At UN, Turkey takes Israel to task
Blames ex-ally for fueling strife in Middle East
UNITED NATIONS - Evidently heedless of US attempts to engineer a thaw in Turkish-Israeli relations, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey used his appearance before the annual General Assembly yesterday to enumerate a long list of grievances with Israel, a former regional ally.
Erdogan was the second major Middle Eastern leader addressing the General Assembly, with the widespread focus on the region’s most intractable problem, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, due to culminate today with speeches by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.
A couple of hours earlier, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, delivered one of his characteristic anti-Western broadsides, embroidered with tinges of religious mysticism. He blamed the United States, Israel, and Europe for the global recession and a litany of other ills. He also suggested that the US military’s killing of Osama bin Laden in May and the disposal of his body at sea was part of a dark conspiracy to conceal the real perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
His remarks provoked what has become a ritual large-scale walkout of delegations led by the United States.
Erdogan, describing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a “bleeding wound’’ that the international community can no longer accept, blamed Israel for thwarting all attempts to solve the problem. From nuclear weapons to control of the occupied territory to humanitarian aid, Erdogan said Israel contradicted the wishes and norms of the rest of the world.
“If you want to send a box of tomatoes to Palestine, this is subject to approval from Israel and I don’t think that is humanitarian,’’ said Erdogan, suggesting that the new spirit of change in the Middle East meant Israel can no longer continue to foster strife.
The Turkish leader repeated a drumbeat of accusations against the Israelis that he has for months, and there was no immediate reaction from Israel.
The tension is rooted in differences over the Gaza Strip, particularly a May 2010 attack by the Israeli military on a Turkish-organized flotilla trying to run the Gaza blockade, which left eight Turks and a Turkish-American dead. Turkey rejected a UN report that had found the blockade legal but said Israel had used excessive force.
Ahmadinejad, appearing before the General Assembly for the seventh year in a row, said poverty, homelessness, and denial of basic rights were traceable to “greed for materialism in the United States and Europe.’’
The Islamic Republic has been estranged from the United States since the Islamic Revolution more than 30 years ago, and Ahmadinejad’s speech has become something of a signature event at the annual session.
As he has done in previous speeches, Ahmadinejad raised questions about the Holocaust, blaming the West for using it as an excuse for unwavering support for Israel and for the oppression of the Palestinian people. “They threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and Sept. 11 with sanctions and military action?’’ he said.
By the time he got to that line in his 30-minute speech, the low-level US and European diplomats who had been there were no longer around.
The US delegation was the first to leave when Ahmadinejad referred to the Sept. 11 attacks as “mysterious,’’ going on to suggest that bin Laden’s hasty burial at sea, rather than being brought to trial, was designed to bury the truth of who sent the planes to attack New York and Washington. “Is there any classified secret that must remain a secret?’’ he said.
After the Europeans walked out, the hall, not terribly full in the first place, was mostly empty. Oddly, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, whose government has repeatedly blamed Iran rather than domestic ills for inflaming the Shi’ite population there, remained.
As usual, Ahmadinejad talked a lot about the domestic economy of the United States while barely mentioning his own country, nor the current turmoil in the Middle East.
The United States condemned the speech, as did many other Western governments and nongovernmental organizations.