Scribblings: Don’t give Turkey a pass in Khashoggi affair

Turkey has vigorously investigated the Khashoggi case, obscuring its own treatment of journalists

In the international crisis sparked by Saudi Arabia’s apparent murder of dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, it is worth recalling that guilty as Riyadh almost certainly is, its key accuser is not itself innocent. 

Firstly, while Saudi authorities have clearly lied about the murder, contradicting themselves several times and making statements which are simply not credible, Turkish authorities have also proven to be less than honest. For instance, there are reports from the Turkish authorities, reported in government-aligned Turkish newspapers, that Khashoggi recorded his own torture and murder on his Apple watch, and Turkish authorities were able to obtain this. But their account of how this recording occurred was virtually impossible given how Apple watches work. In other words, the Apple watch claim was almost certainly a cover for how the Turkish Government really obtained the recording – perhaps through bugging the Saudi consulate – if there even actually is a genuine recording of Khashoggi’s murder.

As Elliott Abrams points out in this edition, Turkey sees Saudi Arabia as a key rival and is attempting to milk the Khashoggi murder to inflict as much damage on Saudi Arabia as it can, as well as pump up the international status of the Islamist Erdogan government in Ankara. While the Saudis invited this outcome with their murderous recklessness, it would be foolish to believe everything the Turks say, or allow them to derive benefit from their “investigation” of the crime, given that the regime in Ankara not only has a horrible human rights record but is arguably even worse, generally speaking, than the Saudis when it comes to persecuting journalists. 

While Turkey may not usually murder journalists like the Saudis killed Khashoggi (though Khashoggi was an official and likely an intelligence operative before he became a dissident journalist), it does throw vast numbers of them in prison, more than any other nation in the world, on politicised charges. According to the Stockholm Centre for Freedom, as of Oct. 7, Turkey was holding 169 journalists in jail awaiting trial, had convicted and jailed 68 others, and had issued arrest warrants for another 148 who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey. This is on top of the numerous media organisations Ankara has forcibly shut down. 

Inexcusable as the murder of Khashoggi was, let’s not forget the almost 400 journalist victims of the Turkish regime. 

Religion and Bigotry in the PA

Most casual observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict know that the rejectionist Hamas, which rules Gaza, is Islamist while the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA), which rules the West Bank, is officially secular. They also probably know that Hamas has often espoused open antisemitism which it claims to derive from Islamic sources. For instance, Hamas’ openly antisemitic charter begins with a verse from the Koran which says Jews have earned “Allah’s wrath” because “they denied the signs of Allah and unjustly killed the prophets” before going on to blame the Jews for all wars and revolutions, citing the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as evidence. 

But what many people may not know is that the religious activities officially promoted by the ostensibly secular PA are often not much better. Here are two examples from last month. 

On Oct. 5, Muhannad Abu Rumi, a judge in the Palestinian Authority’s Islamic court system had this to say in a sermon broadcast on official PA-TV: 

“[This is] holy land. We know its value, and not them [Jews], the foreigners, the fabricators of history, who dance and live on the body parts of others, and on the blood of others. Read their history: There is no global corruption that they are not behind. There is no global corruption that their rabbis did not allow…There have always been two camps in history: the camp of truth and the camp of falsehood. The people of falsehood see themselves as those who rule over everything… Among the Jews we find nothing but corruption and depravity.”

In this last part of his statement, Abu Rumi seemed to be echoing his boss Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the PA’s Supreme Shari’ah Judge and PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ personal advisor on Islam. In June, Habbash stated that the world is a battle between good and evil in which the Jews represent “the culture of Satan.”

Even more recently, on Oct. 19, an unidentified preacher gave a sermon broadcast on official PA-TV in which he said that Jews are “planning and systematically working to incite wars and strife in the entire world” and spoke of “the two times that the Israelites spread corruption upon the land.” He also implied that Hitler was sent by Allah to punish them, saying, “They didn’t learn from what Hitler did to them, and the kings of Europe, and Spain – they didn’t learn…” (All quotes above are from Palestinian Media Watch). 

So in just the last month, official PA-TV has broadcast at least two sermons in which Palestinians were told that Islam teaches that Jews “dance and live on the body parts of others, and on the blood of others”; are behind all “global corruption” and are “systematically working to incite wars and strife in the entire world”; are the “people of falsehood” in a global battle of good versus evil; and that the Holocaust was God’s punishment of the Jews. 

And again, it is the secular PA, not Hamas, which promoted this antisemitism and gave it the imprimatur of Islam. Is it any wonder that peace seems all but impossible?