I crit­i­cised Ha­mas and my life in Turkey be­came a night­mare

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS -

bomber who kills is just a sui­cide bomber re­gard­less of his cause; and that Golda Meir was per­fectly right when she said that “peace in the Mid­dle East will come when Arabs love their chil­dren more than they hate us”.

Hate speech of ev­ery flavour and threats pour­ing into your in­box are part of daily life when you write a col­umn viewed as “too crit­i­cal of Er­do­gan” in the English-

Faced streams of ha­tred: Bekdil language pages of the coun­try’s big­gest news­pa­per, Hur­riyet. You can even smile and en­joy the rich spread of naive, ig­no­rant and vul­gar mes­sages that come your way. It be­comes so nor­mal that by the time you sit down to start typ­ing a new col­umn, you have al­ready for­got­ten about the stream of ha­tred. Within a few days, fresh bile will have piled up in your in­box. You keep smil­ing — and writ­ing. Things took a dif­fer­ent turn in the sum­mer of 2014 when, spend­ing time in my sec­ond home on a Greek island, friends told me that my picture was on the front page of the most mil­i­tant Is­lamist news­pa­per, Yeni Akit — whose edi­tors al­ways find a seat aboard Mr Er­do­gan’s pri­vate jet dur­ing his state vis­its abroad.

The “news” ar­ti­cle called me “Ay­din Do­gan’s Zion­ist Sol­dier of For­tune” (Mr Do­gan is the owner of the Do­gan group that owns, among other prom­i­nent out­lets, Hur­riyet news­pa­per).

Ir­rel­e­vantly, I was ac­cused of un­der­min­ing Turkey’s de­fence in­dus­try and pro­mot­ing the Is­raeli weapons lobby. But my great­est sin was to ar­gue: “The fact that there are no Is­raeli ca­su­al­ties does not mean Ha­mas does not want to kill; it just means Ha­mas, for the mo­ment, can­not kill.”

Within 24 hours, Yeni Akit’s story was picked up by a dozen or so Is­lamist and pro-gov­ern­ment me­dia out­lets. Af­ter a pro-gov­ern­ment columnist, in his tweet, called me “The dis­grace of hu­man­ity”, sev­eral oth­ers joined the lynch­ing cam­paign on so­cial me­dia.

“A sperm of Is­rael,” some­one wrote. An­other said: “En­mity against Is­lam spills from his face.” Some­one else wished that I would travel to Gaza so that “the al-Qas­sam (bri­gade) could shoot him right in the mid­dle of his fore­head.” An­other cam­paigner in­vited “this ig­no­ble, in­glo­ri­ous Zion­ist left­over to leave for Is­rael”. Some­one else wished, “May he and his fam­ily be bombed.” And yet an­other of­fered a DNA anal­y­sis from a pho­to­graph: “He must be ei­ther Armenian or Jewish.” Plenty of pri­vate email mes­sages fea­tured much less po­lite language and a di­verse menu of threats. And why did I not file a com­plaint to the po­lice or ask for pro­tec­tion? I was not sure who would pro­tect me from the po­lice.

The cam­paign an­noyed my edi­tors and boss, but I kept writ­ing pro­vided that I would not write on “ex­plo­sive” sub­jects. What were they? Well, you know. Af­ter a few at­tempts I stopped writ­ing about the Arab-Is­raeli dis­pute. I did, how­ever, con­tinue to write on that sub­ject for two other plat­forms: Daniel Pipes’s Mid­dle East Fo­rum and Nina Rosenwald’s Gate­stone In­sti­tute.

But things went from bad to worse in Turkey. My edi­tors, un­der­stand­ably, were un­der pres­sure not to pub­lish even a few lines of jokes or crit­i­cism in a col­umn de­voted to a non-Arab-Is­raeli dis­pute sub­ject. I got the mes­sage. The in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult rules meant that my col­umn could not con­tain any of the words “Jew, Is­rael, Is­raeli, Ha­mas, Ha­mas and ter­ror and Pales­tine.”

It worked. At least un­til De­cem­ber 2016, when my edi­tors alerted me to a “very se­ri­ous cri­sis that had ter­ri­bly up­set the big boss”.

What could it be, since my last col­umn was about the as­sas­si­na­tion of the Rus­sian en­voy to Ankara by an Is­lamist po­lice of­fi­cer?

Once again I was on the front page of a pro-Er­do­gan news­pa­per, Ak­sam.

How dare I com­pare a gov­ern­ment plan to in­tro­duce “youth branches” that would be af­fil­i­ated to 45,000 mosques to the Hitler Youth?

Enough, the big boss said. Fine, I said. That was the end of a re­la­tion­ship that dated back to 1987.

Sad? Sad. Nev­er­the­less, I felt lucky. In Er­do­gan’s Turkey, I could have been pros­e­cuted on charges of ter­ror­ism for writ­ing that ar­ti­cle.

Bu­rak Bekdil was a columnist for Hur­riyet un­til De­cem­ber 2016


A protest out­side the Is­raeli con­sulate in Is­tan­bul

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