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.