Erdogan’s Hebrew Phrasebook Requires Upgrade


Following the May 31 massacre by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of 9 Turkish humanitarian activists—one also an American citizen—on board the Mavi Marmara en route to Gaza, the Turkish daily Taraf sent reporter Tu?ba Tekerek to Tel Aviv to assess the mood on the street. In the paper’s Saturday edition, Tekerek reports on her interactions with Israelis, which are alternately characterized by insistence that the aid boat was in fact a terrorist boat, threats to boycott Turkey as a holiday destination, and suggestions for a military coup against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an.

Tekerek also reports excessive exposure to the number 12,500, which her interlocutors claim is the quantity of rockets fired at Israel from Gaza in the past 3 years. As for other figures invoked to justify Israeli behavior toward its neighbors, these are advertised by a protester across from the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv who translates his poster for Tekerek, accusing the Turks of the following fatalities: “1.5 million Armenians, 37,000 Kurds, and North Cyprus.” Adolf Hitler might have engaged in a similar sort of auto-exoneration by directing international attention to the victims of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

One of Tekerek’s interviewees, a grocer identified as Aaron, provides an expanded analogy regarding the second group of Turkish victims in order to absolve the IDF of the murder of 9 humanitarian aid activists:

“Let’s say we Israelis decide, based on the bad conditions in which the Kurds in [the southeastern Turkish city of] Diyarbak?r live, to send them aid. And let’s say that we’re going to send this aid in trucks which will pass through the Turkish border without submitting to customs inspection. What would you do in this case?”

Tekerek refrains from pointing out potential inconsistencies in this comparison, such as that:

Kurdish citizens of Diyarbak?r are often permitted to emerge from their city and to move freely around Turkey’s 780,000 square kilometers.

Kurdish citizens of Diyarbak?r are permitted to import tahini, pencils, diapers, and laundry detergent as needed.

Israel has already provided aid to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in addition to selling Heron drones to the Turkish military in order to aid in the PKK’s demise.

Another inconsistency in the analogy is thus that the activists on board the Mavi Marmara were not simultaneously selling weapons to Israel and bringing aid to Gaza. As for Aaron’s suggestion about Israeli trucks crossing the Turkish border, both the Israeli government and the IDF immediately acknowledged that Monday’s attack on the ship had occurred in international waters.

When Tekerek asks Aaron if he killed anyone while performing his military service on behalf of the state of Israel, he replies affirmatively but explains that as a sailor “you kill from afar, you don’t see the people you kill.” Sailor myopia apparently does not apply to IDF commandos who have merely landed on boats by dropping from helicopters, as autopsy reports have revealed that the Mavi Marmara victims were shot at close range; Aaron’s excuse that “in my book it’s better to kill than be killed” meanwhile stands in stark contrast to the conclusion reached by Erdo?an, who recently invoked other relevant books in order to remind the Israelis in Hebrew of the Sixth Commandment.

BELÉN FERNÁNDEZ is a feature writer at Her book “Coffee with Hezbollah” is available through Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes and Noble.









Belén Fernández is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso, and Martyrs Never Die: Travels through South Lebanon.