Friday, January 2, 2009

Turkey: Calls to boycott Israel grow very loud.

"Turkish mass rallies demand Israeli boycott"

January 2, 2009

Zaman (Istanbul, Turkey)

On the Web at:

The Turkish public has reacted with anger to the Israeli air strikes on Gaza by appearing in huge numbers at rallies aimed at condemning Israel for the onslaught, which has taken the lives of almost 400 Palestinians.

"Let's have an economic embargo against Israel," chanted one protestor at a rally yesterday in İstanbul organized by the Health Workers Union (SES). The group issued a statement at the end of the rally and asked the Turkish government to suspend all commercial and diplomatic ties with Israel. "We are ashamed to learn that Israeli fighter pilots are being trained in Konya," the statement said.

The group also demanded a halt to the killing of all civilians by Israeli defense forces.

The protest was one of hundreds held across the country. In front of Israeli diplomatic posts in İstanbul and Ankara, human rights organizations staged protest meetings, calling on Turkey to cancel all bilateral agreements signed with Israel.

The call garnered support from political party leaders across the board. While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the attacks "a crime against humanity," Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan condemned the Israeli actions strongly yesterday and said, "As a country we have been deeply hurt in our hearts by what is happening in Gaza."

Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, the leader of the Grand Unity Party (BBP), demanded the suspension of all diplomatic and commercial ties with Israel. Stressing that Israel has used a disproportionate amount of force, Yazıcıoğlu asked the government to give a clear and unambiguous message in the face of the massive civilian causalities. Labeling Israel as a "terrorist state," the BBP leader called for a boycott of all Israeli goods until the cessation of hostilities by Israel.

Felicity Party (SP) leader Numan Kurtulmuş went further and called the attacks "genocide." He said Israel had already turned the Gaza Strip into an "open prison" where the economy had been destroyed and the basic needs of the Palestinian people such as food and medicine could not be met. He called on the Foreign Ministry to recall the Turkish ambassador to Israel to protest the attack and demanded the suspension of all bilateral ties with Israel.

In the meantime, feeling pressure from angry constituents, many deputies voiced their criticism of the Israeli action at Parliament. Many deputies resigned from their posts at the National Assembly's Turkish-Israeli Caucus in protest of the Israeli attack. "Out of a total of 300, 136 group members resigned after the attacks," the chairperson of the caucus, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Nursuna Memecan, said in a press conference.

Even with half of the members gone, the remaining members still condemned the Israeli attacks. Memecan said: "We continue to exist as the administration board. The reaction we have inside is big and is evident in the resignations; however, holding our posts and performing our tasks is more important."

"The Israeli offensive slapped the hand we had put forward in friendship. We will convey this message to our colleagues at the caucus in Israel as well," AK Party deputy Hanifi Alır noted.

Meanwhile, the Turkish group at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) announced they would take the Israeli offensive to PACE's agenda. "We will demand an urgent session," the head of the Turkish group, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said.