More on Erdogan at Davos

February 2, 2009

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict


There are mixed reactions to what Erdo?an did in Davos while responding to the criticisms of Israeli President Shimon Peres. While some hailed him and his comments as “terrific,” others say Erdo?an is “easily provoked,” and should have behaved more in line with accepted diplomatic conduct.

Professor Norman Finkelstein, a Jewish-American academic, says it was wonderful news what Erdo?an did, while Joost Lagendijk, the chairman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee said it was not good for any prime minister or president to react like that in public.

Finkelstein, whose parents are Holocaust survivors, said Davos was a place where the rich and the influential came and talked together, but that, all of a sudden, someone had decided to speak about the “not so rich” part of the world, namely Gaza. Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman by phone from the US, Finkelstein argued that when people applauded President Peres, Erdo?an probably had the images of the 400 children killed and almost 60 mosques demolished by the “vandal state” and then decided to talk about the truth. “It was terrific. What is this nonsense? Peres gets 25 minutes to talk and Erdo?an gets only 12. Are we back to the theories of superhuman and subhuman? Is this a new ‘Hitlerite’ approach?” asked Finkelstein, underlining that people were thrilled to see at least some heads of state starting to speak the truth.

Reminded that Erdo?an has been criticized for not being diplomatic enough, Finkelstein asked: “Why should he be diplomatic in front of child-killers? It was a magnificent gesture almost equal to those shoes thrown at former President George W. Bush in Iraq.” Stressing that history would remember what Erdo?an had done, the American academic said at last a Muslim leader had the courage and self-respect to speak about the massacre.

However, Finkelstein said Erdo?an would pay a price. “I cannot say he will not pay a price. But you react with your dignity and self respect. Or would you be happy to be treated like garbage? Is it worth it or not?” asked Finkelstein, adding that the Jewish lobby would now go to Congress and would try to blackmail Turkey.

“They will tell Turkey either you accept what we say or you have to pay. What sort of freedom of expression is this?” said Professor Finkelstein, stressing that people admired Erdo?an, not only in the Middle East, but all around the world. He said he had received almost 50 e-mails yesterday asking whether he had seen what Erdo?an had done in Davos.

Lagendijk: Erdo?an is easily provoked

Despite Finkelstein’s positive reaction, Lagendijk thinks it was not appropriate to react in this very angry way. Underlining that government leaders should abide by certain rules, Lagendijk said Erdo?an should have vented his anger at Peres behind closed doors but not in public. Lagendijk is also concerned that Turkey might lose its mediating role after Erdo?an’s spat with Peres.

Recalling that Erdo?an had also angrily reacted to a Greek Cypriot member of the European Parliament only last week in Brussels, Lagendijk said it was all too easy to provoke the Turkish prime minister.