On December 12, 2017, just before a summit meeting of the O.I.C. (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) in Istanbul, an article was published in the Turkish daily Yeni Safak, a paper which has close ties to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, under the title “A Call For Action.” Online, the article appeared under a more sinister title: “What If an Army of Islam Was Formed Against Israel?”
The article called on the 57 member states of the OIC to form a joint “Army of Islam” to besiege and attack the state of Israel. It noted that such a joint army would greatly exceed the Israeli army in manpower, equipment, and budget, and presented statistics to prove this:
If the OIC member states unite and form a joint military force, it will be the largest army in the world. These countries’ total population is 1,674,526,931. The number of soldiers in active service in these countries is at least 5,206,100. Their [overall] military defense budget, of $174,728,420,000. is also worthy of emphasis.
As for Israel, it is significantly inferior. The population of this country, which attempted to occupy Jerusalem while surrounded by Muslim states, is 8,049,314. [the total Jewish population of Israelis 6.5 million] Note that the population of Istanbul alone exceeds 14 million. The number of soldiers in active service in the [Israeli] occupation forces is 160,000, and [Israel’s] defense budget is approximately $15,600,000,000.
The statistics marshaled are indeed impressive: Israel’s active duty soldiers are outnumbered by active duty soldiers in the O.I.C. 33 to 1 (5,206,1000 to 160,000); its military budget is only 1/12 that of the O.I.C.
The Yeni Safak article continued:
It is expected that 250,000 soldiers will participate in the first [part] of a possible operation. Land, air and naval bases of member states located in the most critical regions will be used. Joint bases will be constructed in a short period of time…It is possible for 500 tanks and armored vehicles, 100 planes and 500 attack helicopters and 50 ships to mobilize quickly.”
Though Erdogan did not sign the article, this war plan is understood to reflect his thinking exactly. The source of the article in the Yeni Safak daily and at its online site has been reported to be the Turkish international defense and consulting company SADAT. SADAT was founded by Erdogan’s senior advisor on military affairs, retired general Adnan Tanriverdi. Tanriverdi was fired from the army in 1996 for his Islamist leanings, the very leanings that now make him so favored by Erdogan as an advisor.
The statistics presented are intended to suggest that it will not be hard to destroy the Jewish state if the Muslims cease their internecine warfare and concentrate on their common enemy, Israel. Pakistan is described in the article as having “special status,” because among the 57 Muslim states it alone possesses nuclear weapons, the use of which is apparently being contemplated. What is this war plan if not a call to genocide? Erdogan has made what he has in mind abundantly clear, even alluding, in a speech to a meeting of his AKP Party in December, to a famous hadith in which the final destruction of the world’s Jews is prophesied: [T]hose who think they own Jerusalem better know that tomorrow they won’t be able to hide behind trees,” Erdogan said, according to a translation by a dissident Turkish journalist, Abdullah Bozkurt.
“[This is] a veiled threat of killing each and every Jew with a shocking reference to an apocalyptic prophecy of tree story[sic],” Bozkurt wrote.
The full hadith is: “The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews, and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: ‘Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him;’ but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.”
The genocidal intent is clear: Erdogan is calling for a gigantic gang-up, not to push Israel back to the 1949 armistice lines, but to destroy the Jewish state altogether, and to kill all its Jews. And he seems to go still further: when he alludes to the hadith about stones and trees giving away the hiding-places of Jews, so that they may be killed, he is calling for even more, that is, the destruction of all Jews everywhere, not just in Israel.
TWO GREAT SILENCES:
What is most significant is what happened after Erdogan made, via this Yeni Safak article from SADAT, his “Army of Islam” proposal. Nothing happened. Only two great silences, from the East and from the West, that differed in their significance.
The first silence came from the other Muslim states in the O.I.C.. The article about the Army of Islam appeared in Yeni Safak just a few days before Muslim leaders gathered in Istanbul for a summit of O.I.C. members. Yet no other leader offered to join this Army of Islam; no other Muslims, at any level, offered their support. Nor have they done so in the three months since that Yeni Safak article. Why not? There are several reasons. First, the two most important Muslim Arab countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for understandable considerations of realpolitik, at this point view do not view Israel as an enemy, seeing it rather as an ally in the long war against an aggressive Iran. They don’t want Israel, possibly Iran’s most dangerous enemy, to be weakened, much less destroyed while Iran remains a threat; that would only embolden a permanently malevolent Shi’a Iran. Israel even now is sharing intelligence on Iran with the Saudis, and the Saudis find disturbing Erdogan’s inability to comprehend the Iranian threat to Sunni Islam, just as they find his support for Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood unacceptable. Still worse, Erdogan has said that Turkey values Iran for its “stability” and praised Rouhani for the way he has handled street protests, which must have maddened Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Erdogan fails as well to realize that the Arabs’ historic memory of the Turks is not a good one; they remember how the Arabs were treated roughly by their Ottoman masters, and when they see Erdogan promoting his neo-Ottoman dreams and schemes, including this notion of creating an “Army of Islam,” with Turkey its self-appointed leader, they are understandably unenthusiastic. As for other Muslim states that were never part of the Ottoman Empire, such as Pakistan, there is a reluctance to praise Erdogan’s plan for two reasons. One is national pride — why should Erdogan, and Turkey, lead the Muslims? Isn’t Pakistan militarily at least as imposing as Turkey, and given its nuclear weapons, the rightful leader of any “Army of Islam”? And the second reason is that of self-interest: no Sunni Muslim state wants, if it can help it, to get on the wrong side of deep-pocketed, intermittently generous Saudi Arabia. Right now, in the colossal contest with Iran, Israel is far more valuable to the Saudis than Erdogan’s Turkey, and Riyadh would not take kindly to other Muslim states joining Erdogan’s ill-considered parade.
If this silence from the Muslim Arabs is to be welcomed, the silence from the Western world deserves to be deplored. After Erdogan came out with his “Army of Islam” plan to destroy Israel, just a few days, remember, after he had made reference to a hadith prophesying the physical destruction by the world’s Muslims of the world’s Jews, there was no reaction from anyone in the Western world. Where were the Americans, the British, the French, the Germans, with denunciations of a genocide foretold? Why didn’t they, along with many other Western states, issue a joint condemnation of Erdogan’s “Army of Islam”? Where were the outraged editorials in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Le Monde, Le Figaro, The Times (London), The Guardian? In fact, the Western countries might have taken note of the reluctance of the other Muslim states to second Erdogan’s murderous motion, issuing a statement of their own that would simultaneously deplore the proposal and praise all those Muslim states that refused to endorse it.
It is late, but it is better late than never, for the countries of the advanced West to issue a joint statement — breaking their own unacceptable silence on Erdogan’s genocidal plan to praise the other silence, that of the Muslim states who have not responded to that plan.
That statement could include something like this:
We — the governments and peoples of the Western world — view with horror the plan recently proposed in Turkey, by people known to be close to President Erdogan, and to express his thoughts, for an “Army of Islam.” This army, which would be composed of the combined military might of 57 Muslim countries, would be created for one purpose only: to attack and destroy the state of Israel. Furthermore, and still more disturbing, just before this plan was published in a pro-government newspaper, President Erdogan had, in a speech to a meeting of his AKP party, alluded with approval to a hadith that discusses the killing, by the world’s Muslims, of all the world’s Jews. Neither the plan for an Army of Islam to wipe out the Jewish state, nor the allusion to a genocidal aim– to wipe out the world’s Jews — can be tolerated.
We recognize, and fully appreciate, that no Muslim state, outside of Turkey, and no Muslim leader, outside of President Erdogan himself, has expressed the slightest desire to join this so-called “Army of Islam.” We allow ourselves to believe that President Erdogan will draw the right conclusions. From Muslims themselves, the silence has been deafening.