Turkish action movie takes aim at Gaza flotilla incident

ankara, turkey  |  Cinemas across Turkey are showing a trailer for an upcoming Turkish action movie based on a true event: the Israeli interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla in May.

And if the trailer is any indication, the movie, “Valley of the Wolves — Palestine,” could worsen already tense relations between Turkey and Israel when it is released in late January.

The anti-Israel movie is a spinoff of the controversial but popular Turkish TV series “Valley of the Wolves,” about a nationalist undercover agent — Turkey’s answer to James Bond and Rambo — who takes on Turkey’s enemies.

This time the “hero” sets out to hunt down the Israeli military commander who ordered the interception of the flotilla and avenge the killing of the eight Turks and the one Turkish American who died in the incident.

The TV series, and a similar one, “Separation,” showed Israeli security forces kidnapping children and shooting old men, and caused a diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel last year. The upcoming film could do the same and further complicate U.S. hopes for an improvement in ties between its two allies.

In 1996, Turkey and Israel signed a military cooperation agreement that made Turkey Israel’s closest ally in the Muslim world. But relations between the two have strained over the Islamic-oriented government’s increasingly critical statements on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and hit an all-time low after the flotilla incident.

Turkey is demanding an apology and compensation for the victims of the flotilla incident before ties can return to normal. Israel’s concern that Turkey is moving closer to Iran has further complicated relations.

The trailer, which can be seen in various places online, opens with Israeli commandos raiding the ship and shooting at passengers, some of whom are armed with clubs. The Turkish hit men take revenge on heavily armed Israeli soldiers.

An Israeli threatens the “hero” character, Polat Alemdar, by saying: “You know you won’t make it out of our Promised Land.” Polat responds: “I don’t know what part of these lands were promised to you, but I promise you six feet under.”

Questioned by an Israeli soldier about his reason for coming to Israel, Polat says: “I have not come to Israel, I have come to Palestine.”

In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor declined comment this week about the trailer or the forthcoming film.

But Arieh Eldad, a lawmaker from Israel’s National Union — a hardline opposition party — said: “Turkey is on the same path that Iran once was. Iran was once a friend of Israel, and now it is one of our worst enemies.”

Israel insists its commandoes acted in self-defense after being attacked by some of the activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was part of a flotilla of cargo ships trying to break an Israeli blockade of Gaza.

The “Valley of the Wolves” series and films have a cult following in Turkey.

But the films and TV series also have been sharply criticized in Turkey and other countries for exulting nationalism, racial hatred and violence.

Audiences cheered a 2006 prequel, “Valley of the Wolves — Iraq,” in which Polat and his men battle U.S. occupying forces in Iraq, clapping after the American villains (including one played by American actor Billy Zane) are defeated. Despite criticism for the film’s anti-American and anti-Semitic overtones — a Jewish doctor is depicted harvesting organs from the dead — the film was a box-office hit in Turkey.

Erdal Besikcioglu, an acclaimed Turkish stage actor who plays the Israeli villain in the “Valley of the Wolves — Palestine,” has been quoted as saying he accepted the role because he believes the flotilla incident should not be forgotten.

“In this film, we are asking a sufficient number of questions and re-questioning the raid,” he told Sabah newspaper. “We should not forget it.”

Part of the movie was filmed on the Mavi Marmar.

The trailer, with English-language subtitles, is being shown on the film’s website at www.kurtlarvadisifilistin.com.

AP writer Josef Federman contributed to this report from Israel.