Friday, July 31, 2020

Is There a Thaw in Sight for Turkey and Israel, or Is It Just a Mirage?

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Mavi Marmara on the way to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza | Source: Hevesli via Wikimedia

The Gaza Attack soured the relationship so much that Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Israeli former President Shimon Peres had a showdown during the World Economic Summit 2009 in Devos, Switzerland.

The relationship reached its nadir when 10 Turkish social activists were killed aboard a ship  Mavi Marmara by the Israili commandos in the international waters. Mavi Marmara was part of the flotilla which was going to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, the Palestinian enclave barricaded by Israel.

As a reaction to this action Turkey recalled its Ambassador from Israel and downgraded the diplomatic status. The relationship was restored after a lot of back channel meetings and the ambassadors were reappointed by both the countries in Sept 2016.

However after another deadly attack in May 2018 by Israeli forces in Gaza ,Turkey recalled its ambassador and expelled Israel’s ambassador from Turkey. In July 2018 there was a report that Israel and Turkey were holding backchannel talks in a bid to restore the fragile diplomatic relations between the two nations. However nothing came out of these discussions and these countries have still not restored full diplomatic status.

In mid-May 2020, there was some unverified news on a delimitation deal between Turkey and Israel, something these countries could not achieve in the 1990s when the relationship was excellent. However, the joy could not last for long and the news was denied by an Israeli official who called the claim a “complete nonsense” but at the same time said that Israel is looking to establish full-fledged diplomatic relations.

There were continuous backchannel efforts by the USA, EU, NATO and international bodies for the normalisation of Turkey and Israel relationship. A large segment of citizens in both the countries also want the relationship to improve.

According to the survey entitled “The 2019 Israeli Foreign Policy Index of the Mitvim Institute,” the number of Israelis seeking improved ties with Turkey increased to 53% in 2019 from 42% in 2018. It included 50% of Jewish Israelis and 68% of Arab Israelis.

Turkish media which was so critical of Israel has also been discussing a possibility of better relations, and both these point to a desire for reconciliation.

However all the positive news so far have turned out to be false starts. The key hurdle which time and again has put a spanner in any effort to bring the relationship back to normal is the Palestine issue in general and Israeli blockade of Gaza in particular.

As far as the possibility of an early thaw is concerned, a report of “The Middle East Eye” is a rude jolt of reality. As per this report, the Turkish officials who were asked about a thaw responded that it would be impossible as long as Benjamin Netanyahu is the prime Minister under whom oppression of Palestinians has increased manifold.

As Turkey under President Recep Erdogan and Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continue to play to their respective bases and keep the rhetoric high, any thaw in the frigid relationship between these two countries is likely to remain just a mirage.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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