From the moment I heard about the incident last week, I decided to work to show each side (Israeli and Turkish) the “other side.” When interviewed in Istanbul by the Emmanuel Rozen for Israel’s Second channel, I was skeptical of what the media wanted. Well it turned out that I, along with another Israeli friend, were “cut” from the show. Clearly, it was not the narrative he wanted to hear. We were not scared and we openly criticized Israel, and were also critical of Turkey. Needless to say, his show ended up only portraying Israeli businessmen and their “wives” packing up and leaving Istanbul, or opting to stay and live under the fear of being “knocked-off.” The show ended with the Israeli (of Turkish origin) coming to the conclusion that his textile factory might have to be moved to Romania, and Emmanuel Rozen saying “farewell” to Istanbul for the last time since (perhaps) it will no longer be possible for Israelis to travel to the beloved city. Israeli TV Channel One also aired a special new story about Istanbul on their weekly Friday night “Yoman” broadcast. In this story, Istanbul was portrayed as if had turned into the “Islamic” Republic of Turkey, making numerous comparisons with Iran. In short, the Israeli television, quite similar to the Turkish television coverage, opted out to exaggerate the situation and to induce fears.
It was for this reason, I was so happy to meet the TRT (Turkish State Television) television crew in Tel Aviv at the protest I participated in against Israel’s action against the Humanitarian Aid ship, and against the (continued) 43 year occupation of Palestinian territories. While Turkish television was filled with pictures of the Israeli soldiers capturing the ship, and of Israeli politicians expressing a stance so defiant that even most Israelis would find difficult to accept, TRT and the Anatolian Press Agency wanted to show Turkey that there is a different side to the Israeli public. While they questioned the protestors about their feelings, I turned towards them and spoke Turkish. Quite shocked, they turned the camera towards me and I stressed how sad I was over the incident and that if any blame is placed it should be on the government and not the army. The clip along with many other voices of Israelis was aired on primetime Turkish television and reproduced on online sites also in the format of an article. From some friends, I learned that in general this protest had wide-coverage in Istanbul.
Following the demonstration, I agreed to meet with the crew to provide a more in depth interview. For this I organized two more Israeli academicians to join in: Dror Zeevi and Tsameret Levi, both who have lived in Turkey for an extended period of time. This show should be aired on a special program sometime next week. For this interview, we shared our thoughts about the current situation, Israeli-Turkish relations, and our experiences of living in Turkey. I think it should be stated that regardless of what we said on Turkish television, such interviews are a step in the right direction, working to salvage what we can from the “good-old” days.
We should remember that without Turkey it will take an even longer time for Israel to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians and Syria. Furthermore, Israelis also need Turkey, and not only in terms of billion dollar tank deals. We need Turkey since this was the only Middle Eastern country where Israelis could be Israeli, explore new cultures, and strengthen academic and personal ties (the list goes on and on).* Lets hope that more attempts at defusing the situation, as the case with TRT, will be become more widespread in Turkey and in Israel.
*In the future, I hope to write a blog generally addressing why strong ties between Israel and Turkey will benefit both countries, and the Middle East in general.