How A Nation Slides Into War - A View From Turkey, As Syrian Tensions Mount

Turkish soldier
Turkish soldier
Yetvart Danzikyan

ISTANBUL - “Will we go to war with Syria?” That is the singular question on everyone’s mind these days. We journalists are being pounded with it every day from friends and close relatives -- but how can we give a direct answer?

I say talk of war between Turkey and Syria is overblown and I believe an all-out conflict would be detrimental to both countries. But then I question myself. In fact, sometimes I even laugh at myself, because these decisions are not made by those with my logic or reasoning.

Looking back at history, journalists and academics are often asked if mounting tensions are a prelude to war. Once weighed, the response is usually dismissive. But the fact that the question of war is even being asked, shows that war has reached close enough to our shores.

It is at this stage that the government then steps up to say: “We don’t want war, but…”

As soon as we hear the tentative “but,” things start to get critical. No one is going to come out and say, “Yes, we are going to war, gather the troops.” Different words will be uttered so people believe that we have no choice but to go to war.

When we look at wars retrospectively, aside from struggles for independence, we see that the power and mainstream mentality that controls society, has interest in these wars. And usually, such decisions are taken in order to overcome economic austerity.

Political and, more significantly, economic hardships affect sovereign powers in their decision to declare war. This should not be confused with the invasion of a territory in order to colonize it. No, what is meant by economic hardship is that the new production order initiated by war will create a surplus value for the country, so that sovereignty will strengthen its power.

Looking for an enemy

Behind the scenes, the industrial powers desire this type of economic order every now and then. (I am not saying that we are now going to war because of this, though it was very interesting to see that the shares of ASELSAN, which produces military vehicles, gained value in the stock market on the day after Turkey’s retaliatory strike in Syria. Some people know what war means in this country, that’s for sure.)

Sometimes a country goes to war as a result of political hardship. Power, especially strong power, is mesmerized by that very power, so much so that they believe they can obtain a kind of eternal power through a new war.

One might ask where the hardship is in this scenario. It is actually there, because the strong power would look for new conditions to carry forth its strength when previous conditions are entirely exhausted. For instance, the opposition is entirely defeated, there is no opposition force left in the country that would undermine their power. These are the conditions where a country’s power is supported by a declaration of war. Because, if they stop, they will fall.

More accurately, they convince themselves that this is the right scenario. They have to bring new targets and new enemies before society because a strong leader cannot shout without pointing out someone else as a target, and who could he shout at in those given circumstances? The weak opposition? A bunch of intellectuals? Political representatives of the ethnic or religious minorities? Say you shout at them, how far can you go? After a while, you become an authoritarian leader in the eyes of the rest of the world. However, a small-scale war, which would not be opposed by the rest of the world, would open a new political arena for power inside the country.

Yet, a small-scale war unforeseeably can, suddenly, become a big-scale war. Events go beyond the initial plans, an atmosphere spins out of control with one spark, fueled by a strong nationalist atmosphere.

This brings us back to the conjunction used after war. It is after the “but” that everything is revealed. This becomes apparent when we look back at passages from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rhetoric last Friday.

“We are not interested in war, but we’re not far from it either.”

"You have to be ready at every moment to go to war if it is necessary. If you are not ready for this, you are not a state. If you are not ready for this, you are not a nation.

"Nobody should ask: But what will happen if a war were to begin and bring us to that point? You should be ready for it and have the memorandum in hand. What is necessary will be done, if it does become necessary."

When it comes to Turkey, this is how matters are explained. With the U.S. elections coming up, the deadlock in the UN and the recent cross-border shelling, what should we do? Just sit and watch?

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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