Minding the power of rhetoric

Minding the power of rhetoric

No newspaper in Turkey has acted earlier or more strongly than the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in questioning the danger of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s anti-Israel rhetoric during and in the aftermath of the latest Gaza war.

In recent days, much attention in the Turkish and international media has turned to the connection between this rhetoric and evidence of rising anti-semitism in Turkey. Members of Turkey’s Jewish community have spoken out and international reaction is clearly growing. At a fundamental level of public perception, the boundary lines between the state of Israel and the race and religion of Judaism have been blurred.

We share this concern. In our weekend edition, we explored the many implications of what has taken place with the highly symbolic embrace of Hamas and its cause by Erdoğan and his regional policy architect, Ahmet Davutoğlu. This debate is sure to linger. We retreat from none of our criticisms of our prime minister. Nor have we in any way modified our view of Hamas as a dangerous and irresponsible organization. But now we see another danger.

Much of the criticism now raining upon the prime minister and his administration equates, explicitly or implicitly, a recognition of Hamas with anti-semitism. Comments over the weekend by Daniel Mariaschin of venerable Jewish organization B’nai B’rith certainly were in this vein. This is wrong. Two former heads of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, have in the past called for Hamas to be brought into the negotiation process.

Less than a year ago, some 64 percent of Israelis, according to a poll by the newspaper Haaretz, said they would negotiate directly with Hamas if it would end those rocket attacks that ultimately became a principal cause of the war. Last April, Seymour D. Reich, the president of the New York-based Israel Policy Forum and past chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, called for as much. His commentary, “Finding a way to bring Hamas in,” is available at www.israelpolicyforum.org. It is tragic that Turkey has squandered its credibility, that its regional role will unquestionably be diminished by the tone of thoughtless political rhetoric. But the basic policy prescription advocated before the war by Erdoğan and Davutoğlu is not appreciably different than that sought by many responsible Israelis and friends of Israel.

We are hopeful that what Hamas has reportedly called a “hudna,” and that what elsewhere has been called a “long-term armistice” may provide the basis for steps that will lead to the long-sought “two-state solution,” to security for Israel and justice for all Palestinians. If this is to happen, Hamas will have to be at the table. Erdoğan is right to say so. And his advocacy of such should never be held up as evidence of anti-semitism.