The Six-Day War's Legacy in Sinai

The Six-Day War's 50th anniversary will generate an overabundance of commentary about the war's legacy on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Most scholarship will focus on the continued challenges of Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Jerusalem, however there are valuable lessons that Read more

Trump in Israel: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  President Donald Trump was in Israel for all of twenty-eight hours, and yet even within that short window of time he managed to till a significant amount of discursive soil. Dozens of analysts and commentators will offer their thoughts Read more

Erdogan, Jerusalem, and the End of the Honeymoon

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's statements at the International Forum on al-Quds Waqf (held in Istanbul) received international media coverage when he attacked Israeli policy in Jerusalem, compared the situation in the West Bank with Apartheid South Africa, and called for Read more

The Curious Case of Michael Flynn, Turkey, and Israeli gas

President Trump's former national security advisor Michael Flynn has been at the epicenter of an ongoing story for the last few weeks. While I don't want to rehash what has already been reported, I did find one particular nugget Read more

Talking Turkey – Why Israel won’t recognize the Kurds

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel, Turkey |  

Henry Kissinger famously said that in the world of diplomacy, “We must learn to distinguish morality from moralizing.”  This is what Dr. David Altman fails to appreciate in his article“Forget Turkey; Israel must take up the Kurdish cause,” during which he outlines why “human morality” should take precedence when determining Israel’s regional foreign policy.  Though I sympathize with Altman’s dissatisfaction with Kissingerian realpolitik, I reject his misguided solution to the current freeze in Israeli-Turkish relations. Read more

Turkish Travels IV: Memory, museums, and bombs

Posted on by Gabriel in Turkey |  

The two ivory poker dice rested softly in a jar of buttons, pins, and knickknacks. Peering through the glass case, I could see the expressionless stare of the King of Hearts; his tawny beard reminded me of summers at my grandfather’s house organizing stamps and playing with model trains. My brother and I would often roll dice just like these on his soft, carpeted steps. As I drifted away from the glass, the King returned to the seemingly anonymous collection in The Museum of Innocence. Read more

Turkish Travels III: Tisha B’Buyukada

Posted on by Gabriel in Turkey |  

When I first arrived in Turkey, almost a month and a half ago, my perspective on the Jewish community was framed by three things: continued friendships with Turkish Jews whom I had met during my undergraduate years at Ohio State University; three years leading groups of college-aged American students to Turkey with KIVUNIM: New Directions; and a hodgepodge of academic works on the community’s narrative, including a recent publication entitled “Jewish Life in Twenty-First-Century Turkey: The Other Side of Tolerance,” by Dr. Marcy Brink-Danan of Brown University.

There are few Jewish communities remaining in the Muslim world, and Turkey’s stands out for a variety of reasons, particularly for its largely peaceful relationship with the Ottoman Empire and, later, Turkey: even upon the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, when minority groups, including Jews, were subjected to a rash of nationalist policies, the community faired well by comparison. (Thousands of Greeks were forcibly transferred in exchange for their ethnic Turkish counterparts, and the Armenian community suffered far worse.) Though many Jews left Turkey to seek better religious and economic fortunes elsewhere, the continued existence of today’s small but vibrant population is a testimony to its perseverance in the face of Istanbul’s changing cosmopolitan dynamics.

The 21st century, however, may be the final chapter in Turkey’s rich Jewish history. The Jewish community of Turkey is rumored to be dying. According to its lay leadership, roughly 20,000 remain, but assimilation rates stand at 50%. While it may still take several decades before it dies out, the statistics do not bode well for one of the world’s oldest Jewish communities. Read more

Turkish Travels II: The Syrian conundrum

Posted on by Gabriel in Turkey |  

“The oppressed become the oppressors. That is what has happened here, that is what is happening in Syria; Rwanda too, and Palestine…”

It’s been an hour since I met Uğur (not his real name), an aspiring graphic designer in his mid-30s, and he’s already on tea number four. We’ve been locked in political conversation at the local cafe ever since we were introduced to one another by a mutual friend. Even though we’ve been jumping from issue to issue, the question of Turkey’s recent grudge against Syria featured prominently in our conversation, with brief forays into “religious-secular” and “Turk-Kurd” tangents.

The bodies of Turkish Air Force pilots Cpt. Gökhan Ertan and Lt. Hasan Hüseyin Aksoy, whose F-4 Phantom jet was shot down by the Syrian military on June 22nd, have recently been discovered in the depths of the Eastern Mediterranean. Their final flight, and the subsequent saber-rattling by Turkish politicians, was the topic of conversation in every kahvehane (coffeeshop), classroom, and street corner in the weeks following the incident. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was particularly adamant, warning that “Turkey’s friendship is valuable, but everyone should know Turkey’s wrath is equally furious.” Read more

Turkish Travels I: A Summer in Istanbul

Posted on by Gabriel in Turkey |  

Istanbul is one of the cultural crossroads of the world. With over 12 million inhabitants, the city’s countless neighborhoods sprawl out from the Bosphorus like a tightly knit rug held together by mosques and glittering skyscrapers. Perhaps New Yorkers, accustomed to trekking endless blocks in the omnipresent humidity, can relate to the vastness and richness of this megatropolis, but for me, a Jerusalem resident and Rhode Island native, Istanbul will forever be a measuring stick for urban triumph. Read more

Requiem or resurrection: Two years to the Gaza Flotilla

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel, Turkey |  

Looking back on op-eds written prior to, and during, the paradigm shattering event which was the Gaza Flotilla, what stands out most is the sense of shock on all sides: shock by Israelis that Turkey didn’t understand its position, shock by Turks that Israel boarded the Mavi Marmara by force, and shock by the world that their strong friendship dissipated within a matter of days.  Even for those who recognized that the Gaza Flotilla was a natural progression from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “one minute” episode in Davos, the incident proved that no alliance, no partnership, no friendship is ever guaranteed.

Two years on from the Gaza Flotilla, what is the current condition of the relationship between Israel and Turkey, and what is in store for the future? Read more

Islam as Peacemaker: The AKP’s Attempt at a Kurdish Resolution

Posted on by Gabriel in Turkey |  

According to many scholars, including Reşat Kasaba and Murat Somer, the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds has been fought along ethnic and political lines.  However, the historic exclusion of religion from Turkey’s political sphere prevented Islam from precipitating better relations.  Long restrained by Kemalist governments that regulated the influence of religion on public life, the introduction of Islam into political discourse reflects a new chapter in Turkish politics.  This shift has opened the door to massive reforms in Turkey, and the calming of historically tense relations between the Turkish state and its Kurdish population.

This paper addresses the AKP’s capabilities to initiate additional reform in the Turkish political system and achieve peaceful terms with the Kurdish population.  The renaissance of political Islam, long banned in Turkey, is pioneering the way for a future harmony with Turkey’s minorities.  I maintain that such reform would be a significant indicator that values in Turkish society are shifting away from the pillars of Kemalism, and towards a new, post-Kemalist identity defined by its engagement with Islam and the Kurds. Read more

Breaking up is hard to do

Posted on by Gabriel in Israel, Turkey |  

The results of the UN Palmer Report (which summarizes the events surrounding the infamous “Flotilla Incident” on May 31, 2010) have driven another nail into the coffin that is Turkish-Israeli relations. As a student of the history and development of modern Turkey, I was dismayed by the behavior of the Turkish government: its support of the flotilla and its repeated, cheap attempts to pressure Israel into an apology.

However, as an Israeli and a Zionist, while I’m proud of my country and believe in our right of self-defense, I have no doubt that this foreign policy nightmare will cost Israel financially and strategically both in the short and long term, and will likely signal the end of a bittersweet romance. Read more

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