Gül warns Israel against becoming ‘apartheid island’

President Abdullah Gül (L) is seen together with Israeli President Shimon Peres in this 2008 photo.

April 22, 2011, Friday/ 17:28:00

The wave of uprisings in the Arab world is transforming the Middle East in a way similar to how the revolutions of 1848 and 1989 transformed Europe, and Israel, more than any other country, needs to adapt to the new political climate in the region in order to avoid ending up surrounded by hostile neighbors, President Abdullah Gül has said.

In an opinion article published on Wednesday in The New York Times, Gül called on Israel to take up a “strategic mindset” in the peace process with Palestinians, warning that failure to achieve progress in the decades-old conflict could prove to be dangerous for the Jewish state. “I call upon the leaders of Israel to approach the peace process with a strategic mindset, rather than resorting to short-sighted tactical maneuvers. This will require seriously considering the Arab League’s 2002 peace initiative, which proposed a return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders and fully normalized diplomatic relations with Arab states,” Gül wrote. “Sticking to the unsustainable status quo will only place Israel in greater danger.”

Israel also faces the risk of confronting an angry neighborhood if it does not take steps for peace, according to the president. He explained that Arabs will constitute the overwhelming majority of people between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea in the coming 50 years and that the new generation of Arabs will also be “much more conscious of democracy, freedom and national dignity.”

“In such a context, Israel cannot afford to be perceived as an apartheid island surrounded by an Arab sea of anger and hostility,” Gül said, noting that the Arab regimes emerging after the popular uprisings will have to listen to what their peoples say in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, contrary to the old elites that ignored public grievances about the plight of Palestinians. “Many Israeli leaders are aware of this challenge and therefore believe that creating an independent Palestinian state is imperative. A dignified and viable Palestine, living side by side with Israel, will not diminish the security of Israel, but fortify it.”

According to the president, whether uprisings in the Arab world lead to “democracy and peace or to tyranny and conflict will depend on forging a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and a broader Israeli-Arab peace.”

“The plight of the Palestinians has been a root cause of unrest and conflict in the region and is being used as a pretext for extremism in other corners of the world,” he wrote in the article.

Turkey, which has mediated peace talks between Israel and Syria and expressed readiness to facilitate Israeli-Palestinian peace, is again ready to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gül said, despite problems that brought relations between Turkey and Israel to a standstill. Relations took a nosedive when Israeli commandos killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American in May of last year on the aid ship Mavi Marmara, which was trying to break the blockade of Gaza.

“It will be almost impossible for Israel to deal with the emerging democratic and demographic currents in the absence of a peace agreement with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. Turkey, conscious of its own responsibility, stands ready to help,” Gül ended with.

BBC admits mistakes in Mavi Marmara documentary

Meanwhile, British broadcaster BBC said it found three breaches of accuracy and impartiality in a documentary about the May 31 incident on the Mavi Marmara. The documentary, “Panorama: Death in the Med,” was broadcast on BBC1 in August 2010. It prompted 2,000 calls to the BBC from viewers expressing their opinion about the program, 72 percent were negative, although a quarter of those were part of a lobby organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign website, according to the BBC.

An editorial standards committee of BBC Trust apologized for three breaches of accuracy and impartiality -- out of 51 points raised in the complaints -- but said the program was “accurate and impartial” overall. The three key complaints that were upheld included, insufficient details about the circumstances of the deaths, the omission of allegations about Israeli mistreatment of the passengers after the flotilla was taken over and the misrepresentation of the humanitarian aims of the flotilla and of the Turkish humanitarian organization, the İHH, which owned the Mavi Marmara.

Responding to the claim that the manner in which the nine people killed was fundamental to the accuracy of the documentary, the BBC Trust agreed that because of the lack of clear video footage of anyone being shot, details from the preliminary autopsy reports would have “given a broader picture and added to the programme’s description of how the activists died.”

It also said “the information about the volume and nature of the gunshot wounds detailed in the preliminary autopsy reports gave a fuller picture of the manner in which the Israelis killed nine people and the level of force deployed by the Israeli commandos.”

Regarding the treatment of casualties by the Israelis, it added “the imagery and the accompanying script line (‘The Israelis evacuated the badly wounded to hospital’) would have left viewers with the impression that the badly wounded were all promptly and appropriately cared for. The committee noted that, although not proven, there are detailed allegations of mistreatment of at least some of the casualties.”

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