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Late on Monday night as I was getting ready for bed I suddenly heard angry Late on Monday night as I was getting ready for bed I suddenly heard angry chanting, shouts and cries echoing in the air, coming from the direction of nearby Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul. It sounded like a huge demonstration, and I wondered what it was about, surprised that it should be happening as midnight approached. I stood and listened on my balcony, unable to quite hear the words of the roared slogans, apart from “Allahuekber” (God is Great). I wondered if the Turks had suddenly caught the fever of the rebellious Arab Spring, and were demanding the overthrow of the government.
My Turkish flatmate appeared a short time later and told me there were thousands of protestors on the streets, many of them Muslim Fundamentalists carrying flaming torches, commemorating the anniversary of the killing by Israeli soldiers of 9 Turks on the Mavi Marmara, one of the ships in an aid flotilla attempting to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip last year, and expressing support for a new convoy of 15 ships, including the Mavi Marmara, which plans to set off at the end of June carrying medical, school and construction materials, organised by the Humanitarian Relief Foundation.
I learned next day that some 30,000 Turks had taken part in the demonstration, many of them shouting slogans such as “Against the Zionist blockade stands our Islamic solidarity,” and carrying posters reading, “Cooperation with Israel is a crime against humanity.”
Following the raid on the Mavi Marmara last year Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that “Israel stands to lose its closest ally in the Middle East if it does not change its mentality.”
Meanwhile however, I wonder if the protesters are aware that business between the two countries is booming. Turkey is currently Israel’s biggest trade partner in the region and its second-biggest in the world, following the United States. In the first three months of 2011, Turkey exported products worth $579.3 million to Israel and imported goods worth $397.3 million.
While Turkey purchases high-tech defense-industry equipment from Israel, amongst the goods they export are military uniforms and footwear for the Israeli army.
Would the well-meaning protesters who demonstrated on Monday night not feel dismayed and ashamed if they knew that the boots on the feet of the Israeli soldiers who tramp through occupied territory and kick down the doors of Palestinian family homes are labelled ‘Made in Turkey’?
To put real pressure on the Israeli government to consider changing its racist apartheid elitist regime surely trade sanctions and boycotts would be the most effective measure. Let Turkey cease its role as cobbler and tailor to the tyrants, and let a new slogan be added to those chanted by the protesters demanding an end to cooperation with Israel: “No more in Cahoots! Off with their Boots!”
(Naturally, it wouldn’t sound quite the same in Turkish.)
Michael Dickinson lives in Istanbul. He can be contacted at http://yabanji.tripod.com/