20 August 2013

Idiot of the week candidate: Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Somebody had to do it eventually. Somebody had to blame Israel for the coup d'etat in Egypt that deposed Mohamed Morsi and effectively outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood. Someone has probably done it before today, but the claim only makes the news today because it was made by a head of state. Erdogan is the Prime Minister of Turkey. Often described as a moderate Islamist, his critics accuse him, as Morsi's critics accused him, of pushing for a more authoritarian enforcement of sharia at the expense of a relatively recent yet well entrenched secular tradition. Erdogan has weathered mass protests in his own country, though they weren't on the same scale as those that inspired the Egyptian military to remove Morsi. Naturally, Erdogan saw Morsi as a kind of brother if not an ally since he was another elected Islamist leader. Naturally also, Erdogan probably sees the Egyptian coup as a blow against Islamism. It may also be natural for someone like him to presume that the enemies of Islamism must include, and be influenced by, Israel. Natural or not, Erdogan today accused the Israelis of being "behind" the coup. While the Israelis figuratively sighed and shrugged their shoulders, and the U.S. wagged a figurative chiding finger, the Egyptian junta blasted Erdogan for a "bewildering" claim.

But wait! Erdogan has evidence. We can all see it on video -- on YouTube in fact. An aide to Erdogan specifically cited a press conference involving the Israeli justice minister, but it seems like the damning comments (to Erdogan's ears) were made not by any Israeli official but by Bernard Henri-Levy, the French equivalent of Christopher Hitchens, with an emphasis for our purposes on French.. Such distinctions are lost on conspiracy mongers, but even they have an obligation to keep their facts straight. For instance: Israel's most hostile neighbor is almost certainly Syria. If the Israelis are rooting for or covertly supporting the overthrow of any neighboring ruler, that ruler would most likely be Bashar al-Assad. Certainly Israel's friends in the U.S. are rooting against Assad. But do you know who else disliked Assad, and actually called for a jihad against him? The answer is Mohamed Morsi, whose fall was celebrated by Assad loyalists in Syria. Having a common enemy doesn't automatically make anyone friends in the Middle East; it doesn't even necessarily prevent those with a common enemy from being enemies to each other. The moral of this story is that Middle Eastern politics are pretty complex, and definitely too complex to be reduced to the usual anti-semitic devil theory of history, especially on the flimsy evidence provided by Prime Minister Erdogan. Just as you don't want to get Southern politicians of a certain age started about black people, some people, whatever their legitimate grievances with the nation of Israel, just shouldn't get started about The Jews. They simply end up looking stupid.


Anonymous said...

And yet, can you claim with 100% certitude that Israel had nothing to do with any of it? Conspiracy nuts do often sound crazy, but at the root of all their theories do lie certain facts. Israel most certainly has spies, if not espionage agents, all over the middle east. At least, if they have any intelligence they do. We do know for a fact that they have even had spies in the USA - their supposed allies. And they probably still do.

Samuel Wilson said...

The point isn't whether Israel had any role or not, but that Erdogan basically claimed 100% certitude on the sort of evidence that wouldn't pass muster even with most conspiracy buffs. He probably made a knee-jerk assumption and clamped onto the first bit of information that justified (rather than confirmed) the assumption. My own guess would be that, as you say, Israel obviously has spies all over the place, but that the situation is too volatile and complex for them to be masters of events the way Erdogan seems to believe.