Albania’s Abstention on Palestine U.N. Vote and the Islamist Response
On November 29, Albania was the sole Muslim-majority country in the United Nations to be counted among the 41 abstainers from the proposal to admit Palestine as a non-member observer. Certain Islamists were displeased, to say the least. In particular, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the “fundamentalist-lite” Justice and Development Party or AKP, responded with one of the tantrums that has become a hallmark of his administration.
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan declared that he had exerted pressure on an unnamed Muslim land to abandon its intention to vote “no,” encouraging it to support the Palestinians, and arguing that an abstention would be considered the same as a “no” by Turkey.
“I told them that this would damage bilateral relations we have. . . . It would upset us,” Erdogan complained. He went on to lament, “there are many cowards in the world.” The Istanbul daily Hurriyet soon revealed that the target of Erdogan’s fit of pique was Albania and its prime minister, Sali Berisha.
Outsiders may not grasp how offensive Erdogan’s snit was to Berisha and his people, especially as it came during Albania's celebration of the centennial of its independence from the Ottoman Empire. For a Turkish politician to call Albanians “cowards” is breathtakingly heedless and arrogant.
The leading Albanian-American journalist Ruben Avxhiu, editor of the New York-based semi-weekly Illyria, warned on December 7, in the daily Panorama published in Tirana, that the Albanian proclamation of freedom in 1912 “ended five centuries of Turkish occupation. Albanians . . . were determined not to let Turkey ever again make decisions on their behalf. This remains true today.”