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April 11, 2013 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-04-11

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oints of view

>> Send letters to: letters@thejewishnews.corn


Turkey, Israel Must Find Renewed Ties


urkey's demand that Israel
halt its blockade of the Gaza
Strip deflated Israel's bid to
normalize ties between the two Middle
East powers. For Israel to lift the sea
blockade as long as Hamas, a terror-
ist organization, rules Gaza would be
extremely dangerous.
Hope bubbled up on March 22 when,
at President Obama's urging, Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
partially apologized in a phone con-
versation to Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan for "operational
errors" committed by Israel during
the ill-fated May 2010 raid on the
Mavi Marmara ship, part of a Turkish-
flagged aid flotilla, as it sought to
break a maritime blockade of Gaza.
Netanyahu agreed to compensate
families of nine Turkish Humanitarian
Relief Foundation members killed in
the violence when Israeli naval com-
mandos boarded the ship. And he con-
ceded to allowing more humanitarian
goods into Gaza.
Diplomacy between Israel and
Turkey, two historic allies, essen-
tially stopped in the aftermath of the

bloody sea incident.
Israel issued a statement saying
Netanyahu's apology would restore
normalization between Jerusalem
and Ankara, including the exchange of
Israel's overtures seeking diplomat-
ic renewal with Turkey are significant
in a region where Jewish-Islamic ten-
sion runs high. The good times that
Turkey and Israel shared in the 1990s
degenerated as a result of:
• Erdogan's rise to power in 2003
and the brutality he wrought against
the minority Kurds;
• America's prolonged war in Iraq
and its potential impact on Turkey;
• The Israeli army's reported
"disproportionate" force against
Palestinians in the 2008-09 Gaza war.
On March 24, Erdogan, apparently
feeling heat from Turkish hardliner
criticism of Israel's newfound PR
success, wavered. He declared that
Netanyahu also would have to end the
Gaza embargo – a certain nonstarter
in negotiations involving Israel. Only
a complete cessation of missiles fired
from Gaza on southern Israel would

bring relaxed sea passage into Gaza,
insisted Israel in a bold statement
issued the same day. Three days ear-
lier, on the second day of Obama's
visit to the region, at least four rock-
ets were fired from Gaza at southern
Israel. That marked the second such
attack since an Egyptian-brokered
truce ended Israel's Pillar of Defense
operation in Gaza last November.
Netanyahu's seeming epiphany in
apologizing has roots in the threat
posed by Syria as its civil war esca-
lates. In a March 23 Facebook post,
the prime minister wrote: "It's impor-
tant that Turkey and Israel, which
both share a border with Syria, are
able to communicate with each other,
and this is also relevant to other
regional challenges."
Consider the compelling economic
incentive of Israel possibly exporting
billons of dollars to Turkey and beyond
as a byproduct of improved relations,
reported the Wall Street Journal.
Turkey, a nation of 76 million,
including 26,000 Jews, is a good
counter to Iran for dominance in the
region and also a somewhat demo-

Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan

cratic alternative to Saudi Arabia and
its oppressive monarchy. Its ties to
Europe, though tenuous, make Turkey
an important regional player.
Notably, Israel and Turkey each
found the will to crack open the rec-
onciliation door by extending help
during an earthquake in Turkey in 2011
and a forest fire in Israel in 2010.
Netanyahu and Erdogan must
keep talking; they can't let the Gaza
blockade ultimately destroy reaching
full rapprochement. The two nations,
bound at the geographic hip by their
Ottomon Empire roots, remain too
integral to the embattled region's
future to maintain a cold war.

Guest Column

Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitism

Why we need to have the conversation.


Brenda Rosenberg
with Sarnia Bahsoun


uring the past 12 years of inter-
faith efforts, I've had numerous
conversations with Christians,
Muslims, Arabs and African Americans
that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Some
were open to understanding my point of
view, some were polite, but unshakable
in their belief: "We have nothing against
Jews; Zionists and Zionism are the prob-
lem. Zionism is a crime against humanity"
or "Zionism is racism" Some were almost
I feared for my safety when a woman
at a church in Birmingham stood up and
moved toward me, emphatically shaking
her fist and saying, "Choose! Choose! You
can't be a Zionist and a humanist:' I left
the church emotionally shaken but physi-
cally unharmed.
My concern rose again when I heard
Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey at a
U.N. meeting in Vienna on Feb. 28 of last
year express the very mixed message:
"Just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and


April 11 • 2013

Fascism, it has become necessary to view
Islamophobia as a crime against human-
ity: ,

His words and the condemnations that
followed his speech created a tectonic rift.
While condemnation is important, con-
demnation alone deepens the divide, rein-
forcing core beliefs and polarizing nations.
In situations of conflict, we can choose to
use the tension to deepen our understand-
ing of the issues surrounding conflict or
allow the tension to separate us further.
In our soon to be published book,

TENSION: How an Arab and Jewish Zionist
use tension to transform conflict, Samia
Bahsoun, my Arab colleague and co-
founder of the Tectonic Leadership Center
for Conflict Transformation and Cross
Cultural Communication, and I share our
paradoxical methodology to address the
barriers to peace.

The Z Word
The "Z" word, one of the hot buttons of
any conversation on anything to do with
the Middle East, was an electrifying point
of tension between Samia and me from

our very first conversation in January
2009. I introduced myself to Samia as a
Jewish Zionist who cared deeply about the
war between Israel and Gaza. Hearing the
word Zionist caused a very negative reac-
tion from Samia, a pro-Palestinian Arab
and ardent anti-Zionist. She barely heard
the "who cared deeply" piece of the con-
This is where most conversations end.
Luckily for us, it was the beginning of a
three-year journey to identify the hot but-
ton issues and create a process that can
transform conflict and build a new rela-
tional architecture.
The Tectonic Leadership model we
created is based on three disciplines and
commitments. The following is how we
used the process to address Zionism.
You must be willing to collaborate with
people from the opposite side of conflict
and take joint ownership in transforming
conflict. Samia and I committed to facing
challenges together and seeking solutions
Use the tension surrounding conflict as
an opportunity to deepen understanding

Samia Bahsoun and Brenda Rosenberg

and engage the other. Samia shared her
thoughts on Zionism — "Zionism is a ter-
rorist Jewish expansionist movement that
justifies taking Palestinian land and is the
cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict:'
Samia, who lost her grandmother and
great-aunt to Israeli raids on southern
Lebanon in 1982 and suffered losses in the
2006 war, is convinced that Israeli attacks
on Lebanon are part of the Zionist ambi-
tion to expand Israel's borders under the
disguise of self-defense and national secu-
rity. She believes that Zionism is racism
because it calls for a Jewish state, denying
Arab citizens equal rights in Israel.
For me, this was the greatest
interfaith challenge I had faced. It was
very difficult to hear her anger and
beliefs — so different from mine. It was

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