Ali Al-Halawani, IOL Staff
ISTANBUL — Hundreds of thousands of Turks, including women and children, marched in Istanbul on Sunday, July 9, in a show of solidarity with the Palestinians people in the face of the on-going Israeli onslaught.
Estimated at some 300,000, the demonstrators hoisted Turkish and Palestinian flags and carried banners reading “Do not be a simple spectator to a massacre” and “We are all Palestinians”.
Responding to a call from the Islamist Happiness Party (Saadet), they marched and assembled in Caglayan Square on the European side of the city.
Among keynote speakers who addressed the gathering were Happiness Party leader Recai Kutan, Ahmet Gumdagdvu, head of the teachers syndicate, and Dr. Salah Sultan, President of the American Center for Islamic Research.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and former Turkish premier Necmettin Erbakan addressed the demonstrators via video conference.
Israel launched its Gaza Strip offensive on Wednesday, June 28, after an Israeli soldier was taken prisoner by Palestinian resistance groups.
Israel claims the onslaught, which has seen large parts of the coastal strip reoccupied and thousands of troops and military gear deployed, only aims at freeing the soldier.
The Palestinians, however, see the offensive as a bid to topple the Hamas-led government and inflict long-term havoc on Gaza’s infrastructure.
The speakers lashed out at Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinian people, with many opening salvos at Arab and Muslim countries for failing the Palestinians.
Erbakan, who served as prime minister for about a year and a half, lamented the killing of many Palestinian civilians by Israeli occupation forces.
He lashed out at Arab and Muslim regime over their deafening silence and apathy.
The ex-premier also criticized the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for not taking a strong stance with Israel, recalling he had sacked his foreign minister over dealings with the Zionists.
The Turkish government was not presented in the demonstration.
In a statement issued on Saturday, July 8, the Turkish Foreign Ministry expressed deep concerned about the escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“The killing of so many Palestinians before the eyes of the whole world is really dreadful,” Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said in statements Saturday.
He said he was “horrified” by the number of Palestinians killed in the Israeli air raids.
Turkey, a mainly Muslim secular state, has been Israel’s main ally in the region since the conclusion of a military cooperation treaty in 1996.
Former premier Erbakan stressed the importance of the boycott weapons against Israel.
Dr. Sultan echoed the same message.
He urged Muslims worldwide to lay more pressures on their governments to stand by the Palestinians against the continued Israeli aggressions.
He also called for activating the boycott of Israel.
The ongoing Israeli onslaught has motivated Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, to pull out its Fed cup tennis tie with Israel.
“We have decided to pull out of the play-off because even though tennis is a sport, we have to be consistent in our support for the Palestinian people who have suffered excessive aggression by Israel,” foreign ministry spokesman Desra Percaya said.
In October 2002, 18 of the 22-member Arab League pledged to “reactivate” a half-century-old ban on trade with Israel as they wrapped up a meeting of the League’s Boycott Office of Israel (BOI).
Arab states once boycotted not just Israeli firms themselves, but third-country companies which do business with Israel.
However, the indirect boycott has largely lapsed since the launch of the Middle East peace process in 1991.
Many Arab countries were also pressed by the US to scrap Israel boycott as a precondition for inking free trade agreements with Washington.