Palestinians urge Turkish people to reject Israel ties

A Palestinian woman holds a portrait of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a protest against the July military coup attempt against his government, in the West Bank city of Hebron, 20 July.

Wisam Hashlamoun APA images

While strongly supporting the aspirations of the people of Turkey to restore and enhance democracy and respect for human rights and international law, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) denounces the rapprochement agreement signed in June by the Turkish government with Israel and ratified by Turkey last month.

This agreement undermines internationally sanctioned Palestinian rights and aspirations.

The Turkish government recently submitted the agreement to parliament, which, in turn, approved to normalize relations between Turkey and Israel.

At a time when Turkey is facing substantial challenges, Palestinians are calling on the people of Turkey to reject the strengthening of ties with Israel, a regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid, with its brutal model of militarization, war-mongering and deeply seated racism.

The BNC, the broadest coalition in Palestinian civil society that leads the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, calls upon the Turkish government to refrain from collaborating with the Israeli regime of oppression in its violations of Palestinian human rights.

The BNC also calls upon Turkish oil and gas companies not to be complicit in the Israeli energy sector’s pillage of Palestinian and Syrian natural resources and its illegal denial of the right of Palestinians and Syrians to access these resources.

While deeply grateful for the widespread solidarity with Palestinian rights among the people of Turkey, the BNC condemns the Turkish government’s decision to deepen relations with Israel, rather than seek to hold it accountable for its war crimes against the Palestinian people.

Two years after Israel’s summer of 2014 massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, Turkey abandoned a range of measures against Israel it had imposed following the bloody attack on the Freedom Flotilla in 2010 in which nine humanitarian activists were killed by Israeli commandos and a 10th fatally wounded.

These measures included a suspension in military relations with Israel.

Now Turkey has moved to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel without achieving the main condition that it had set for normalizing relations, namely an end to Israel’s criminal siege on nearly 1.9 million Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s disputed natural gas reserves

The discovery of large gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean could allow Israel to expand its influence in the region by becoming a major energy exporter.

Israel is now seeking partners to which it can export its gas and through which its gas can reach European markets, despite regional disputes on Israel’s claims to some gas fields and the potential legal quagmires that may result from them.

There is an ongoing maritime border dispute between Israel and Lebanon over some of the discovered oil fields in the Mediterranean. Israel is seeking to prevent Lebanon from extracting gas sitting within Lebanon’s territorial waters.

In the occupied Syrian Golan Heights, Israel has begun extracting oil in direct violation of international law and a 2006 UN resolution affirming the inalienable rights of the Syrian-Arab population in the Golan over its natural resources.

The Turkish-Israeli rapprochement agreement opens up the possibility of Israel exporting natural gas to Turkey. This has been a primary objective for the Israeli regime for several years and is manifest in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s joint remarks with US Secretary of State John Kerry that the rapprochement has “immense [positive] implications for the Israeli economy.”

Netanyahu has emphasized that the rapprochement deal is of strategic importance to Israel as it would feed Israel’s coffers “with a huge fortune.” Israel had sought to export its natural gas finds to Jordan and Egypt against strong popular opposition.

Any energy collaboration with Israel also serves to strengthen Israel’s deliberate attempts to prevent Palestinians from utilizing Gaza’s gas reserves, which were discovered in 1999 less than 20 nautical miles off its coast. The Israeli siege imposes a six-mile limit on Palestinian territorial water, thus illegally prohibiting Palestinians from accessing and developing their natural gas resources for domestic supply and much needed domestic revenues.

Israeli government ministers have been caught on record saying that Israel’s siege and war on Gaza are partially linked to its plans for the gas reserves off the shores of Gaza.

In the 2014 assault on Gaza, Israel murdered more than 2,200 Palestinians and bombed the only power plant, leaving the besieged Strip under inhumane conditions with electricity cuts of more than 20 hours per day.

A report by the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq notes that “The determined efforts of Israel to impede development in the [occupied Palestinian territories], by leasing rights over natural resources to corporations, violates the right to development as outlined in the Declaration on the Right to Development.”

Al-Haq adds: “Israel’s unlawful appropriation, exploitation and prevented development of oil and gas resources constitute plunder and further breach Palestine’s right to self-determination.”

The report makes clear that “By their actions, international corporations and states … concluding pipeline agreements to export gas from Israel’s Tamar and Leviathan fields … will effectively support and profit from Israel’s continued illegal closure of Palestinian maritime waters.”

Any energy collaboration with Israel by Turkey or by Turkish oil and gas companies would aid, abet and fund Israel’s occupation and expansion of illegal settlements and other human rights violations through the payment of royalties to the Israeli government.

The BNC calls upon the people of Turkey, with their long history of supporting the struggle for Palestinian rights, to escalate BDS campaigns against Israel’s regime and corporations that enable its violations of international law and to oppose any public or private involvement by Turkey in Israel’s illegal plunder of Palestinian natural resources.

The Israel-Turkey rapprochement agreement undermines efforts for achieving freedom, justice and dignity for the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the broadest Palestinian civil society coalition that works to lead and support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

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The call by the BDS movement on the Turkish people to reject the normalisation of ties with Israel is correct and indisputable. Every effort should be made to totally isolate the settler colonial state of Israel.

However, it is vital that the BDS movement, the Palestinian heart thereof, also take account of the tension between national interest and solidarity with respect to Turkey. A state might be in solidarity with resistance movements but its national interests will almost always come first. With respect to Turkey, the Mavimara incident was a national interest matter because of the presence of Turkish citizens amongst the dead and injured. They AKP-led Turkey is indeed in greater solidarity with the Palestinians that any of the governments before AKP. Hence its support for the ending of the blockade.

The same happens with Egypt and Syria. In the short-term the costs of solidarity can be borne by a state. After a while its national interest might feature more prominently. However, it is necessary for the BDS movement to strengthen its relationships with Turkish civil society to ensure street-level support for the Palestinian cause and pressure on government officials who are almost always willing to put the national interest first.On the other hand, the BDS movement should also build strong relationships with the resistance movements of Palestine because that would put pressure on the PA. Thus ensuring that the routine resistance in the occupied territories, the prisons, the refugee camps and inside Israel are tied together in a broadly single architecture. This is very hard because of the different cultures of struggle and contestations of claims to leadership and voice.Then the BDS should work with the Arab members of the Knesset, the Arab citizens of Israel. That turns the struggle inside Israel for dignity and equality into a broad national liberation struggle.Lastly, what about Jews like Ilan Pappe who could be a wedge issue for young Jews. Difficult?

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