OpinionMiddle East

Would Turkey take in Gaza refugees?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has every reason to welcome Sunni Arab immigrants.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Source: Twitter.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Source: Twitter.
Harold Rhode (Credit: Wikipedia)
Harold Rhode
Harold Rhode received in Ph.D. in Islamic history and later served as the Turkish Desk Officer at the U.S. Department of Defense. He is now a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

The Chinese tell us that crises are opportunities. Might this be true of the Israel-Hamas war as well?

After the war in Gaza ends, even if the education system is thoroughly changed to promote coexistence, these children will still learn from their parents and the surrounding Islamic milieu that once a territory is conquered and Islamized, it must be ruled by Muslims forever. Yes, there can be temporary ceasefires that last centuries, but Muslims are patient people.

This holds true for the Land of Israel as well. Muslims cannot recognize the right of Jews to permanently rule any part of a land once conquered by Muslims.

One must ask, then, how the issue of a Gaza that will remain at war with Israel can be addressed. Are there other options than perpetual Israeli control?

One possible option could be Turkey, even though its President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is an implacable enemy of Israel. Would Erdoğan be interested in taking in voluntary immigrants from Gaza?

Although Erdoğan’s Sunni Islamic identity is most important to him, he sees himself as very much an ethnic Turk as well. Turkey has a large Kurdish minority, which is also Sunni, but the Kurds see themselves as ethnically Kurdish, not Turkish.

Erdoğan himself has stated publicly that by 2038, the populations of Kurds and Turks will reach parity. According to his Interior Ministry, however, this is already the case. How, Erdoğan must be wondering, can Turkey stave off this impending “Kurdification” and keep Turkey overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim and culturally Turkish? He is faced with this question because the ethnic Turkish birthrate is far below replacement while the Kurdish birthrate is well above the Turkish birthrate.

One answer might be taking in Gaza refugees. Turkish Sunni culture is similar to that of the Sunni Arabs south of Turkey, including Syrians and Palestinians. Kurdish culture, on the other hand, is quite different. As a result, Arab immigrants from south of Turkey assimilate into the dominant Turkish culture, which is by far the dominant culture of Turkey. 

This has proved to be the case with the four million Syrian Arabs who have fled to Turkey to escape their country’s horrific civil war. Erdoğan happily accepted them, understanding that they would almost certainly integrate into Turkish culture rather than Kurdish culture. This would stave off the “day of reckoning” with Turkey’s Kurds.

Erdoğan has done the same with Arab Sunnis from Gaza. He had his parliament pass a law allowing Palestinians to settle in Turkey, where they receive state support. These immigrants have included mostly males aged between 15-35, and some have been from Judea and Samaria as well as Gaza. Women and their families have also immigrated.

It is true that many people in Turkey resent this because they are prejudiced against Arabs. But they have been powerless to stop it, because Erdoğan wields near-absolute power in Turkey and is an adept politician who knows how to get what he wants.

Would large numbers of Gazans move to Turkey if given the chance? Based on conversations I have had over the years with Arabs from Judea, Samaria and Gaza, I believe that a great many would jump at the opportunity to start a new life elsewhere. They know they would be freer in countries like Turkey than they are under the tyrannical rule of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, given Turkey’s generous policies towards them, these Palestinians would certainly have a brighter future in Turkey than they have now.

Moreover, Gazans largely support Hamas, which is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Erdoğan is a major leader in that movement and would be happy to gain even more citizens who support his goal of spreading his Islamic radicalism. This is one reason he has given Hamas representatives refugee status in Turkey, as well as Turkish citizenship and passports. Clearly, accepting large numbers of Gazans would be a win-win for Erdoğan.

Moreover, allowing Gaza civilians currently displaced by the fighting to voluntarily immigrate should not just be considered, but viewed as a basic human right.

In the past, wars have often produced refugees. At the end of World War II, more than a million people were displaced. Germans left Czechoslovakia and what is today western Poland. When India was partitioned, millions of Hindus fled their homes in today’s Pakistan and Bangladesh, while many Indian Muslims fled to those areas from Hindu-dominated India. Within five to 10 years, these refugees assimilated into the cultures of the countries to which they fled.

The Palestinian refugee problem is the only one that has never been solved. Maybe, given all of the above, Turkey could be at least part of the solution.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates