Inside Israel and the Palestinian Territories
An Israeli coffee chain is boycotting ‘Turkish’ coffee in response to the current anti-Turkish sentiment in Israel following the screening in Turkey of a TV drama which portrays Israeli soldiers in a negative light.
Marketing manager of Ilan’s Coffee House Michal Steg said the chain decided to pull its “Istanbul coffee” off the shelves as a way to show support for Israel.
“We sell more than 30 kinds of coffee and one of them is called Istanbul coffee, cafe Istanbul, and… we decided that we are going to take part of the feelings that we had in Israel and not to sell this coffee like for the next few weeks, days,” said Steg. “The idea is because we wanted to be part of what’s going on here and to feel more patriotic and so its a more kind of symbolic way to show it”.
Coffee shop regulars had mixed opinions about the coffee shop’s reaction to the political dispute.
“I know politically this is a bit of a tough time with Turkey but it’s still a friendly nation and I’m sure there are other forums to solve these problems but I wouldn’t go to the route of boycotting goods and products,” said Len, a Tel Aviv resident.
Another Tel Aviv resident, Yehoshua David Merel, said the boycott is nonsensical because ‘Turkish coffee’ isn’t even really from Turkey. “The idea to stop selling Turkish coffee in Israeli coffee houses is ridiculous in my opinion because first off, Turkish coffee doesn’t actually come from Turkey, so you’re not in any way boycotting the country itself,” said Merel.
Once-close ties between the Jewish state and Turkey, a secular state with a Muslim population, have deteriorated since Israel’s offensive earlier this year in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Turkey recently barred Israel from participating in a NATO war exercise in Turkish airspace and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the move was a result of public concern over the Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip. The drill was postponed indefinitely after other nations, including the United States and Italy, refused to take part without Israel’s air force. In January, Erdogan, who heads the Islamist-rooted AK Party, stormed out of a debate with Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland in protest at the Israeli Gaza offensive.
In recent weeks, Israelis have been protesting in front of the Turkish Embassy over what they see as Ankara’s anti-Israeli line.
But Turkey still values its ties to Israel, Ahmet Oguz Celikkol, the Turkish ambassador to Israel, said at a recent academic conference on Turkish-Israeli relations.
“I understand today they are not going to discuss only bilateral relations but also Turkey’s roles in the world, Turkey’s role in the region. I believe of course, our relations are very important, but also it is very important to understand our roles in the world, and Turkey’s a positive impact on the region,” said Celikkol.
Turkey has strengthened its relations with neighbouring Syria, viewed by Israel as an enemy state.
“The ambassador actually pushed the government line that Turkey has a regional role, being a regional power. And it has certain ambitions, and he expects the Israelis to understand that. Of course this we can understand, but we cannot understand that the prime minister makes anti-Semitic statements,” said Professor Efraim Inbar of Israel’s Begin-Sadat Institute.
Click below to see our October 27-29, 2009 coverage of the boycott, which include interviews with Steg, Celikkol and Inbar:
PHOTO: An Israeli woman looks at a sign depicting a crossed out Turkish flag taped to the window of a coffee shop in Tel Aviv October 27, 2009. Picture taken October 27, 2009. REUTERS/Amir Cohen