At last night’s protest in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, slogans such as “Israeli Pirates” and “You know how to kill people” were inspired by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s evolving discourse vis-à-vis the state of Israel, which has in its most recent diplomatic overture murdered at least 4 Turkish activists and 5 others on board the Turkish humanitarian aid ship Mavi Marmara in international waters. It appears that Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev was thus correct in his determination that the activists had accrued “headlines for their cause,” although this assessment fails to account for the likelihood that the headline sought by 700 international activists with 10,000 tons of aid destined for Gaza was actually something like: “700 activists break siege of Gaza with 10,000 tons of aid.”
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) might of course have prevented the headline victory by refraining from boarding humanitarian aid ships in international waters and shooting people, thereby adding a new dimension to traditional manifestations of piracy in which pirates are merely committed to confiscating goods for their own purposes rather than to prevent said goods from reaching a besieged population. Other preventable headlines in IDF history include reports from Lebanon and Gaza along the lines of: “Israel mistakes Red Cross ambulance for rocket launcher, again.”
As for the June 1 Bloomberg headline that U.S. stocks had fallen following a report that the Lebanese military had fired at Israeli warplanes violating Lebanese airspace, Mark Regev most likely perceived the retaliation as another pursuit of headlines. Lebanese retaliation has nonetheless been conspicuously absent from history, despite constant such airspace violations by nations who appear to view more than simply international waters as their own territory; other historical situations in which Israel has been unable to force a retaliation—such as the PLO’s refusal to violate a ceasefire in the early 1980s—have meanwhile resulted in such things as the reliance on the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to the UK in 1982 by individuals not associated with the PLO in order to justify the invasion of Lebanon and death of approximately 17,500 people, primarily civilians.
More recent civilian deaths at hands of the IDF have contributed to a surge in Turkish news headlines such as “The world against Israel,” which suggests that the Jewish state may not be able to garner indefinite sympathy by exploiting that very argument in order to excuse its bellicose acts. As for other headlines suggesting that the IDF attack on the Mavi Marmara was coordinated with the PKK attack on Turkish soldiers in Iskenderun on the same day, these may indicate the feasibility of reconciling Erdoğan’s condemnation of Israel for state-sponsored terrorism with Turkish acquisition of Israeli-manufactured Heron drones, which are presumably as effective on Kurdish populations as they are on Palestinian ones.
PULSE editor Jasmin Ramsey and I arrived to Taksim Square in Istanbul late last evening once we were delivered from my lack of directional capabilities by a group of Turks with Palestinian flags and “Damn Israel” headbands. Subway fare to Taksim was waived by the official manning the turnstile, who endorsed the group’s attire; other acts of solidarity took place in the square itself, where representatives from the Turkish IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, one of the organizations responsible for the convoy to Gaza, were distributing bottles of water. As the IHH was recently accused by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon of ties to “global jihad” and of spawning an “armada of hate and violence”—with violent items on board including large quantities of bottled water destined for distribution in Gaza—last night’s distribution may have merely been a precautionary measure in the event that IDF commandos decided Taksim Square did not qualify as international territory.