Elias Harfoush
Dar Al-Hayat
June 9, 2010 - 12:00am

On the flip side of the picture of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, boarding the Freedom Flotilla, we should observe the fall of the Arabs, in all of their variations. It is no small thing for Turkish flags to fill the space of the rally organized by Hizbullah, and for the party’s secretary general to compare what the “red flag” can do, along with the “yellow flag” of the resistance. However, the lesson in all of this is that the prime minister of Turkey is filling the vacuum in the region, which can also be called the impotence of the Arabs and their failure to play any role, whether positive or negative, thus leaving the field open to the whims of others, and their interests.

In this sense, it is not Turkey who is “returning to the umma (nation),” but the Arabs who are leaving it. Ottoman Turkey left this umma, or was actually removed from it, under the weight of Arab nationalist feeling, against the “Turkification” of the region, which has become a mere dream today. If Turkey were to return, it would be because these feelings of Arab nationalism have disappeared, and their place was taken by warring sects, tribes and ethnicities. When the Arabs stand by and look on, applauding the Turkish rising star, it does not occur to them to ask about the status of their own condition. Their situation allows “the Arabs’ neighbors,” as the secretary general of the Arab League says, to reap the fruit of existing crises in the region – most importantly the struggle with Israel, and exploit this popularity domestically against their opponents, whether in Ankara or Tehran. These neighbors reap these benefits in terms of their relations and interests with other countries, such as in the Iranian nuclear issue, or Turkey’s regional influence and relations with the Europeans and the White House.

In such a climate, Erdogan is turning into another Abdel-Nasser, in the dreams of the Arabs: Abdel-Nasser, whose pictures were put up in the southern suburbs of Beirut, in a strange irony by the party, which is not known to be enamored of the pan-Arabism of the late Egyptian leader. However, it was another occasion to exploit people’s feelings, from whichever direction they appear, irrespective of the truth of the convictions and political stances.

Just as the pictures provoke no question about the achievements of the late Egyptian president, not to mention of course the legacy of the June War defeat of 1967, the price of which is still being paid today, and whose tragic repercussions are still felt today, it is unlikely that pictures of Erdogan and his country’s flags will provoke questioning about his accomplishments when it comes to Palestine, after the newspaper headlines disappear, and the congratulations over the Freedom rally end.

It is not strange that the “Turkey’s return to the umma” is taking place under Erdogan himself, the leader of a party that is leaning toward a break with modern Turkish nationalism, in the sense of its racist insularity against the Arabs, which was anchored by Ataturk. Erdogan is the head of the Islamic party that derives many of its convictions from the ideas of Islamist parties in Arab states, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. These parties, as we know, are hostile to pan-Arabism, but do not mind support for their stances, from whichever direction.

However, despite this, and despite the temptation to engage in a comparison, there is a big difference between what Erdogan can do with Turkey, and what the Islamic Revolution in Iran has achieved, whether this involves relations with Israel, or the two countries’ own domestic situation. Iran is now commemorating the 21st anniversary of the death of Khomeini, who undertook a true revolution against the previous regime. However, Erdogan faces many obstacles at home in undertaking such a coup against Turkey’s secular regime. Moreover, the Turkish prime minister came to office as part of a democratic process, not a revolutionary-Islamic one. Such a process can only submit to accountability by the people, or else it will open the door to non-democratic forces that lie in wait for it, led by the army, and confront it by using force.


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