IT WAS a beautiful, sunny day in December 2006 when I met Shimon Peres at his Tel Aviv office. At one point in our conversation, he began to talk about how things were beginning to go wrong in Turkey. He said: “Do not forget … when holiness begins, reason ends.” I knew he was right.
In 2006, the then Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was widely viewed as a Muslim democrat, a proEU reformist, a pro-business liberal; or, at worst, a postmodern Islamist — not just an Islamist.
In reality, I argued in my Hurriyet column, he was just another Islamist zigzagging between his ideological and pragmatic selves. He was successfully deceiving much of the Western world.
Less than a decade later, having consolidated his power using a blend of nationalist, Sunni-Islamist rhetoric, populist sound bites and nods to Ottoman grandeur, he has been labelled “arguably the most virulent anti-Israel leader in the world.”
At the end of the 15th century, Sultan Bayazid II embraced 250,000 Jews who had fled Spanish King Ferdinand’s Inquisition. In his wisdom, the Sultan realised the Alhambra Decree of 1492 had merely impoverished Spain and enriched Turkey.
Countless wars, the Holocaust and over five centuries later, in Mr Erdogan’s Turkey, one can become a bête noire just for writing that Hamas’s charter and acts should qualify it as a terrorist organisation; that Jews do not belong to Alaska but to what is today Israel; that a suicide