Son dönemde başta Türkiye olmak üzere birçok yerde yaşanan bombalı intihar saldırıları bu konuyla ilgili geçmişte yapılan tartışmaları tekrar gün yüzüne çıkardı. Bu saldırıların nasıl planlandığı, ne amaçla yapıldığı ve bu eylemin hedefinin nasıl seçildiği gibi birçok soru yeniden sorulmaya başlandı.
İntihar saldırıları üzerine bugüne kadar en kapsamlı çalışmayı yapmış kişi Amerikalı akademisyen Robert A. Pape, 2005 senesinde yazdığı “Dying to Win” isimli kitabında dünyada 1980-2003 arasında dek gerçekleşmiş 315 intihar saldırısını masaya yatırarak yukarıdaki sorulara cevap aradı. Bu kitabın üzerinden 10 yılı aşkın bir süre geçmesine karşın Pape’in bahsettiği “büyüyen tehdit” gittikçe etki alanını genişletiyor. Pape’in çalışmalarındaki verileri referans alarak güncel konular üzerinde birazcık sesli düşünmek istiyorum.
Dünya, intihar eylemleriyle 1940’lı yıllarda İkinci Dünya Savaşı devam ederken Japon havacılarının Amerikan gemilerine yaptığı kamikaze saldırıları sayesinde tanıştı. Amerika ordusu ve halkı üzerinde ciddi travmaya yol açan kamikaze saldırıları her ne kadar Japonlara arzu ettiği sonucu vermese de karşısındaki gücü psikolojik bağlamda ciddi biçimde yıpratmıştı. Mevcut savaş şartlarında kazanma ihtimali olmayan Japon ordusu asimetrik bir savaş başlatarak Amerikalıları yıldırma yöntemini seçmişti. Japonların istenilen stratejik sonucu elde edememesinden dolayıdır ki intihar eylemleri 1980’li yıllara kadar dünya sahnesinden silindi. Soğuk Savaş’ın stabil atmosferinin yerini değişim rüzgarlarına bıraktığı bir zamanda dünyanın farklı noktalarında intihar eylemleri yeniden gerçekleştirilmeye başlandı. Başta Lübnan, Sri Lanka ve İsrail olmak üzere birçok yerdeki eylemler git gide yaygınlaştı. 1990’lı yıllarda PKK’nın Türkiye’nin farklı noktalarında yaptığı intihar eylemleri de toplumda büyük yankı uyandırdı. Fakat 2001 senesinin 11 Eylül’ünde El Kaide’nin Amerika’da Pentagon ve İkiz Kuleler’e yaptığı gelmiş geçmiş en büyük intihar eylemleri bu konunun artık bütün devletlerce ciddiye alınmasına sebep oldu. Burada hadisenin tarihsel özetine bir nokta koyup eylemlerin stratejik boyutunu irdeleyeceğim.
İntihar saldırıları, terörizmin en agresif biçimde tezahür eden halidir. Son 20 yılda intihar saldırılarının genellikle kendilerini İslam dinine mensup sayan kişiler tarafından yapılması dünya kamuoyunda bu eylemlerin Müslümanlarla özdeşleştirilmesine sebep oldu. Fakat Pape, bu konuda yaptığı araştırmalarda dini motiflerin saldırılarda payı olduğunu kabul ederken kendilerini dinle bağdaştırmayan grupların da eylem yaptığını belirtiyor. Yani bu açıdan bakıldığında özellikle IŞİD’in son 2-3 yılda gerçekleştirdiği birçok intihar saldırısına karşın bunun tamamen dini sebeplere bağlanması yanlış bir genelleme olacaktır. Zaten bu noktada örnek vermek gerekirse PKK gibi dini referansları hiç kullanmayan bir örgütün sürekli eylem yapması bu saldırıların tek motivasyonunun dini motifler olmadığının bir kanıtı gibi. Peki terör örgütleri bu saldırıları hangi düşünceye bağlı olarak gerçekleştiriyorlar? Öncelikle saldırıları planlayan örgütlerin her bir eylemden stratejik bir kazanç beklentisi var. Bu stratejik kazancın tam olarak karşılığı ise siyasi baskı yaratmak. Bu baskının ne olduğunu anlamak içinse örgütlerin hedeflerine göz atmakta fayda var. Bugüne kadarki bütün eylemlerde örgütlerin karşısındaki asimetrik güç demokratik olduğu varsayılan devlet yapısıdır. Burada devlet üzerinde yaratılan baskıyı da iki şekilde açıklayabiliriz. Birincisi; terör örgütleri, karşısındaki devletin memnun olmadığı bir politikasını değiştirmesi için bu eylemleri gerçekleştirmektedir. İkincisi ise; karşısındaki asimetrik yapıyla savaşacak gücü olmadığı için kendisine ait olduğunu iddia ettiği ve devletin işgal ettiğini düşündüğü topraklardan geri çekilmesini sağlamak için bu saldırıları yapmaktadır. Yaratılan siyasi baskı ise kamuoyu baskısıdır. Toplumlarda korkuyu besleyecek, fikir ayrılıkları yaratacak ve sonucunda devlet üzerinde kendi vatandaşlarının oluşturacağı bir baskıdan söz ediyoruz. İntifada döneminde İsrail’in Gazze ablukası karşısında Filistinli eylemcilerin İsrail topraklarında yaptığı saldırılar, İsrail vatandaşlarının kendi devletlerine Gazze politikası konusunda bir baskı yaratmasına yol açmıştır ve bu baskı belli bir noktada Filistinliler için başarıya da ulaşmıştır. Aynı şekilde Kürt halkının temsilcisi olduğunu iddia eden PKK’nın Türkiye Devleti’ne karşı giriştiği yıkıcı eylemler de sivil toplumun büyük tepkisini çekmiş ve devlete PKK ile masaya oturma baskısını oluşturmuştur. Fakat son dönemde tırmanan şiddet ve Güneydoğu’da TSK’nın giriştiği askeri operasyonlar pazarlık masasının devrilmesi olarak algılanmış ve asimetrik güç yeniden ortaya çıkmıştır. Bunun bir sonucu olarak son 1 yılda PKK kaynaklı birçok intihar saldırısıyla karşı karşıya kalındı. Buna bir de Türkiye’nin Suriye politikası ertesinde IŞİD kaynaklı intihar saldırılarının eklenmesi hayatın akışını tam anlamıyla alt üst etti. İnsanların sokaklara çıkmaya, kalabalık yerlere gitmeye imtina etmeye başladığı bir atmosferde toplumsal bir yılgınlık ve korku oluşmaya başladı. Bu noktada, yapılan her saldırıdan sonra toplumun terör örgütünden ziyade devleti eleştiriye tutması ve ortaya çıkan tabloda faturayı devlete kesmesi kamuoyu baskısının yavaştan oluştuğunun bir göstergesi. Bunun yanında istihbarat kurumlarının işleyişindeki çok başlılık ve aşırı politize olma hali terörle mücadeleyle odaklanmayı güç hale getiriyor. Terör, en sakin ortamda dahi odağın kaybedilmemesi gereken ve çok ince çalışma gerektiren bir konu. Hele ki sınırların transparanlaştığı, bomba yapımının çok kolaylaştığı ve terör saldırılarının bıçak kullanma düzeyine kadar geldiği bir durumda istihbaratın ve kolluk kuvvetlerinin de yapacakları sınırlanmış oluyor. Bu noktada devreye siyasi irade giriyor. Çünkü bertaraf edilen eylemlerden ziyade gerçekleşen ve toplumdaki yarayı derinleştiren eylemlerin yankı bulması devleti ve onu yönetenlerin siyasetini direkt olarak etkiliyor. Bu yüzden istihbarat açısından alınacak üst düzey önlemlerin yanında devleti yöneten kişilerin toplumdaki bölünmeyi durdurup, sorumlu davranarak gereken siyasi adımları atmaları gerekir. Bu iki ayrı zinciri birbirine bağlamadan terörle mücadelede elle tutulur bir yol katetmek imkansız gözüküyor.
** Bu makalenin orijinali “Diplomatik Gözlem” dergisinin Nisan 2016 sayısında yayınlanmıştır.
Greece has held five general elections since the onset of the economic crisis in 2008. Including the elections for the European Parliament, local elections and referenda, ballots have been set up in Greece on average twice every year for the last five years. From this perspective, it would not be wrong to say that Greece has a case of electoral exhaustion.
Looking at the elections held for the last 41 years since the establishment of democracy in Greece, it is clear that the people do not view elections as the first condition of democracy. A Greek citizen who boycotts the poll is aware that she has other constitutional rights against the government such as trade unions and collective strikes. However, participation over the least 20 years has fallen gradually (source: http://www.idea.int/vt/countryview.cfm?id=89).
The greatest factor for falling participation is undoubtedly the fact that politicians who come and go with elections have not produced permanent solutions to problems. This might be interpreted as a loos of faith of the electorate in politicians. On the other hand, it should be underlined that low participation does not mean that the general will is not reflected in the ballot. It may be said that election results do not draw complaints from those who did not vote and voters assigning blame to non-voters over the outcome.
We have seen a few times over recent years how the Greek people, albeit with low participation, punishes those politicians it wants out of office. Karamanlis, Papandreou and Samaras, in that order, had to leave their office through elections as they could not instil enough confidence in the people. It is for this reason that the case of Alexis Tsipras, who has taken the country to the polls for the third time in eight months, needs to be examined.
Tsipras, who came to power with the elections he triggered by refusing to compromise with New Democracy over the presidential elections also caused a referendum in Greece in June with a sudden decision. With elements of his own party leaving and an opposition bloc forming within SYRIZA, Tsipras then called another election with the demand for a strong governmental position. While it was clear that with the wind behind it since January, SYRIZA would come in first, it is nevertheless a success story that the party has safe-guarded its position throughout the July referendum and the September early elections.
It was predicted that the impatient people would have turned their back on Tsipras, not only due to the long ongoing economic difficulties and layoffs they have been facing, but also because of the long duration of banks being closed down under SYRIZA and a daily withdrawal limit of EUR 60 on ATMs (which in effect was an EUR 50 limit due to the shortage of EUR 20 banknotes). The newly emerging coalitions and opposition blocs were almost racing each other to become the alternative to SYRIZA. The Greek media also had a negative effect on SYRIZA in terms of
the amount of coverage the party was given and the opinion polls that were published. But even though the referendum and the cash shortage (as well as the inability of using credit cards) coincided with the high tourist season in the summer, it was not enough to halt Tsipras. Tsipras suffered no significant consequences from heavyweights such as Lafazanis, Konstantopoulou and Glezos leaving SYRIZA.
This shows that Tsipras himself enjoys considerable popular support, trust and credibility, even beyond that for his party. Although the latest election seems to have yielded a result that is not much different from the previous one, it is possible to say that the outcome has resulted in a stronger SYRIZA-ANEL coalition which has managed to dispel the cacophony within.
There have been some other significant consequences of the election for SYRIZA. That the Potami (River) party, which has been on a rapid rise since its foundation, has now entered a declining trend, that the Laiki Enotita (Popular Union) formed by important opposition figures which split up from SYRIZA did not make the electoral threshold and SYRIZA ’s greatest rival New Democracy’s new leader Meimerakis not attracting the expected level of support may be seen as factors increasing Tsipras’s scope for manoeuvre.
When Tsipras took his place in front of cameras among SYRIZA banners before the official results were announced and called ANEL leader Panos Kammenos to the
stage, he showed that they are in this together.
Another important aspect of the elections is that the far right Golden Dawn party has once more come in third place. Despite many MPs and members, including the party’s leader, being tried and sent to prison over organised crime charges recently and the chairman Michaloliakos confessing before the elections that they, as a party, have responsibility in the killing of Paulos Fyssas, there has been no significant fall in Golden Dawn votes. However, given that the refugee crisis caused by Syrian refugees in Greece and throughout Europe as well as the economic situation in Greece being the main issues which feed the Golden Dawn, I think the result should not be viewed very pessimistically.
Tsipras has won his last three gambles and managed to improve his hand somewhat at each turn. This does not, however, mean that SYRIZA will now have it easy. The refugee crisis, the constant inability to establish fiscal discipline, the rise of the far right and the gears of the economy not springing into action despite the long time passed are all causes for SYRIZA not even having the time to celebrate its victory.
** The original piece was published in monthly “Diplomatic Observer” on issue of October
GREECE’S CRISIS YEAR:
FROM ECONOMIC TO HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
Although 2015 is not yet over, it is already a candidate for being one of the most difficult years in the recent history of Greece. The success of SYRIZA which toppled the 40 year old oligarchy at the general elections held at the beginning of the had excited Greeks and left leaning people throughout the proximate geography.
However, the economic crisis peaked during this process and the SYRIZA government had to deal with different problems. Since 2008 in which the effects of the economic crisis began to be felt in Greece, the far right and racist tendencies led by the Golden Dawn party had gained great momentum.
The Golden Dawn, which connects the economic crisis to immigrants who are numerous in large cities such as Athens and Thessaloniki, has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. As its claims of immigrants stealing jobs from Greeks began to be found realistic by certain sections of society, the Golden dawn began to translate its discourse into acts of violence. Arson attacks on and pillaging of immigrant shelters and the being kept exempt from certain humanitarian aid transferred Golden Dawn’s behaviour to the criminal level. Later the chairman of the Golden Dawn as well as many MPs and administrators were charged with organised crime but anti-immigrant, xenophobic sentiment had already taken hold of society. Especially in large cities and in towns in the hinterland the Golden Dawn managed to increase its field of influence.
A study conducted two years ago revealed that at least half of the members of the Greek police force are sympathisers of the Golden Dawn. Thus the perpetrators of the acts of violence became even more radical, comfortable in the belief that the police would not touch them. In February, an experiment carried out by Action Aid over a dialogue taking place between a Greek man and an immigrant at a bus stop had caused significant debate in Greece (the video may be found at this link: https://www.youtube. com/watch?v=NhIaPWvW07o).
Although xenophobic actions were on the rise, sensitive people opposed to such behaviour slowly began to display their stance. Aware of this, SYRIZA used a proposed law allowing immigrants born in Greece to more easily obtain Greek citizenship as an election promise. However, the sensitivity to the issue which had arisen n the majority of society did not mean that Greece was prepared to deal with thousands of refugees, most of them from Syria, who began arriving in Greece, mainly from Turkey. This issue had not become an agenda item in Greece, as in many other countries, before the bodies of Aylan Kurdi and his sibling washed up on a Turkish beach last month, although the impending disaster was obvious to see. Last summer, when the flood of refugees had not reached its current level, a friend working as a police officer in the port of a Greek island close to Turkey had told me that there were significant numbers of illegal entries over Turkey. He had said that they
had stopped doing everything else to collect immigrants in their burst dingy boats from the sea.
He had also said that for this not to affect daily life on the island, they would place the migrants they collected from the sea in an isolated part of the island and meet their food and clothing requirements for 15 days. In practice, the local people had no idea what was going on. I too carried out research at the end of summer 2014 to write an article on this topic but did not find the slightest information in the media, official sources or in the academia. It is clear that Greece saw the crisis as something that would blow over and believed that it could deal with the crisis itself. However the poor living conditions of the Syrians who came to Turkey in the last two years and the changing social attitudes especially in the Anatolian provinces were already providing clues that the direction of the wave would change.
Although Turkey may not have allowed the necessary level of international monitoring regarding the refugee issue and has not given refugees the status that they deserve; surrounding countries, especially the European Union have turned a completely blind eye to the problem. At this point it should be said that the greatest obstacles in the way of foreseeing the refugee crisis were the blasé attitude towards developments in Syria and the inability to see that in the warmer summer weather, more refugees would try to obtain illegal passage over the sea. Turkey, not having solved the refugee crisis in the last two years, looked the other way when it came to illegal passage abroad.
While some thought that at a time of economic crisis in Greece, being exposed to the refugee crisis would exacerbate the total effect, economic deficiencies actually worked to the advantage of Greece. Studies show that a large majority of Syrians who made it to Greece do not want to
stay there due to economic conditions and use it as a stepping stone towards different countries, chiefly Germany.
Nevertheless, Greek islands very close to Turkey such as Kos, Kalimnos, Lesos, Rhodes and Chios were caught very unawares. The ruthless attitude of the security forces in these places towards refugees drew the attention of the Greek and the world press o these locations. Furthermore, the refugee wave taking place in the summer months caused people of many nationalities at holiday resorts to experience the tragedy.
Months before the onset of the refugee crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said on a live TV broadcast Germany cannot say “you can all come” to refugees, causing a Palestinian girl in the studio who wanted to stay in Germany to cry and drew a lot of flack (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/angela-merkel-makes-palestinian-girl-facingdeportation-from-germany-cry-on-television-10393719.html). Always one to determine policy according to public reaction, Merkel gave up on this attitude when the issue of Syrian refugees turned into a crisis and this change in stance cornered the other European Union countries to adopt a new approach.
However the inhumane treatment of refugees on the way from Greece to Germany, especially at the Macedonian, Serbian and Hungarian border crossings show that for refugees, the safest leg of their European journey will for now be Greece. Unless circumstances improve and some neighbouring countries open their doors, with the weather getting colder some refugees will chose to stay in Greece, which is relatively speaking, a safe haven.
Of course what the new government to be established after the elections in Greece will do about the issue will have an important bearing on the future of refugees.
** The original piece was published in monthly “Diplomatic Observer” on issue of October
In the general elections held on January 25th 2015, SYRIZA toppled the 40 year old oligarchy to win the most seats in parliament. The success of the leftist party caused ripples not just in Greece but also in surrounding countries.
However, the tasks awaiting SYRIZA, which had inherited an economy and a state structure one might describe as a wreck were more difficult than any government until now. Events played out as expected and SYRIZA had to start tough negotiations on debt before it had time to celebrate its victory.
During the first five and a half months of SYRIZA’s government, the negotiations with the Troika were run by the Economy Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who drew a lot of attention to his person. European creditors were not impressed with Varoufakis’s politics or his style–up to his choice of clothing during the negotiations.
As additional time granted by European creditors to Greece to repay a part of its debts started running out Prime Minister Tsipras took the sudden decision of having the people vote on the austerity measures in a referendum. Such a sudden decision just a week before the vote on Greece’s debt surprised everyone, especially European actors. By taking the bitter pill Europe offered Greece to the public in a referendum with a foregone conclusion, Tsipras wanted to send out the message “the people are with us, the Greek people will not accept this deal” to the creditors. In order to consolidate his own base of support he promised to resign should the outcome of the referendum support the austerity measures.
Polls published in the Greek press before the referendum showed the vote to be too close to call. An analysis of the reporting shows that many media outlets were more heavily featuring pro-austerity demonstrations compared to anti-austerity demonstrations. After some incidents of one sided reporting, SYRIZA decided to boycott the television channel SKAI, the most popular in the country. Yet 60 percent of voters rejecting the deal in the referendum shows the level of manipulation exercised by the Greek media.
I was in and around Athens during the referendum. Electoral participation in Greece, especially during the summer months, is much lower than it is in Turkey. Although the date of the referendum had been fixed such a short time ago, I saw that people were more inclined to vote than they had been for years. Those who did not use to vote when in their own constituencies this time took a daytrip to their own towns, despite the crisis, to cast their votes. Though Greeks do not often use social media for sharing political content, the referendum became a worldwide trending topic over Facebook and Twitter.
Naturally such great interest in politics brought about polarisation between the ‘No’ and the ‘Yes’ camps. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker claimed that a ‘No’ vote would mean Greece saying ‘no’ to Europe and this is how they intended to read the results. European creditors thus appealed to the stick to get a ‘Yes’ vote out of undecided voters in Greece but thus revealed that they are not very familiar with the structure of Greek society. Greeks were already aware that whatever the outcome the government would be in a tight corner and that they would have to suffer greater economic difficulties. The vote was in essence on what kind of economic death Greeks preferred. They chose a dignified death rather than surrendering and suffocating in the crisis.
The outcome shows that SYRIZA, alongside ANEL and the Golden Dawn which supported it for a ‘No’ vote got a far greater proportion of the ballot than their combined vote in the general elections. We may say that rather than forming an ideological bloc, people of different political leanings had come together around a rational decision.
I was curious to see how the Greek people, known for their street rallies, would celebrate or otherwise react to the ‘No’ vote which emerged in the evening of July 5th. To see for myself, I went to Athens’s symbolic Syntagma Square as soon as the results were clear. I was surprised more by the interest of the foreign press than the locals. The number of foreign press members on the square just about equalled the number of Greeks. One might say that the ‘No’ vote was an expression of stance rather than an event to be celebrated by the people.
The same night Antonis Samaras, leader of the main opposition New Democracy Party, resigned over the referendum failure. Yet this was not the main surprise of the night. Economy Minister Varoufakis, the person who had managed the debt crisis for five and a half months since SYRIZA had assumed power, resigned despite his party’s success in the referendum. Suddenly, people were talking more about Varoufakis’s resignation than the referendum outcome. We may interpret Varoufakis’s resignation as Varoufakis having completed his part in the relay race and his passing over the baton. The vacant Economy Minister seat was filled by Euclid Tsakalotos, who is a close friend, personally and intellectually, of Varoufakis.
Many thought that SYRIZA had strengthened its hand by getting such a level of public support. Indeed Tsipras was declared a hero in the negotiations with the European Union following the referendum. However, once the details of the long negotiated agreement emerged, it was seen that things did not stand that way. Raising of the retirement age, raising of taxes on many goods, and the establishment of an independent fund to collect the revenue from the privatisation of many public assets were imposed on the government in terms not very different than before the referendum. Tsipras not being able to put up much resistance to this bitter bill caused a lot of soul searching over the referendum.
The debate did not abate when SYRIZA brought the agreement which it had settled with Europe to parliament. There were long debates in the house. Cracks began to emerge in the cabinet and Tsipras removed ministers who had voted against the agreement from the cabinet a few days after the vote.
What happens next? The positive mood prevailing in Greece following SYRIZA ’s electoral victory and the ‘No’ vote in the referendum has lasted a very short while. Both sides intend to portray the other as uncompromising, rather than working on a compromise. At this point problems emerge with the distribution of responsibilities. Furthermore, the crisis has deepened in early summer, with banks remaining closed for a month during which cash is required the most has troubled the public. The onset of this new period of intense difficulty for Greek society, which does not handle frustration well, opens to door to much confusion and negative developments. Greece, which saw a rise in emigration during the crisis period, should expect more trouble.
However, although there is much reaction to the European Union and the Eurozone, no one desires reverting to the Drachma in the short run and it is unclear how many people in Greece, where the standard of living is falling gradually, can handle the high inflation the reintroduction of the Drachma would cause. While Greece may continue to be a member of the Eurozone in the short run, the heavy negative effects of the tough agreement terms on the people will become increasingly visible.
** The original piece was published in monthly “Diplomatic Observer” on issue of August, 2015: http://www.diplomaticobserver.com/EN,13082/observations-on-the-referendum-no-to-what.html
While the Golden Dawn has been active in Greek politics for the last 20 years, its popularity has increased exponentially in the last 5 or 6 years. Describing itself as ultra-nationalist and extreme right, the Golden Dawn has never denied its Neo-Nazism or admiration for Hitler. One may however say that while initially the Golden Dawn fed on the rising wave of anti-Semitism in Europe in the middle of the twentieth century, it has changed its political discourse to some extent with the passing years and that its target audience has also shifted. Given that the Jewish population in Europe diminished rapidly as a result of the Holocaust and migration to Israel, anti-Semitism has lost momentum as a political force. The 2008 economic crisis has affected the lives of the Greek people rapidly. The Golden Dawn has been taking advantage of the fact that Greece has become a base for illegal immigration in the 2000s and the negative impacts of this on unemployment and the economy. The Golden Dawn has made racist politics out of saying that immigration leaves Greek youth unemployed, instead focusing on the poor use of external debt. With such a discourse winning it an increasing number of votes in the 2012 and 2014 elections, it has made its activities even more radical. Acts of violence in areas with high immigrant population and the aid given to people on the hunger line, even blood donations provided that they come from a Greek source, show how discriminatory the party is. There was a void left by the nationalist party LAOS after it lost popularity and the Golden Dawn managed to fill it with the nationalist vote. For years, the Golden Dawn has been trying to become established within the Greek police force and some surveys estimate that 50 percent of Greek police officers have voted for the Golden Dawn. Party leader Nikos Mihaloliakos enjoying close relations with members of the 1967-1974 junta also increased the immunity of the party from established security forces. Furthermore, with some former politicians fromNew Democracy joining the Golden Dawn from 2012 was one of the reasons for overlooking the party’s radical actions. Having found itself a comfortable and rising spot in Greek politics, the Golden Dawn had increased its vote to 11 percent by mid-2013, however, the killing of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas in September 2013 led to all arrows seeking the Golden Dawn. Witnesses told the media that the murder had been carried out in an organised fashion by members of the Golden Dawn. With following demonstrations against the Golden Dawn, especially by leftwing groups, the Golden dawn trial began on the Greek streets. Fearing a serious reaction from society, the government decided to allow a formal inquiry into the Golden Dawn. The party’s leader and many MPs were charged with “establishing a criminal organisation”. However, as it took one and a half years for the prosecution to form its case, the trial only began on April 20th 2015. As there was no verdict against them, some of the Golden Dawn MPs stood for re-election in January 2015 and 13 of them were elected.
Despite many of its candidates spending the propaganda period in jail, the Golden Dawn emerged as the third largest party in Greece from the ballot, indicating that its ratio of the total vote is not a temporary circumstance.
Despite the ongoing trial process, those re-elected members of the party were allowed to attend the swearing in ceremony at parliament, which caused serious social reaction. The trial, as it includes members of the Golden Dawn as well as elements of the junta, may be seen as a late effort to settle with the coup and as Greece’s attempt to tone down the far right.
The rising tide of far-right in Europe had gathered its greatest momentum in Greece. It is expected that the trial will last for at least a year. That a left leaning party as SYRIZA is currently in power implies that there will be a complete showdown with the Golden Dawn. While commenting on the TRNC elections recently, Prime Minister Tsipras said that some of the responsibility for the Turkish intervention on Cyprus in 1974 lay with the Greek junta was in a sense an expression of his views on the case. We may predict that Greece, which has in the past fully investigated the Lambrakis murder may be able to settle its score with the Golden Dawn, but for this the justice system alone will not be enough. The climate of economic and political stability in Greece has not yet disappeared and may impact negatively on the progression of the court case.
** The original piece was published in monthly “Diplomatic Observer” on issue of June, 2015: http://www.diplomaticobserver.com/EN,12752/the-golden-dawn-loses-its-court-case.html
For as long as I can remember, every conflict between Israel and Palestine has resounded strongly in Turkey. The majority of Turkey’s population being Muslim is the most important reason for the establishment of a connection, based on religion, with Palestine.
Other than this further common points were founded between Turkey and Palestine as important names from the Turkish left joined the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to fight Israel in the 70s and the 80s. For these reasons the Palestinian question has always been viewed as being almost as important as a domestic problem by society in Turkey.
Especially under the AKP government Erdogan’s stance towards the Palestinian problem, coupled with what took place in Davos and the Mavi Marmara incident has made the issue a matter of internal politics. People’s approach to the issue has overgrown the emotional and humanitarian dimension to become politically motivated. For those who define their political stance in terms of religion, the Palestinian problem has recently been taken up entirely in terms of religion. How ever, those who engaged in such a definition either wilfully ignored the significant number of Christian Palestinians or did not study the matter sufficiently to notice them.
I had become very curious about what was taken place in this region which has perhaps occupied the world’s attention more than any other in the last 100 years. My curiosity only grew as I watched people in Turkey who had never set foot in any Middle Eastern country, et alone Israel or Palestine style themselves experts on the Middle East and direct public opinion regarding this sensitive issue. At this point I had the opportunity of spending time as a researcher in Israel and Palestine as part of a joint project being run by Coventry University and Kadir Has University where I was studying towards a PhD in international relations. Although the Middle east was not the region I wanted to become an expert on, the project was a onetime opportunity to practice the theory I had picked up over many courses and I did not hesitate to take it.
Following this long introduction, I would like to share some details of my observations during my one month long stay in Palestine (22 days) and Israel (10 days). I imagine that the security questioning I had to go through with Israeli authorities and at the airport after I stated my destination as the West Bank can very well be guessed. Security had been stepped up a general elections were due to be held in Israel on the day after I arrived.
It was the eve of an election from which left leaning people had high hopes in Israel which has a tradition of rightwing governing coalitions. I got the chance to observe the appearance of certain economic difficulties in Israel, which we are taught to perceive as a country of very affluent people. Given its landmass and the level of security and military spending of Israel, it may be said that this is a serious burden on the Israeli population and is hardly sustainable. How ever, with the security based elettoral discourse still winning votes in Israel, Netanyahu played this card once more at the final hurdle and carried the election.
There should be no need to men tion that Israel is very far ahead of Palestine in terms of the economy, technology, infrastructure and in many other fields. This is apparent just a little past the Qalandia checkpoint when travelling from Jerusalem to Ramallah. The unplanned settlement and almost lawless traffic in Ramallah is like the harbinger of all the confusion. However, it is very difficult to describe the happiness of people once they learnt that I had arrived from Turkey. I can say that the Palestinian people who cannot travel outside of Israeli checkpoints unless they have very special permission are very desirous of tourists and visitors. They do everything they can to make sure the people who visit their country leave pleased.
Urban and intercity travel in Palestine relies on small minibuses. Where the drivers of these vehicles closely follow traffic rules it becomes clear that Israel is maintaining control. However, it should be said that there is no visible tension on roads used commonly by Israeli and Palestinian number plated vehicles.
One can see that the vision of Palestine and of Palestinians is becoming increasingly narrow against a state such as Israel which has managed to organise itself optimally throughout its history. I try to avoid generalisations but the surprising number of luxury vehicles in Palestine, the possession of many of the latest smart phone models despite Israel’s complete limitation of 3G and mobile internet technology and especially the women following the latest fashions at first leads one to a fallacy. I was very surprised to see Palestine having become an utmost slave to the capitalist system and transformed into a consumer society with relative affluence despite being so closed to the outside world. So much so that no one you meet even thinks about mentioning the Israeli-Palestinian issue without being prompted. Palestine having become a society primarily geared towards the individual acquisition of a high end vehicle despite the uncertainty of whether one will be free to use it in the future rather than full independence seems to have broken down Palestinian resistance to a degree. Although one is pleased to see people living in better circumstances compared to the past even if they are not free, it was disappointing to see people not making an effort to provide ideas and organisation for full independence. meanwhile it should be said that Israel, which is establishing settlements on every hill in the West bank will advance in the region in the long term by small and quiet moves rather than drawing the world’s attention through war and violence.
I only became aware of a problem Palestinians suffer from in addition to the issues of Jerusalem, land and freedom we are aware of during the time I spent there. It is foreseeable that the problem of water resources between Israel and Palestine will become a serious obstacle in the way of agriculture and husbandry in Palestine with its dry summers. I was able to observe that the world, especially the leading states of the West implementing significant aid and projects in Palestine, but I do not think that any project, however high its cost may be, will provide a lasting solution for Palestine.
I can say that the approach to the Palestinian problem in Turkey is very emotional (or completely economic for some Turkish firms) and that this will not bring any benefits in the long term. The same may be said of the United Nations and other countries with an emotional approach to Palestine. To quote a German acquaintance I made in Ramallah: “If you have been regularly providing aid to a region for the last 60 years, nothing there is working well.”
Of course, before determining how aid can be effective, one should question the attitude of those governing Palestine. It is difficult to hold a consistent stance without principles. To exemplify what I mean, it is very wrong for Palestine, which has been oppressed for decades to stand behind the
Saudi attack on Yemen in the hope of receiving material aid from the USA. One can multiply the examples but for the increasingly complex issue in the region to be solved, the international community needs to propose a just two state solution which will prevent either side from seeing the other as an outright invader. A part of this international community is Turkey of course. From this perspective, although Palestine may be the victim, the issue should not be taken up emotionally and diplomatic channels should be opened up with the Israeli state which controls the borders of Palestine in every way. The solution to a problem cannot be achieved by ignoring the primary actor. Although Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be a very popular figure in Palestine, Palestinians have noticed that as Erdogan and Israel drift apart, the aid link between Turkey and Palestine weakens.
As a final word, I should say that the Israeli people draw a bold distinction between Turkey and Erdogan. Although the AKP government and Erdogan are disliked in Israel, Israelis are warm towards Turkey and Turks. Those in government in Turkey should come to see this detail and shape their policies with a human focus.
** The original piece was published in monthly “Diplomatic Observer” on issue of May, 2015: http://www.diplomaticobserver.com/EN,12493/an-inside-look-at-the-palestinian-issue.html
* All photos were taken by me.