Monday, April 8, 2019

Netanyahu and Erdogan Agree: Their Political Foes Are Traitors and Terrorists* [Or a look into how the Israeli and Turkish political systems are more similar than you might think]!

Haaretz: Both Turkey and Israel face elections, and both leaders are playing from the same ethno-nationalist political playbook. But in Turkey, the leftist opposition is still alive and kicking - even from jail."

It was a rare occasion: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - famously averse to being grilled by Israeli reporters – late last week made a surprise visit to the country’s most popular TV news outlet for an impromptu interview. The channel’s two political reporters seized the rare moment and interrogated him about yet more accusations of corruption and other campaign queries. 

But they certainly didn’t ask him to justify his calling the Arab parties in the Knesset supporters of terrorism. And they certainly didn’t challenge his recent remark that, "Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the Nation-State Law that we passed, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People - and them alone."     

That comment sparked international condemnation, not least from Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top aide, Ibrahim Kalin, tweeted: "I strongly condemn this blatant racism and discrimination. 1.6 million Arabs/Muslims live in Israel. Will Western governments react, or keep silent, under pressure, again?"

Both Israel and Turkey are deep in election season, with Turkey’s municipal elections coming up on March 31, and Israel’s national elections on April 9. A perfect time for mud-slinging, not least on Twitter, between the two countries, who maintain strong economic ties despite their regular, often hypocritical, spats and deep foreign policy chasms. 

Triggered by Kalin, Netanyahu lashed out against Erdogan: "Turkey’s dictator Erdogan attacks Israel’s democracy while Turkish journalists and judges fill his prisons. What a joke!" Not to be outdone, at an election rally Erdogan described Netanyahu as a "tyrant who slaughters 7-year-old Palestinian kids."

This exchange was a salutary reminder to Palestinian citizens of Israel not be too quick to embrace support coming from Turkey. Despite Ankara's sympathetic tone towards them, the Turkish president is not a champion of minority rights. Erdogan and his ruling AKP party have serially smeared the largely Kurdish minority supporters of the leftist HDP party as terrorists, and more generally constantly engaged in delegitimizing Turkey's Kurdish ethnic minority.

Despite the histrionics between them, how close, in fact, is the rhetoric employed by Erdogan and by Netanyahu regarding the politics of citizenship and exclusion in their respective fiefdoms. 

For these elections, Netanyahu seems to be taking his political maneuvering straight from Erdogan’s playbook.

Like Erdogan, who since last June’s crucial presidential and parliamentary elections built a coalition with the far-right MHP party to survive, with its Kurdish citizens, their dignity and rights paying the price, Netanyahu’s move to bring the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit party into the Knesset - with Israel's Palestinian citizens paying the price - was also a desperate move born of political necessity. 

Both leaders were forced, and  not so unwillingly, to turn towards ultra-nationalist parties and rhetoric to maintain their control. But that move was facilitated by the sympathy that a sizeable proportion of both the Israeli and Turkish public buy into the same broad school of racist and nationalist narratives, and are either enthusiastic about - or not bothered by - the exclusion of each state's largest ethnic minorities, around 20% of the overall population.

Both Turkey and Israel are ethno-nationalist states that insist their minorities have to conform to the national needs of the majority, rather than in the path taken by most liberal democracies, where the majority recognizes the needs of - and protects - the minority. 

While Kalin was quick to bash Israel’s Jewish Nation State Law, it’s worth remembering that within the Turkish constitution, "Turks" alone are enshrined as the citizens of the state; Kurds and other ethnic minorities are not recognized in law, and Erdogan has not made any efforts to alter this during the 15 years he has been in office.  

Kurds are denied the right to education in their mother tongue. Palestinians in Israel study in Arabic from K-12, but are denied the right to study in their mother tongue at university level. 

And the similarities don’t stop there. 

In Israel, the new anti-Bibi opposition hope, the Kachol Lavan party, has made it clear from the start that it will only form a government with "Zionist" parties, a code word for excluding Arabs, just as many in Turkey’s main opposition party, the CHP, would never stomach governing alongside the mostly Kurdish HDP. 

Back in 2016, some of the MPs from Turkey’s secular CHP even joined forces with the AKP to lift the parliamentary immunity of HDP Kurdish MPs, with predictable results: those parliamentarians now sit in jail.

In the last Knesset, Israeli Labor party MKs joined forces with the Likud to try to lift the immunity of the outspoken Palestinian nationalist of the outgoing Knesset, Balad MP Haneen Zoabi, and have tried in the past to block her from running in elections. Many Israelis wish for Zoabi the same fate as  another outspoken woman MP, Sebahat Tuncel, from the HDP, who sits in a Turkish jail. 

Certainly, there are still opposition parties in both Turkey and Israel who would consider sitting in a government with the mostly Kurdish HDP or Arab parties respectively, but it is clearly a taboo for the mainstream parties – and for much of the public. 

This ethno-nationalist consensus considers members of the Jewish and ethnic Turkish majorities who do join forces with the oppressed minorities as traitors. 

In Israel, the leftist Hadash is a historic Jewish-Arab party, even though the majority by far of the voters are Palestinian. When right-wing parties tried to get the Palestinian nationalist Balad party banned earlier this month, they also targeted Hadash’s outspoken Jewish activist, Ofer Cassif. Both bans were overturned by Israel’s Supreme Court. 

The Jewish constituency in Hadash (running on a joint ticket with Ahmad Tibi’s Ta’al party) often is ignored by Israeli pundits, and even those among the Zionist left, who simply brush off Hadash as an "Arab" party. They’re the same Jewish leftists who remained silent when Hadash’s center in Tel Aviv was recently raided by right-wing activists. Ironically, the Israeli police ended up arresting a Hadash activist, and not those attacking the political gathering. 

They’re the same Jewish leftists who were so repulsed by Netanyahu’s newfound love for the successors of the Jewish supremacist rabbi Meir Kahane, but did not utter a word at the banning of Cassif. While most of the Zionist left just ignores the small minority of Jews standing in political solidarity with Arabs, the right wing in Israel actively denounces them as traitors.

There's an easy comparison in Turkey, where Erdogan recently mocked the HDP co-chair, Sezai Temelli, who is not Kurdish, after he said he thought the HDP would sweep the vote in Kurdistan (southeastern Turkey).  Erdogan's response? "Look at the man, he is not even a Kurd," adding that if he really loves Kurdistan, "there is a Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. So he can go the hell there."

Sounds familiar? It is the exact mirror image of the common Israeli anti-leftist trope: If you love Palestinians so much, go live in Gaza under Hamas.  

Few dissidents from the Israeli Jewish left are willing to join the Palestinian minority in a unified party. But in Turkey, the HDP has found far more success in bringing over ethnic Turkish voters.

In fact, the HDP is a coalition of leftist Turkish parties that joined together with a Kurdish majority. That alliance has fueled electoral success in three national elections since 2015, crossing the 10% threshold implemented decades ago to keep Kurdish nationalists out of parliament. 

This unique precedence of unity within a political party between Turkish leftists and a Kurdish majority not surprisingly inspired Ayman Odeh, the head of Hadash, who in 2015 was often compared to the HDP’s now imprisoned leader, Selahattin Demirtas, as an example of how to create a innovative political reality. The HDP also has caught the attention of the growing Jewish-Arab protest group Omdim BeYahad (Standing Together), which focuses, like the HDP, on civil rights struggles that build bridges between Jewish and Arab activists. 

In fact, the Israeli Jewish left could learn a lot from the HDP. Fearing it won't cross the electoral threshold, the leftist Meretz party worked day and night to run together with Israel’s Labor party – and failed. Why didn't Meretz look to Hadash or the Arab lists for a joint list? That kind of coalition building would have shaken up the Israeli political system and created a serious leftist movement to challenge Israel's growing fascism. 

For most Israelis, comparing what they consider to be a perfectly well-functioning democracy with the authoritarianism of Erdogan's Turkey is ludicrous.

How does Israel resemble a country where the Kurdish political leadership is behind bars, which jails its journalists and has suffocated any real opposition voices? It's all a far cry from what is happening in Turkey...Or is it? 

We can't speak about Turkey’s treatment of Kurds without speaking of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, those under almost 52 years of occupation. Do we need reminding that Gaza's Palestinians are regularly shot on the border while protesting? How many Palestinian civilians have died as result of airstrikes? 

Have Israelis forgotten that the Palestinian politician Khalida Jarrar was held for two years in Israeli administrative detention with no charges being brought against her? And, what about the hundreds of Palestinians held and judged by a military, not civil, justice system? How many more minors, like Ahed Tam/imi was, are behind bars? 

The truth be told, both Turkey and Israel, whose own propaganda marketed them for years as the only democracies in the wider Middle East, have maintained control of their ethnic minorities through a system of political and actual violence.

And, while Kurds can integrate into the Turkish political world if they forfeit parts of their identity, that’s not an option for the Palestinians citizens of Israel. Does that make the Turkish system better than Israel's? 

Consider the flip side: Is Israel, which maintains a façade of democratic equality but rules over 2.5 million people with no right to vote in its elections, better than a country that regularly jails its political dissidents? 

Turkey and Israel can find plenty of mud to throw at one another, but the unseemly contest ends up exposing their own oppressive systems. In this war of words, no one comes out clean. 

And everyone loses. The Kurds and Israel’s Palestinian citizens struggle night and day for even basic rights with impoverished political capital. But perhaps the bigger losers in this gaming of democracy are Israel’s Jews and the Turks, who fail to see that the only path to a true democracy requires solidarity with and support for the ethnic minorities among them. 

This article was originally published in Haaretz on March 27, 2019. Click here for the link.

Istanbul's 'Fake Auschwitz': What Happened When a Turkish Movie Gala Recreated a Nazi Death Camp on the Red Carpet*

Haaretz: "The 'Cicero' movie premiere's red carpet led past a makeshift death camp, with SS guards, barking dogs, barbed wire and Achtung! sign. The backlash, which came not just from its tiny Jewish community, tells us something about Turkey today."

For the last few months, Turkish cinema buffs have anxiously been awaiting the opening of a home-produced World War II spy thriller.

The movie, entitled "Cicero," focuses on the life of the infamous Nazi spy Elyesa Bazna, who - in his capacity as valet to the British Ambassador to Turkey in Ankara, Sir Hugh Knatchbull-Hugessen - passed on top secret information to Hitler’s forces during 1943-1944. The spy who photographed a trove of top-secret documents was already the subject of a 1952 Hollywood movie, Five Fingers, starring James Mason. 

The Turkish film enjoyed great initial success at the box office - until photos of its opening gala event in Istanbul began to spread over Twitter.

Indeed, this was not your usual premiere screening. The production team wanted their upscale opening night crowd to actually sense the atmosphere of the World War II era in which the movie was set – so they went, unwisely, for full immersion. 

So the red carpet led to a makeshift concentration camp, equipped with SS guards and a vicious German shepherd barking in the background, with tattered remnants of inmates’ clothes strewn across a barbed wire fence on which was hung a sign: Achtung!

What made this faux-Auschwitz all the more strange, gratuitous and incongruous was that the movie itself is not at all focused on the Holocaust or on death camps, even if it does bring in the tragedy of German children who were victims of the T-4 Nazi euthanasia project. That at least would explain the toys and small shoes piled on top of the red carpet – but not the death camps, to which they were not sent.

Indeed, in an interview that took place following the screening, the producer, Mustafa Uslu, explained that the genocide of the Jews had already been presented on film so many times he decided to focus on a different aspect of the Nazis’ murderous policies. This of course begs the question why he opted for the sensationalized Holocaust setting for his gala, if he originally did not think it was "new" enough ground to be a central part of his film.   

The gala evening’s strange WWII recreation was only briefly covered by the giant media outlet Haber Turk, which ran the story under the headline, "The Nazi Concentration Camp Gala." The bare "which-celebrities-were-spotted" report used a normal tone, and didn’t question the visuals or propriety of partying alongside the props of genocide. With most Turkish media outlets subject to government pressures not to stir controversy, it is no wonder that no other major outlet tackled the topic head on. 

Indeed, had it not been for a Turkish tweet last week, that strange and distasteful evening would have gone mostly unnoticed. In his tweet, film critic Firat Yucel commented cynically that today’s Turkey would have forced Hannah Arendt to "[re]write the Banality of Evil," in addition to poking fun at the fact that it was reported many onlookers were "moved" by the theatrics.

Shortly after that, the story was shared by Ivo Molinas, the editor of Turkey’s Jewish newspaper, Salom. In his tweet, Molinas angrily asked: "How can we explain this [event’s] inexplicable ignorance and insensitivity?" 
Within no time, a Twitter storm was ignited, and in less than 24 hours the movie’s producer, who was ironically in Germany at the time, officially apologized to the Turkish Jewish community for the gala’s grotesque Holocaust theme and Nazi decor.

What’s striking about the outrage the incident caused was the large impromptu coalition that formed to protest it. It was not left to the tiny Jewish community of about 15,000 people to express disgust at the demeaning use of the Holocaust for commercial purposes, but thousands of other voices of protest converged from multiple sectors of Turkish society, both secular and religious, and pro and anti-government. 

In fact, it was this point that was missed by the producer’s apology, which should not have only been directed at the Jewish community but also to all those Turkish citizens who were legitimately offended. That solidarity also provides us with an interesting window into today’s deeply divided Turkey.

It’s more likely than not that this incident was triggered by inexplicable ignorance, rather than explicit anti-Semitism. But the support the Jewish community received in protesting the event serves as yet another example where Turkish Jews have enjoyed growing solidarity in response to cases of anti-Semitism on social media and within the public sphere. 

It is this part of the story that often goes missing in the numerous news reports that paint the Turkish Jewish community as suffering daily persecution, but misses out on the dynamism and agency of the community itself. 

It would be foolish not to recognize that the Turkish Jewish community is indeed facing difficult days. It is an aging community beset by the emigration to friendlier shores, both religiously and economically, of its younger generations, and Jewish communal life operates under extreme security measures, in the wake of past attacks on its organizations and synagogues. 

Then there are the moments when the community is subjected to verbal attacks and threats when Turkey and Israel get into one of their many spats; not to mention the conspiracy theories regularly splashed across the pages of the pro-government press, and anti-Semitic statements that reach all the way up to Erdogan and his inner circle. Even when those accusations are not specifically targeted at Turkish Jews, that hardly makes them any less anti-Semitic, hurtful, or offensive towards members of the community.

And, for those sensational headlines that Jews are fleeing from Turkey, one too need to remember that their emigration needs to be placed within the context of the general rise of secular Turks leaving the country due to the failing economy and rise in authoritarian laws. And, like this group of new expats, many of the Jewish emigrees often keep one foot in Turkey, for family and cultural reasons – just in case their new lives abroad do not materialize as they had hoped.  

One of the greatest developments that goes unnoticed about the Turkish Jewish community is how it is strengthened from within by its outreach towards Turkish society at large. That can be argued is the core reason we are witnessing the very vocal support against anti-Semitism, or, in this case, the outrage over the film gala.

That outreach includes lighting Hanukkah candles in public forums, and opening synagogues for concerts and educational events. Then there is the community’s promotion of the International Remembrance of the Holocaust Day and the memorials held for the victims of the 1942 Struma boat sinking, when hundreds of desperate Jewish refugees died just miles away from the Istanbul during World War II.

For these events, Turkish government officials are invited to take part, giving them official status. No less important is the presence of community members on social media regularly tweeting Jewish-related news in Turkish on numerous topics of interests. 

In addition to the communal newspaper whose readership goes beyond the Jewish community itself, there is the online site Avlaremoz (Ladino for "Let's Speak"), where young voices from the Jewish community, together with allies, provide critical analysis of news events related to the Jewish community and monitor closely anti-Semitic acts.

The platform also highlights historical events and is far more courageous in engaging in once taboo topics within their own community, such as LGBT issues, and Jewish relations with other communities: not only Turkish Muslims, but also to other non-Muslims, such as Greeks and Armenians. 

Certainly, the gala incident highlights the complex relationship between today's Turkey and its Jewish community: prevalent anti-Semitism, but also strong voices raised in defense of Jews and against other forms of hate speech.

Those voices are also synecdoches for a different Turkish future than the constrained and narrowing present. Just as the Jewish community transformed along with Turkey during the first part of the 2000s, questioning their history and rethinking their place in society, there is still significant parts of Turkish society, which - even if you don't see them protesting on the streets - are still there, and are committed to a more open, pluralistic Turkey.  

*This piece was originally published in Haaretz on February 5, 2019. Please click here for the link.

On Khashoggi, U.S. Journalists Are Falling for Turkey's Conspiracist, State-run Media

Haaretz: "In its breathless hunt for grisly, sensational details, the Western media is embracing evidence-free, state-curated ‘scoops’ from the same Erdogan-obedient sources that spread lies and hate towards Turkey’s own journalists and political dissidents."

All eyes were on Turkey on Tuesday morning, in anticipation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s promise to reveal the "naked truth” of the murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Most suspected that he would present evidence incriminating Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince. One Turkish official stated, in a deliberate curtain-raiser: "Nothing will remain secret.” 

In the end, Erdogan didn’t reveal anything new, and didn’t even cover vast swathes of the details being drip-fed to the international media through anonymous Turkish official sources. We will need to wait longer to see if a key element of those stories – that Turkey possesses secret tapes, audio and perhaps even video, of the gruesome murder is confirmed.
It has been over three weeks since Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul and disappeared into thin air. During the first few days following his entering the embassy, those close to him must have been hoping that his fate might be that of so many dissidents worldwide, who are illegally “rendered” by their governments only to appear at show trials back in their home countries.
However, less than a week after his disappearance, Turkish newspapers ignited a media frenzy with news that a search was being conducted for his body. It seemed Turkish intelligence knew something that we did not: Khashoggi had been ruthlessly killed at the hands of the Crown Prince and the Saudi Government right there in the consulate.  
Since then, Khashoggi’s murder, for a lack of better words, has taken on a life of its own, transpiring into media sensation.

There is not one place in the world where people are not talking about his death; the U.S. media follows the case like a Netflix television series with all of its gory details, plot tricks and subterfuges: a body cut to pieces with a bone saw smuggled in by a 15-man Saudi hit team, a killing allegedly recorded on the Apple watch of the victim, (unlikely on technical grounds), a double who dressed up in the dead man’s clothes, who exited the back door of the consulate and was caught on numerous surveillance cameras throughout the city. 

President Trump seemed less impressed by the quality of the dramatic narrative: he declared Tuesday that: "They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly and the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups."

Khashoggi-related stories and tidbits have filled Americans’ media feeds non-stop for two full weeks.  But despite all the coverage, the media has missed a golden opportunity to draw greater conclusions from the story. 

With so much attention given to the murder of a dissident journalist, one might think that Khashoggi’s murder would have sparked a passionate and informed discussion on the extent of state targeted killings and other human rights violations journalists face every day.
Instead, the international press has played up endless unconfirmed reports by the Turkish government - regularly leaked by government officials  via its obedient press - and replays these second-hand scoops rather than leading their own investigative journalism.

The latest was the claim that Khashoggi’s body had been found in a freshly dug grave in the grounds of the Saudi consul general’s home, a scoop based on “unclear” and “unconfirmed” sourcing with no back-up evidence and then denied by the Istanbul police (as channeled by state-run media).
Suddenly a country that has the highest number of jailed journalists and has a record of kidnapping its own dissidents from abroad, has become a symbol and source of justice, with eminent papers as the New York Times and CNN quoting conspiracy-ridden government mouthpieces such as Yeni Safak, Sabah, and its English version, Daily Sabah.

And if this was not enough, - with no remaining free press in Turkey – those sources can’t even pretend to offer counter narratives, just the one sole voice of Erdogan’s government.

By doing this, the international media provided a stage and unwarranted legitimacy to Turkish media outlets that frequently spread lies and hate towards Turkey’s own journalists and political dissidents.

Analysts have correctly stated that Turkey is using the incident as a way to delve a major blow to their Sunni rivals, Saudi Arabia, and, certainly, one cannot blame Erdogan and his circles for doing their utmost to control the information and for using the leaks to their own benefit.
However, all the leaked stories in the world can’t hide the fact that it can’t have been by chance that the Saudis chose Istanbul as the scene for Khashoggi’s grisly murder. The Saudis must have (correctly) estimated the Turkish security apparatus was not good enough to stop them. Or even (wrongly assessed) that the crime of targeting a regime critic wouldn’t raise too much of an outcry among Turkish authorities.
For now, we are all caught up in stories of bone saws and blood, and have forgotten that the greater loser in this case, after Khashoggi himself, is journalism and its search for the truth.

Ironically, and painfully, it seems that it is journalists who have buried that truth in the grave dug for Khashoggi by the Saudis - undermining their jobs as journalists in a breathless hunt for more grisly, sensational details spoon fed by unnamed sources in hock to the Turkish government. 

Just as the West has already exhausted its interest in attacks on free expression in Turkey (among other places in the world), the more "conventional" stories of journalists jailed, disappeared and killed will continue to be treated as mundane - and unremarked.  

By not placing the Khashoggi murder in the context of an attack on journalists in general and highlighting Turkey's repressive media climate in particular, it seems a safe prediction that we will have more Khashoggis whose fates won’t be tracked so closely because their far quieter deaths will be filed under "old news."

This article was published in Haaretz on October 22, 2018. Please click here for the link. 

Discontent Can Still Bring Down Erdogan - and Turkey

Haaretz: "Erdogan can now crush Turkey's democracy – but not the deepening dissent with his rule. His only real means of assuring his pre-eminence is the further imposition of punitive and oppressive measures on civil society."

A week has passed since Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erodganachieved one of his lifetime goals: to be president in 2023, the year that marks a century since Ataturk's founding of the Turkish Republic.

Mustafa Kemal, later to be known by his chosen name of Ataturk, initiated a social revolution with reforms that transformed the country into a secular republic. But on his death in 1938, he left a divided country. In fact, modern Turkey can be best described as a country that was built on divisions, and throughout its history no one government - or military coup - has managed to resolve its deeply dissenting political communities.

Erdogan, who having gained 52% of the vote, now looks forward to five more years in power, is no exception: he clearly prefers to manage dissent through suppression rather than engagement. He has spent an entire career positioning himself as an iconic leader, in the Ataturk mold – despite that, at times, he has studiously worked to undo the founder's legacy.

Now Erdogan enjoys extended, sweeping powers under a new presidential mandate which permits him to form the government, rather than parliament doing so, it's tempting to speculate he feels he has a free hand. And after two years of rule by presidential decrees under a State of Emergency, Erdogan is already well-versed in the possibilities of an autocratic style of leadership.

Thus it's not surprising that there's been a post-election crackdown on the political opposition already with the arrest of a former MP, Eren Erdem, a key figure in the potent campaign of the CHP opposition presidential candidate Muharrem Ince - on terror charges.

Earlier this week the police responded with a heavy hand to the annual Istanbul LGBT Pride march in Istanbul. Despite being banned, activists took to the streets, braving arrest and attack, while thousands of police, water cannons, and armored cars barricaded the venue to prevent it taking place.

But Erdogan's sole ownership of power won't be quite that straightforward.

During the campaign, Erdogan promised to lift the emergency laws. If he does in fact does this, his legislative workflow will not be as easy as one might expect. Despite the many headlines celebrating Erdogan’s victory in the run for president, his AKP party did not do near as well as he had hoped in the parliament, capturing only 42% of the parliamentary vote (a 7% decline), making him dependent on his electoral alliance partner, the nationalist-right MHP, for a parliamentary majority.

Ironically Erdogan entered into an alliance with the MHP for fear it would fall below the 10% threshold; when they secured over 11%, it became clear that the tables had turned. It is now Erdogan who needs the MHP, and not vice versa.

In this new parliament, Erdogan will now have to act as a circus master between six parties: his AKP and allied MHP, and three opposition parties: the CHP, the Iyi party, and the religious Saadet party, which managed to grab a few seats due to its alliance with the CHP. Of course, then there is the mostly Kurdish HDP. Turkey's opposition managed to hold its ground and fight a positive campaign, despite the many hurdles thrown up by the state. 

To say that the opposition was relieved that the pro-Kurdish HDP slid across the electoral threshold is an understatement. Had it not, the Erdogan bloc of the AKP and MHP would have held a super-majority, and would have been the undisputed masters of the Turkish parliament.

But that won't translate to progress in addressing the state’s decades-old conflict (one could argue even almost a century old) with a great part of its Kurdish population. Thanks to a strong nationalist representation (MHP and the opposition Iyi) in the parliament, Erdogan even if he wanted, won't have much space to reach out, and they won't countenance close cooperation with the HDP, the one party that holds the key to any major peace initiative between the state and the country’s Kurds.

The election could not serve as greater proof that Turkey houses many discontented citizens, and that his popularity is staunchly contested. Even if Erdogan is on his way to presiding over the 2023 centenary, he has completely failed to win the hearts of the majority of Turkey’s citizens. And even if his victory was real, it was only obtained by an almost complete state and private media boycott of the other candidates. To call the elections fair would be a farce.  

Erdogan has, though, succeeded in polarizing the electorate to unprecedented levels. His most hard-core supporters, who took to the streets on election night with pistols in hand, embodied the fact that his sole rule can only be upheld through oppressive measures. 

After years of political strife, Turkey is in desperate need to a return to something closer to normalcy. But despite Erdogan's victory, it's far more likely there will be more of the same: in one of the warring camps, a disenfranchised opposition, representing a large popular minority, divided among itself, but united in their lack of belief that the state will protect them.

And in the other, the pro-government factions, now entirely incorporated into the state, and even worse, the pro-government businesses that have all but milked the state coffers dry, a prime cause of the country's deepening economic hardships.

Erdogan’s quest for a "New Turkey," one he hopes will be definitively established in his image by 2023, is likely to intensify Turkey’s internal divisions, which are far more than just a religious-secular divide as some outside commentators suggest.

And as the opposition's energetic showing in the elections demonstrated, Turkey is not yet a one-man show; Erdogan will need to maneuver carefully, setting multiple groups against each other, with his only real means of assuring his own way the further imposition of punitive and oppressive measures on civil society. 

But he has one bonus card: unlike in a true liberal democracy, he won't feel the necessity of painstaking coalition-building to reach a fuller national consensus. That is an ideal for which he has now explicitly shown disdain – and, in that, he is far closer to the old Turkey than ever before.

*This piece was originally published in Haaretz on June 24, 2018. Please click here for the link.