Many people attribute the strong statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following Israel’s attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, solely to the man’s courage. In order for us to be like Erdogan, they think, we simply need to attack Israel with speeches and powerful slogans as is the habit of some media professionals in times of crises. Those very same media professionals had previously insulted the Palestinians when some Gazans entered into Egyptian territory, remained silent when the Rafah border crossing remained closed for no clear reason, and attacked the peace activists who came to Egypt to express solidarity with the besieged Gazans.
When everybody started attacking Israel recently, these media figures joined the bandwagon, believing that by so makes them as brave as the Turkish Prime Minister. The crucial difference though is that Erdogan acts upon his words.
In his statement before parliament last week, Erdogan said that Israel would have to pay for Turkish blood spilled in the attack, and that defending a cause as just–both ethically and politically–as the Palestinian issue does not mean condemning Judaism as a creed. Erdogan criticized Israel severely yet responsibly in a manner that led the international community to support an independent investigation into the attack; which if launched will surely indict Israel.
Turkey dispatched medically-equipped airplanes into Israel to treat its injured activists, proudly refusing to let Israel provide health services to its citizens. This is a scenario we do not see very often in Egypt, unless the injured victims are tourists or perhaps senior officials.
Erdogan’s statements are beyond mere rhetoric, unlike the speeches by several of our Arab leaders. His government has made considerable economic achievements in the past six years, introduced political and democratic reforms, and managed to separate religion from the state even though Erdogan’s party is Islamic. That is why Turkey has gained respect and credibility, even when in conflict with Israel.
Erdogan’s Turkey is aware of the meaning of national reconciliation; despite differences among members of its political elite, radical secularists did not rejoice over the death of Turkey’s Islamist activists. On the contrary, they considered them Turkish heroes and urged the government to punish Israel.
In Egypt, the government would not have bothered to take action had those injured on the flotilla been Egyptians. This is not only because Egyptian activists on the flotilla were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, but simply because they are “Egyptian citizens”.
We still seem to think that chanting slogans and expressing good intentions is the road to democracy, progress and confronting Israel. Turkey, on the other hand, has realized that being a strong nation, both economically and politically, is the way to gain the respect around the world and face up to enemies.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.