Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Turkey refuses to lie down

It's great to hear that Turkey is standing up for itself in various spats with Israel, refusing to let its diplomats be humiliated in a row about how Israel is depicted in two different dramas on Turkish TV. Turkey says it is upholding its right to free speech and that what is inside its borders is none of Israel's business. Israel responds by summoning the Ambassador and belittling him publicly, and Turkey demands an unequivocal apology or it will break diplomatic relations tomorrow.
Turkey could be a major player in the liberation of Gaza. A Turkish NGO, but accompanied by many Turkish MPs, was on the Viva Palestina convoy, and it was the same Turkish NGO that procured the very expensive ferry that took the 200 vehicles to El Arish from Syria by sea after Egypt changed its mind at the last minute and sent the convoy back by this route. The Turks have a particular bee in their bonnet about Gaza, so the fact that the Government supported NGO have signed up to send two boats on the next FreeGaza voyage from Cyprus to Gaza is really exciting.
The Turkish boats will not be allowed to dock in Greek Cyprus because the G Cypriots do not recognise the breakaway Turkish sponsored state of North Cyprus. The EU has been trying to broker a peace deal, prior to the Greek part becoming part of the EU, but although the Turks voted overwhelmingly for it, the Greeks voted it down. As a result, only the Greek part was admitted to the EU.
So the Turkish boats will presumably travel separately and join at sea. The Cypriots, however, a small nation without much in the way of a Navy, are getting pissed off at the way that Israel has been stopping the FreeGaza boats, which their little government has invested a lot of time into. And as it stands, there is nothing to stop the Israelis arresting the whole flotilla of an expected six boats, just as they arrested or rammed various previous boats.
A Turkish Warship might stop them!
Turkey has a legitimate interest in this area and if a warship accompanied the boats, it would only be in accord with international law and the Geneva Conventions, which make it Israel's responsibility to allow the places they occupy to have a normal life, and failing which, anyone can legally run the blockade to relieve the humanitarian problems so created.
Turkey would be protecting its own merchant shipping, and would surely score Brownie points with G Cyprus for helping their boats too. As a major power in the area, Turkey cannot be simply overridden and ignored like Cyprus or even Greece - the flag of the last boat captured. The UK and US could hardly protest, since they proclaim a wish to lift the siege, and the reaction would be very interesting, to say the least.
Am I dreaming? Maybe, military brinkmanship can never be desirable, and responsible nations do not enter into it lightly - that's why we're so angry with Blair, who did. And the ISM, the ideology behind the FreeGaza group, are a non-violent movement that would prefer to sail to Gaza with a cargo of humanity so valuable that Israel dare not stop it without raising the wroth of the world. The ISM will work with everyone, but will not put itself under obligation to anyone, party or state. I doubt that FreeGaza will 'sign-up' to Turkish protection.
On the other hand, Israel is positively reckless in its military adventures, not just in its 'own' occupied territories, but in Lebanon, which it overflies daily, and in bombing Iran and Iraq and Syria; not to mention the assassination squads of which it is so proud, and which have killed many innocent people and snatched Vanunu (the man who told us about Israeli Nuclear Weapons) back from political Asylum in the UK and imprisoned him for life. And the world has so far failed to act even when hundreds of Europeans, including MPs, get attacked or arrested by Israel or by Egypt on their behalf. The UK Government failed to respond to MPs who asked that the Government protest to Israel when a British registered FreeGaza boat was rammed in what was clearly international waters. The impunity of the Israeli Military has to end, and I dare to hope that the present row over the content of Turkish television soaps may yet provide the Causus Belli for Turkey, already seething about the lack of substance in the condemnation of Israel over Gaza. Actually, there's a lot that can be done that's less than a warship.
With the next FreeGaza fleet scheduled to sail in the spring, I hope for interesting times.