As Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan returns home from his visit to his biggest western fan, President Barack Obama, only to prepare for a controversial pilgrimage to Hamas-controlled Gaza, Turkey’s educational system is being mocked internationally. A spoof in “The Scientific American” focuses on revelations that Istanbul textbooks have pictured Charles Darwin as “a hook-nosed Jew” who consorted with monkeys. Writer Steve Mirsky offers the counter-revelation that Darwin’s “On the Origins of Species” (1859) was really first titled: “L’Chaim: The Whole Megillah!”
Perhaps Turkey’s increasingly “religious” public schools should have taught instead that Darwin was “the first Islamist.” Certainly Prime Minister’s Erdoğan’s stealth evolutionary blueprint for transforming Turkey from a secular republic into a Muslim state suggests that—in Turkey at least—Islamism may be the “survival of the fittest.” For a detailed analysis see my report, “From Ally to Nemesis: How Erdoğan’s Islamists Hijacked Atatürk’s Nation and Put It on A Collision Course with Israel and the U.S.” (Simon Wiesenthal Center, October, 2011).
In North America and Western Europe, the public knows little about what’s happening in Turkey except it’s avoided the worst of post-2008 global economic turmoil, and is a good place to vacation—unless you are an Israeli, given rocky Turkish-Israeli diplomatic relations since the Turkish “Mavi Marmara,” the flag ship of the so-called “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” was understandably interdicted in 2010 by Israeli commandos. Attempts by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu to repair relations by belatedly apologizing to Ankara have proved unproductive so far.
Today, Turkey’s economy does not look quite as good, and Turkey’s Syrian border looks horrible, compared to a few years ago when Erdoğan visiting Egypt was greeted like a Neo-Ottoman Sultan. Even so, it is important to understand what Erdoğan has accomplished in just over a decade and its implications for the global situation of Jews as well as Israelis.