"A Disgrace to Humanity," was the headline in an Islamist newspaper in Turkey, Yeni Akit, and also apparently words deemed fit to describe this columnist after the first two parts of "Sorry to Remind You 'Once' Again – but Golda Meir Was Right" were published in the English-language Turkish daily, Hurriyet Daily News.
The story in Yeni Akit accused me "of criticizing Turkey's defense industry and legitimizing Israel's every attack on Palestinians." But Turkish Islamists, though unwillingly, can create humor too. Yeni Akit's story went on to say that this columnist once "claimed" that the Turks had invaded Istanbul. Claimed?! Funny, it is the same Islamists who on every May 29 celebrate the "Conquest of Istanbul" with spectacular fanfare. This year was the 561st anniversary – unless the Turkish jihadists mysteriously believe Constantinople was the Turks' birthplace in Central Asia.
According to Yeni Akit, the greatest sin was to argue in the Golda Meir series that: "The fact that there are no Israeli casualties does not mean Hamas does not want to kill; it just means Hamas, for the moment, cannot kill."
Within 24 hours, Yeni Akit's story was picked up by a dozen other Islamist and pro-government media outlets. In one version, I was accused of trying to sabotage Turkey's defense industry: "Proof that Bekdil works with Israel's weapons lobby." But who the hell is this Bekdil? According to the news stories: 1) A member of the Turkish Jews Association in Tel Aviv, 2) Travels "very frequently" to Israel, 3) Does research at Tel Aviv University, and 4) Was the darling of Istanbul Jews.
After discovering this new resumé, I wrote to a friend at the Turkish Jewish Association, asking him jokingly, "When did you make me a member?" To which he replied, also jokingly: "We've cancelled your membership because you haven't paid your fees in the last two years." A frequent traveller to Israel? As a journalist for 27 years, I have travelled to nearly 55 different countries, and only twice to Israel. Sadly, I do not have a single friend from Istanbul's dwindling Jewish community; and, needless to say, I do not have any affiliation with the Tel Aviv University. All the same, fact-checking and accuracy are not typically the journalistic concepts embraced by the Islamist Turkish daily, Yeni Akit. Instead, Yeni Akit often writes "news" about its enemies to frame them so that the more militant groups can successfully target them. Incidentally, Yeni Akit always found a seat aboard President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's private jet during his travels abroad.
Unsurprisingly, Yeni Akit's targeting worked well. After a pro-government columnist tweeted its news about "The Disgrace of Humanity," several others joined the lynching on social media.
"A sperm of Israel," someone wrote. Another said: "Enmity to Islam spills from his face." Someone else wished that I would travel to Gaza so that "the al-Qassam (brigade) could shoot him right in the middle of his forehead." Another campaigner invited "this ignoble, inglorious Zionist leftover to leave for Israel." Someone else wished, "May he and his family be bombed." And yet another offered a DNA analysis from a photograph: "He must be either Armenian or Jewish."
That is in the public domain. Plenty of private e-mail messages feature much less polite language and a rich menu of threats. Against this backdrop, a rather naïve American friend asked, "Why do you not file a complaint to the police or ask for protection?" To which one can only reply: "Who is going to protect me from the police?"
This is Erdogan's "New Turkey." But this new, anti-Semitic Turkey did not emerge in a day, week, month or year. When back in 2010 the governor of Istanbul, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, claimed that "he was perfectly confident every Turkish Jew was as safe as Muslims" and that "we are certain no Turkish Jew feels threatened," I wrote in Hurriyet Daily News that:
"I have an idea! Should the esteemed governor agree, we can put his 'confidence' to a little test. I suggest having the governor disguise himself perfectly as an Orthodox Jew and let him have a solo stroll on (the busy) İstiklal Avenue (in Istanbul). If he can manage to safely reach halfway on İstiklal, I'll confess I know nothing 'about my own people.'
"If I am right, the government will have to find a new governor for Istanbul. If that is too cruel, I could suggest the governor tour around Taksim (in Istanbul) in a civilian car bearing the Star of David, just like millions around Turkey do with the Palestinian flag. If we go for the car experiment rather than the stroll at least the governor can have enough time to speed away."
In the "New Turkey," you become "a disgrace to humanity" if you simply argue that when Golda Meir said, "Peace in the Middle East would only be possible when Arabs love their children more than they hate us,'" she was right.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily News and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.