Burak Bekdil

The unlucky mediator

13 Mart 2009
A few times during the first half of 2008, Turkey’s government leaders and foreign policy architects talked about niceties like security cooperation and sustainable stability in the Caucasus, while emphasizing Turkey’s indispensable role for these goals. Shortly afterward, war broke out between Russia and Georgia over, ostensibly, "matters of the Caucasus." The same very important Turks also "mediated" peace talks between Israel and Syria for over a year, first covertly, then overtly. Just when Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan (and, of course, the unofficial foreign minister for the Middle East, Ahmet Davutoglu) thought they all could soon be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Israel’s Gaza offensive came. Bad luck É

But there was still some window of opportunity for Turkish mediation. This time for "hudna," or truce, between Israel and Hamas. Once again, big speeches were made on the "Turkish peace-making," big promises floated in the air. Then all of a sudden we learned that Turkey had to withdraw from that role too. And "withdrawn" can always be a euphemism for "pushed out."

Caucasus, Israel-Syria, Israel-Hamas may have failed, but once one is determined to win at face value as the "official peace-maker by appointment to his majesty," nothing can stop him. Hey, look eastward! Yes, there is Iran! Why not? The Nobel Peace Prize could be just around the corner. With a little bit of effort, we can broker a historic peace deal between the United States and Iran. Over the past few weeks, newsrooms were flooded with stories containing the words "Turkey, Iran, the United States, mediation, mediator and peace."

The Turks were proud to read in newspapers lines that began with, "President Abdullah Gül told the Iranians É" and filled with all possible epilogues that meant only one thing: Neo-Ottoman Turkey preached to Iran on how best to build dialogue with the United States, and the Mullahs in Tehran shyly nodded in gestures which meant, "If it be your will É" But then all of a sudden President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad abruptly told journalists that Iran did not need any other country’s services as a mediator. But we all should pray that the Turkish mediation between the United States and Iran ended this way. Recalling what happened in Georgia last summer I always feared it could end up with U.S. military aircraft bombing potential nuclear sites in Iran. That was a near thing É

Now the Filipinos must watch out. It was revealed that Mr. Erdogan’s government had been mediating between the Manila government and the Moro National Liberation Front, a Muslim guerrilla organization. Inevitably, I fear some violent incident in the Philippines or an all-out offensive by the Filipino army against the Muslim separatists.

God permit, that too failing, Mr. Erdogan and his men would have to spread a world map on a desk and find some nice area of conflict for which they could mediate or facilitate. They can always try their chances at some or all of U.S.-Venezuela, U.S.-Cuba, the two Koreas, Kashmir, China-Taiwan, China-Nepal, India-Pakistan and Sri Lanka-the Tamils. Fortunately, this is not a small list. It can keep the AKP boys busy for a few more years with even bigger speeches on the merits of Turkish mediation. As for the possible casualties in any of these conflicting terrains É it will be a risk worth taking. In any case, they should accept Turkish mediation at their own peril.

And mind you all those flashy American pleasantries that make us ask ourselves, "Is America rediscovering Turkey’s face value?" have too little to do with the miraculous Turkish mediation history. They are rather about a graceful American exit from Iraq (with an emphasize on the broader use of the Incirlik military base), stability especially in northern Iraq in the post-exit phase, more Turkish contribution to Afghanistan (excluding combat troops), and a historic hand-shake with Armenia. It’s good news for Mr. Erdogan: The unlucky mediator may soon turn into a lucky helper.
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What does Bashir know too well?

11 Mart 2009
Last month, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister, reminded us "what the Jews know too well." And just last week, crowds in Khartoum’s Martyrs Square were shouting loud to Luis Moreno-Ocampo, prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, or ICC, and the Jews: "We’ve been trained to confront people like you!" A simple twist of fate? Yes Ğ if one believes in fairy tales. But Jews as "killers" for the Turkish prime minister and as "a nation to confront" for the Sudanese is not the only pretty coincidence. Who else would, er, not too much like the Jews? Osama bin Laden, for example. Who is bin Laden? Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s very important guest for five years in the 1990s when he consolidated his terror network’s operations. And who has twice very warmly hosted Mr. Bashir? Mr. Erdoğan’s government. What does the United Nations think Mr. Bashir is responsible for? 300,000 coffins and 2.5 million displaced people since the Darfur conflict broke out in 2003. Hence the ICC’s arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir, five counts of crimes against humanity and two of war crimes. And how does Mr. Bashir’s ambassador to Ankara describe Mr. Erdoğan’s Turkey? A friendly and sister country. Who was the first Muslim prime minister to pay a visit to Mr. Bashir’s Sudan? Mr. Erdoğan.

Who does Mr. Bashir think are the true criminals? The leaders of the United States and Europe. Which country does Mr. Erdoğan’s government wish to look pretty these days? The United States. Which political bloc does Mr. Erdoğan claim he is taking Turkey to? The European Union.And what did Ali Babacan, foreign minister, feel about the arrest warrant for a man on charges of crimes against humanity? Concerned. Yes, we are concerned. What did Mr. Babacan call for? Dialogue with the Bashir administration. Any other suggestions from the Turkish foreign minister? Yes: We should not look at the legal viewpoint and ignore the political perspective because if we do so it could be problematic. Any further suggestions? Yes: We should not exclude the man wanted for crimes against humanity and have dialogue with him. Perhaps Mr. Babacan knows what the ICC prosecutors do not know. Perhaps the all too innocent Mr. Bashir is a reincarnation of Indra Gandhi.

Further questions É Who is the man who invited bin Laden to Sudan in 1991? Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the National Islamic Front, a movement known to the Sudanese for its Sharia practices, including amputations and hangings. Who else is Mr. Turabi? An Islamic comrade whose ideas were in the 1970s widely circulated among Islamist groups in Turkey, including Mr. Erdoğan’s. Israel again É What does the Turkish secretary general of the Organization for Islamic Conference, or OIC, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, think about the arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir? That it shows a double standard because the ICC did not investigate the Israeli incursion into Gaza.

Now let’s try to sum up. There is an Islamist dictator in the heart of Africa and he is wanted by an international court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The man thinks the real criminals are American and European leaders. In the meantime, EU candidate Turkey is "concerned" not because he committed tragic crimes but because he is now wanted.

In return, the dictator sees Turkey as a sister and friendly country. And the Turkish head of the OIC rushes to the dictator’s aide because the international community did not prosecute the Israeli leaders over Gaza. According to Mr. Ihsanoğlu, any dictator should feel free to commit any crime against humanity and escape trial as long as the Jews go unpunished for the Gaza offensive.

Interesting story. The Israelis É That same coincidence again ... taking us all back to Jews as killers and a nation to confront. But where else in this nice little story do we come up with Jews? In addition to bin Laden, Mr. Turabi invited several violent Islamist groups and allowed them to operate freely, including Abu Nidal Organization, which had killed more than 900 people in 20 different countries, aiming mainly at Jews. Jews again ... What an increasingly interesting coincidence! A final question. What is the ideology that at different or the same periods of their political careers brought together Mr. Erdoğan, Bashir, Turabi, Babacan and Ihsanoğlu? I should say liberalism and make a career move to fairy tale writing.
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Bayezid II vs. Erdoğan I

6 Mart 2009
"How can you call Ferdinand of Aragon a wise king? He has made his land poor and enriched ours," thus spoke Sultan Beyazit II (1447-1512) when a majority of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492 went to the Ottoman Empire to settle down. Five hundred and seventeen years later, a wannabe Ottoman sultan, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan I, said of the Jews, "When it comes to killing, you know it too well." But why should Turkey have an elected sultan in the 21st century’s political architecture? Because the Turks democratically chose to have a sultan. And that’s all too normal in the Orient. The Lebanese, after Mr. Erdoğan’s flare-up in Davos, proposed to declare him the new "caliph." Why should the Turks not call him the new Ottoman sultan?

Mr. Erdoğan is playing a dangerous game. He plays his Islamist self in public, and his pragmatist self in private. Easy game: You call the Jews -- that "cursed nation" as most dogmatic Muslims think of them -- "killers" in public road shows and win votes.

Then you resort to all possible means of private diplomacy and back channels to avoid Jewish-American hostility because you must also behave like a survivor. Excellent blend! And you don’t care the least because you have perilously added to the already explosive anti-Semitic sentiment at home. Plus, you can now play the new Ottoman sultan, the darling of all the oppressed nations of the Middle East. Very cunning indeed.

But do the gains in real life come that easily? Not always. Not forever. True, Washington needs Turkey’s services, especially at a time when it hopes for a graceful exit from Iraq and for a better task force in Afghanistan, to name just two. But statesmen do need to talk realities in addition to fantasies. One of those moments will come soon.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be in Ankara on the weekend. During their meeting, according to Mr. Erdoğan’s account, the prime minister-turned-sultan will ask the secretary of state for an explanation of the State Department’s human rights report on Turkey.

Add to that Mr. Erdoğan’s all-too enthusiastic love affair with Hamas. Now add to that blend fresh input: Mrs. Clinton reaffirmed on Monday that "the United States would deal only with a Palestinian unity government that renounced terrorism and recognized the right of Israel to exist; that would clearly exclude Hamas, which, she noted, continues to launch rockets at Israeli towns."

There will surely be niceties in Ankara. That will be the "pragmatic" part of the very important talks in the Turkish capital. In reality, Mr. Erdoğan’s neo-Ottomanism does not fit into the new U.S. administration’s view of an ideal Middle East. Mr. Erdoğan will no doubt wear his pragmatic mask when he meets with Mrs. Clinton. And for sure Mrs. Clinton will tell Mr. Erdoğan all the necessary words of consolation over the human rights report which, according to his own words, angered him a lot. In return, he will nod and return the pleasantries, highlighting Turkey’s "geo-strategic importance" for American interests. There is nothing unusual in all that talk.

But the fundamental -- and widening -- divergence of world views is too powerful to hide behind temporary periods of mutual pragmatism: 

* Mr. Erdoğan is too pro-Hamas whereas Mrs. Clinton’s idea for peace does not include a popular political movement with a branch that commits terrorism. 

* For Mrs. Clinton, the Israelis have a right to exist whereas for Mr. Erdoğan the Israelis "only know too well when it comes to killing." 

* For Washington, Turkey must remain a genuine democracy, not an autocracy with free elections. But Mr. Erdoğan loves his messianic role as the Ottoman Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdoğan I, if he just does not have an eye on the trophy for the new caliph. 

* Hopefully these "negligible" differences can be skipped Ğ but not forever if anyone on either side of the Atlantic is serious about the Middle East.

And by the way, this is how Mrs. Clinton’s State Department reported on Mr. Erdoğan’s Turkey on religious freedoms: 

* Religious social orders (tarikats) and lodges (cemaats) are officially prohibited; however, they remained (in 2008) active and widespread and many prominent politicians and social leaders continued to associate with these and other societies.

* (Mr. Erdoğan’s) government continued to restrict applicants’ choice of religion on their ID cards. 

* There are reports that officers in governmental ministries faced discrimination because they were not considered by their supervisors to be sufficiently observant of Islamic religious practices.

Need one say more?
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CHP agents in the State Department!

4 Mart 2009
According to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the media group that publishes this newspaper is politically allied with the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP. He has often tagged us as "CHP partisans." Apparently, the CHP partisans have not only infiltrated into the Doğan Media Group, but also crossed the Atlantic and successfully penetrated into the U.S. State Department.

According to the State Department’s 2008 report on human rights in Turkey, this was the state of Mr. Erdoğan’s EU-candidate country:

* Journalists fear reprisals if they criticize the government.

* A media group (Doğan) is in a row over government graft allegations.

* Authorities ordered raids of newspaper offices, temporarily closed newspapers and issued fines or confiscated newspapers for violating speech codes.

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Democratically-elected autocracy

27 Şubat 2009
You cannot have autocratically-elected democracy, but you can always have the opposite. For Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister, democracy is all about arithmetic, i.e. merely the numbers and percentages of votes cast. For Turkey’s European friends it is all about men in uniform. Both obsessions are wrong, and no one will be happy about the democracy Turkey will eventually have invented. Mr. Erdoğan thinks elections would suffice to make Turkey a democracy. For Brussels, Turkey is a democracy as long as the military does not intervene in politics. Sadly, Russia is not a democracy in the true meaning of the term although it holds democratic elections. Nor is Saudi Arabia a democracy because the Saudi military leadership does not have a role in politics.

In democracies, governance is transparent, corruption allegations are thoroughly investigated, partisanism and nepotism are hardly the norm. Anti-government protestors are not brutally beaten by the police, arrested on the spot and prosecuted immediately.

In democracies, prime ministers do not call for a national boycott against newspapers critical of their governments. Nor do they land unfriendly media groups with unprecedented tax fines. In democracies, detainees are not held behind bars for over a year without even knowing the charges against them. Mr. Erdoğan justifies his anger at this publishing group with the news about his family members. In his vision of democracy newspapers should refrain from covering the commercial miracles of the prime minister’s sons, son-in-laws, close friends or senior party officials. No coverage, and that would be democracy. If there is coverage, then the democracy should come up in the form of a $500 million fine.

Just the other day, Mehmet Ali Şahin, the justice minister, publicly said that Turks should vote for mayors who would be "friendly" with the central government, or suffer the consequences. On the same day, Ankara’s mayor, Melih Gökçek, from the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, claimed that his election rival, Murat Karayalçın, could not get government loans for his projects should he be elected. These statements are not only undemocratic or unethical, they are also illegal.

If a public prosecutor filed a suit about the AKP on the grounds of illegal election campaigning, that would be very undemocratic. If the senior AKP figures breach the election laws, that would be democracy.

When the prime minister talks to Kurds in Kurdish, that’s democracy. If a Kurdish politician speaks in Kurdish in Parliament, that’s a breach of law and awfully undemocratic.

Similarly, when a judge arrests people known to be critical of the government it’s always "our independent judiciary and we should not intervene." When another prosecutor indicts the ruling party, or when the Supreme Court finds it guilty of unconstitutional activity, that’s so very undemocratic and it constitutes a "judicial coup."

Now Mr. Erdoğan is accusing this publishing group for being in alliance with the opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP. Of course, he claims "the other" media is not pro-AKP at all! They are objective, neutral, independent publications. And yes, even the media group owned by a company run by his son-in-law! That one, too, is neutral. But it would be quite easy to see if Mr. Erdoğan is telling the truth. Scanning a couple of months back, in one newspaper only, Hürriyet, anyone can dog pile and produce dozens of articles, stories and columns bitterly critical about the CHP or its leadership. To match that, I shall name four newspapers that Mr. Erdoğan tags as independent and objective: Zaman, Star, Yeni Şafak and Sabah.

Now do the same scan for the same period and see how many articles, stories or columns you would find equally critical of the AKP. I’ll tell you, not more than a few, and that would be if the chosen criterion is not bitter criticism, but just shy criticism. The fact is, my sparring partner, the all-too AKP-friendly Mustafa Akyol, does write a column for this publishing group (and I am only too happy he does) while I could only be an office boy in any one of those "objective and independent" newspapers.

With the AKP caring only about arithmetical democracy and the EU about how often and on what subjects do the Turkish generals talk, Turkey is not sailing toward a safe harbor. Too bad, democratic elections and silent generals per se do not necessarily make democracy.
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I warned you, boss!

25 Şubat 2009
About a year ago Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan devoted half an hour of his parliamentary speech to threatening "that media group" that he claimed was covering the controversy around the Islamic turban in a "wicked way." It was the same media group that also publishes this newspaper. The coverage Mr. Erdoğan did not like was an assortment of international headlines on Hürriyet’s front page from prominent publications/newswires including the Associated Press, Reuters, Washington Post, New York Times and Le Monde. And I had agreed with Mr. Erdoğan. I wrote that Hürriyet should have quoted more serious publications like the Ulema Times, the Muslim Post, Wahhabi Daily News, the Observant, the Daily Turban or the Mecca Guardian (In Turkey, even the trains don’t run on time!, Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, Feb. 15, 2008).

In addition to that, as a columnist who felt a wholehearted responsibility to his employers I wrote that I wished to save my bosses from corporate consequences and commented, that the headscarf must be allowed not only in universities, but also in kindergarten too, actually the headscarf must be made a must-wear in government offices, that the constitutional amendments to liberalize the headscarf are perfect examples that Turkey deserves full membership in the EU, since they make Turkey a perfect democracy, that the next chief of general staff should have a wife who wears the headscarf, and even, long live Homo Islamicus Democraticus! Finally, I concluded, a year ago, with a warning note: This columnist’s humble advice to Hürriyet’s publishers: Be wise, just do as I do and escape the corporate consequences.

Sadly, they did not listen to my advice. Now our publishing group, the champion tax payer in the media industry for the past several years, has a small ticket on its window: 826 million Turkish Liras (over $500 million) in penalties for tax irregularity. How very nice!

Perhaps our editors do not understand. These days the smallest traffic fine we could be getting cannot be less than $100,000. If Ertuğrul Özkok is spotted spitting on the pavement, he could be prosecuted for 6 to 8 years in prison. Even Bekir Coşkun’s pet dog could face a few years in a pet jail for "running like a dog on the grass in a public area." But that’s all for a better democracy in Turkey. And Mr. Erdoğan and his men are none other than liberal democrats. And yes the elephant they painted with pink stripes is a zebra.And it is only a simple twist of fate that the company run by Mr. Erdoğan’s son-in-law appeared as the sole bidder for Turkey’s second biggest media outlet, or that two state banks financed that deal with loans at terms never made public, or that a generous tax penalty landed coincidentally on the media group for which Mr. Erdoğan never hides his hatred. How many times has he called on his supporters to boycott "those newspapers"? It was another coincidence that one of Mr. Erdoğan’s top party officials appeared in public only to defend the tax fine. This was the first time in Turkish political or fiscal history that a senior government politician had to defend the logic behind a tax fine. Yes, Turkey is a land of bizarre coincidences. The truth is quite disturbing, and not only for the man who owns this media group. There are strong chances that a tax court or a supreme administrative court would correct the penalty, wholly or partly. But the danger is somewhere else. Mr. Erdoğan is a genuine autocrat and a fake liberal. He is a genuine Islamist and a fake democrat. And that his blood feud with his opponents is pushing Turkey into a darkness that Turkey’s western friends will repent.

According to the International Press Institute (and the South East Europe Media Organization), the decision to impose the unprecedented tax fine on the Doğan Media Group raises concerns about possible efforts to silence this group, a frequent target of attack by Mr. Erdoğan. "Prime Minister Erdoğan has escalated his verbal attacks on Dogan’s newspapers for their reporting," IPI Director David Dadge said. "He has called for his supporters to boycott Doğan and other newspapers, but this has not silenced them. The timing and unprecedented size of this tax fine raise serious concerns that the authorities are changing their approach from rhetoric to using the state apparatus to harass the media." The IPI is playing with fire. Mr. Erdoğan may not send them a tax fine, but I would not be surprised if Turkey, now with a temporary seat on the UN Security Council, proposed a resolution for the closure of the Institute. As for Mr. Dadge, he should stay away from any visit to Turkey. He may be arrested immediately upon his entry into the Turkish soil for tax fraud, if not for drug smuggling.
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Don’t shoot me, hang me!

20 Şubat 2009
"The members of the clergy of Greece may not be shot. They may only be hanged. I beg you to respect this tradition," Archbishop Damaskinos asked of the German occupation authorities in 1943. The wars, even in the times of the Nazis, were fought in a more honest way than they are today. So I thought having re-read a rich bouquets of readers’ messages that had flown into my inbox at unusual volumes. All that because I had dared to criticize Fethullah Gülen in this column on Wednesday. Forget the positive and neutral comments. There is much we should learn from the negative ones. Of course I assume those messages were genuine and written by people who had sympathies with Mr Gülen, as they claim so, although I suspect some of them could have been sent by people who had sympathies with my sparring partner, Mustafa Akyol. (Don’t get offended Mr Akyol, I am just joking!) 

I knew the Grand Hodja was a sacrosanct figure for his millions of followers scattered all around the world as smart missionaries. I did not know; however, that he was a kind of Muslim Pope, a human being who is never, never (repeat: never) mistaken about anything worldly. I was surprised, because this thinking is entirely against Koranic teachings. Especially when we are talking about a man, one of whose books had been proven to be a perfect product of plagiarizing.

But forget plagiarizing. In any proper interpretation of the Koran, Grand Hodja or a not-so-Grand Hodja, all human beings are just human beings full of good and evil. I thought of reminding the angry readers that associating God with any creature was one of the two unforgivable sins in Islam. I did not.

Surprisingly I discovered something common in those messages coming from all exotic and non-exotic parts of the world (I am sure David Judson would be delighted to see that our newspaper was reaching out to the world’s most unthinkable corners unless the readers were dishonest about their declarations of the cities they lived in. In two cases I had to look up in a world atlas to find out where those cities were located.) Invariably, I was not being accused of the words I wrote, but of the words I did not write. Bizarre? Perhaps not. One reader accused me of calling the Grand Hodja a terrorist although I never wrote (or even privately thought) so. On the contrary, one line of that column clearly read that "Fethullahists are of course not terrorists." Blame it on missionary blindness! These are little misunderstandings of no importance.

Another commonality was the accusation that I was an atheist bÉ..d as evoked by my previous writings, "which clearly showed that I was secular." Now we know that secular Muslims are atheist bÉ..ds. I am grateful to learn.

I discovered another quality in those messages, an excellent command of English, especially in obscene and slang language. I had to devote a considerable part of Wednesday and Thursday to linguistic research mainly to find out what those words I had not heard of before meant. I am not sure if I shall ever need to use those newly-learned words, but thank you chaps, learning is always good, even at the age of 43!

I was also grateful to that one reader who read my afterlife fortune. It is always good to know what kind of pastime one shall have to have after one’s death; although, according to that reader, my future was not very bright. At one point I was sweating reading about my afterlife, which reminded me of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Part Hell, needless to say! But thanks anyway.

The other category of messages was what one might call "the threats" but these good Muslims prefer to brand as "holy warnings." I must complain they were generally disappointingly vague in language. One wonders about the details of how those curses would take place "unless I repent and learn to respect the Grand Hodja." Again, I am grateful to one reader in particular who gave me more details about the misfortunes I shall have to face.

Ergenekon. Yes, I am a member of the Ergenekon terror organization. Evidence? Wednesday’s column. Justification? Not respecting the Grand Hodja. More than sufficient. How dare you! Pack up a few things for you will be arrested soon! I don’t think that is a possibility. Not because I never met in my life any of the Ergenekon suspects, or talked to them, but I know if I get arrested my sparring partner will rush to my aide and get me out immediately.

Having read all the messages a few times, I felt sorry NOT to have been unfair to this very distinguished community of liberal Muslims who are very talented in cursing (commenting) and threatening (warning) in excellent but vulgar English. They claim to be the people who follow a man who claims to be a man of peace. Either the Grand Hodja has failed to teach them well, or É But certainly they cannot not be allying civilizations with such sentiments and language, can they? All the same I am certain they should be hiding "that face of theirs" when they fake to the "Franks of power." After Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Davos tirade his Arab fans shouted out loud that he should be named the new caliph. Sorry lads, the position is not vacant. We already have a caliph although he resides in non-Muslim land.
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The patience of a spider

18 Şubat 2009
The title sounds like a cheap detective novel. But it is not. "The philosophy of our service is that we open a house somewhere and, with the patience of a spider, we lay our web to wait for people to get caught in the web; and we teach those who do. We don't lay the web to eat or consume them but to show them the way to their resurrection, to blow life into their dead bodies and souls, to give them a life," thus commanded Fethullah Gülen, the "master lord," in one of his sermons.

In one of modern political history’s best-selling lies Fethullahists have been working day and night to convince the West that Turkey’s real anti-Semites are more or less everyone apart from the Fethullahists themselves. That may be true. Last night in Atlantis a jinn told me that secularists and radical Islamists are anti-Semites while every Fethullahist is a modern day Oskar Shindler. I asked him for proof. He whispered my prickly column neighbor’s name and disappeared into an unknown.

Thus I dog-piled Mustafa Akyol’s recent op-eds. I am not going to go into his Gaza-fever articles like "Terrorism in the name of Judaism" (Jan. 24), or "You wonder why they hate you? Look at Gaza" (Jan. 3) in which Mr Akyol described how he talked to a group of 300 conservative Muslims in Istanbul and how even those who agreed that Hamas was subscribing to terrorist methods shouted out loud that "Israel is the real terrorist."

In a more recent column, "Anti-Semitism in Turkey: Myths and Facts (I)" (Feb. 12), an unusually agitated Mr Akyol was telling us something like "no, no we are not the anti-Semites, but they are!" in language that sounded like a naughty kid telling his teacher he had not broken the window and, in a low voice, informing on the classmate he hates the most. His proof? "Dozens of columns that appeared in the Islamic/conservative side of the Turkish media É which emphasized the need to distinguish between the State of Israel and the Jewish people." Good. I am sure that will do the trick and at the next after-prayer anti-Jewish demonstration Islamic/conservative Turks will chant slogans distinguishing between the State of Israel and the Jewish people.

In the same column, Mr Akyol quotes a prominent Islamic pundit, Ali Bulaç, as reminding that "while the Koran blames the Jews for some sins it reminds ’they are not the same,’ and that Muslims should respect non-Zionist Jews." Sadly, Mr Bulaç’s first line explains it all. And his second line was very generous of him: "You, Jews, if you want our respect, stop being Zionists!"

Mr Akyol admits that a categorical hatred of the Jews exists in the Islamic camp but claims that that can be observed only in the very marginal publications such as daily Vakit. Sadly, that "very marginal" publication is the darling of our "non-marginal" Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Remember, Mr Erdoğan has been calling his supporters to boycott Hürriyet, not Vakit. Instead, this "very marginal publication" has the privilege of being a regular invitee on Mr. Erdoğan’s private jet.

In another line, Mr Akyol argued that, "The secular camp in Turkey includes secular nationalists (Ulusalcılar, in Turkish) who are the proponents of all sorts of racism and xenophobia." That is true. But there is a problem with Mr Akyol’s intentions to tell us that one truth. In fact Mr Akyol’s argument is no different than saying, "The Islamic camp in Turkey includes terrorists who bombed synagogues and consulates and banksÉ" which is another truth. Just like not every Islamist is a terrorist, not all secular Turks are xenophobic.

And of course, the Fethullahists are not terrorists. Nor are they secretly piling up weapons caches to take to the streets and kill every Jew they find when the right time comes. The truth is, as almost always, somewhere between the two extremes. Fethullahists are smarter Islamists who resort to smarter weaponry (intellect, networking and taqiyya instead of guns and bombs) for the same end-goal: The long-sought victory of Islam on a global scale.

Both the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the Fethullahist movement take their roots in Islamism. They have a common goal, which is to advance political Islam, not Islam as a religion per se. But what is the difference between two political movements that basically pursue the same goal?

The answer will be their methodology. Whereas Mr. Erdoğan is more honest and outspoken in his views about Jewry, Fethullahists are more reserved to reveal their true feelings and believe that it would be quite unnecessary to make enemies during their holy march to victory. They have been indoctrinated by their master lord to be as patient as a spider.

That explains why an army of Fethullahists on both sides of the Atlantic have been privately telling their AKP comrades that they share Mr. Erdoğan’s feelings but that the grandiose show at Davos was an unnecessary act. What better cover than the miraculous word, "interfaith dialogue," could have been invented in order to instrument the impressive propaganda machine Fethullahists are running? Yes, they work hard. Yes, they are smart people. Yes, for the na?ve western intellectual, they can be very convincing. And yes, they are as patient as a spider.

We are probably not too far away from the moment of truth, the day when Turkey’s Islamists will be celebrating a bizarre victory, the day when, in the words of the master lord, "a nation that has accepted atheism, has accepted materialism, a nation accustomed to running away from itself, has come back riding on its horse."

Spiders and horses É when "that day" comes we will have to remember all kinds of animal jokes that we know. Especially the one about the scorpion who asks a frog for a ride to cross the river and convinces the hesitant frog with the very convincing argument that if it stings, they both would die. No, the scorpion will not bite for fun. It’s just the genes.
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