When Sunday night’s Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid ship left a large number of civilian aid workers, including at least eight Turkish citizens, slain and a large number wounded, the Turkish population was understandably angry and, like much of the world, protested the incident.
But somehow it seems that Israel, not Turkey, feels the more aggrieved by the Israeli massacre, and Israelis were out in force nationwide, protesting in favor of the killings.
Read that again: protesting in favor of the killings. Jingoism is alive and well in Israel, and while it has ceased to become surprising when Israelis rally in favor of aggressive wars, few really anticipated the breadth of Israeli support for a military attack on a civilian aid ship and the killing of large numbers of civilian aid workers.
The response of Israel’s far-right coalition government, a combination of restrained jubilation and faux outrage that the rest of the world could feel anything else, has done it immeasurable harm the world over since the massacre, but combined with a vigorous military censorship regime it seems to have succeeded in convincing the Israeli public, or at least a large portion of them, that attacking a civilian aid ship was not only a necessary evil but actually a laudable act, a matter of national pride.
Israel’s ability to spin a flotilla full of medical aid as an “existential threat” is unsurprising, of course. After all, Israeli society has been easily convinced in recent years that both video iPods and leavened bread posed similar threats to the very existance of the nation-state. The ability to spin longtime ally Turkey as the real villain and even a new enemy of epic proportions.
Israeli protesters condemned Turkish Prime Minister Edrogan as a “terrorist” and held up photos of him with a drawn-on Hitler-mustache. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman took a surprisingly angry swipe at Turkey as well, insisting Turkey was “wholly to blame” for the tensions and likening them to Iran.
Turko-Israeli relations have been on the downslope for quite some time, with some decidedly petty but high profile incidents fueling tensions. Hawkish anger over Turkey’s recent attempts to stave off war with Iran is also palpable. Yet it seems that “fury” over Turkey not taking the massacring of its civilians with good natured aplomb may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
The loss of Turkey as an ally could be costly for Israel, analysts warn, and attempts to put Turkey into the “enemy camp” could be disastrous, as Turkey remains a key member of NATO. Though some will need little convincing to put Turkey into the role of villain, the wisdom of doing so will remain in doubt.