What does Palestine expect from Turkey?
By Muhdan Saglam-İlhan Uzgel
The longstanding conflict between Israel and Palestine endures. Israel is mounting an offensive against Gaza, employing a combination of maritime, terrestrial, and aerial forces. The death toll and number of injured reached the thousands. Palestinians living in northern Gaza are facing increasing pressure to move to the southern region.
What are the aspirations of the Palestinian people? What is the current situation in Gaza? Do they receive adequate support from Arab and Muslim nations? How does Palestine evaluate Turkey's policy? Prof. Dr. İlhan Uzgel and I asked these questions to Dr. Faed Mustafa, the Palestinian Ambassador to Ankara.
Ambassador Mustafa asserted that although they endorse Turkey's policy, they lack sufficient backing from Arab and Muslim nations, fueling Israel's aggression.
Muhdan Saglam (MS): Sadly, a significant massacre is taking place in Gaza, and we are unfortunate spectators. What is the current situation in Gaza?
The situation in Gaza is worsening with each passing day. As the attacks continue, the situation will not see any improvement. With each passing day, the attacks are becoming increasingly vicious. Our people will suffer from this wickedness. As these relentless attacks persist, we are extracting lifeless bodies from the debris, and the tally is mounting with each passing day. These individuals are more than mere statistics; each loss is a heartbreaking event. We already have accumulated over 9,000 martyrs and 23,000 wounded. The destruction of half the houses in Gaza has resulted in 1.5 million individuals losing their homes and being left without shelter, forced to wander the streets. We are experiencing a daily loss of 400 martyrs, equating to 15 casualties per hour, with a significant portion of victims being elderly, women, and children. These attacks serve a distinct purpose, which is to specifically target all civilians in Gaza, including schools, hospitals, and places of worship. The people of Gaza are deprived of access to food, medicine, and water. Even medical facilities are being subjected to targeting. In Gaza, a grave crime is transpiring, characterized by a comprehensive genocide and a concerted effort to enact mass extermination. A heavy human tragedy is unfolding in Gaza.
First Gaza, then West Bank
İlhan Uzgel (IU): Daily, we observe these ongoing developments, feeling powerless and burdened by the painful reality. According to your assertion, 1.5 million people have experienced displacement from their residences. Did these individuals head south? Will they return?
This is precisely what Israel is pursuing. Israel is actively working towards making Gaza an uninhabitable place. Israel aims to evacuate the northern region of Gaza and forcibly displace its inhabitants. It is insisting that this population move to Egypt, specifically to the Sinai Peninsula, and it is undue pressuring Egypt to facilitate this. This shows that Israel is undertaking these attacks not only as retribution for the events on October 7 but also to evacuate northern Gaza; just like how Israel forcibly displaced half of the Palestinian population 75 years ago during the Nakba, today it seeks to orchestrate another expulsion. If its plan comes to fruition here (in Gaza), it will soon replicate the same in the West Bank. It will execute a parallel policy of compelled displacement there. We, the steadfast Palestinian nation, shall never relinquish our sacred cause, even amidst the crumbling of all else; just as we vehemently rejected it in 1948 and steadfastly refuse to tolerate dwelling in temporary shelters in the surrounding nations today, we shall not yield. We will stand firm against this.
IU: In this current scenario, do you perceive Egypt's failure to open the Rafah crossing as a favorable progression?
Egypt claims the gate is nonfunctional because of ongoing Israeli bombardment. Israel is issuing threats towards Egypt and seeking to exercise control over the incoming humanitarian aid. It conveyed to Egypt that in the event of non-compliance, there would be repercussions. The reason for the closure of this gate is not Egypt but Israel, which is actively targeting it. Israel disregards the international community and human rights. It selectively restricts certain materials into the controls without providing a cause.
"Israel is targeting the entire Gaza, not only Hamas"
MS: Israel's focus is on the northern part of Gaza, where it aims to eliminate Hamas. They have begun a slow ground invasion of this area. Do you believe that Hamas is adequately prepared to withstand and resist against Israel?
Israel's target extends beyond Hamas to include the entire population. We lack weaponry and military apparatus. What we have is not as powerful and new as Israel's. It's. Israel receives military help from Western countries and the United States, making any comparison impossible. We are standing up for ourselves, in contrast to Israel's allegations. Israel is an occupying state; how can an occupying state justify its self-defense?
Israel has gained state-of-the-art weaponry from Western nations during this conflict. In the Red Sea and the Mediterranean regions, there are 11 countries ready to support Israel. The Mediterranean and Red Sea are full of warships. Why are so many ships and weapons coming here? It's not solely driven by revenge against Gaza; they undoubtedly have a strategic plan. The Palestinian people are protecting themselves. Perhaps we lack the technological capabilities and weaponry possessed by Israel, but our cause, position on this matter, and unwavering faith bolster our strength. We are the oppressed ones. We will tirelessly protect our national and religious cause. Our most formidable weapon is our unwavering belief in justice and noble cause. We will remain steadfast in our defense of Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. We vehemently oppose warfare, we uphold our convictions, and we protect our interests and freedoms.
Criticism of Arab and Muslim World
IU: The Western world did not surprise us. Nevertheless, do you receive the expected support from Arab countries and the Muslim world? Do you anticipate initiatives from the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation?
Arab nations have consistently declared that Palestine is their foremost concern. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation was founded to provide help and backing to Palestine. Palestine holds the highest importance for all Muslim nations. Regrettably, both the Arab League and the Muslim countries are faring poorly. Israel has skillfully achieved the normalization of relations with all these countries. This has had a detrimental impact on Palestine. The Islamic world also faces a similar situation. Several countries are exerting efforts, and Turkey is among them. However, we have not garnered the expected backing from the Arab and Islamic nations, and regrettably, this help falls short of our expectations and aspirations. Just as Western nations coalesce and provide backing to Israel, we desire Muslim and Arab nations to stand behind us and prevent our disintegration.
If we break down, this will not be limited to Palestine. Merely condemning is insufficient, as it has no impact on Israel. We need to assume a greater responsibility and intensify the pressure on Israel. The vulnerability of Arab and Islamic nations enables Israel to persist in its assaults. If these nations were robust and cohesive in their opposition to Israel, they would not so effortlessly engage in aggression against the Palestinian population. We remain hopeful for a future where the situation improves, ceasing the war and bloodshed in this vicinity.
"We are exerting pressure on the ICC to start an investigation."
MS: Israel is engaging in blatant war crimes, and there have even been resignations at the UN. Have you undertaken any actions as the Palestinian Authority, such as engaging with the International Criminal Court (ICC)?
We are diligently tracking the progressions and the unlawful acts, and we are proactively embarking on necessary actions. We persist in our political strife, although Israel resists engaging in political discussions. The Palestinian state maintains communication with all states and organizations. It communicates the goals and objectives of Israel. We are closely monitoring the situation in both Gaza and the West Bank as we have meticulously compiled our dossiers and submitted them to the ICC. We are exerting pressure on the ICC to start an investigation, uncovering the atrocities of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in this location. Regrettably, the US and Western countries are exerting pressure on the ICC, hindering its action on this matter and employing all means possible to enable Israel to evade legal consequences. The US consistently exercises its veto power in the UN Security Council to oppose any proposals that may be detrimental to Israel. We acknowledge the international community's lack of fairness in this matter. However, we will persist in our endeavors, relentlessly pursuing justice.
"Other parties could be drawn into the war."
IU: There are attacks on US bases in the region. There is a mutual exchange of fire between Hezbollah and Israel. Is there a possibility that the conflict in the region will grow and spread?
As representatives of the Palestinian people, we unequivocally reject the pursuit of war, not only for our own sake but also for the sake of all humanity. The outbreak or spread of a war in the region depends on Israel's behavior. Many nations face the strain of Israeli aggression. Considering the massacre, forced displacement, and loss of life in 1948, individuals remained unaware of the events because of limited technological advancements, allowing the atrocities to occur in silence. However, today, the circumstances have changed as the entire world witnesses this brutal slaughter, observing our deliberate targeting from the skies, the seas, and the ground. We have the support of the people who cherish their freedom worldwide. From Latin America to Asia to Africa, people are rallying behind us in the public squares. Should Israel carry on with these massacres, other parties will be drawn into the war.
To address this issue, an immediate ceasefire must be declared, and unrestricted humanitarian aid must be allowed into Gaza. For this, political mechanisms must be set in motion; a political resolution must be reached. In this context, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan summarized the situation correctly: 'We will either go into a big war or to peace.' And he is entirely accurate in that regard. If Israel continues, he is utterly correct regarding that. If Israel persists with these brutal attacks, it will precipitate conflict. However, if the entire global community exerts pressure and Israel ceases these attacks, there is a potential for peace. Now, we desire not only a cessation of hostilities but also the activation of political mechanisms leading to a political resolution. If a ceasefire is solely declared, the war will re-surge in two months. This will cause the perpetuation of this situation for an additional 75 years. Granting us our political rights will end the wars; otherwise, this conflict will persist. Those who support Israel should also know this.
"We support Turkey's proposal."
MS: How do you asses stance Turkey's policy since October 7? Hakan Fidan, the Foreign Minister, proposed a guarantee clause. Do you have a message for the Turkish society?
We express our gratitude to the Turkish population for their unwavering support. We appreciate Turkey's policies. The initial phase entails a political resolution, with Mr. President Erdogan and Foreign Minister Fidan addressing this matter. Turkey provides us with humanitarian help, constructing hospitals and delivering aid via aircraft. The people have rallied behind us in the squares, amplifying their voices, for which we are thankful. In the embassy, we accommodate civil society organizations and parties throughout the day, who provide us with their consultations and support during our hardships. We favor the Turkish project and the proposal with the guarantor clause. This is a novel plan and project, as the previous ones proved futile and failed to meet their objectives. That is why we support Turkey's proposal. It is widely recognized that Israel does not place peace as a priority and dismisses these endeavors. It rejects Turkey's proposed guarantee, disregards international community and UN decisions, and fails to consider them. However, we endorse peace negotiation conferences and meetings.