to its continued violations
of international and humanitarian law.
With Israel illegally occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem (Al-Quds) and
imposing a deadly siege on Gaza, what moral justifications can the Turkish
government provide to justify its normalization of ties with Israel?
Not only does the agreement ensure the families of the 10 Turkish victims
(considered 'martyrs' by Palestinians) will be denied the right to legally
pursue criminal charges against their Israeli murderers, thousands of
Palestinian families, too, will have no such chance.
In other words, business as usual will return to the Turkish-Israeli
relations, while Gazans are trapped behind fences, walls and barbered wire.
Those who wish to see the cup half full, cite the fact that Gaza will be
receiving tons of Turkish aid, a future hospital with the capacity to hold 200
beds and a water desalination plant especially when considering that only 3
percent of Gaza's water is actually drinkable.
But the supplies will be routed via an Israeli seaport which is exactly what
the 'Mavi Marmara' activists refused to do. The political move would further
validate the Israeli Occupation, and the siege apparatus as well.
Worse, this arrangement if it is, indeed, fulfilled would reduce the
crisis in Gaza to that of a humanitarian one. But this is not the case. Gaza
is not just suffering from an economic embargo, but a politically-motivated
blockade following the 2006 democratic elections in Palestine, the result of
which was rejected by Israel and its backers.
Gazans are punished purely as a result of a political question and, later, for
their resistance and refusal to succumb to pressure and bullying. Neither
foodstuff, nor a hospital or cleaner water will resolve any of these dilemmas.
When Israeli commandos violently raided the 'Freedom Flotilla' in May 2010,
something extraordinary happened in Gaza: a deep sense of loss, but also a
sense of pride. It was the first time that this generation experienced real
solidarity emanating from a Muslim country, exhibited with such resolution and
willingness to sacrifice.
For years, many in Gaza were partly sustained by the hope that Turkey would
maintain its support (as Palestinians were promised repeatedly) until the
siege is lifted.
This has not been actualized. Moreover, Israel is expected to generate massive
wealth as a result of the deal, especially when it is able to export its
natural gas to Europe, via Turkey.
But if this is not entirely about money, at least from the Turkish
perspective, what is it, then? A Turkish foreign policy realignment? A return
to the 'zero problems with our neighbors' approach to foreign policy? Whatever
it is, seeing the hopes in Gaza dashed under the crushing weight of
realpolitik is disheartening.
No matter that some are proposing to sugarcoat the Israel-Turkey
rapprochement, the deal was a blow to Palestinian hopes that their siege was
about to end, that they were no longer alone facing Israel's military machine
and its powerful western benefactors.
Perhaps the deal is also a wake-up call that Palestinians must count on
themselves first and foremost, achieve their elusive unity and seek solidarity
the world over.
Nevertheless, even this unfair deal cannot possibly break the bond between the
Turkish and Palestinian people. 'Blood is thicker than water', they say. And
they are right.
Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20
years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an
author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books
include Searching Jenin', The Second Palestinian Intifada' and his latest
'My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story'. His website is: