Thursday, May 22, 2014

22-May-14: In Turkey, media voices who 'know' why Erdogan is criticized for the coal-mine disaster

Even without Turkish-language skills, most people will
understand the placement of the word "Yahudi" in screaming front-page
headlines of this pro-Erdogan Turkish newspaper two days ago
[Image Source]
The disastrous coal mine explosion in Soma, Turkey, that nine days ago extinguished the lives of some 301 workers continues to echo in news reports. A Turkish commentator writing in yesterday's New York Times ["Turkey’s Dickensian Disaster"] refers to
the dark side of Turkey’s economic leap forward: poor working conditions and low safety standards in industrial jobs — especially the coal mines that provide most of the country’s energy... the annual number of miner deaths per million tons of coal produced is 300 times higher in Turkey than in the United States.
Turkey [source] ranks third in the world and first in Europe in terms of the number of deadly work-related accidents across all categories, including mining. And 400 more mines across Turkey "pose massive safety risks".

Here's another dimension to that dark side. Turkey's "ultra-conservative pro-government" daily newspaper, Yeni Akit, in a lurid front-page article (see the image above), shares with its mass-market readers the helpful observation that "the owner of the Soma Coal Mine Company [has] a Jewish son-in-law". This is relevant, in the eyes of Yeni Akit's editors, because it explains why the foreign media was “attacking Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.” It goes without saying that the ferocious criticism of Erdoğan (who is reported to have responded by personally slapping one of his critics) and his government is coming from inside Turkey no less than from outside it.

Turkey has much more than dark sides to it. Visitors there will confirm the essential friendliness of the place and of its people. One of our children was a student there a few years ago for part of his university studies. We very much enjoyed briefly visiting Istanbul. So it's especially jarring for us to note the extent to which hatred of Jews, in a country with a microscopic Jewish population, continues to have an influence on life there.

A powerful English-language op ed appears in an influential Turkish newspaper today. The none-too-subtle title, "Anti-Semitism is a perversion", turns out to be a direct quotation from a public speech made by Turkey's then-and-now prime minister Tayyip Erdoğan in June 2005. The circumstances have some relevance: a ceremony in New York in which the Anti-Defamation League, the ADL, honored Erdoğan with a “Courage” award for a “Better future for our children.” Some excerpts:
  • Accepting the ADL award on behalf of Turkey, Erdoğan said the following: “Anti-Semitism is a shameful mental illness; it is perversion. The Jewish genocide [Holocaust] is the heaviest crime against humanity throughout history. Genocide, discrimination, Islamophobia, Christianophobia, ethnic cleansing are all different forms of the same illness.”
  • If anyone in today’s Turkey would say the same words, they would not only be labeled a “Zionist,” but also be accused of being a “spy for Israel” by certain figures in Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and pro-government media.
  • [The editors at the Yeni Akit were] proud to have “deciphered the reason why Zionism-manipulated domestic and foreign media was attacking PM Erdoğan by taking advantage of Soma” by revealing the Jewish son-in-law, instead of questioning the failures of the company and the government in taking necessary safety measures in accordance with international standards... 
  • The AK Parti head of Parliament’s Constitutional Commission, Burhan Kuzu, a professor of law, mentioned the mine-owner’s son-in-law in a Twitter message.
The Soma coal mine [Image Source: Hurriyet Daily News]
There has long been a pragmatic dimension to Turkey-Israel relations, as evidenced by the fact that Turkey in 2013 was Israel's eighth largest commercial partner with bilateral trade on the order of $5 billion [source].

But in the background, there's something quite malevolent that tends to get forgotten when the antics of politicians and their mouthpieces take center-stage.

The ADL's influential report on global anti-Semitism ["13-May-14: Understanding who hates us"] was issued, as it happens, on the day of the Soma disaster. Turkey's overall population is 49 million. Jews make up less than 0.03 percent of the whole. Yet the ADL's survey says 69% of Turks have anti-Jewish feelings; among Turkish men it's 84%. How this affects the lives of Turkish Jews is articulately expressed in another Turkish op ed published this past Monday: "How does it feel to be ‘Israeli spawn’ in Turkey?"

Worth noting that the terrorist leaders of Hamas, with their acute sense of who is for and who is against them, openly celebrated the success of Erdoğan's party in the April 2014 municipal elections [source]. Erdoğan himself is up for election in August, and - coal-mine disasters, anti-government protest riots and economic slowdown notwithstanding - is considered a near-certain winner.

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