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Careful, You May Be Rooting for the Wrong Side in Turkey

What's most striking to me is how similar things in Turkey are to things in Israel.
When in doubt who's running your rally, look around for the Communists.

When in doubt who's running your rally, look around for the Communists.

I’ll preface by saying that I receive all of my information about the recent events in Turkey from the news media, and nothing in my experience or education makes me an expert on things Turkish. But, over the past two years, I’ve been corresponding with an Israel-friendly Muslim sect in Turkey, and so my perspective on the situation is a little better than skin deep.

What’s most striking to me is how similar things in Turkey are to things in Israel. And so, I ask you to please keep an open mind when I tell you that in Turkey, just as in Israel, a largely right-wing, religious or traditional majority is being repressed and manipulated by a system rife with financial tycoons, an anti-religious military establishment, leftist NGOs, and the media, that have marked religion-the-concept as the enemy.

And, much like Israel, Turkey has a tightly centralized system of government, hostile to the free market, the enemy of small business; and they have a brutal and very powerful police force.

Americans sometimes fail to understand the fact that a democracy requires more than voting every 2, 4, or 5 years for our elected officials. The Middle East is crawling with tyrannical regimes that were genuinely elected by the people. It doesn’t make them a democracy.

It takes democratic institutions to have a real democracy—and Turkey, unlike most Arab nations, has them—but on top of those there also must be a democratic spirit, a determination on the part of every screw and cog in the machine to respect the rights of the minorities, to preserve and defend the democratic process, to maintain the sanctity of the system. And Turkey, just like Israel, is not really there in those terms. Neither are many other so-called Western democracies. Indeed, since the final victory of the West, in 1989, as the last vestiges of Communism came crashing down, Western democracy began to die—and not by some evil conspiracy, mind you, democracy has been dying because no one cares enough to keep it alive.

In Israel, we’ve been voting for a majority comprised of right-wing parties every election since 1977, and every single time we’ve ended with left wing governments. It’s not surprising anyone any longer, folks here are voting for the big right wing fox Netanyahu and the giant right wing Bear Liberman, and on the other side of the process they receive Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein. The majority of Israeli Jews support the settlements – and they get a prime minister who’s freezing housing construction in the settlements, while describing how the whole thing will be handed over to the Arabs, eventually.

Israelis vote right wing and they get the left wing media, left wing courts, left wing civil servants. The system is rigged, again, not by some conspiracy, but because a centralized system will always yield repressive results. If MK Moshe Feiglin were made prime minister tomorrow, the next day he would impose a settlement freeze—or he won’t be prime minister. We just saw how, having made it into the Knesset on the Likud line, Feiglin protested the police decree keeping him off of Temple Mount, so, effectively, he is no longer a member of Knesset. He serves on no committee and so has scant opportunities to legislate.

That’s how bad it is in Israel. It’s a lot worse in Turkey, where the centralization of everything in the hands of a relatively small class of anti-religious administrators, military men and financial tycoons is written into the law.

Much like religious and right-wing Israelis, traditional and religious Turks have been voting for Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), and they’ve been getting a state that’s for the most part just as anti-religious as before.

You know what’s been happening in Turkey: some environmentalists were protesting, last Monday, the fact that the government was cutting down trees in a central square park, to make room for yet another shopping mall. But soon enough, the demonstration was hijacked by the left.

Our friend in Istanbul, Sinem Tezyapar, wrote Saturday night:

“People do not burn streets, or demolish stores, in peaceful protests. Turkish Communists love to create an uproar and clash with the police whenever they can. Most of the time, they are the provocateurs at any peaceful protest. And they can easily cause a scene, since they clash with the police in the most central districts.”

I believe her, because I know from experience: there’s no such thing as a spontaneous demonstration—somebody has to get people over, somebody has to make signs, somebody has to pack sandwiches—and there’s no such thing as a demonstration that deteriorates into clashes with police. If there’s a clash, it’s because either the cops wanted it, or the extremists in the crowd did. And neither group do things spontaneously, either. They get the word.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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48 Responses to “Careful, You May Be Rooting for the Wrong Side in Turkey”

  1. Bear Klein says:

    Your description of Israel government attitudes are politely put as paranoid and incorrect. I could say what I am actually thinking but you would tell me I am part of the conspiracy against you. Learn to get a broader input!

  2. Bear Klein says:

    Your description of Israel government attitudes are politely put as paranoid and incorrect. I could say what I am actually thinking but you would tell me I am part of the conspiracy against you. Learn to get a broader input!

  3. Yori Yanover says:

    Bear Klein · I'm not sure what you actually meant to say, other than call me names.

  4. Obaid Karki says:

    Booze, Brothels and Bachabazi. Turks hit the street to protest against Tayyip Erdogan’s 4 hours Booze Curfew & Public kissing Ban and No Bachabazi please. Turks carve for immorality. Bachabazi were Queer Protestors’ secret weapon used to get Islam into their wantonness predicament. Anti-islam Sentiments drew White House & Ten-Downing attention right away. Guess what US State Department ill-grammar statement was "Fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association, which is what it seems these individuals were doing". That’s a lot of horsemanure for one day. I agree. Tayyip Erdogan lost his mind lately when he slighted Syria and let Assad commit genocide against Syrian elders, women and children. He described Syria War as game that he loathed to share. I lost him here. Another blunder. Releasing Kurdish Terrorist Leader Abdullah Oclan to inflame Arab/Kurd sectarian wounds was Unislamic. Tayyip Erdogan apologetic attitooode blaming Turkish Police Atrocity in Taxim Square is stooopid. Who’s police boss anyway? You fool. Tayyip Erdogan blame-game ain’t over; he accused main secular opposition party for inciting crowds, whom he calls ‘a few looters’. I thought all-that-jazz was for failing to get into EU after 23 years trying. Happy Israel. It ain’t work as you sought. Try harder. Call it #OccupyGezi Bachabazi Revolution.

  5. Toby Stupp says:

    Interesting perspective. Interesting

  6. Charlie Hall says:

    "Turkey has a tightly centralized system of government, hostile to the free market, the enemy of small business".

    That was true under the previous regimes, who were both very pro-Israel and very statist. Erdogan has been widely praised in the West for his free market policies, with those policies given credit for Turkey's rapid economic growth during the past decade.

  7. Turkey is complicated enough that simply picking sides feels like the wrong answer. I wish I had a clue what the right one was.

  8. Myriam Obadia says:

    I am disappointed by your extremely superficial analysis, as well as by your obvious paranoia. Were a vast majority as clearly Right Wing as you claim in Israel, that we wouldn't need to rely on unstable coalitions to govern the country. Indeed, were we as free to govern ourselves without the constant ingerence of the US, UN, EU, as you seem to think, that our Supreme Court and Police would have been reformed long ago, that we would have long ago annexed Judea-Samaria, reclaimed the Temple Mount, and that there would never have been a "construction freeze" in the first place. As far as Turkey is concerned, the only side I am taking is that of preferring to see Erdogan too busy at home to annoy Israel.

  9. Myriam Obadia says:

    I am disappointed by your extremely superficial analysis, as well as by your obvious paranoia. Were a vast majority as clearly Right Wing as you claim in Israel, that we wouldn't need to rely on unstable coalitions to govern the country. Indeed, were we as free to govern ourselves without the constant ingerence of the US, UN, EU, as you seem to think, that our Supreme Court and Police would have been reformed long ago, that we would have long ago annexed Judea-Samaria, reclaimed the Temple Mount, and that there would never have been a "construction freeze" in the first place. As far as Turkey is concerned, the only side I am taking is that of preferring to see Erdogan too busy at home to annoy Israel.

  10. Myriam Obadia says:

    I am disappointed by your extremely superficial analysis, as well as by your obvious paranoia. Were a vast majority as clearly Right Wing as you claim in Israel, that we wouldn't need to rely on unstable coalitions to govern the country. Indeed, were we as free to govern ourselves without the constant ingerence of the US, UN, EU, as you seem to think, that our Supreme Court and Police would have been reformed long ago, that we would have long ago annexed Judea-Samaria, reclaimed the Temple Mount, and that there would never have been a "construction freeze" in the first place. As far as Turkey is concerned, the only side I am taking is that of preferring to see Erdogan too busy at home to annoy Israel.

  11. Myriam Obadia says:

    I am disappointed by your extremely superficial analysis, as well as by your obvious paranoia. Were a vast majority as clearly Right Wing as you claim in Israel, that we wouldn't need to rely on unstable coalitions to govern the country. Indeed, were we as free to govern ourselves without the constant ingerence of the US, UN, EU, as you seem to think, that our Supreme Court and Police would have been reformed long ago, that we would have long ago annexed Judea-Samaria, reclaimed the Temple Mount, and that there would never have been a "construction freeze" in the first place. As far as Turkey is concerned, the only side I am taking is that of preferring to see Erdogan too busy at home to annoy Israel.

  12. Thank u That is the True story.

  13. Yori Yanover says:

    The economkic growth is happening despite the grip of the banks and the tycoons on the country. Charlie, it's not government that has the grip, its the more permanent government, the one that never goes away. You may know them as AIG…

  14. Andy Jay says:

    Socialists want control of their own work places, as in the place they work, or the farms they grow crops in, Communism such as what Russia had , work places are controlled by government. What type of socialist are we talking about here? Looks like the type we might see in Europe? as in Social security heaps of social help? Should we all read Noam Chomsky to sort this out? Maybe.

  15. James Campbell Fern says:

    Unbelievable Yori Yanover. Firstly, I also have been following Sinem, Serra, Aylin and all the rest for quite some time and have been very supportive of them.

    But their attempts to spin this have backfired on facebook so now the story is being told through you-using even the same picture sinem was using.

    As someone who lived in Turkey until a week ago, I know a lot of people protesting. Some were my former students, others friends. Some secular, some religious. All angry.

    You can compare the numbers at the May day parade-which was violent and had regions of the city in a fog of tear gas and look at those crowds to the crowds now. A massive difference. Sinem posts about 2000+ acres of parks-what is she throwing in the Belgad forest into that number? That park at Taksim-the true heart of the city-is the only green space in that area and none more for miles. I am a foreigner but I was annoyed when I heard the news too.

    As for alcohol restrictions this was just part 2. Part 1 was just over a month ago banning alcohol sales within 100 metres of a school or mosque. With 3300 Mosques in Istanbul strategically placed to blast the call of prayer at 90 decibels wherever you are-it means for a vast area of the city you cannot drink-all the bars etc to go.

    Thirdly this is about now if you want a promotion at work your wife better be veiled and undue pressure put on people to conform to the AKP's version of islam. Add to this women being harassed in various areas of the city for their style of dress.

    Lastly this is about Erdogan trying to change the constitution to remove the Prime Minister office and merge it into the Presidency and then make himself President with greater powers and continuing yet another term. Alongside this is the paranoia that has half the army brass in jail as well as scores of journalists.

    Turkey is going from a tolerant moderate secular society to becoming an Authoritarian regime under the neo-Sultan Erdogan. And he is backed by the rural population whereas Istanbul has all the wealth of the country, all the diversity, all the liberal values but make up about 1/5th. So it is mob rule, and dictatorship of the majority, not a democracy now at all.

    Again your article is an insult to the hard working ordinary Turkish people who were quite happy as things were and not a slide towards islamism.

  16. Nomi Naomi says:

    very sad…

  17. Terry Mcintyre says:

    In America, such anti-alcohol restraints seem excessive. I live in North Carolina, which does not sell wine before noon on Sundays; otherwise, when the stores are open, it's for sale. We have, instead, DUI laws – can't drink with "too much" alcohol, probably a ridiculously low level. Common practice nowadays is to have a "designated driver" who does not touch alcohol, and who drives the car.

  18. Yori Yanover says:

    James Campbell Fern · You're very nostalgic about Turkey's secular past, but it involved a few military coups, a few periods of disappearances and imprisonment of enemies of the state, and the persecution of religious leaders. Indeed, Turkey only began to thrive under Muslim-leaning governments to the point where it now has the fastest growing economy in Europe.

    The ban on alcohol is familiar to anyone living in NY City. I sat in countless meetings of my local board over licensing new bars — and the restrictions include distance from schools and churches. In NY you can get arrested for drinking beer in the open. And the U.S. has hundreds of dry counties where alcohol is not sold.

    Sure, a political party that's amassed so much power will start flexing its muscles. They want a more religious society, including all the exterior manifestations. But you know they can only go so far, because they don't own the military. In the end, they're working with a pretty big sword hanging overhead.

    As to the regular, hard working, secular Turks — I understand their dilemma, it's much like secular Israelis who dislike the increased presence of religion in Israel's public life. It's tough. The answer to that is in more dialogue, not in provocation, certainly not in destruction.

  19. Lisa Michelle says:

    This is absolutely over the top and an an insult to our intelligence. It's counter intuitive and defies the reality that glaringly stares us in the face. One has to wonder why Erdogan's agenda is being pushed and sanitized here while comparing Israel and Turkey. Turkish citizens are rightfully crying out in opposition to a dictatorship, and Yori resorts to the same tactics often used by the left to marginalize and stifle the voices of dissent. The primarily uninformed public needs to know the truth, not this whitewashed version.

  20. How much more proof do we need to show that Sinem Tezyapar and the cult she belongs to are shills for the AKP?

  21. It's absolutely wrong to compere Turkey to Israel, in this matter.

  22. Lisa Michelle says:

    Personally, I'm beginning to wonder about Yori's agenda as well.

  23. Johnny Simson says:

    2009 Erdogan:
    "wherever Jews settle, they make money. They are not property owners, as being tenants suits them best. On the other hand, whatever we have or do not have, we will invest in our houses."

  24. Johnny Simson says:

    Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
    Siirt in December 1997.
    "The mosques are our barracks,
    the domes are our helmets,
    the minarets are our swords,
    and the faithful are our army."

  25. Johnny Simson says:

    When Mr. Erdogan began his political career, he did not hide his agenda. In September 1994, while mayor of Istanbul, he promised, "We will turn all our schools into Imam Hatips." Two months later he said, "Thank God Almighty, I am a servant of the Shariah." In May 1996, he called for a ban on alcohol. In the months before his dismissal from the mayoralty, his cynicism was clear. "Democracy is like a streetcar," he quipped. "You ride it until you arrive at your destination and then you step off."

    by Michael Rubin.
    Wall Street Journal.
    October 19, 2006.

  26. Charlie Hall says:

    Yori, you are edging into conspiracy theory territory. In the US, the banks were devastated by the 2008 crash; stockholders lost most of their investments. That is true of AIG as well; it is now worth about 2% of what it once was worth.

  27. אהובה טייב says:

    It's time to rename the "Jewish" press : the " Erdogan PreSSistan" , when they are supporting Islamic fascist .

  28. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    Yori can publish the VERY SAME propagandist rag under a variety of supposed authors, it's still the same BS. The jihadists that comprise the ottoman regime are slowly but surely incorporating a fascist islamist government – and the people have woken up! I do find it interesting though how when your "friend" sinem piosts articles you usually preface them by threatening to censor all who disagree.

    But I await: I would like to hear your reaction to Erdogan now calling for all the protesters to be hanged. It is the way of the ottomans to massacre their opponents. Just ask the Kurds, Armenians, and if Erdogan has his way – the Jews.

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