Israelis have been commenting all week about how the Boston Marathon bombing was a bonding moment for Americans and Israelis, who have had too much experience with terrorist attacks in their major cities.
That idea apparently doesn’t resonate with Secretary of State John Kerry who at a press conference over the weekend compared families mourning those killed in Boston last Monday with the families of pro-Palestinian Turkish activists killed by the Israeli Defense Forces aboard the Mavi Marmara, a boat involved in the 2010 Gaza flotilla.
Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon was quick to slam Kerry over his word choice. “It is never helpful when a moral equivalency is made confusing terrorists with their victims,” Danon told The Times of Israel on Monday.
“As our American friends were made all too aware once again last week, the only way to deal with the evils of terrorism it to wage an unrelenting war against its perpetrators wherever they may be,” added Danon, who is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party.
Pundits expressed shock that Kerry would equate terrorists with innocent victims, including the slain eight-year-old Martin Richard.
At a press conference in Istanbul on Sunday, Kerry commented on efforts to bridge relations between Israel and Turkey. That’s when he made the controversial comments. According to the official State Department transcript, he said:
I think Turkey is working in very good faith to get there. I know it’s an emotional issue with some people. I particularly say to the families of people who were lost in the incident we understand these tragedies completely and we sympathize with them. And nobody – I mean, I have just been through the week of Boston and I have deep feelings for what happens when you have violence and something happens and you lose people that are near and dear to you. It affects a community, it affects a country. We’re very sensitive to that.
But going forward, we have to find the best way to bring people together to reduce tensions and undo the stereotypes that divide people and try to make peace.
Middle East expert Barry Rubin, Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, tells TheBlaze, “To call Kerry's statement incredibly ignorant, insulting to Israel, and counterproductive is an understatement. Those killed on the Mavi Marmara were terrorists, aiding a group (Hamas) like those who committed the Boston atrocity.”
“Now he labels Israel as terrorist for defending itself from terrorists. Kerry's statement gave the Turks justification for not conciliating. Would Americans accept an apology from those who staged the Boston attack? Of course not,” Rubin added.
Israel National News calls Kerry’s words “a jarring comparison.”
The blog Israel Matzav writes: “Just when you thought you'd heard it all from the Obama administration...”
The blog’s author, “Carl in Jerusalem,” is a Boston native. He’s calling on his fellow Bostonians and the Israeli government to respond. Of Kerry’s comments, he writes sarcastically:
Right.... Because 8-year old blockade runner Martin Richard (pictured) attacked soldiers with hunting knives and attempted to throw them overboard into the sea....
The Israeli government at the highest levels (Netanyahu and Steinitz, who is effectively acting Foreign Minister) needs to call Kerry on this. That comparison cannot be allowed to pass.
For that matter, the people of Boston should call him on it as well.
Among the nine killed aboard the Mavi Marmara were members of the IHH. The Turkish organization calls itself a humanitarian group, but has been accused of involvement in terrorist activities, including by European lawmakers who are pushing to add it to the European Union’s list of terrorist entities.
On May 31, 2010, six ships organized by the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, including the Mavi Marmara, were told they would not be allowed to sail via Israeli territorial waters to Gaza. When the ships didn’t stop, Israeli commandos boarded them, but were attacked on the Mavi Marmara where the IHH activists, armed with iron bars and knives, were clearly prepared for a violent confrontation.
Senior Israeli government officials traveled to Turkey Sunday to negotiate the compensation Israel said it would pay Turkey over the deaths of the Turks killed on the ship as part of a reconciliation deal brokered by President Barack Obama last month. The decision to compensate families of jihadi activists is being viewed as controversial domestically, as Israelis are concerned it breaks faith with the IDF soldiers who say they were defending themselves when those aboard the ship ambushed them.
The announcement that Israel's apology would be the first step toward normalizing relations with Turkey was touted as the major achievement of Obama’s visit to Israel; however, ever since Israel said it would apologize, Turkish government officials have appeared to be backtracking on the deal. The Turkish relatives of those killed are also rejecting the compensation deal, while the Turkish public is voicing its opposition in a new Twitter hashtag #özüryetmez which means: apology (or sorry) is not enough.
Reconciliation talks between the two sides begin on Monday. At the Sunday press conference in Turkey, Kerry held out the example of the allies making peace with Germany after World War II:
If we can find a way to rebuild Germany after a war and make peace and see Germany today be an extraordinary contributor to the economy and dialogue of the world, I hope we can move even in this part of the world to break down barriers that people think can never be broke down. And Turkey can play a key role in helping us to do that. It requires two, the two parties to work together in good faith to do it. And I hope in the next few days that that’s exactly what will take place.
The Times of Israel describes some of the challenges facing the negotiators:
US officials hope the discussions will jumpstart the process of restoring full diplomatic relations and exchanging ambassadors between two countries that Washington sees as vital strategic partners in the volatile Middle East.
But according to previous reports, the gaps between the two countries are formidable. For one thing, Turkey is demanding $1 million for each of the families of the Turkish citizens who were killed on the boat, while Israel has said it is willing to pay $100,000 to the families.[…]
Turkey has agreed in principle to drop charges against Israel and the IDF in return for the apology and compensation. However, the relatives of the nine activists killed on board the Gaza-bound ship have said they will not drop lawsuits filed against the former Israeli military commanders whom they hold responsible for the deaths.
Besides the apology over the Mavi Marmara deaths, Turkey is insisting that Israel lift its blockade of Gaza. That blockade was established in order to prevent the shipment of arms to Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.
While in Istanbul, Kerry also urged Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to delay his planned visit to Gaza. Kerry said that trip could jeopardize efforts to renew Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.