The Jewish debt to the Turks goes back centuries, to when the Ottomans took in thousands of Jewish refugees after the Spanish and Portuguese expulsions of 1492 and 1497. Moreover, when Israel was shunned for decades by nearly every Muslim country, it was Turkey that was Israel’s military ally and commercial trading partner.
Even in the midst of growing Turkish hostility toward Israel, it behooves us not to forget this debt of gratitude.
Exactly how many Palestinians have died over the course of the two intifadas? The most accurate estimate, drawn from sources including the United Nations, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and assorted human rights groups, puts the numbers at 1,376 killed by Israeli security forces and 1,000 by other Palestinians during the first intifada; 4,850 by Israeli security forces and 594 by other Palestinians during the second intifada. (It bears mentioning that during the second intifada 1,062 Israelis died at the hands of Palestinian terrorists.)
This is a far cry from Erdogan’s libel of hundreds of thousands of deaths and the attempt to decontextualize the deaths of even these thousands.
Starting in the 1960s, the PLO made a global name for itself through international terror. In 1969 alone, the PLO hijacked 82 planes. In the 1972 Olympics it murdered 11 Israeli athletes in Munich. Since the Oslo Accords were signed, Palestinians have killed 53 Americans and injured 83 others.
But if Erdogan were truly concerned about Palestinian life, as indeed he and all of us ought to be, he would condemn the unbelievable Arab-on-Arab violence that has left far greater numbers dead. As mentioned above, in the first intifada more than 1,000 Palestinians were killed by the PLO, most of them for supposedly “informing” for Israel.
As early as the 1930s revolts in Palestine, Arabs fought each other. During the Lebanese Civil War, two Palestinian movements battled one another, leaving thousands of Palestinians dead.
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Hamas has killed and tortured thousands of Palestinians who oppose their rule.
Between 1986 and 1989, in the Al-Anfal genocidal campaign against the Kurds and others, Saddam Hussein had his army kill 200,000 of his own civilians. Saddam, as The New York Times noted in 2007, had during his bloody rule, “murdered as many as a million of his people.” The vast majority of those people were, of course, Arabs.
I am a religious Jew who believes that Arabs are my brothers and are, of course, children of God in every way. The death of even a single Palestinian is a tragedy. But what choice does Israel have when the Palestinians launch wave after wave of horrific terror against innocent Israeli men, women and children?
Will Erdogan condemn the United States for the thousands of Taliban fighters it has killed in Afghanistan? Will he deplore American Predator strikes against Al Qaeda in Pakistan? Since when is there a moral equivalence between the taking of a life in self defense and the taking of a life in an act of cold-blooded murder?
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of the Global Institute for Values Education, has just published “Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Yourself (Wiley). Follow him on Twitter@RabbiShmuley.