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Monday, September 12, 2011

Turkey sending boats to confront Israel? Plus, Israeli band in Turkey

From Today's Zaman:

The Turkish Navy is planning to dispatch three frigates to the Eastern Mediterranean to ensure freedom of navigation and to confront Israeli warships if necessary, a Turkish news report said on Monday.

The Turkish frigates, to be dispatched by the Navy's Southern Sea Area Command, will provide protection to civilian ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, blockaded by Israel since 2007, the Turkish daily Sabah reported. If the Turkish warships encounter an Israeli military ship outside Israel's 12-mile territorial waters, they will advance up to 100 meters close to the ship and disable its weapon system, in a confrontation that resembles dogfights in the Aegean Sea with Greek jet fighters, according to the report.

The report comes days after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Turkish warships will escort civilian aid ships headed to Gaza to prevent a repetition of last year's Israeli raid on a Turkish-owned ship that killed eight Turks and a Turkish-American, setting the stage for a potential naval confrontation with its former ally.
The Jerusalem Post picked up on this as well.

This report does not ring true.

First of all, Turkey has somewhat distanced itself from the warlike remarks Erdogan gave last week about accompanying humanitarian aid vessels to Gaza with warships:
According to official sources in Turkey, reporters artificially combined two different remarks made by the Turkish prime minister, creating one sentence perceived as a threat of a military clash in high seas.

The new version, sent to the media from Erdogan's office, attempts to clarify the statement.

"We stressed the principle that we will ensure the safe movement of Gaza's aid vessel," said a senior Turkish government source. "The eastern Mediterranean Sea is not Israel's private playground. As long as it avoids intervening in the freedom of movement in the region, we won't send any warships to escort the vessels."

The source dismissed the published quotes as a bad translation which failed to understand Erdogan's intention. "It appeared as if we were offering to have warships escort every aid vessel. This is not true. Turkey will defend the rights of its citizens only when Israel chooses to intervene and prevent free movement in international waters."
Secondly, what humanitarian aid ship? No one announced any aid ship I am aware of.

I don't know the political affiliation or editorial stance of the Sabah newspaper, but given the testosterone-driven culture of Turkey is seems pretty easy to imagine the media prodding the government towards war and inflaming the masses. In some ways, the Turkish media may be a bigger issue than the statements coming from the government, which still appear to be more bluster and posturing.

Until there is confirmation, I think that jumping on this story as fact is premature - and might play into the hands of warmongers.

Meanwhile, the English version of Sabah reported Israeli heavy meta band Orphaned Land performed last night in Istanbul:
Israeli heavy metal is rocking Turkey despite deep discord between the Jewish state and its Muslim former ally as hundreds of fans turned out to hear a group called Orphaned Land play a concert in Istanbul.

The group played to Turkish fans and others who came from countries across the Arab world on Saturday. Because the Israeli musicians can't enter many Arab states, they perform several times a year in Turkey, a hub for their fans.
...
The group initiated a brand of music it called "Jewish-Muslim metal" that is derived from heavy metal. Many of the band's songs include prayer lyrics from Jewish liturgy, the Koran and other religious texts.

Farhi said there are hundreds of groups who play a similar genre operating out of sight of the authorities, mainly in more moderate Arab countries. Later this year Orphaned Land will tour Europe with metal bands from Algeria and Tunisia, he said.

The group is also considering holding a concert in Egypt after a Facebook poll showed that 83 percent of their fans said they should.

In Istanbul on Saturday, Orphaned Land's fans were not disappointed. Some came all the way from Iran and Lebanon, waving their national flags.

"Music doesn't recognize closed doors. Once again, this has proven to be true. I believe all people here are supporting them and their performance is really good," one Turkish fan told Reuters.

"It takes courage to do what they are doing, coming here and performing for us. We will always be here with them and sing with them," another said.
(h/t Yoel)