By Danielle Angel, Research Assistant, GLORIA Center
Since “Operation Cast Lead” began on Dec. 27th 2008, the Turkish media has given extensive coverage to the Israel-Gaza conflict and the following reactions by the Turkish government and public. The conflict seemed to take center stage for the Turkish media, holding more importance than all domestic and world issues for three weeks. TV stations gave primetime coverage to the issue while the first-pages of newspapers showed half page images of the conflict. Was it the media coverage or the Turkish government’s open condemnation of Israel that led the millions of Turks to go on the streets and burn Israeli flags? Probably both. Parallel to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s harsh criticism of Israel, many newspapers and TV stations dramatically portrayed the Palestinian narrative and openly called on the Turkish people to protest against the Israeli actions in Gaza.
The media represented the Davos World Economic Forum as a continuation of the conflict. Erdogan’s reaction to Shimon Peres and the moderator David Ignatius was portrayed as the necessary Turkish reaction to Israeli and Western injustice.
Looking at mainstream media channels and newspapers such as Hurriyet, Sabah, and Star TV, I will give some examples from the Turkish media’s coverage of the Israeli-Gaza conflict and its reaction to the related events.
- Alone in Gaza: The Tragic Story of Ayshe, an orphan because of Israelis, Star TV, Zaman, 24.01.2009 http://www.zaman.com.tr/haber.do?haberno=807481&title=gazzeli-aysenin-kimsesi-kalmadi Broadcasting live from Gaza, Star TV portrays thirteen-year-old Ayshe for half an hour as she tells her story to the Turkish public. “While praying the namaz on Sunday, my uncle called to say that our house was bombed. He told me my parents and brother died. My aunt and I walked to our house. The sight was terrible. There was nothing left of my house,” she says. Between her tears, Ayshe says, “Why did they kill my family? Why did they pitilessly murder them? Why did they leave me alone in this world?” The TV host Ugur Dundar responds: “Ayshe, we feel your pain. We know no one can replace your family but we are your family here. The female spectators are your mothers, and the male your father. The young ones are all your brothers. What can we do for you my dear child?” “I know Allah will punish Israelis for what they did to my family. Turkish people have been very helpful to me here. Thank you for all your help.”
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- According to another source (“Gazan Ayshe’s tragedy that brought Turkey to tears”) http://www.tarafsizhaber.com/haber-Gazzeli-Aysenin-Turkiyeyi-aglatan-drami-VIDEO-87327/) Ayshe’s house was bombed because of her uncle’s ties to the Hamas. The family had many Hamas flags and pictures of its members in their house. Star’s choice to interview this girl for its primetime is not coincidental. Ayshe is a common Turkish name so the public could easily empathize with her. She is just like any other Turkish thirteen-year-old girl. Moreover, having lost both her parents and her brother, her words make an emotional impact.
“The War Diary of a Gazan Woman”, Sabah, 24.01.2009
Her name is Rina Kahel. She is just one of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians under Israeli assault. “Today is the 20th day of the War and I’m still alive,” she tells us.
“Everyday we think that it is the harshest day, but today is really the most violent one…
“I always remind myself the saying ‘don’t be afraid of bullets, because you can’t hear the one that kills you.’ But it wouldn’t be the same with rockets, right?…Our new debate topic is phosphorus. I always thought phosphorus is found in fish and is beneficial. But now, they use it to kill people…
“My brothers and I always argue about who will answer. Many people from Arab countries call us to express their good wishes. But sometimes Israelis call to accuse us of possessing guns and helping the rebels. I think they do not have anyone else to call today. Our phone has been ringing all day…
“I found myself alive today and wrote this to tell you about our situation in Gaza. I don’t know if I will be alive tomorrow. Please pray for us. Pray for this issue to be will be solved quickly. Pray for the wounded and the martyrs. Pray for Allah to give us patience. And if you still have time, pray for me to be reach. I hope to see you in better days.”
- “Heartbreaking Story from Gaza”, Sabah, 14.02.2009 http://arsiv.sabah.com.tr/2009/02/14//haber,21282AACCF284F46BFB9AB1DBBD6F0CD.html “Heartbreaking stories continue to come from the Gaza Strip, which was bombed by Israel for 22 days. Here is the tragic story of the unfortunate family,” the column begins. “Israeli soldiers shot Halit Muhammed Abid Rabbo’s 3 daughters and mother in front of him. While his two daughters passed away, one of his daughters and his mother are badly wounded.” Rabbo’s story is told while standing against his now destroyed house. “Israeli soldiers shot children and women in front of my eyes.” He concludes his story by saying, “Israel did not fight the intifada, it killed children.”
- On Davos: Armenian moderator who angered Erdogan blew Incirlik up in his novel! Zaman, 30.01.2009 http://www.tumgazeteler.com/?a=4609963 “The moderator who led Erdogan to react in Davos, Washington Post journalist David Ignatius, in fact knows Erdogan and Turkey very well. He is also known to have pro-Israeli views… David Ignatius is also the writer of Body of Lies. The most memorable scene from the film is the nuclear bomb exploding the Incirlik base in Adana…He criticized the AKP to act like the Ottoman Empire. Ignatius comes from an Armenian family who immigrated to the US in 1920! Therefore, following the Armenian lobby in the US, he has written numerous articles against Erdogan and Turkey, especially criticizing Turkey’s foreign policy. He also blamed Erdogan for his behavior towards his opponents, calling it an obstacle for free speech.”
- Peres called Erdogan to apologize, Zaman, 30.01.2009 http://www.zaman.com.tr/haber.do?haberno=809701
- Emine Erdogan: Peres is a Liar, Hurriyet, 30.01.2009http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/10888090.asp?gid=233&srid=4077&oid=1&l=1 Watching the [Davos] conference, the PM’s wife Emine Erdogan couldn’t hold her tears back… She commented that, “It was a scandal, an injustice in front of the world. The Prime Minister’s talk was great. Peres is lying.” Emine Erdogan later met with former British PM Tony Blair’s wife Cherie Blair to support Blair’s project on Palestinian Women Business Council.
- Thank you call from AbbasAbbas thanked Erdogan for his honorable act in Davos. When Erdegan expressed Peres’ words that some Arab leaders are supporting Israel in its war on Gaza Abbas said, “This is a conspiracy. There is no such thing. It was done to create division among the Arab world.”
- Letter from Tecelli to Abuzittin, Hincal Uluc, Sabah, 08.02.2009“I can’t tell you how proud I was that day. I’m talking about the day that our prime minister put Peres to shame. I was so excited when our prime minister left the Israeli president alone like a scared cat that got kicked as he stormed off the stage…”
- Businessmen: Erdogan, not Peres, took the final stage, Sabah, 30.01.2009
Indicating that Erdogan ‘spoiled the game that was to be played in favor of Peres in Davos’, businessmen attending the Davos conference said the objective of the conference was to give the final word to Peres to say ‘Our victory is peace’. But Erdogan’s objection ruined their game.
Reminding that Erbakan, was harshly criticized because he entered the Kaddafi tent when he was prime minister, the businessmen commented, “They tried to impose the same on Erdogan but they were not successful.”
- http://www.davosfatihi.com/ (“Conquerer of Davos”)This website has been created as a gift to Erdogan’s reaction to Peres in Davos, featuring his words to the Israeli president, the video of his storming out of the stage and the world media’s reactions.
- On Israeli Elections:
“Cease-fire depends on Israeli election results”, Sabah, 10.02.2009
Hamas is waiting for the results of the elections held in Israel today to see whether a long-term ceasefire is possible.
Usame Hamdan, Hamas’ Lebanese representative said in a phone interview with AFP, “We are watching the Israeli elections. That will determine what will happen.”
“If rightist Likud’s Netanyahu wins, I don’t believe they will want to settle,” says Hamdan. “If today’s government wins there might be an agreement.” Hamdan also expressed that until they get the results, they will continue their contact to solve critical issues, the opening of the blockade being the most urgent.
Israel, after her 22-day Gaza offensive, declared a ceasefire in January 18th. Since then, no progress has been made toward a sustainable ceasefire. Gaza Strip has been under Israeli siege since June 2007.
- “Gazans are pessimistic about Israeli elections”, Sabah, 10.02.2009 “Living under the Israeli bombardment for 22 days, Gazans think that, regardless of who wins the Israeli elections, the result will not alter their situation. Cosmetics shop worker Zekeriyya Daher says, “They are all the same. There will not be a crucial difference in Israeli politics toward us.” Businessman Eshref Nasir comments on elections saying, “All parties in Israel think the same about Palestine. Barak, Livni or the others. Each is worse for us.”
No party is expected to win the elections without a coalition in Israel, where 5 million 3 thousand people possess the right to vote. Elections will be held in the shadow of Israel’s 22-day attack on Gaza.
–Sabah concludes all related news articles stressing the “Israeli assault in Gaza”.