Creating new perspectives since 2009

Turkey seems torn between appeasing Israel and helping Palestine during this pandemic

April 12, 2020 at 11:00 am

Palestine-Turkey Friendship Hospital built by Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) is transferred to Palestinian officials on the instruction of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to battle coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in Gaza City Gaza on March 30, 2020 [Ali Jadallah / Anadolu Agency]

As the coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the world, bringing to a halt almost all social, cultural and economic activities, Turkey is in the firing line. Bizarrely, it is facing the wrath of Israel for allegedly holding up hundreds of crates of medical equipment destined for the settler-colonial state.

According to Israeli media, the distinction being emphasised is that the medical supplies were purchased by Israelis, not the state, to aid in the apartheid regime’s struggle against the deadly virus. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being blamed for the hold up. It is claimed that he has demanded that a similar amount of equipment be transferred to the Palestinians before the Israelis’ supplies are released.

Bloomberg reported earlier that the shipment destined for Israel included personal protective equipment (PPE), including surgical masks and gloves. Quoting an anonymous Turkish official, the report claimed that Ankara had approved the sale for “humanitarian reasons” on a quid pro quo basis with Israel allowing the Erdogan government to provide similar aid to the Palestinians.

Not so, insist Israeli sources. Disputing Bloomberg’s report, the unnamed sources told the Hebrew-language Ynet News that the transaction had no “connection to aid to the Palestinians”. They stressed that the deal was commercial, not humanitarian.

While the standoff continues, the plight of the Palestinians under Israel’s military occupation and siege now having to face the devastating impact of the virus with limited resources is both tragic and sad. If Erdogan really has had to resort to arm-twisting in order to manipulate Turkey’s ability to provide medical essentials to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, it speaks volumes of the brutality of Israel’s pervasive apartheid policies.

Read: Turkey to provide Israel with medical supplies on condition of issuing medical aid to Palestinian Authority

In other words, humanitarian aid which might allow the Palestinians to treat those who have contracted Covid-19, never mind implement prevention measures, is dependent on the goodwill of their brutal colonial overlords. The debacle of Turkey trading with Israel while unable to send a consignment of much-needed humanitarian assistance to Palestine illustrates the Zionists regime’s racist stranglehold over the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

This raises other issues too. Although Erdogan is an enigmatic political giant, regarded as an iconic figure by millions of Muslims around the world, his ties to Israel are questionable. Following the murderous attack by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara Freedom Flotilla in international waters almost 10 years ago, which killed nine volunteers (another died later of his wounds) and wounded dozens of others whilst on a mercy mission to Gaza, relations between Turkey and the Zionist regime soured. Nevertheless, trade between the two remained robust; last year, Turkey was in Israel’s top ten of export destinations. There does appear to have been a paradigm shift during Erdogan’s tenure, but the pendulum has not swung away from Israel.

It would be laughable if it was not so serious that Turkey, a formidable political and economic power in the region straddling Asia and Europe, is either unable or unwilling to send its navy across the Mediterranean to the shores of Gaza and offload medical supplies, electricity plants and field hospitals; that it has to make trade-offs with the colonial-settler regime and almost beg to get humanitarian aid into the besieged enclave.

Erdogan is not shy of military forays into neighbouring Syria, and the Turkish army has extended its reach into Libya too. However, for reasons best known to the leadership in Ankara, Turkey is reluctant to send aid to the Gaza Strip by sea.

Read: Hamas rejects Israeli conditions to help Gaza confront coronavirus

Meanwhile, the likely trade-off to allow Israeli aircraft to land and collect cargo from Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, the NATO home of a US Air Force contingent, may be underway. Whether the status of the transaction is commercial or humanitarian, is irrelevant. What matters is that Turkey is being played by a colonial entity to the detriment of Palestine’s enduring freedom struggle.

The people of occupied Palestine rightly remind the world that far from being a humanitarian issue, their struggle is to attain justice and freedom; their resistance against Israeli occupation and tyranny is rooted in a heroic struggle spanning many decades. And that they remain resolute in their quest for liberation even as they are confronted with huge medical challenges to combat the coronavirus in addition to everything else that the Israeli occupiers inflict upon them.

Read: Turkey delivers medical aid to UK to help fight virus

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.