Sinem Tezyapar
Last updated: 31 January, 2014

“Turkey must show the true spirit of Islam with regards to Jews and Christians”

It is absolutely essential to elucidate to Muslims exactly what Zionism means, what the Koran says about it and why opposing Israel’s existence is a false conception of piety, writes Sinem Tezyapar.

Turkey has critical responsibilities in terms of being a role model to the Islamic world as it uniquely combines a secular and democratic essence with Muslim identity. The country’s humane and modern interpretation of Islam is the most crucial trump that the world has against radicalism and terrorism, which has been rapidly pervading the region.

In this regard, one of the major roles of Turkey, especially with respect to Israel, is eradicating anti-Semitism and the irrational fear of Zionism in the Turkish-Muslim geography. If there is any country that is qualified to make a case for Israel’s existence in the Holy Land from an Islamic perspective, that country is Turkey.

Indeed, the most meaningful and significant attribute of Turkey to Israelis is being the first Muslim-majority country to recognize Israel as a sovereign state on in 1949. Out of the 57 Muslim countries that are part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, only 10 recognize Israel as a state, and among them only two Arab states – Jordan and Egypt. Roughly that means, out of 1.6 billion Muslims, only 250 million live in countries that recognize the state. Does this really mean they stand for Israel’s right to exist? Not necessarily.

“Turkey has a responsibility to refute this senseless rejectionism”

Considering this picture of deep-rooted and prevalent anti-Israelism, most often expressed in the form of latent anti-Semitism, Turkey has a responsibility to refute this senseless rejectionism and reconcile the Muslim world with Israel. While Israel is surrounded by countries demanding its annihilation and promoting the most ruthless anti-Jewish propaganda, it is an absolute necessity for Turkey to show the true spirit of Islam with regards to Jews and Christians. In this respect, Turks have a duty to lead the way, to set a precedent for the Islamic-majority countries in the region.

Today one of the most common views among the Islamic world is that one cannot be a Muslim and endorse Zionism at the same time, as if they are somehow mutually exclusive. However the truth is that affirming the concept of Zionism is not conflictive with one’s being a Muslim at all: The Zionist conception of the Jewish people, who simply wish to live in peace and security in Israel alongside Muslims, to worship in the lands of their forefathers and to engage in business, science, art is perfectly normal from an Islamic perspective.

In fact according to the Koran, God wants the Jewish people to live in the Holy Land:

Remember Moses said to his people: ‘O my people! Call in remembrance the favor of Allah unto you, when He produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples. O my people! Enter the Holy Land which Allah hath assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will ye be overthrown, to your own ruin.’” (Koran, 5:20-21)

It is also stated in the Koran that God has “…settled the Children of Israel in a beautiful dwelling-place, and provided for them sustenance of the best…” (Koran, 10:93), hence disproving the allegation that the people of Israel have no connection to the region where they reside today. There are other references to the ‘Children of Israel’ in the Koran, including descriptions of them as ‘inheritors’ of the land that God has settled them in (Koran, 17:104; 7:137).

Consequently, rejecting the Jews’ existence in the Holy Land or their 3,500 year old connection to it would be in conflict with what is stated in the Koran. It is also a historical fact that Jews had a long-standing ongoing presence in the Holy Land, making them an indigenous community that is confirmed by the Abrahamic Scriptures.

Although Zionism is simply the right of Jews for self-determination in Israel as their national homeland, it has been associated with the most derogatory concepts and negative sentiments, not permitting anyone to speak fairly about it. Especially in the widespread political arena of the Middle East, being opposed to Zionism or Israel in general has long been a classical right-wing position.

In other words, when someone takes an anti-Zionist stance, blames Israel for the calamities in the Islamic world and utters anti-Jewish statements, then he rapidly gains “trust”, popularity and political power; the same goes for a writer or a leader of a religious group. Therefore, anti-Israelism becomes a “necessity” to be seen as “pious”, to gain acceptance and to cling to power in the Islamic world.

As an outcome of this outlook, there are a substantial number of misguided people who falsely believe being anti-Zionist is a precondition of justice and an obligation of conscience. Hence, no one dares to counter the narrative and speak out impartially about Israel or to be affiliated with it in any positive context.

As a matter of fact, anyone who speaks in a friendly manner on the subject would promptly find himself labeled as a traitor or a supporter of oppressors, racists, world hegemony seekers and so on. Thus even those who are neutral to Israel would just simply evade the subject so as to avoid public pressure—and in some cases, even more severe intimidation.

Among the Muslim community, there are also huge numbers of people who say that they are not against Jews, but only against Zionists. At first glance, this suggests no hostility towards the Jews as a people, nation, or as a follower of a religion but only seems like opposition to an ideological policy. However, when one scratches the surface and questions why only the six million Jews of Israel—out of some 14 million Jews throughout the whole world—are singled out, one can clearly see that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are intertwined. That anti-Zionism is often used as a cloak for anti-Semitism.

We often see that those who are so quick to loudly protest Israeli actions stand by blind and silent while Muslims are being killed by other Muslims every single day. In these countries the most basic civil rights of Muslims are restricted; people are beaten, whipped, imprisoned, hung, if not murdered en masse in their own countries or by their very own co-religionists.

While they are being persecuted, subjugated and oppressed by the tyrants and dictators in the Islamic world, opposing Israel and holding this particular nation under a microscope reveals an unprecedented double standard, especially when considering the unceasing condemnation, criticism and demands for boycotts with demonizing language reminiscent of the Nazi era.

It is against any conscience to seek to destroy Israel with the intent to expel their Jewish population, and see a relatively small piece of land (only slightly larger than the state of New Jersey) as somehow being too much for them.

There are also those who would say that they have no problem with the existence of Israel as a sovereign state but object to the word “Zionism”. This reveals how the word is misunderstood since the two words suggest the same concept. To be an anti-Zionist one has to oppose the very presence of the state of Israel. However, these people do recognize Israel as an independent state despite their condemnation of Zionism.

“It is against any conscience to seek to destroy Israel with the intent to expel their Jewish population”

The reason behind this contradiction is that for many Muslims, Zionism means more than the Jews’ survival and their rights of self-determination as a people. It is instead a hegemonic vision—largely thanks to the infamous anti-Semitic propaganda piece The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Nineteenth Century Russian forgery which was so widely used to incite hatred against Jews.

As a result of this work of fiction, people throughout the world began being indoctrinated that the Jews have a scheme of world conquest. It is not unfair to argue that the Protocols is the grandfather of all modern conspiracy theories.

Consequently; the meaning that most Muslims attribute to Zionism is far different than the meaning most Jews associate with Zionism. For some Muslims—even if they don’t consider Zionism to be some manner of worldwide conspiracy—it is still an expansionist or imperialist ideology based on speculative maps of the Biblical Holy Land; “from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates.”

Thus, even if today’s Jews’ understanding of Zionism is only focused on self-determination for a tiny nation and a people who have been expelled and oppressed throughout world history, for many the word has negative connotations that requires the mobilization of education. That is why it is absolutely essential to elucidate to Muslims exactly what Zionism means, what the Koran says about it and why opposing Israel’s existence is a false conception of piety.