September 24, 2014

The World Talked About ISIL, but Erdoğan Harped On Hizmet

Adem Yavuz Arslan

The 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which opened in New York the previous day, is in line for going down in history in many respects. There are heads of state and governments from about 160 countries here. All the countries are talking about the fight against ISIL in some degree. Everyone wants to see what role Turkey will assume in this struggle. In fact, US Secretary of State John Kerry openly declared, “Words are not enough anymore, we need action.” But it doesn’t stop there! Airstrikes against ISIL targets in Syria started last night, but the Turkish delegation seemingly only has a single agenda: the struggle with the Hizmet movement.

President Erdoğan delivered an address at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a distinguished American think-tank, on Monday afternoon. Erdoğan devoted a considerable part of his speech to complaining about Fethullah Gülen and the Hizmet movement.

Before sharing the details, let me impart a few small anecdotes to capture the mood in the US Erdoğan’s contacts in New York were scheduled to start with a meeting with a delegation of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), one of the important umbrella organizations for Jews. After their tiff about the WJC wanting their award back, and the harsh words exchanged by both parties, the meeting between Erdoğan and the WJC was highly anticipated indeed.

But the meeting was canceled at the last minute. The parties provided different explanations about it. The Turkish side said, “the WJC demanded it,” while the WJC said “the meeting was delayed to a future date due to the overlapping of programs.” According to the impression I got from what the WJC sources said, it seems like they did not want to be seen together with him and canceled the meeting by making up an excuse. At least, that’s what they hinted. After all, such meetings are planned months in advance. That’s to say, programs do not overlap at the last minute.

The other important detail is in the format of the meeting at the CFR. By the way, let me remind you that the government and the partisan media have defined the CFR until yesterday as a “pro-Neocon operating base,” and accused it of serving as a center of operations against the government. That became a routine for the government. In other words, it has become a routine practice to speak one way in Turkey and act differently in the US.

As for the CFR meeting, the American side insisted the meeting be open to media. But Erdoğan’s team equally insisted it be closed to media. As a result, the media was not allowed into the meeting. However, the CFR tweeted excerpts from Erdoğan’s speech and then put the audio record of the speech on its web site. Those who know something about diplomacy would understand what this choice means.

Erdoğan’s 59-minute speech is the subject of a separate analysis in its own. For example, Erdoğan said he respects freedom of the press and that there is no pressure on the media. But he personally took the accreditation disgrace to the US. He imposed a ban on Zaman, STV, and Bugün. We were not permitted into the program at Türkevi (Turkish Center), which can be regarded as a public establishment. Additionally, I was told that I could not follow the President’s programs.

Although he was not asked a question regarding the issue, Erdoğan lengthily explained he is not anti-Semitic. This caught the attention of even the American experts who followed the meeting. Some experts posted tweets about that. President Erdoğan claimed that Turkey had been unjustly treated by the American media over ISIL, but he did not give clear answers regarding the role Turkey would assume in the fight against ISIL. He maintained the same attitude during the TV show he appeared on in the evening.

Parallel Paranoia Peaked

Erdoğan, who's been using the term ‘parallel structure’ after last December's graft and bribery scandal, continued the same discourse in the US. He even raised the bar. For example, he claimed that some of the media organizations and think tanks in the United States are under the influence of Fethullah Gülen. Here's the summary of that part of his speech: “There is an organization in Turkey that has been active for some 30 years. The head of this organization left Turkey in 1999 and has been conducting his activities from here. Just imagine, the judiciary of a country is under the influence of this organization. Police officers act according to the instructions they received from Pennsylvania, not upon the orders of their superiors. When we first started fighting against this organization, we realized that it wasn’t just the police and the judiciary where they have been active and which they have infiltrated. We realized that they are also active in many critical areas of the state, acting in accordance with the interests of the organization. We realized that they act as international intelligence subcontractor. We see that this very dangerous organization is used as a suitable subcontractor, both in Turkey and in the United States, and elsewhere around the world. I have told President Obama about this organization and said ‘If we are model partners, if we have a strategic partnership, just as we deliver a terrorist or anyone that you would want from us, you deport that person, who threatens our national security, from Pennsylvania. Or give him to us.’ I hope the US administration will cooperate in fighting against this organization.”

While Erdoğan once again defined the Hizmet movement as ‘Hashasins’, he also referred to the MGK (National Security Council) decisions. Claiming that although the Hizmet movement conducts educational and charitable activities these are not sincere, Erdoğan asked for support from US authorities in this struggle.

I Am Not An Anti-Semite

Erdoğan lengthily explained at the CFR that he is not anti-Semite: “There are times when I personally am labeled as an anti-Semitic person. Criticizing Israel's massacres that defy international law and trample on human rights and life is not anti-Semitism. Holding a state that massacres 10 people by stopping an international Gaza-bound aid ship responsible for its actions isn’t anti-Semitism. And it isn’t anti-Semitism to criticize an administration that massacres, kills innocent babies and children, in their homes, mosques, hospitals, schools, beaches, parks, without any discrimination. Our criticism is never directed at the Jews at all. It is only and solely directed at the Israeli administration and its policies, and no one should distort this.”

Erdoğan also answered the questions at the end of his speech. According to CFR expert Steven Cook, Erdoğan is “in a sort of paranoia” with respect to the parallel state. Sharing his opinions via Twitter, Cook wrote that Erdoğan tried to prove he is not anti-Semitic.

When the audio record of the speech at the CFR was posted, we saw that such a distinguished think-tank like the CFR and a prominent journalist like Fareed Zakaria, who acted as the moderator of the meeting, didn’t ask Erdoğan questions about the issues that might disturb him. For example, there has been no question about issues like December's scandal, nor pressures on the press, the witch hunts, anti-democratic bans, nor internet bans. Although Erdoğan said, “The [Hizmet] movement acts as a subcontractor for foreign intelligence organizations,” nobody asked him “What intelligence organization is this?”

Erdoğan had already shunned these questions by requiring accreditation and not allowing anyone into his programs other than the managers of partisan media outlets. Thus, not one difficult question was asked at the CFR.

Published on BGNNews, 24 September 2014, Wednesday