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Tue, July 20, 2010 | | Also published in The Washington Times | By Daniel Pipes

The division of Cyprus since 1974

Turkey in Cyprus vs. Israel in Gaza

Ankara’s recent condemnation of Jerusalem is hypocritical

In light of Ankara’s recent criticism of what it calls Israel’s “open-air jail” in Gaza, today’s date, which marks the anniversary of Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus [July 20, 1974], has special relevance.

Turkish policy toward Israel, historically warm and only a decade ago approaching full alliance, has cooled since Islamists took power in Ankara in 2002. Their hostility became explicit in January 2009, during the Israel-Hamas war. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan grandly condemned Israeli policies as “perpetrating inhuman actions which would bring it to self-destruction” and even invoked God (“Allah will … punish those who transgress the rights of innocents“). His wife Emine Erdoğan hyperbolically condemned Israeli actions as so awful they “cannot be expressed in words.”

Their verbal assaults augured a further hostility that included insulting the Israeli president, helping sponsor the “Freedom Flotilla,” and recalling the Turkish ambassador.

This Turkish rage prompts a question: Is Israel in Gaza really worse than Turkey in Cyprus? A comparison finds this hardly to be so. Consider some contrasts:

  • Turkey’s invasion of July-August 1974 involved the use of napalm and “spread terror” among Cypriot Greek villagers, according to Minority Rights Group International. In contrast, Israel’s “fierce battle” to take Gaza relied only on conventional weapons and entailed virtually no civilian casualties.
  • The subsequent occupation of 37 percent of the island amounted to a “forced ethnic cleansing” according to William Mallinson in a just-published monograph from the University of Minnesota. In contrast, if one wishes to accuse the Israeli authorities of ethnic cleansing in Gaza, it was against their own people, the Jews, in 2005.
  • The Turkish government has sponsored what Mallinson calls “a systematic policy of colonization” on formerly Greek lands in northern Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots in 1973 totaled about 120,000 persons; since then, more than 160,000 citizens of the Republic of Turkey have been settled in their lands. Not a single Israeli community remains in Gaza.
  • Ankara runs its occupied zone so tightly that, in the words of Bülent Akarcalı, a senior Turkey politician, “Northern Cyprus is governed like a province of Turkey.” An enemy of Israel, Hamas, rules in Gaza.
  • The Turks set up a pretend-autonomous structure called the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.” Gazans enjoy real autonomy.
  • A wall through the island keeps peaceable Greeks out of northern Cyprus. Israel’s wall excludes Palestinian terrorists.

And then there is the ghost town of Famagusta, where Turkish actions parallel those of Syria under the thuggish Assads. After the Turkish air force bombed the Cypriot port city, Turkish forces moved in to seize it, thereby prompting the entire Greek population (fearing a massacre) to flee. Turkish troops immediately fenced off the central part of the town, called Varosha, and prohibited anyone from living there.

A sign on the fence around Varosha, Cyprus.

As this crumbling Greek town is reclaimed by nature, it has become a bizarre time capsule from 1974. Steven Plaut of Haifa University visited and reports:

“Nothing has changed. … It is said that the car distributorships in the ghost town even today are stocked with vintage 1974 models. For years after the rape of Famagusta, people told of seeing light bulbs still burning in the windows of the abandoned buildings.”

Curiously, another Levantine ghost town also dates from the summer of 1974. Just 24 days before the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, Israeli troops evacuated the border town of Quneitra, handing it over to the Syrian authorities. Hafez al-Assad chose, for political reasons too, not to let anyone live in it. Decades later, it too remains empty, a hostage to bellicosity.

Erdoğan claims that Turkish troops are not occupying northern Cyprus but are there in “Turkey’s capacity as a guarantor power,”[1] whatever that means. The outside world, however, is not fooled. If Elvis Costello recently pulled out of a concert in Tel Aviv to protest the “suffering of the innocent [Palestinians],” Jennifer Lopez canceled a concert in northern Cyprus to protest “human rights abuse” there.

Signs on a metal gate in the capital city of Nicosia.

In brief, Northern Cyprus shares features with Syria and resembles an “open-air jail” more than Gaza does. How rich that a hypocritical Ankara preens its moral plumage about Gaza even as it runs a zone significantly more offensive. Instead of meddling in Gaza, Turkish leaders should close the illegal and disruptive occupation that for decades has tragically divided Cyprus.

Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.


[1] The Turkish invasion came after intercommunal conflict between the island’s Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority, resulting from the constitutional breakdown of 1963. Turkey claims that she invoked her role as a guarantor under the 1960 Treaty of Guarantee in justification for it.

The United Nations Security Council has challenged the legality of Turkey’s action, because Article Four of the Treaty of Guarantee gives the right to guarantors to take action with the sole aim of re-establishing the state of affairs. The aftermath of Turkey’s invasion, however, did not safeguard the Republic’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but had the opposite effect; such as the de facto partitioning of the Republic in two, the creation of a separate political entity in the north and the forceful expulsion of Greek Cypriots from it. A large number of Turkish Cypriots, many of whom were forced to live in isolated enclaves and ghettoes throughout the island during the intercommunal violence between 1963 and 1974, chose to leave their homes in the south and moved to the north after 1974. The United Nations still recognizes the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus according to the terms of its independence in 1960. The conflict continues to affect Turkey’s relations with Cyprus, Greece and the European Union. [Turkish invasion of Cyprus].

4 Comments to “Turkey in Cyprus vs. Israel in Gaza”

  1. Turkey in Cyprus vs. Israel in Gaza #turkey #cyprus #israel #gaza #islamism

  2. Analysis: The Legal Blockade of Gaza –
     Israel, as a democratic State, looks for legal tools to curb such smuggling and respond to Hamas’ terrorist attacks against its citizens. One of the tools available under international law is the maritime blockade. Israel, finding itself in a state of armed conflict with Hamas, has opted to employ this legal measure.
    For more information click here:
    – The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

  3. avatar Elisabeth says:

    RT @CrethiPlethi: Turkey in Cyprus vs. Israel in Gaza #turkey #cyprus #israel #gaza #islamism

  4. avatar Nondas says:

    Cyprus Needs Council resolutions ,and liberation from Turkey’s enslavement
    We do not believe It is fair to compare Gaza and Israel Versus Cyprus and Turkey’s invasion and thirty six years of Turkey’s barbaric occupation of Cyprus. Israel does not occupy 37%of Gaza for thirty six years in violation of all UN ,and security council resolutions with forty five thousand Attila armed forces. In case of Israel is a fight for survival ,it is surrounded by many nations with millions and millions of Arabs, many are enemies. In Cyprus case , a victim of the cold war era, it is its geopolitical and strategic pozition ,which is the root which caused most of its problems, and the 1959 unfair, dysfunctional 1959 British imposed Zurich and London “Agreements” never been voted by a referendum, amended or ratified by the Cypriot people. Those British “agreements” gave 40% rights to the 18% Turkish Cypriots infringing on the rights of the 82% of the Greek Cypriot majority. Also Turkey’s expansionist designs over Cyprus divided Cyprus in 1974 when it took advantage of the opportunity of the Treacherous Greek Junta coup July 15 1974 against Makarios and Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20 ,with the Ottoman empire dream to annex Cyprus in the long term, thanks to the silent approval of the EU and the West.

    Bravo to Turkey which is deceiving EU with its propaganda lies, pretending that Turkey is occupying Cyprus in order to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority of 18% .Turkey is willing to join the EU unpunished ,regardless to too many violations against the Greek Cypriot basic Human rights incorporated in the protocol which Turkey signed but fails to comply with it .For thirty six years Turkey has violated all UN ,security council and EU resolutions issued for Cyprus.,and Turkey is in defiance of the UN charter and complete defiance of international law. Turkey does not recognize the EU Republic of Cyprus, which became an EU member state since 2004 .Turkey blames the Greek Cypriots for rejecting in 2004 ,the Dysfunctional ,racist , undemocratic Koffi Annan plan which was indeed a bad plan, worse than the infamous 1959 Zurich and London British imposed agreements. The rejected 2004 Koffi Annan’s plan ,was rejected by 76% of the Greek Cypriots ,simply because it was written by foreigners, Just to serve the foreign interests and not the interests of the Cypriot people Turkish ,and Greek. If the 2004 rejected Koffi Anna’s plan was accepted it was going to produce more problems for Cyprus .If Turkey likes so much the dysfunctional and troublesome K.Annan plan, why does it give a similar Koffi Annan’s plan to the 20 million Kurdish minority in Turkey to solve their problem . Turkey must stop acting stupid ,and it has to accept its responsibilities and accountability as an EU candidate, and not to continue to be ruthless and Barbaric.. Turkey must accept responsibility for the Armenia genocide One and a Half Million people, and the ongoing annihilation of the Kurds . Turkey must accept accountability for the human rights violations against the EU Greek Cypriot citizens , and Turkey committed war crimes against Humanity in Cyprus,and committed the ethnic cleansing of 200,000 Greek Cypriots from their ancestral homes and properties ,and enslaved 37% of EU Cyprus soil for the last thirty six years. The ghoast Town of Famagusta with the barbed wires ,tells us Turkey’s atrocious acts, lies and propaganda Turkey desecrated more than 550 Christian Churches including St. Barnabes Church the founder of Cyprus’s Christianity. Turkey destroyed the Greek Cypriot Cultural and religious heritage. Is this an amicable way of settling a problem in the EU family of civilized nations, which Turkey wants to join with? What Cyprus needs as a solution is the withdrawal of all Turkey’s troops and illegal settlers out of Cyprus,and the enforcement of all UN and security council resolutions.

    Sincerely E. Nondas


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