JOOST – A national tragedy

A national tragedyI have been living in Turkey since 2009 now. All those years, I have followed the news in Turkey and abroad closely using Turkish, Dutch and English newspapers, websites and social media Never before have I seen such an enormous gap in reporting the news between the Turkish media on the one hand and all foreign media on the other than during the last couple of days.

If one were to follow only Turkish papers and television channels — which is what most Turks do — it is hard to escape from the impression there is only one conflict that deserves to be covered these days: the Gaza War The unlimited attention for the suffering of the Palestinians and the indiscriminate violence by the Israeli army is understandable. What is going on in Gaza is appalling, it should make headlines and it is only natural that it causes strong reactions among both Turkish politicians and ordinary citizens.

At the same time, the exclusive focus of the Turkish media on Gaza has also created a situation in which most Turks are kept practically unaware of another major incident elsewhere that will eventually have huge consequences for Turkey as well: the downing of a passenger plane in Ukrainian airspace.Last Thursday Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down, causing the death of all 298 passengers, 193 of whom were Dutch citizens.

It has created further deterioration in the relations between the United StatesEurope and Russia, already very tense after the Russian grab of Crimea and Moscow’s efforts to destabilize its neighbor Ukraine.Apart from the momentous repercussions the downing of the plane might have on future international and regional relations, I am afraid many Turks don’t realize that what happened last week, for several reasons, is a national tragedy for the Netherlands that will have an impact on Dutch society for years, if not decades, to come.

One is the size of the drama The Netherlands is a relatively small country with just over 16 million inhabitants. When 193 Dutch citizens die, many Dutch have personal ties to the victims or their family and friends.

Translated to the size of Turkey, we would be talking about 950 Turkish citizens who died in a single accident. Just imagine the impact that would have on Turkish society.

Maybe even more important is the fact most Dutch can well imagine that it could have been them on that plane, on their way to their Asian holiday destination or an important congress in AustraliaOn top of this widespread and deeply felt sadness came anger and indignation when it became clear what, most probably, caused the plane crash. Mounting circumstantial evidence indicates that the missile which destroyed the Malaysian airliner was launched by Russian-backed separatists occupying parts of eastern Ukraine.

To make things even more unimaginable, it seems the separatists made a mistake, believing they were targeting a Ukrainian military aircraft. Just think of it: Almost 300 people lost their lives because a bunch of incompetent local thugs got it wrong when they used sophisticated weaponry they either stole from the Ukrainian army or got from their Russian masters.

What followed were days of growing frustration and outrage when it turned out that the rebels prevented international experts from visiting the site of the crash to gather the remains of the victims and collect information on what happened. Bodies lay in the grass for days until they were finally gathered by motley groups of local volunteers.

Only after four exhausting days could the bodies be taken to Kharkiv, in territory controlled by the Ukrainian government, from where they will soon be transported to the Netherlands.Although public opinion in the Netherlands is still dominated by grief, it is clear that attention will soon shift to the culprits.

That will inevitably lead to another painful confrontation because it is already obvious this tragedy would not have occurred without the Russian policy of creating chaos in eastern Ukraine. Is the Dutch government willing to confront Moscow, even if that would endanger important economic relations between the two countries? Or will they continue to coddle Russian President Vladimir Putin, as several critics have already predicted?It is still too early to tell how Dutch-Russian and EU-Russian relations will develop after this horrific sequence of miscalculations and disrespectful behavior One thing is clear, though: For most Dutch, nothing will be the same after MH17.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman