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Jamal Dajani

Jamal Dajani

Posted January 30, 2009 | 09:41 AM (EST)

Arabs Find A Hero


The new hero of the Arab street is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A short while ago, it was U.S. archenemy Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan president who recently expelled the Israeli ambassador.

More than 5,000 people, many waving Palestinian and Turkish flags, greeted Recep Tayyip Erdogan after his airplane touched down in Istanbul on Friday. A few hours earlier, the Turkish Prime Minister had stunned the audience in Davos, Switzerland when he walked out of a televised debate with Israeli president Shimon Peres after the moderator refused to allow him to rebut Peres' justification about Israel's war on Gaza. Before storming out, Erdogan told Shimon Peres: "You are killing people (in Gaza)."

During the past 24 hours, Arab satellite television networks have been abuzz with this story, as if other issues presented at the Annual Meeting of World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland did not matter. Arab masses have been looking for a champion since the fracture between Arab countries over convening a summit on Gaza and the disconnect between them and their leaders who they believe failed to react to Israel's fiercest attacks on the mostly civilian population in Gaza. The conflict in Gaza underscored the Arab divide between those allied with Egypt and Saudi Arabia on one side and with Syria and Qatar on the other.

In contrast, since the war on Gaza began, Erdogan has openly and strongly blasted Israel. He called on it to be barred from the UN, accused it of using white phosphorus against Gaza civilians, and charged it with other "inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction."

"Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents," he said.

Israel's president Shimon Peres told reporters at a press conference in Davos that there is "no conflict" and "we respect" Turkey, Israel's closest Muslim ally in the Middle East. He said bilateral relations with Turkey "will remain as they are" and that Turkey offers a moderate alternative in the Muslim world. However, relations between Turkey and Israel have soured. Istanbul has witnessed one of the largest anti-Israel demonstrations in the world, and Israeli media, most notably, the Jerusalem Post, has accused Erdogan of encouraging expressions of anti-Semitic sentiments in his country.

Meanwhile, it's been almost two weeks since Israel has withdrawn its forces from Gaza, and Arab countries are still squabbling over aid to Gaza. Hamas has been calling for an alternative leadership to the Palestinian cause, the people in Gaza are suffering from a humanitarian crisis...but amidst all this, Arabs have found a new hero, at least for a week or two.

Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report on Link TV