WASHINGTON — Israel’s relationship with Turkey, its most important Muslim ally, is in tatters. Its relationship with America, its patron, is under strain. It’s also under assault in the court of international opinion, forced to backtrack on a Gaza policy that one day was central to its security and the next day irrelevant to its hawkish prime minister.
So what is an American supporter of Israel to do?
Delegitimize Israel’s critics, of course. At least, that’s what Israel’s most right-wing American apologists recommend that you do.
This is because while there has been no shortage of teeth gnashing about how the international community has mistreated Israel for its mishandling of the Gaza flotilla incident, the response has morphed into a feverish level of hostility toward anyone who dares to criticize Israel for pursuing a reckless, counterproductive and inhumane policy in Gaza.
This is ironic, since not even the Israeli government is now defending that policy.
Specifically, in a dramatic turnaround, Prime Minister Netanyahu recently made the courageous decision to reverse himself and his failed policy of collective punishment of Gaza. His decision took serious guts and self-confidence. It’s hard to admit you’re wrong, and even though Netanyahu never uttered those words, rare is the politician who does so. He is to be commended for his actions. They reflect well on the State of Israel and should make all of its supporters proud.
Yet there is little evidence that the people who relentlessly called for this policy, such as Jonah Goldberg in the National Review Online, who argued that, “The blockade, which is surely causing real suffering, is entirely the fault of Hamas and the Palestinians who support it,” have taken the kind of hard look in the mirror that Netanyahu did.
And instead of reflecting on their defense of a defenseless policy of collective punishment of civilians that denied Gazans construction materials, access to clean water, functioning sewage plants, and normal commercial activity, they are now turning their attention to new targets.
Specifically, they are now aggressively working to delegitimize Turkey’s relationship with Israel and the United States.
Here’s what one ardent Democratic supporter of Israel, Congress, Rep. Anthony Weiner of New York, said about Turkey: “Let’s consider Turkey. This (the flotilla incident) would not have happened were it not for the nation of Turkey taking the role that they did… we have to realize the facts are the facts, and NATO membership for Turkey has to be called into question here.”
Pursuit of such a blatantly counterproductive stance toward Turkey is neither in Israel nor America’s interest. While it is true that Turkey does not follow American and Israeli policy in lockstep, and that some of their positions are deeply troubling, this does not mean that Turkey is an adversary of either Israel or the United States.
For a little perspective, we must remember that Turkey has historically been Israel’s most important Muslim ally. It recognized Israel in 1948, has a significant military to military relationship with the United States, is a NATO member and is a democracy. Turkey is even home to the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel.
In addition, and at much risk to its standing in the Muslim world, it has been reported that Turkey, until recently, has even allowed Israel’s Air Force to fly practice bombing runs over its airspace, simulating an attack on Iran, as Israel doesn’t have enough airspace to train for such a mission. Any country that provides for such military cooperation with Israel cannot be considered her adversary.
Nonetheless, a delegitimization campaign against Turkey, primarily for its position on the Gaza blockade, is under way. This strategy was made clear by Gary Rosenblatt of the New York Jewish Week, who in a recent column argued that the way to counteract the delegitimizers of Israel was to instead delegitimize them.
He cited the well-respected Re’ut Institute of Israel when calling for a strategy of “…point(ing) out that the anti-Israel forces stand in violation of human rights, women’s rights, gay rights, due process of law, control of arms, etc., while Israel is a true democracy.”
The irony of this approach is that by this logic, Netanyahu should also be criticized as a delegitimizer of Israel, since he opposes — like Turkey — the previous Gaza policy.
Unfortunately, it appears that when it comes to right-wing Israel advocacy, policies are legitimate until they’re not, friends are easily portrayed as enemies (and maybe friends again: see Obama and Bibi on July 6 at the White House) and critics are labeled as illegitimate for even daring to have critical opinions about Israel’s security policies.
It’s too bad that these advocates are taking such a tack, which is both undemocratic and unwise. Worse, it’s deeply troubling that they are threatening to take down one of Israel and America’s most important allies in the process.
(Joel Rubin, deputy director and chief operating officer of the National Security Network in Washington, D.C., and a Pittsburgh native, can be reached at email@example.com. His views are his own and not necessarily those of the National Security Network.)