Predictably, I've received messages in the wake of the post I wrote about Itamar suggesting that I am only interested in the "Zionist" account of this event, and that I take this murder seriously only because I am a Jew. You may wonder why I'd respond to this. I'm responding because yes, there are a large number of people out there who would think that no matter what I said, but there are also a large number of people who just haven't thought about these things much, have no idea who I am, and might be willing to think differently if I point out a few facts they may have missed. I'm talking to them.
I've been living in Turkey for the past five years. During those five years, I have many times had the experience of checking the news, as I do every few minutes throughout the day, and seeing that there has been a terrorist attack in Turkey.
The PKK has targeted cafes and crowded streets and squares very close to my home in the recent past. Ricochet members will remember that not long ago, a bomb exploded at Taksim Square, which is a five minute walk from my apartment. I'm there almost every single day. The attack littered Taksim Square with body parts.
During the time I've been in Turkey, I have, like everyone in Turkey, been disgusted, enraged and--as intended--terrified by PKK attacks that have taken place far too close to me ever for me to dismiss them as "something that happens in a far-away place, to other people." The attacks have targeted civilians, and they have had exactly the effect on the Turkish people that the attack on Itamar has had on the Israeli people.
First, you get a phone call from a friend or you see the words "PKK attack" in the news. Then you stop what you're doing and glue yourself to the news, trying to find more information. You try to figure out exactly where it was and how many people were hurt and killed. You call the people you know who might have been close to it. The news stations turn to full-time coverage. There are calls for blood donation on Twitter. There are crazy rumors. More news comes to light. You see the photos. You see the faces of the families who have just found out. You feel excruciating pain for them, and you feel, excruciatingly, "That could just as easily have been me or someone I love." You think about the mothers who have just found out--yes, that was your son, yes that was your daughter.
The whole country feels on edge. The police and military presence feels heavy and the faces of the young police officers are angry and anxious. Fighter planes fly too close overhead, looking for something, you don't know what. People talk about it, they say, "It's terrible." They say, "What crazy people, what monsters, would do that?" Facebook fills with hateful pages about Kurds. Everyone gets angry at the politicians for having failed to prevent it. You hear talk of revenge attacks. The next time you pass by the place where it happens, the taxi driver shakes his head and asks, "Why? Why would someone do that? It's crazy." Nothing good, nothing, ever happens as a result of it. But the victims are dead forever.
For everyone else, life goes on, because it has to. It gets back to normal quickly, because the country is used to it, and what can you do?
I would like to point out three things: First, Turkey is overwhelmingly a country of Muslims--99 percent of Turks identify as Muslims--so the victims, overwhelmingly, are Muslims.
Second, every time it happens, I go insane because the foreign press doesn't cover it sufficiently and doesn't say needs to be said. They call them "terrorists," in quotes, or they focus on the grievances that prompt the "terrorists" to do this, as if anything could warrant deliberately killing children whose only crime has been to be born in a country involved in a political conflict--as most countries are.
Third, every time it happens, I do my best to cover it and to say what I think needs to be said. If you search under my name and the name "PKK," I think you'll see clearly that this is so. When my Turkish friends say to me, "Why doesn't the media tell the world the truth about this," I say, "I don't know. But I do." For example:
The PKK has bombed cafes and restaurants in Izmir and Istanbul. They have bombed crowded buses. Recently, they took hostage a group of German tourists on Mount Ararat. They kill journalists, elementary school teachers and doctors with special enthusiasm. To briefly review: Amnesty International reported, shortly after the PKK issued the statement reproduced above, that the PKK was killing civilians “almost every day.” In 2002, PKK bombs in Istanbul and the resort cities of Antalya and Marmaris killed three civilians and wounded more than 100. In 2006, ten people, mostly children (civilian children, I assume), were killed by a PKK bomb in Diyarbakır. In the same summer, PKK bombs targeted a bank and an office building in Adana; a PKK bomb went off near a school in Istanbul; three separate attacks in Marmaris targeted tourists on their summer vacations; another one in Antalya targeted a shopping center. In 2007, a PKK ambush in Sirnak killed a child, seven village guards and five construction workers who were trying to build a dam to bring water to Kurdish villages.The PKK has branched out into suicide bombings. They have planted land mines in areas frequented by civilians, which, as intended, killed civilians. Just last week, the PKK shot dead four civilians and wounded seven more in Bingöl, a village in eastern Turkey. When the PKK target civilian government officials, they tend to execute their civilian wives and their civilian children, as well. I could extend this list for quite a few paragraphs.
Do I feel a special connection to other Jews and to Israel? Of course I do--with pride and without the slightest apology.
Do I feel a special connection to Turks, who happen to be Muslims? Of course I do--with pride and without the slightest apology.
I have been living in Istanbul for five years. It is my home. When the PKK attacks a Turkish man, woman or child, it attacks me--or it would have been just as happy to, had I been in the wrong place at the wrong time, because when you put a bomb in a wastebasket on a crowded street, you clearly don't care who gets killed, just as long as someone does.
When I write about terrorist attacks on Jews, do I write about it because I'm a Jew? Apparently.
When I write about terrorist attacks on Muslims, do I write about it because I'm a Jew? That one's a little trickier, isn't it?
How about this as a hypothesis: I write about terrorist attacks because I hate terrorists. I write about them because the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children going about their daily lives--the deliberate effort to terrorize a civilian population--enrages me. I write about them because my heart is with the victims, whether they are Muslims or Jews. And I write about them because I know they'd like to see me dead--they say so in the clearest possible way every time they bomb a place I might have been. They don't care who they kill. We were talking the other day to an Israeli Arab--a Muslim--who was injured in a terrorist attack on Tel Aviv. They don't care. As long as someone dies in an impressive, horrifying way, they're thrilled.
Israelis often ask me, "Why doesn't the world understand what we're going through? Why does it glamorize these terrorists, why does it minimize these murders?" Turks ask me the same question, all the time. And I have no answer for them. All I can say is that I do understand, and that the authors of these crimes--be they the PKK (which is not an Islamist organization at all, but a Maoist one), Hamas, Islamic Jihad--are enemies of humanity and enemies of me, personally. I have no room in my heart for people who kill children.
If you do, perhaps you'll at least have the intellectual honesty to admit that my feelings about terrorists do not seem to be confined to those who kill Jews--if you read what in fact I've been writing for years, you'll see, unequivocally, that it is not the ethnicity or religion of the victims that angers me, it's the fact that they were victims at all.