Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayipp Erdogan recently raised eyebrows when he deep-sixed Israeli diplomats from Turkey. But it was his later remarks broadcast on Al Jazeera television that Turkish warships would accompany Turkish aid vessels to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip that dropped jaws. Warships? Why would Turkish warships need to escort Turkish flotillas aiming to break Israel’s legal counter-terrorism naval blockade? This alone might lead some to believe Turkey has been first in line to aid Palestinians in Gaza. Not so fast. United Nations records show Turkey is not just conservative when it comes to aiding Gazans but rather stingy.
Similar to the US and the EU (incidentally UNRWA’s biggest donors), Erdogan would either have to remove his chokehold on his checkbook, go through official Israeli entry points or coordinate efforts directly with the Red Cross or UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) if he had a genuine interest in aiding Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. But don’t count on it. Erdogan’s actions of late go as far as to slap the UN in the face. Even UN chief Ban Ki Moon stressed that flotillas attempting to bring aid are counterproductive, and the UN supported that stance. What do other countries think? The US, Canada, Britain, EU publicly discouraged flotillas too.
This brings up the real question: what’s really going on with Gaza? UN officials repeatedly confirm there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Humanitarian goods enter Gaza daily. Besides, it wasn’t that long ago (2004 to be exact) that the Economist magazine ranked Gazan men as the 3rd highest in the world for obesity and Gazan women as 8th highest. And poverty? That answer remains anywhere but Gaza: Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the world, followed by South Asia, according to a new Multidimensional Poverty Index or MIP developed by Oxford University with support from the UN. For Gaza and the West Bank? Read on.
Erdogan could benefit from eyeballing this chart showing countries with poverty-stricken civilians that only make $1.25 a day and inhaling the last MIP and the upcoming one due in October. Oxford Poverty Human OPHI (Oxford Poverty Human Development Initiative) already released the top 10 poorest countries in the world (1 is the poorest):
- 1. Niger
- 2. Ethiopia
- 3. Mali
- 4. Burkino Faso
- 5. Burundi
- 6. Somalia
- 7. Central African Republic
- 8. Liberia
- 9. Guinea
- Sierra Leone
After reviewing the 2010 report which lists Gaza in the often mislabeled “Occupied Palestinian territories“, it’s clear that there is a welter of countries experiencing a humanitarian crisis but Palestinians residing in the Gaza Strip and West Bank simply do not come close. Some of the countries listed experiencing greater poverty than Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank include:
Hungary, Russian Federation, Thailand, Jordan, Argentina, Mexico, Syrian Arab Republic, Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, and China.
The word “Turkey” was no typo. Turkey is listed as having High poverty while the “Occupied” Palestinian Territories is listed as having Medium poverty. None of this is good news for Erdogan, and his feckless PR campaign to use Gazans as pawns while bullying Israel. Speaking of bullying, Erdogan tacked on another baseless accusation to his earlier statement on Al Jazeera when he stated that his warships would keep Israel from exploiting natural resources. Besides this egregious remark that had greed dripping on all sides of it, Erdogan is sounding off more for war than welfare.
Could Turkey’s ties to the IHH, the Turkish-based organization that launched the knife-wielding Mavi Marmara be what’s prompting Erdogan’s newfound altruism? Likely. In 2010, the US government confirmed the IHH has significant ties to Hamas. Erdogan’s tightfisted past when aiding Palestinians in Gaza along with his incessant interest in breaking Israel’s counter-terrorism naval blockade readily shows his interest goes far beyond aid. Is the Arab Spring (summer and fall) Erdogan’s opportunity to reclaim the Ottoman Empire? Only time will tell. But what is becoming clear is if Turkey aims to “eradicate poverty” its better off aiding Niger. Otherwise, it might just need to tackle an even more radical idea: taking care of its own.