Monday morning Turkey took its anti-Israel campaign to a new level. Beyond downgrading diplomatic relations with Israel; beyond suspending military agreements; beyond threatening naval war; beyond threatening to foment an irredentist insurrection of Israeli Arabs; the Turks decided to terrorize Israeli tourists landing in Istanbul airport.
Forty Israeli passengers, mainly businessmen who had landed in Istanbul on a Turkish Airlines flight from Tel Aviv, were separated from the rest of the flight passengers. Their passports were confiscated.
They were placed in interrogation rooms and stripped down to their underwear. Their carry-on bags were checked. And then they were lined up against a wall, forbidden to sit down or use the washroom.
Passengers who contacted the Foreign Ministry said they felt frightened and intimidated.
The ordeal went on for 90 minutes, until Turkish authorities returned their Israeli passports and permitted them to pick up their suitcases and exit the airport.
What were the Turks trying to accomplish by terrifying the Israeli tourists? They didn't need to threaten trade ties. Their Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu already took care of that over the weekend.
The victimized Israelis said the Turkish airport authorities wouldn't even answer their questions. Any time we asked them a question, the tourists said, the Turks ignored us.
It was as if they weren't even there.
And that's the thing of it. The Turks didn't harass the Israeli tourists in order to send a message to Israel. They have nothing more to say to us. We are non-entities to them. We're only good for attacking.
No, Israel wasn't the target audience the Turks were playing to on Monday. Their target audience was the Islamic world generally and the Arab world specifically. Turkey's influence in these arenas skyrocketed in January 2009 after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused President Shimon Peres and Israel of mass murder as the leaders shared a stage at the Davos Conference.
Similarly Erdogan's domestic and pan-Islamic support levels increased steeply in the aftermath of the Turkish-supported pro-Hamas flotilla to Gaza in 2010. After nine Turkish government-supported IHH terrorists were killed aboard the Mavi Marmara when they tried to murder IDF naval commandos who had lawfully boarded the ship, the Arabs hailed Erdogan as a hero for bravely attacking Israel.
Given how well scapegoating Israel has served him, Erdogan clearly believes it is a no-risk strategy for raising his star from Cairo to Algiers...