Geopolitics

Why Erdogan Is Soft On ISIS

Police forces in Istanbul's Sultanahmet district
Police forces in Istanbul's Sultanahmet district
Ahmet Ä°nsel

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL â€" Turkey's government and the media that support it have an odd attitude when it comes to violent acts carried out by ISIS: It's as if the "cultural/ideological dialects" of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government somehow malfunction.

For starters, the government has a hard time condemning the vicious massacres carried out by the organization that calls itself the Islamic State, which is just what happened with the most recent attack in Gaziantep on Aug. 20 month that killed 57 people. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not use the heavy tones of condemnation reserved for other violent organizations like the Kurdish PKK, or the Gülenist group blamed for the July 15 attempted coup. The difference with ISIS is that it touches their own ideological grassroots.

There is a really serious problem here. This hesitant attitude due to cultural and ideological affinity is the reason Turkey's security forces are less virulent to the presence and actions of ISIS militants compared to other organizations, and why the judiciary is more understanding of them. This does not end with the ruling party and its officials: Indeed, most Sunni Muslims feel this way.

No organization name

In AKP party circles and affiliated media, beginning with President Erdogan himself, are careful to place ISIS actions within a broader definition of terrorism and terrorist organizations. The "terrorism cocktail" that Erdogan invented after the Ankara train station massacre of 2015 was the apogee of this approach. Today, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim is careful to not to say the name of the organization when he declared after Gaziantep: "No matter what the name of this villainous terror that caused the loss of innocent life, the state, government, and nation will continue our determined fight against it."

Meanwhile, AKP spokesperson Yasin Aktay says: "All terrorist attacks are carried out by one hand," implying that knowing who the terrorists actually are does not matter. I hope the security forces of Turkey do not think the same, for the sake of everybody's safety. I hope they are not putting all the different acts of violence by different organizations for different purposes all in one basket!

Take the Turkey cells of ISIS: Their actions, purposes and target audience are, for example, incomparable with the charges brought against the Gülenist groups aligned with Fethullah Gülen. Meanwhile, the PKK is a Kurdish political organization that carries out an armed struggle that includes terrorist acts, but this does not mean they are the same as either ISIS or the Gülenists. It is not comparable either in political, organizational or criminal terms.

To come up with such a generalist view of terrorism is of course not done without purpose. The facts are knowingly being hidden when the group in question is the Islamic State. In the last three years, the AKP government has rejected all parliamentary motions by the opposition to investigate the structure of ISIS in Turkey â€" or even to discuss it in the parliament.

I am not here to say that such attacks by ISIS can be prevented by different words or acts of parliament. Yet this this attitude is a clear evidence of the ideological closeness between the government and ISIS, which risks undermining the response of security forces, judiciary and other state organs toward the organization.

The government is politically accountable if ISIS actions do not stop in Turkey. Trying to cover this up with nonsense like "ISIS is the same as PKK and the Gülenists" only increases this accountability.

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Society

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

-Essay-

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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