When I first saw the announcement on Turkish news last night of the arrival to Istanbul of a “Mavi Bebek”—blue baby—from Gaza, I naturally assumed it had something to do with the dominant news story of the past 2 weeks, the May 31 Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara aid vessel endeavoring to break the siege of the Gaza Strip. Two scenarios came to mind regarding the potential significance of Mavi Bebek:
- The Gazans had enacted a symbolic reverse breakage of the siege by sending something small and blue to Turkey.
- The Gazan baby born in the wake of the May 31 attack and named Recep Erdoğan in honor of the Turkish Prime Minister’s principled response to Israel’s “inhumane state terrorism” had been donated by Israel to Turkey as a means of compensating for the 9 Turkish lives lost and reversing the charges of inhumanity.
As it turned out, the Mavi Bebek was more of a combination of both scenarios: a Gazan baby named Retaj Seraj suffering from blue baby syndrome who was transported by Turkish air ambulance from Egypt to Istanbul for treatment yesterday. According to a 2009 article in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper on the contributions of Operation Cast Lead to sewage contamination of the Gazan water supply, one effect of the “decline in drinking-water quality [is] the so-called ‘blue baby syndrome’ in which babies’ blood is damaged by exposure to nitrate compounds in waste. The babies become cyanotic, which causes their skin to take on a blue tinge, and to suffer from respiratory and intestinal problems.”
Prior to being transferred to Istanbul, the infant Retaj is described by the Turkish daily Milliyet as having existed in an incubator in Gaza while Israel debated whether or not her family had ties to Hamas and whether or not she was thus eligible to have her life saved at an Israeli hospital. Not clear is how Israel’s security is any less jeopardized now that life-saving duties have been assumed by the very nationality accused of humanitarian disguises for homicidal attacks on Israeli commandos descending from helicopters with guns.