By Burak Bekdil
It’s May. It’s the month when Islamist Turks observe the tradition that explains why “conquest” is good but “occupation” is bad.
For instance, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu thinks that “those who do not understand the importance of Jerusalem and Palestinian rights are attacking the conscience of humanity.” I hope this columnist fell into Mr. Davutoğlu’s “brave” category when he wrote that “Turkey is not North Korea,” (this column, “Turkey is not North Korea – nor Syria, nor Egypt,” May 14), but today he will be attacking the conscience of humanity.
Mr. Davutoğlu thinks Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa Mosque (where he has said he wants to pray after Jerusalem has become the capital of the Palestinian state) have been under occupation since 1948 – when the state of Israel was founded, which is wrong. Last week, he said that “under the term[s] of international law, Jerusalem is under [Israeli] occupation.” Then he asked: “If U.N. decisions [resolutions] are not being implemented then why are they taken in the first place?”
If Mr. Davutoğlu was attending chess classes at the age of 11 he would probably be kindly requested to quit immediately. How can a foreign minister cite U.N. resolutions about “Jerusalem’s occupation” when several other U.N. resolutions have described his own country as the occupier of Cyprus over the last four decades?
Ironically, Mr. Davutoğlu’s speech on the occupation of Jerusalem came around the same day as the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Turkey to pay 90 million euros to Greek Cyprus for the 1974 occupation and the island’s subsequent division. Really, could you explain, honorable minister, “if the U.N. [and the Council of Europe’s] rulings are not being implemented, then why are they taken in the first place?”
But in response to the ECHR’s verdict, Mr. Davutoğlu said that he viewed the ruling as “neither binding nor of any value.” That would be a breach of the Constitution, since Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution states that “international agreements duly put into effect have the force of law. No appeal to the Constitutional Court shall be made with regard to these agreements, on the grounds that they are unconstitutional.”
Of course, we could always ask Mr. Davutoğlu if he would be willing to explain why Israel should be obliged to implement all U.N. resolutions, but in Turkey’s case both U.N. resolutions and ECHR rulings should be “neither binding nor of any value.” I am sure he won’t explain. But I think I know the answer.
In about a week from today, millions of Turks will take to the streets, with colorful fanfare and fireworks, to celebrate the 561th anniversary of the conquest of Constantinople from Byzantium – the same Turks who are angry that Jerusalem is under occupation. When the same cheerful Turks celebrate the conquest, do they not know that conquest means taking another nation’s/tribe’s land by force? They certainly do. And they are proud of it. Celebrating “the Conquest” is acknowledgement of an undisputed historical fact, that Istanbul belonged to another nation before “the conquest.” Right? Right.
Then why do Mr. Davutoğlu and the conquest-fetish Turks mourn over “the occupation of Jerusalem?” Let’s recall. In 2012, Turkey’s top Muslim cleric, Professor Mehmet Görmez said: “After [the powerful Muslim caliph] Omar conquered al-Quds [Jerusalem] he was invited to pray at a church [since there were no mosques in Jerusalem]. But he politely refused because he was worried that the [conquering] Muslims could turn the church into a mosque after he prayed there.”
Conquering Jerusalem? Did the top cleric not acknowledge the fact that Jerusalem was not a Muslim city before its “conquest?” He did. So, how can the occupation of a non-Muslim city, Constantinople, be a “conquest” but the occupation of a non-Muslim city, which was once occupied by Muslims, be “occupation”?
The answer is very simple. In the Islamist’s dictionary, a “conquest” is something fabulous because “we take non-Muslim lands by the force of the sword”; “occupation” is something we mourn because it means the “loss of land we once had occupied.”
Reading history should be a more serious thing than being football hooligans.