The new type of martyrship that the Turkish activists that sacrificed their lives while attacking the Israeli commandoes in the Ship to Gaza incident were revealed in a report by the UN that vindicated Israel against these marauders. Egypt was also aggressive recently after a terrorist attack against Israelis close to Eilat. However, due to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the event has worsened the relationship between Turkey and Israel to the point of retracting their ambassadors, since Erdogan demand of an Israeli apology has not been met.
Who is this Erdogan? Well, according to Ian Bremmer in his book The J curve, he was educated in religious schools as a devout Muslim. As a teenager, he was forced off a soccer team for refusing to shave his beard he considered it his religious duty to grow. Elected mayor of Istanbul in 1994, Erdogan declared himself the city’s “imam” and opened his first city council meeting by chanting from the Koran. After reading an Islamist poem at a 1998 rally, Erdogan was convicted of using religion to provoke disorder and sent to jail for four months. The poem read in part, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets/The minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers. The jail sentence apparently made him more Kemalistically secular but how much of a religious soldier is he still while being a very popular prime minister?
Erdogan’s life witnesses the tense relationship between the democratic government and the military which characterizes Turkey and which makes it less suitable to join the EU. Erdogan has, according to Der Spiegel held a rally in Germany to 15,000 Turkish immigrants where he suggested they should not integrate into the German society. Thus supporting Turkish enclaves in Germany, his Turkey is less suitable for EU membership. At least if the current ever closer union represents the future path of development.
The question is then what path Turkey is going to find for themself in the appearing Middle East and North Africa environment at the same time as they are alienating themselves from Israel? They are playing an important part in supporting the NTC of Libya and have issued warning to Syria for their human rights violations. Will they evolve as a democratic model for the rest or will they rather become like the rest to blend in? Turkey being the most democratic Muslim country is an important phenomenon with a rather unique history to match. It does not seem likely that we will find a leader of Kemal Atatürk’s type in the area with such a will to emulate the West.