The Turkish spring is shuffling the deck

democratic liberty, and adopts ruthless capitalism, the antithesis of social justice.

Turkey and Syria

If there is in fact a common denominator between the events in Turkey and Egypt, it can be found in the struggle of liberal and leftist forces against political Islam. But what about Syria? Erdogan is calling for the end of Assad’s regime, as are the rest of the leaders of the Islamist parties, including Qatar-supported Hamas. But before the outbreak of the revolution, there was an excellent relationship between the two regimes, to the extent that the requirement of a travel visa between the countries was canceled. Erdogan and Assad were then united not only by shared economic interests, but also by their joint support of Hamas and their opposition to Israel.

Erdogan embraced ‘resistance’ to Israel following a number of disappointments, the first of which was his failure to have Turkey join the EU. With the European path blocked, he tried to turn Turkey into a significant new regional player in the Middle East, seeking to revive the influence exerted by Turkey in Ottoman times. His attempt to play the role of mediator between Israel and Syria, taking advantage of Turkey’s relationship with Israel, was the first important effort in that direction, a step which led to indirect negotiations between Assad’s representatives and Israeli PM Ehud Olmert. But just as the Turkish government thought the negotiations were about to result in a meeting between Assad and Olmert, the latter initiated the strike on Gaza (Operation “Cast Lead”) without notifying Erdogan, who was humiliated by Olmert’s moves, perceiving them as a personal insult.

The Gaza strike became a turning point in the two countries’ relationship. The Gaza flotilla, led by the Islamist IHH was perceived as a direct defiance of Israel and its military and naval blockade on Gaza. And so it came to be that both Assad and Erdogan used opposition to Israel to mobilize the public in their countries and to enforce their own agendas: Assad strengthening a sectarian dictatorship based on nepotism and corruption, while Erdogan pushed for increased Islamization under the pretext of a struggle against Israel and the West. The Syrian people tore the mask off the Assad regime, while in Turkey a failing foreign policy and resentment against the prime-minister-Sultan have catalyzed the protests led by Turkish youth.

Current events in Turkey are proving that the ‘Arab Spring’ has not yet become a winter, that the revolution continues, and that the Syrian uprising is not an external conspiracy. We are at the dawn of extremely fateful political, social and ideological changes, indicating the beginning of a new era. As exemplified by Egypt and Tunisia, dictatorship in the guise of a ruthless capitalism that was tied to the American-Israeli axis has fallen, but so has the anti-Israeli, anti-American tyranny in Syria. These days we are witnessing a quintessential political and ideological battle between modern civil forces and political Islam. This is a struggle for the meaning of democracy and civil society, and equally important, for the place of the state in fulfilling social justice. In its own special way, Turkey is injecting new revolutionary content into the Arab spring, strengthening the ongoing struggle for social and political change in the region.

Translated from the Hebrew by Itamar Manoff

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About Yacov Ben Efrat