David Harris, AJC Executive Director
The Huffington Post and Jerusalem Post
June 13, 2010
It could almost make you cry.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's seemingly limitless concern for the oppressed and downtrodden has been in high gear of late - and he's mobilized his country's diplomats to echo his anguish. But wait, that empathy is reserved solely for the people of Gaza.
It's irrelevant to the Turkish leader that Gaza today is a declared enemy of Israel, or that the Hamas Charter is replete with anti-Semitism and calls for Israel's annihilation. In his view, Israel should be pressed to do what no other nation has ever been asked - ensure the well-being of its adversary.
Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote that "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Erdogan doesn't have a little mind, especially when elections are around the corner and his poll numbers have been sagging. So check "consistency" at the door. What counts is what plays in the street - and pummeling Israel seems to be playing quite well these days.
Otherwise, he might also be concerned about the oppressed and downtrodden, say, right next door in Iran.
This month is the first anniversary of Iran's rigged elections. Not a single word of criticism from Erdogan about that election's bloody aftermath.
Here's what the New York Times reported on Iran (June 12): "They [Khamenei and Ahmadinejad] are relying heavily on force and intimidation, arrests, prison terms, censorship, even execution, to maintain authority. They have closed newspapers, banned political parties, and effectively silenced all but the most like-minded people. Thousands of their opponents have fled the country, fearing imprisonment."
But then again, what should we expect from Erdogan, who just last week stood with Iran at the UN Security Council when its nuclear program again came under scrutiny? Such a figure would obviously side with the perpetrators in Iran, not their victims.
In a similar vein, Erdogan has warmly embraced Sudan's leader, Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Al-Bashir has been accused of genocide by the International Criminal Court. Erdogan's response? "A Muslim can never commit genocide." End of story for Erdogan, but try telling it to the hundreds of thousands of Darfuri victims - or, for that matter, to the Armenian people, who may have a few thoughts of their own on the subject.
On this first anniversary of Iran's elections, Turkey isn't alone in its hypocritical silence.
It's instructive to compare the world's reaction to the Gaza flotilla episode and to Iran's elections.
In the case of the flotilla, Israel made clear its desire for a peaceful outcome. And indeed, five of the six ships headed for Gaza were diverted without incident to an Israeli port, where passengers and supplies were offloaded. No violence, no injuries. And Israel, after inspecting the supplies to look for weapons, offered to transfer them to Gaza, which, tellingly, the Hamas leadership has so far rejected.
But the sixth ship was different. Some passengers from - guess where? - were looking for a fight, or even, according to recorded testimonies, "martyrdom." These Turks had potentially lethal weapons.
Clearly, Israel botched its intelligence gathering about that particular ship and, therefore, its operational planning. Still, what tragically happened was a direct result of violence initiated by some passengers.
None of the context or detail mattered to Turkey - or to many others in the international community. The well-honed and all-too-familiar machinery was up and running in a nanosecond. Israel was deemed the guilty party from the get-go. The prevailing mindset, as the old saying goes, was: "Don't confuse me with the facts."
The UN Security Council met into the late hours of the night. The (misnamed) UN Human Rights Council gathered. Some countries threatened to withdraw their envoys from Israel.
By contrast, consider the reaction to an egregious and well-documented breach of human rights - Iran's election and the ensuing 365 days.
Guess what? The UN Security Council hasn't met in special session. The UN Human Rights Council has been silent. No country has considered withdrawing its ambassador from Tehran. And those quick to rush to the streets and campus quads in protest against any alleged Israeli act - in the name of human rights, of course - have been AWOL for the past 12 months (and longer) on Iran.
As with the Free Gaza Movement and its erstwhile friends in the Turkish IHH, if it doesn't involve Israel, then it doesn't qualify as a concern, much less a crime.
Reports suggest that opposition forces in Iran are alive, but not well. They've been beaten, battered, and butchered. But they haven't been defeated.
From apartheid-era South Africa to the Soviet Union, history amply shows that such protest movements require outside lifelines. Dissidents need to know they're not alone. They must believe that what happens to them matters beyond their borders. And they depend on countries and people of good will to make clear - in this case, to Iran's leaders - that the oppressors will be held accountable.
Put aside for a moment hyperventilated hypocrites like Erdogan and others who only get exercised when Israel is somehow involved in the mix. Where are the voices of solidarity? Where are the demands for governments to stand up for human rights in Iran and stop hiding behind flimsy excuses for inactivity? Where is the drumbeat of support for those seeking to end repression and the daily violence that accompanies it, even at risk to their own lives?
Want to do something to help? For starters, go here. The video is embedded below. Watch the brief film on the Orwellian nature of Iran today and then send a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling for American leadership.
The whole process will take barely a minute - literally. But those 60 seconds will show that silence in the face of injustice is never the solution, at least for the non-hypocritical.