Sometimes it is quite a pleasure to enjoy disagreeing with an author. This is how I felt when I read Suzy Hansen’s Notes on a Foreign Country, which I recently reviewed for e-international relations and can be found here. In my review, I took exception with much of the book. But I would like to briefly dwell on one aspect which I didn’t really get to into my review, the early engagement of the US in Turkey and the Middle East.
It would surprise many that the US was not always disliked in the Middle East (nor is it universally hated today as some might think). Before World War II, many in the region looked towards the US as a friend and a nation that was very different to other western countries, most especially the colonial powers of Britain and France. And this was for good reason. Before World War II, when arguably the US had already become an imperial power, America had no colonial designs in the Middle East. Even the deal between Standard Oil and Saudi Arabia during the 1930s was much more favourable to the Saudi Kingdom that anything which competing British companies were offering in terms of profits and royalties. By working the US, Saudi did better than its neighbours who were obliged to work with British companies.
Better business transaction was one thing, but there was also American benevolence. Across Turkey and other parts of the Middle East there are still today living monuments of American altruism. Perhaps the most notable are the institutions of education, namely Bogazici University in Istanbul, the American University of Cairo and the American University of Beirut and high schools such as Robert College and Uskudar American Academy in Turkey. These educational establishments were founded by the joint efforts of American philanthropists and missionaries mainly during the late nineteenth century. Unable to convert the local population to Christianity, American missionaries decided against packing up and leaving. Instead, they established these institutions open to all regardless of religion, sect or denomination (although Robert College, for example, did not see its first Muslim Turk graduate until the 1900s).
One can of course make the claim that this was an example of cultural imperialism. Perhaps, but not quite. These educational endeavours, together with the foundation of hospitals and clinics, were established with expressed permission the of the Ottoman government which was itself aiming to open western educational institutions. Also, the US founded schools and universities were by no means compulsory, no one was forced to attend. Sure, they spread American ideals, but they were not factories to indoctrinate impressionable young people about liberalism and capitalism, but offered an education that allowed for critical engagement in the liberal arts and sciences. Moreover, these institutions educated generation after generation of Middle Eastern elites. Were it not for such schools and universities, the Middle east would be an intellectually poorer place. Indeed, some of the Middle East’s finest minds, including those critical of US policies, were educated at such institutions.
Fast forward to today and while the US now has considerable imperial baggage, these institutions remain independent and still continue to educate the young and treat the elderly and sick. This should not be overlooked, denigrated or forgotten.
In a 2010 essay in The Atlantic, the late great Christopher Hitchens offered an explanation for the prevalence of anti-Semitism. He argued that it was the Jewish rejection of the false prophets Jesus and Muhammed.
The traditional story goes that not only had the Sanhedrin rejected the teachings of Jesus, but they insisted, one could say lobbied, that the Roman governor of Judea crucify him. This act of deicide would become the justification for centuries of persecution, expulsions, murder and genocide by Christians against the Jews.
Centuries later, in the far corners Arabia a new religion was espoused by Mohammed who claimed to be the final messenger of God. Not only did very few Jews join Mohammed’s new faith, but the respected Jewish tribes in and around the oasis city of Medina shunned the exiled Meccan merchant. Mohammed and his followers would later take revenge and slaughter Arabia’s Jews. As the new religion expanded into Asia, North Africa and even Europe, the Jewish communities of these lands were given an inferior status. They were tolerated as ‘people of the book’. In a process which intensified after the 1948 Palestine War, the Jews of the Middle East were largely expelled.
But Jesus and Mohammed were not the only prophets who were perceived to be rejected by the Jews. We should not rule out the perception that through action and deed Jews rejected the enlightenment era political economist Karl Marx. Now Marx was of course himself was a baptised Jew. Not only were many of his followers Jewish but so were generations of Marxist philosophers, politicians, sociologists and political scientists. You’re probably listing some of them in your head right now. You might also be formulating a challenge based on the idea that much of the anti-Semitism of the radical right, both then and now, often depicts the Jew and Communist as one and the same. Sure, I’ll grant you these points, but remember I am talking about the perception of rejection rather than actual.
There is a thread in anti-Semitic discourse, repeated increasingly by some in the far Left, that associates Jews with Zionism, which is made powerful through Jewish control of international finance. Much of this this narrative emanates from Soviet propaganda which adopted traditional anti-Semitic motifs that associated Jews with being international in outlook, unpatriotic in worldview and purveyors of bourgeois capitalism. Public state-sponsored attacks were often directed against “rootless” or “homeless cosmopolitans,” a euphemism for Jews if ever there was one. The story of anti-Semitism in Communist Russia is well known - the persecution of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, the fabricated Doctor’s Plot, the unofficial quotas in government positions. In these cases, the idea of the Jew being cosmopolitan, unpatriotic and bourgeois were central.
However, Soviet anti-Semitic propaganda also took the guise of anti-Zionism. Again, borrowing from classic anti-Semitism, it linked the international and unpatriotic cosmopolitan Jew to Israel and global financial conspiracy. In 1967, after the failure of Russia’s Arab clients to defeat Israel, the Young Communist League, stated that Israel was backed by "an invisible but huge and mighty empire of financiers and industrialists.” In other words, Jews. This was just one typical example of Soviet propaganda which was disseminated after 1967 near and far and regurgitated over again. Indeed, this is the very image that was conjured by street artist Mear One whose mural was defended by the leader of the British Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn a couple of years ago.
As Michael Segalov explains, the imagery of the mural borrows from the Russian Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a malicious and fictitious tract purporting a conspiratorial cabal of powerful Jews to plan and scheme world domination. In the mural, the image of the crooked nosed and bearded Jew counting money is telling, as are other images associated with conspiracy theories such as the Illuminati. Taken together with the depictions of the Jewish Rothschild’s financier, the message in the iconography is unmistakeable. Jewish capital/international Zionism/the Jewish Lobby lurks behind the shadows, pulling the levers of international policy for its own benefit or for Israel. Had the mural been painted in, say, 2007, prominent Jewish Neo-Conservatives such as Leo Straus, Richard Perle or Paul Wolfowitz might have been added to the scene.
These images are the legacy of Soviet anti-Semitism. And as we have seen, they have been picked up by some in the radical Left (and by Islamist movements). They depict the Jew as the hidden hand behind the evils of global capitalism and colonialism. In other words, the Jews are a secretive force fighting the realization of historical materialism. By action and deed they are the ultimate enemies of Marxism.
Jeremy Corbyn, who described the visceral anti-Semitic Hezbollah and Hamas as his friends, wasted the opportunity to stamp out anti-Semitic currents within his party in 2016. Back then alarm bells starting ringing after his allies such as Ken Livingstone, Naz Shah and Jackie Walker made shocking anti-Jewish statements. Instead to tackling the problem head on, Corbyn enlisted lawyer and civil-right activists Shami Chakrabarti to investigate the matter. But as is well known, Chakrabarti whitewashed the inquiry. Soon after she was suspiciously awarded with a Labour peerage and took a seat in the House of Lords. Meanwhile, Jackie Walker, who said that Jews were financiers of the sugar and slave trade, went on to create a one-person stage show about her apparent victimisation and received standing ovations by a hard Left audience.
There were scores of anti-Semitic incidents which took place in 2017 and 2018 in the Labour Party. These including Labour council candidates asking what good have Jews done for the world and demands that the existence of the Holocaust be allowed to be questioned. When the anti-Semitism debate resurfaced after Luciana Berger MP asked for answers for Corbyn’s endorsement of the aforementioned mural, she received a tirade of attacks.
It was very telling that Corbyn’s supporters said that the claims of anti-Semitism are nonsense and part of a nefarious plot against Corbyn. In other words, it’s all just another Jewish conspiracy. In their cult-like following of their leader, the “Corbynistas” will no doubt continue to believe that this is just one big conspiracy against their saviour. Another case of the Jewish scorn for a prophet.
Mark 24 June as the date in your diary, not for an important match in the 20018 FIFA World Cup, but for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) consolidation of their already dominant hold over Turkey. The race is on, but owing to the current climate, President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have a significant head start.
As I point out in a recent op-ed in Haaretz, the timing of the twin Presidential and Parliamentary polls all but guarantees the success of incumbent President Erdogan and his AKP government in both elections. The chances of the opposition winning are about as good as Australia winning the World Cup. It is so unlikely, it’s not even worth thinking about. But unlike sports, Turkish politics is a game where it is not the taking part that counts. It is a winner takes all contest where political opponents are enemies who need to be crushed.
Around the same time that the elections were announced, Turkey’s parliament gave a three-month extension to the ongoing state of emergency, in place since the July 2016 coup. This means the elections will be held under emergency conditions as was the case last year when a constitutional amendment referendum took place. This does not bode well for the prospect of free and fair election. The OSCE which monitored the referendum campaign and the election process reported vastly disproportional media coverage in favour of the yes camp (Erdogan and the AKP) and cases of intimidation against the No camp. The OSCE also noted that the Yes campaign had an unfair advantage because it used state resources and state institutions to bolster its campaign. There were also questionable activities pertaining to polling booth security. Confidence in the voting process was also diminished after last minute changes were made to the validity of voting slip. In other words, the elections were hardly free and certainly unfair. It will be similar this time around. Going back to my football analogy, the opposition’s chances are about as good as Australia facing up against Spain but with a Spanish referee and a ball made from Spanish leather in a Spanish factory owned by a mate of the Spanish team’s captain.
The Presidential Run-off
This time, however, President Erdogan and the AKP have additional advantages. They need not worry about the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The liberal and Kurdish oriented party, which managed to win over ten per cent of the popular vote in the November 2015 elections. The HDP has been all but destroyed through numerous trumped up politically motivated charges of terrorism against the party’s leadership. Erdogan doesn’t need to concern himself about standing against the HDP’s former leader and Presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas. Once hailed as the Kurdish Barack Obama, Demirtas managed to win nearly 10 per cent of the vote in the presidential run-off in 2014; however, he is currently languishing in jail on absurd terrorist related charges.
Incumbent President Erdogan also need not worry about facing off against a united opposition candidate. Back in 2014 Ekmeleddin IIhsanoglu was the joint nominee of the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). He only won 38 per cent of the vote, despite him actually being a worthy candidate (he was thoroughly vilified in a very negative pro-Erdogan campaign). The CHP’s best bet is to field its leader Kalicdaroglu as its Presidential candidate. Not exactly an exciting figure, Kalicdaroglu has never won an election as CHP leader, only managing to garner around 25 per cent of the vote. Abdullah Gul as an opposition candidate? He’s been out of the fray for over 10 years. And despite differences with his co-founder of the AKP, he has never done much more than make subliminal criticism of his one-time close associate. A joint CHP, IYI and other opposition candidate? Who has the charisma and ability to unify the opposition and receive over 50 per cent of the vote? Send me an email if you know something I don’t.
Simply put, Erdogan will win. I’ll be shocked if he doesn't win first time around, but a win is a win even if it takes a second round. Back in 2014 he overwhelmingly had the media and state organs at his disposal. This time he has all this and more.
So, with Presidential elections in the bag, the only question left is will the AKP get at least half of the 600 parliamentary seats up for grabs (up from 550 following the 2017 constitutional amendments). The answer again is probably yes. Turkey has retained its unusually high 10 per cent of the popular vote threshold which a party must win in order to be awarded seats in parliament. Battered and bruised, the HDP might not pass the 10 per cent mark. If the HDP decides to field its candidates as independents instead, it will have far fewer parliamentary deputies than the 59 it is supposed to have now. Although it appears that the IYI Party will be able to run (previously there were doubts based on technicalities) it is far from guaranteed that the new party will pass the 10 per cent threshold. Let’s not forget that the IYI Party is a breakaway faction of the MHP which itself only won 12 per cent of the popular vote in November 2015. Upon its establishment, the IYI Party only managed to strip the MHP of 4 of its 40 deputies, despite it being led by the respected nationalist Meral Aksener. Meanwhile, the CHP rarely receives more than 25 per cent of the vote. If one were to be really optimistic, maybe the CHP could achieve 30 per cent.
The MHP is running under a joint ticket with the AKP and therefore has its share of seats guaranteed. Perhaps opposition parties could take a page out of the AKP-MHP playbook and create their own alliances with smaller parties to circumvent the 10 per cent threshold? Perhaps, but I doubt this will change much. The Islamic Felicity (Saadet) Party, for example, won just 2 per cent of the vote in the June 2015 elections and less than 1 per cent in the November 2015 re-run. The nationalist Great Union Party (BBP) only won 0.5 per cent in November 2015, the Leftish Vatan won 0.25 and the others are almost too small to count. In other words, even in the unlikely event that these parties put aside their differences to join, say Aksener’s IYI Party, the coalition still might not pass the 10 per cent threshold. And if they were to join the CHP, it would hardly make much of a difference.
It is increasingly likely that the 2018 parliamentary election might resemble the 2002 general election when the AKP received 34 per cent of the vote, but because so many parties failed to pass the threshold translated, the AKP won 66 per cent of parliamentary seats. And with Erdogan voted in as President, this is the final realisation of Erdogan’s political ambitions.
4/15/2018 0 Comments
Back when I was pulling pints as a 19-year-old regretting my decision to leave university, Douglas Murray, who was about the same age, was doing something productive with his life. He was polishing off his book about the literary figure Lord Alfred Douglas, a volume published while Murray had yet to sit his second-year finals at Oxford. After graduating Douglas went on to write and debate the major issues of our time not only with flair, but also with erudition and wit. This makes Murray, at least in my humble view, the intellectual heir of the late great Christopher Hitchens.
When I was behind the bar of a drab and dreary dungeon in East London, I heard many costumers complain about illegal immigrants and immigration in general. Sometimes these comments were less than PC and a tad xenophobic. But on plenty of occasions legitimate points were uttered, even after the harvesting of a pint or few, and these comments were not always made by white people. My job as a smooth-talking bar steward was to neither agree nor disagree - never peeve punters or they’ll get pissed and not the type of pissed that pays the pub’s bills!
But what I couldn’t quite comprehend was how Britain’s politicians brushed off concerns about immigration. Those who complained were either ignored or dismissed as bigoted or racist. What a dereliction of service on the part of Britain’s political elite. If immigration and multi-culturalism was policy, it should have been explained properly to the electorate and then defended in public debate.
What Douglas Murray highlights in The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, is the consequences of shutting down the debate. Murray is not really describing death at all, but mass European suicide by seppuku. Although unable to cope with successive waves of immigration, Europe’s political elites continued to facilitate mass immigration in the hope of creating multi-cultural and diverse societies. And this was despite European leaders such as Britain’s David Cameron, France’s Nicholas Sarkozy and Germany’s Angela Merkel all having admitted that their respective versions of multi-culturalism had failed. The words on the tongues of many was no doubt a three-worded sentence ending with the word “Sherlock”. Murray documents the reasons associated with integration that have infuriated many Europeans over the years, namely, terrorism, extremism and challenges to traditional European enlightenment values, especially, in Murray’s view, by immigrants of the Islamic faith.
Murray also demolishes some of the arguments for mass immigration. He explains that immigration does not necessarily solve the problem of an aging society and might not be the best way of doing so anyway. Murray destroys the view that in the long-run immigrants financially enrich society, highlighting that this is only true of some newcomers but not others, especially when one factors in costs associated with shelter, health and education of accompanying dependents. Looking to the examples of Japan and China, Murray adds that immigration is not an inevitable consequence of globalisation either.
One of the many reasons which Murray points as a culprit for Europe’s coming demise is its loss of confidence and pride. Somehow political elites developed a self-deprecating tumour in the centre of the European mind. A feeling spread that life in European liberal democratic societies lost its meaning and is devoid of purpose. This led the way for European elites to berate themselves and spit upon their own values and culture while being hostages to their own history which is reflected upon with guilt. European ideas suffered from the German philosophical tradition that gained traction across the continent with its drive to absolutism and its propensity to crash, leading to the great catastrophes of the twentieth century – the rise of Fascism, the horrors of the Nazis and the rise and fall of communism. But this feeling of emptiness, Murray adds, is also a result of the decline of the Church. Life is apparently empty without the centrality of Christianity (religion rather than faith or belief), a void that cannot be filled by the latest Apple headset, retail therapy or a holiday, even if it’s all inclusive.
But couldn't there be other explanations for the self-deprecation of European values and culture? I can’t fully subscribe to the decline of Christianity bit of Murray’s argument. It seems to me that there are other plausible reasons than the reduction in the number of church goers. Perhaps the end of imperialism was a factor - despite the sins of European colonialism, the sense of imperial adventure gave meaning to some. Perhaps more potent than the decline of religion was the deconstruction of the nation-state. In many respects nationalism is akin to secular religion with all the motifs and symbols of the nation. You may die but the nation lives on, and many died for King and country. And what about Europe’s pacification? Previous generations fought great wars of survival. Despite recent terror attacks, it is imaginable that many Europeans still do not understand the nature of the threat. And with nothing to die for, it is conceivable than many Europeans have forgotten why they live.
Douglas Murray makes important points with intellectual clarity. There will no doubt be some who will decry Murray a racist, Islamophobe or even both. But surely it is legitimate to express concern about unfettered and under regulated immigration? If a country is to open up borders to political or economic migrants, surely a working model for integration and a system to regulate who is let in is needed? Surely European values are worth saving? Surely, politicians owe it to both migrants and the host society to make things work as smoothly as possible. And if it’s not working, change it before it is decided to let in more people in? Surely?
I recently wrote two different but related articles about Turkey’s ties with the west which can be found here and here. I have come to the view that there is no longer a basis for strategic relations between the West and Turkey. This does not mean that I am advocating that the US and Europe cut diplomatic and economic ties with Turkey, far from it. Trade away! However, I am arguing that there should not be a security component between North America, Europe and Turkey.
Follow my logic.
Strategic alliances are built on mutual concerns over shared security threats. From the perspective of Turkey’s government, its main threats are the Gulen movement (FETO in the parlance of the Turkish government) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Note that both of these organisations are primarily Turkish internal non-state actors with transnational connections. However, from the perspective of the West, the PKK and the Gulen movement are not threats at all. It is not a PKK terrorist attack or the goings on in a Gulenist school that keep leaders in Washington, Paris, London or Berlin awake at night. In fact, the PKK’s sister organisation in Syria is considered an asset against ISIS which the West’s main enemy along with Russia. So, where’s the basis for strategic cooperation? I hold there are none.
As Turkey moves away from the West’s orbit based on its own security calculations (which Ankara is fully entitled to do), Turkey seems less like a strategic partner. The fact that Turkey is a NATO member only makes matters worse. As my articles suggest, Turkey doesn’t really offer its NATO allies that much by way of security anymore. Lax border controls during the Syria crisis until 2016, closer ties with Russia marked by intent to purchase Russian S400s, fighting the YPG, these do not contribute to the West’s security. If anything, they hinder them.
Again, this doesn't mean that trade can’t continue or other forms of cooperation. Perhaps if politicians on both sides are honest with each other and discount the strategic fallacy of their relations, the value of trade might actually increase. That is, of course, if human rights are brushed under the carpet in bilateral meetings and discussions. Kind of like China.
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