Turkey — the Muslim anchor of NATO with a long history of secularism — is straying from its roots. The Turkish government, controlled by the Islamic Justice and Development Party and led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has slowly gravitated away from the West and towards the Islamic world. As its bid to join the EU has been stalled, Turkey has begun to abandon the dream of its founder, Ataturk, who envisioned his nation as a secular, Western democracy and has instead focused on becoming the core state of Islamic civilization. In the process, it has alienated the United States on many issues and ruptured its strategic alliance with Israel.
Erdogan has treated the Jewish State — with which Turkey did $2.5 billion of trade in 2008 — with atrocious disrespect. Last year, he ambushed Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Davos Economic Summit, telling him “that you are killing people,” in response to Israel’s 2009 defensive war in Gaza. This year Turkey allowed a flotilla of so-called peace activists seeking to provoke a confrontation with Israel over its blockade of the terrorist-run Gaza Strip to sail under its flag. When nine of said activists were killed after trying to lynch IDF personnel in a scuffle on the Turkish flagship, the Mavi Marmara, it was Turkey that reacted with indignation. Erdogan labeled the Jewish State ” a state sponsor of terrorism,” his government downgraded diplomatic relationships with it, and it is now pressing the UN Security Council to open an international investigation — a euphemism for a lynching of Israel — into the flotilla crisis.
From Erdogan’s previous behavior one might not guess that a state sponsor of terrorism was not welcome in Ankara. After all, didn’t Turkey and Brazil (to the chagrin of the US) vote against sanctioning Iran — the state sponsor of terrorism — for its nuclear program. And doesn’t the prime minister have a warm relationship with the genocidal leader of Sudan, Omar Bashir, who is wanted by the Hague for crimes against humanity. This willingness to overlook the wrongdoings of Muslim leaders and governments reflects a disturbing double standard on Turkey’s part.
Indeed, Turkey doesn’t exactly have its house in order when it comes to human rights violations. It still will not come to terms with its bloody past, which is shown by its refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide that took two million lives, and its horrendous treatment of ethnic minorities. And while Erdogan tears up for the people of Gaza, there is no end in sight to the Turkish occupation of the northern half of Cyprus.
Its friendship with the US is also fraying. As aforementioned, it refused to support sanctions against Iran, for which America has tirelessly campaigned. It has been hesitant to allow the US to build military bases on Turkish soil. Lastly, as described in The New York Times, it has gone off message and undermined American foreign policy objectives in the region.
Turkey’s slide into Islamism and its drift away from the West and the United States is cause for alarm. America should respond by reaching out to secular elements within the government, like the military, and putting pressure on the civilian leadership in Ankara to correct its behavior. Europe should be more forbearing when it comes to Turkey’s EU bid and use that desire as a way to keep that country from going down a more fundamentalist path. Israel must stand its ground and not give into ridiculous Turkish demands. Finally, the people of Turkey, with their long history of tolerance, must decide whether this is the future they want. If not, it is their responsibility to bring their discontent to the ballot box and oust this government from power.