By BURAK BEKDIL—
Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, expressed pride on Nov. 11, that “Turkey was the loudest voice against Israel’s actions.”
“From here, I once more call on Israel and Israel’s brutal rulers: Don’t you dare considering resuming these attacks against al-Quds and the al-Aqsa Mosque, regarding … internal turmoil and tension in the Islamic world as an opportunity. Even if everyone remains silent, the government of the Republic of Turkey will not keep silent,” Davutoglu said.
“Moses is Moses, Jesus is Jesus and business is business,” a Western ambassador in Ankara said after shyly smiling at Davutoglu’s televised speech. He was right.
In a recent article in this journal, this author reminded that:
“At an international donors’ conference for Gaza in March 2009, the Turkish pledges stood at a mere $93 million. That pledge accounted for only 2.1 percent of all international pledges made at that conference.
$32 million had been collected in Turkey for Gaza for humanitarian aid. Thirty-two million dollars make 0.00004 percent of the world’s 17th biggest economy.”
Apparently, Turkey is not the only country reflecting the Islamist hypocrisy when it comes to trafficking money with the Palestinians — and Israelis.
As recently highlighted in an article in The Times of Israel, official data tells of a booming, but very discreet, trade relationship, blossoming between Israel and Malaysia — another “loud voice against Israel and a benefactor for the ‘Palestinian cause.'”
Total trade between the two countries in 2013 reached $1.529 billion, almost double that of 2012. This figure consists mostly of Israeli exports, at $1.457 billion, or 95 percent of the whole two-way trade. By contrast, Malaysia’s foreign trade figures do not carry any mention of Israel at all. In its annual data for 2012, for instance, trade with Israel is included in an entry for “other countries.”
Turkey, which, unlike Malaysia, openly trades with Israel instead of hush-hush exchanges, tells a similar story. Calls and campaigns against Israeli-made commodities and companies allegedly owned by Jewish businessmen, including Turkish Jews, fill Islamist newspaper pages every day. They also make popular themes on social media.
“The best way to defeat your rivals these days is to trigger a campaign linking them to Israel and/or Jewry,” jokes a Turkish businessman.
One of Turkey’s biggest private banks discreetly stopped sponsoring Turkish Jews’ social and cultural activities in the past few years, privately apologizing to them and pointing a half-visible finger to the government.
But the Western diplomat is right: Business is business.
In an interview with Turkey’s biggest newspaper, Hurriyet, Israel’s top-ranking diplomat in Turkey said that commercial and economic relations between Israel and Turkey reached a peak in 2014 .
“We reached $5 billion of trade volume in 2013 in bilateral trade and we are looking at a growth of five percent in 2014. This was the largest amount of trade between the two countries in years. The growth from 2013 to 2014 is from $4 billion to $5 billion. So there was 25 percent growth in one year. Dozens of Turkish businessmen are going to Israel for business each day,” said Shai Cohen, Israel’s consul-general in Istanbul. But there is more.
Turkey’s top tourism association has announced 2015 as the “Year of Jerusalem,” aiming to send around 100,000 Turkish tourists to the Holy City over the course of the year to contribute to “peace-making efforts there.”
“One of the synonyms of tourism is peace. We want to make a contribution to maintaining peace in Jerusalem by increasing the number of tourists there,” said the head of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TURSAB), Basaran Ulusoy.
The target figure is a tall order compared to only around 15,000 Turkish tourists having visited Jerusalem this year. More ambitiously, TURSAB says it aims to boost this number through coordination with the Tourism Ministry.
It will be interesting to see what kind of governmental support the Turkish tour operators will receive from the government to send 100,000 Turks to a city that Ankara claims “must be liberated” — that is, handed over to the Palestinians. But TURSAB says it will reach the target figure by preparing special package tours to Jerusalem with “promotional support” from the government. Looks like a real challenge.
Meanwhile, Turkish official statistics show that in 2013, 24,000 Turkish tourists visited Israel, including day visitors and cruise tourists, the highest ever figure.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.