GeriErtuğrul Özkök - English Turkish PM could turn his Israel reaction into a historic opportunity
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Turkish PM could turn his Israel reaction into a historic opportunity

On Thursday, I wrote an article on Davos that I liked and which I saw as important. But I withdraw it from publication in the newspaper after the argument erupted between Prime Minister Erdogan and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

I did not write another one for that article. I refrain from giving knee-jerk reactions during such critical periods.

 

The impact of my initial feelings has passed and I can now see the incident more logically.

 

The moderator of the session was truly appalling. He should have moderated such a critical session more delicately.

 

I have known Israeli President Shimon Peres for years. He always has been the person of "moderacy". However he was extremely tense in the session. His anger increased as he spoke. The Peres I know was gone and a terrible character was sitting there.

 

This gave justification to Erdogan's reaction. Despite this fact, there is one thing on which Peres was right.

 

Three out of the four people in the session was anti-Israeli; and therefore the session was unbalanced.

 

Giving Peres more time to speak after the others spoke for 15 minutes each is acceptable under the principle of objectivity.

 

* * *

When it comes to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, I can understand his reaction to some degree. I did not approve of the physical intervention of the moderator.

 

But I believe that Erdogan went too far with some of his remarks. For example, the remark, "You know very well how to kill," was very harsh.

 

But the thing I am curious of is this: Was the prime minister there to make this theatrical show or was it a spontaneous reaction?

 

I think we should seriously consider either of them.

 

But the real question in my mind is this:

 

What turned his reaction into something that was debated worldwide? His remarks or his reaction in storming out of the session?

 

I think it is the second one.

 

Because almost every single thing he said in the session echoed his previous remarks.

 

If all of us pass judgment by only looking at this one gesture, then we should open debate on other things.

 

I believe the destiny of a country should be drawn by more rational attitudes. Such behavior may be favored by some politicians, who want to make the crowds proud and mobilize them with enthusiasm.

 

But if you look at history, mass action triggered by a theatrical show of anger, has never brought permanent happiness to a nation.

 

If it is not this way, and is instead an expression of anger and injustice, then rational diplomacy should be launched immediately to compensate for this reaction.

 

So if the prime minister is really sincere in leaving the session on an emotional reaction, he should then establish the logical aspect of this policy immediately.

 

* * *

Turkey had passed from "institutional diplomacy" to "personal diplomacy" twice in the last 50 years.

 

The first came when Turgut Ozal adopted a stance of personal diplomacy during the first Gulf War. This time, in the second Gulf War, the Turkish parliament stepped in and rejected abid that would have allowed American troops to enter Iraq via Turkish soil.

 

Now we are seeing another example of "personal diplomacy". We all know that Gaza is Erdogan's personal political matter.

 

We can debate it, but we cannot deny this fact: Such a policy is a part of the charisma of a leader.

 

But there is something else that history has shown us. Institutional wisdom is more cautious than personal wisdom and is more in a country's interests.

 

* * *

At this point, a historic mission awaits Erdogan. Television footage shows that Erdogan has a certain charisma in the region.

 

This could well be turned in to a precious service for Middle East peace. It could be very beneficial if Erdogan gives this message to Hamas:

 

"Stop the rocket fire. End the terror attacks. Accept the existence of Israel. Sit at the table for peace talks."

 

Yes, today Erdogan is the leader who has the biggest right to participate in talks about the situation in the region. Because he showed a reaction that might have severe costs for Turkey in the longer term.

 

Therefore he has the right to expect these steps from Hamas. Then his reaction of storming out of the session will have "a historic meaning".

 

X

God saves me

A former military intelligence member wanted to have a private conversation with me recently. "I have very important information," he said. He had documents about the personal spending of government deputies, some of whom sent their personal bills to Parliament. All documents are real.

And the former intelligence member wants to sell us this information.

Now, wear my shoes. You are daily Hürriyet'’s editor-in-chief. And you have this information being offered to you. Do you buy it? Or do you think "I should stay away from trouble"?

Paying some money for a piece of information is against our principles. But this is a big story in journalistic aspects. Principles are on one side, a big story and public interest are on the other.

I think I could’ve done this in the following way: First, I could’ve tried to obtain them without paying a penny, or bargain for them.

All right, but can I publish them? I mean, can I stand against the governing party and its deputies? I could’ve done it without a blink. Now, let’s forget about all and speak the truth.

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, deputies should relax now. There was no such dossier presented to me.

But the British Daily Telegraph’s editor-in-chief was handed a similar file in recent weeks.

What did he do? He did what I could’ve done, and published them. Since then, the paper’s daily circulation is over 60,000.

Eventually, pro-government parties had to be involved in this. And 14 deputies and four ministers resigned.

The parliamentary majority group leader was removed from office. All this took place within three weeks.

Now, let’s make a small comparison here. What happened to the Daily Telegraph’s editor-in-chief after he published the documents?

He became a big journalist.

Did the government send tax officers after him and fine him 1 billion Sterling?

In pluralist democracies, no politician ever does think about it.

What about us?

We published the court story of the Lighthouse e.V. scandal in Germany. Isn’t exploitation of religion and siphoning money for a charity organization a crime or a sin equally important as sending personal bills to Parliament?

What happened to us? Forget about politicians, even the bureaucrat who is the number one responsible insists on not resigning.

What happened to Hürriyet? On the same day, at the very same hour, seven of our companies were visited by 70 finance inspectors

And the entire world knows the result. Then, let’s find the only difference between the two countries. A shame of democracy and cultural differenceÉ

In conclusion, God saved me and I am not being served documents on deputies or ministers.If I were, I would’ve published them accidentally.

Then, Doğan Holding owner Aydın Doğan and companies would have paid the price.

We published the Lighthouse scandal and our lives turned upside down. For Pete’s sake! What if we have to publish stories about ministers and politicians who are involved in this scandal?

May God save us...



Ertuğrul Özkök is editor-in-chief of daily Hürriyet in which this piece appeared yesterday. It was translated into English by the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review's staff.
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Dangerous connections

Let’s look at the details if you believe that the devils is hidden within them.

Soner Gedik, the chief financial officer of the Dogan Media Group, made a statement in defense of the unfair tax levy imposed on the group.

 

Who responded to the statements made by Gedik?

 

Did the Finance Ministry, responsible for imposing the levy, respond?

 

No.

 

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Not a tax fine but a punishment

I did not write an article yesterday. Because I spent my entire day reading the reports on the tax fine effected against the Dogan Media Group.

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Who won the war in Gaza?

The AFP newsagency reported a very interesting piece of news on February 5 that was also published in Hurriyet daily the following day.

I didn't check to see how the other newspapers covered it. 

 

An institution, known as the "Jerusalem Media and Communication Center", conducted a survey in both Gaza and the West Bank following to the recent Israeli offensive.

 

It is an Israeli institution.

 

One of the questions asked in the survey was this:

 

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The difference between sect and the people’s newspapers in Turkey

I asked in a recent article “if the rise in pride is equal to an 8 percent rise in votes”.

I will ask the same question of the newspapers today.

 

"How much do newspapers gain from stoking the nation’s pride?"

 

In other words, by how much was the circulation of newspapers effected by this?

 

Or, let me put the question another way:

 

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Who will support that particular remark made by the Turkish prime minister

For most of us Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan produced a sense of “relief” in our spirits; have we been able to relax?

If so, it is now time to consider things that would relax our minds and our sense of reason.

 

The storming off the stage was done and was said is said.

 

And there is no reason to continue discussion of the issue as being either right or wrong.

 

But the reality remains and the remarks made during this series of events continue to be at the center of discussions.

 

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Do votes increase 8 pct in Turkey on pride stoking political acts?

Which one of these three "political acts" has stoked the pride of the Turkish nation more?

Turkey's military operation* in Cyprus?

 

The capture of PKK terrorist leader Abdullah Ocalan?

 

Or the storming out of a session in Davos?

 

Let's look to the following shift in voter support after these three political acts.

 

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God forbid if the gray wolf symbol of Turks appeared on stage during a similar ceremony like in the U.S.

It was with a sense of yearning that I watched the ceremony held for U.S. President-elect Barack Obama.

Tiger Woods, one of the most successful golfers in history, delivers a speech.

He is also a U.S citizen, just like Obama, and both have their origins in Africa.

"My father was a U.S. army officer," he says.

He spent his childhood surrounded by U.S. army officers representing every state in the country, adding:

"I am honored to be part of a family that was a member the U.S. armed forces that defend our country."

He also says that they organize a yearly tournament for veterans and that he feels the same sense of honor when attends this tournament.

* * *

Then I start to think. I wonder if in the history of U.S. army, if anyone was involved in any shady relations?

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Apparent consensus among Turkey's political party leaders in the Ergenekon case

I followed the parliamentary group meetings of Turkey's three leading parties yesterday and read the text of each of the leader's speeches.

All three leaders made some very correct statements in their speeches.

Prime Minister Erdogan said:

“Regardless of the institution to which they are a member, anyone who did something or asked another to do something, should face the consequences.”

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, said:

"The fair trial process of the so called Ergenekon case, which will remove the shadow, if it exists, over our democracy and discover those responsible, is an important development that should be taken seriously."

And isn’t Deniz Baykal, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, right in saying: "While the Ergenekon case on one hand is against those who are members of criminal organizations, on the other hand, it is against men of law, intellectuals, and commanders, who have no relationship with these people, moreover who have struggled against them. For some reason or other, these two camps are standing together in each wave of detainments."

We are standing at the parting of the ways in the Ergenekon incident.

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Turkish army's new diplomatic method: Speaking without words

The last 24 hours have revealed that very important changes have taken place in our democratic culture.

Everyone is aware of how angry the military body is.

 

Despite this situation, no statement was issued in the middle of the night.

 

Thankfully not...

 

Their grievances are being delivered diplomatically, without resorting to the might of stripes and tanks.

 

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I recalled the famous story of "The Price" when the Turkish PM spoke about Israel

As the citizen of a nation that embraced the Jews 517 years ago, I wish that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had not have made the following statements.

What is more, as a member of a generation that grew on the story of "The Price"*, written by the Turkish novelist, Omer Seyfettin, and made a connection with the theme of the story as part of our cultural identity, I would never have expected that those statements would be made.

 

What does the prime minister say when he harshly condemns the Israeli ground offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza:

 

"We are speaking as the grandsons of the Ottomans who hosted your ancestors in these lands when they were expelled."

 

* * *

In the name of our country, I wish these remarks had never been spoken.

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The catostrophy of possible rising support for Turkey's ruling AKP

Do you agree with the hypothesis that suggests “if the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) continues to govern in the same manner in the lead up to the March 29 local elections, and manages to increase its support by even one extra vote, then all their wrong-doing will be legitimized by the media that supports them.”

This is just a fixation. What is more important is the following remark:

"God forbid, the end could be a catastrophe for us all."

These remarks belong to the leader of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli.

After reading this remark, I automatically reacted by asking, "Why this would be a catastrophe..."

Ultimately, this is a democracy and everything rests on the ballot box...

* * *

The question of "What would happen if the AKP loses votes in the local election?" was the main issue in Turkey's capital Ankara until recently.

Evaluations for this possibility have already started.

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Reactions to Turkey’s main opposition CHP’s new opening out to veiled members

A relative of mine, whose family for two generations, has supported Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) called me yesterday and said "I am very confused. I am struggling to understand the CHP stance to embrace veiled members. I am not sure if I would vote for the CHP following this move."

It is obvious that this decision has confused a number of CHP supporters.

 

I wonder at the exact number of CHP supporters who think like this?

 

I spoke to party chairman, Deniz Baykal, yesterday.

 

He said he held the results of a survey conducted in 16 of Turkey’s largest cities and towns.

 

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I will take the risk and make a claim about the future of Turkey

I will leave aside my journalist hat and make a claim as a sociologist, a profession I left 25 years ago.

If anything emerges as a result of my declaration, anyone can bring this article before me.     

 

Turkey has made the first step towards solving the headscarf issue at universities through legitimate means.

 

What is more, this step has been made by the most appropriate institution and people.

 

This issue that for years has been disturbing the country’s social psychology was put on the path towards a solution by the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal, when he pinned party rosettes welcoming veiled women into the party.

 

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Would the leader of Turkey's CHP pin a party rosette on a homosexual?

If I had not been in a meeting all day yesterday, I would have asked the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal, this question: "Would you also pin a party rosette on a homosexual?"

I could also ask this same question for other identities.

 

For example;

 

"Would you organize a ceremony to pin rosettes on women who work in brothels who had decided to join the CHP?"

 

Or;

 

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How should a prime minister enter a conference hall

When I look at the stage I see German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, another politician, German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Dr. Zieter Zetsche, the head of the world's most prestigious automobile brand Mercedes, and two media bosses, one is Turkish and the other is German.

One of the media bosses is Aydin Dogan, the head of Dogan Yayin Holding, and the other is Dr. Hubert Burda, the owner of 'Burda', one of the biggest media institutions in Germany.

* * *

Close relations between the media and the ruling power, leaving aside dictatorship rules, is a very rare thing.

It can also be said that, the democratic feature of a regime starts to transform into a more autocratic, even more totalitarian form, as the media, completely obeying the power, expands.

Observing Turkey from a distance, it could also be said that it is on this same course.

But the issue also has another side.

Very constructive outcomes can result from politicians and media sharing a collective mind and support for reasonable thoughts on important issues for humanity.

We witnessed the results of just such a cooperation, something which is very rare in our business, in Berlin the day before.

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So what if the hair of the wife of Turkey's president is visible

Fatih Cekirge, editor-in-chief of hurriyet.com.tr, called me yesterday and asked "Have you seen the photo of Mrs. Hayrunnisa Gul*? The cap under her headscarf has slipped and some of her hair can be seen."

I looked at the photo and noticed that some hair was clearly exposed.

 

Of course, we cannot know if this is a new style or something that was the result of carelessness, and from my point of view, it is not very important.

 

We might have run this as headline news at Hurriyet daily if it had happened four or five years ago.

 

But now, we don’t even consider publishing the photo.

 

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A liberal kiss of life to Turkey's PM

I really wonder if Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's statement, "Anybody who doesn't like it can leave this country," directed to certain segments in Turkey's southeastern region, would cost him votes.

If we are searching for an answer to the question of just how much the "love it or leave it" statement would cost and who would be the loser ", we have a very good example.

Hurriyet did not see a fall in readership last year when an angry Erdogan told Hurriyet daily's columnist Bekir Coskun, "if you don't like it, leave the country".

On the contrary, our readership increased.

The same thing happened again and Hurriyet’s circulation rose when he called for a boycott against the newspaper.

Starting with this example, I wonder if we would reach a similar conclusion if we ask if Erdogan would lose votes over his recent statements.

He may lose in the southeast, but I don't think he would lose support in Turkey's remaining regions.

But there is another very important thing that he will lose.

He could lose the "liberal intellectual support" which brought him to this point and which was also very influential during the closure case against his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

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