Nasser…al-Khomeini…Saddam Hussein…Ahmadinejad. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has now found his name forcibly added to this list following his latest crisis with Israel due to the Arab and Islamic people’s admiration of his humanitarian and honorable position against the Gaza blockade. In my opinion, this is an attempt to overlook, disregard, or play down the honorable stance taken by this courageous leader. In the Arab and Islamic world, excessive popular sentiment occasionally results in the public blindly and mistakenly supporting one leader or another. This was the case following Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait and Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory remarks towards Israel, with the public completely forgetting Saddam Hussein’s autocratic and violent nature, and Ahmadinejad’s silence and submissiveness towards the US’s occupation of Iraq.
However if we dig a little deeper into this phenomenon of popular sentiment we would find that this centers upon the public’s desire for anybody to confronts Israeli arrogance “by any means necessary” and so they do not look too closely at the leaders or flags of those who do so. This can be seen in the huge number of people who expressed their support for the Shiite Ayatollah al-Khomeini after he severed relations with Israel in favor of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in the early 1980s, and so the public sided with him in his war with bitter enemy Saddam Hussein. However it was this same public who supported the Baathist Sunni Saddam Hussein in the 1990s. Both of the above positions which were adopted by the public at the time were wrong, however it would also be wrong and unfair to assassinate any strong public sentiment and continually proclaim this to be wrong and consider all those who hold and support this sentiment to be agitators or irrational without carefully examining this sentiment, in the same manner that some analysts have examined Erdogan’s position. There are heavyweight Arab and Islamic leaders who gained enormous support across the Islamic world but who cannot be included in the above list, such as renowned Islamic leader King Faisal Bin Abdulaziz – may God have mercy on him – who courageously brandished Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth as a weapon against the blatant western bias towards Israel. Another example is the former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed, the courageous Asian tiger who adopted brave and resolute positions against Israel and against the US policies in the region. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is certainly closer to the previous two honorable and respectable examples.
When we call for a strong stance against Israeli arrogance or the unjust US bias towards Israel, this does not mean provoking a crisis in international relations or harming one’s interests, nor does it mean inciting public sentiment through Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory provocations or Saddam’s provocative statements. Rather what we are talking about is a strong Arab and Islamic stance which explicitly says “No” to Israel’s policies, and America’s unjust bias towards Tel Aviv. This is because the Israeli injustice towards the Palestinians in general and the Gazans in particular, is something that can no longer be tolerated. We are talking about political positions whose consequences and aims have been carefully studied and analyzed in the same manner as Mahathir Mohamed carefully studied his political choices which achieved brilliant results, and as Erdogan is currently doing today against the unjust Israeli blockade of Gaza. By any standard, the cunning Erdogan has achieved political and media victories in support of the Palestinian Cause, and so the Gaza blockade is now top of the agenda for all those concerned with the Arab – Israeli conflict, after the Palestinian issue was close to being completely forgotten. Erdogan also achieved victories for himself, his country, and his agenda, and backed Israel into a corner with his humanitarian flotilla, provoking international anger and indignation at Israel’s behavior. Erdogan was not reckless when sending the humanitarian flotilla to break the Gaza blockade, and we did not hear any tense or inflammatory statements against Israel or the West. Rather all that Erdogan did was act on behalf of a billion Muslims and Arabs by saying “No” to the Gaza blockade, and this is a rejection that has echoed throughout the world.
If the Arab and Islamic world was full of strong, rational, and carefully considered positions against the Zionist arrogance, and if intelligent rejection in the “Erdogan/Mahathir Mohamed” manner against the biased US and western policies towards Israel is raised, then this is more than enough for us to make some gains for the Palestinian Cause.