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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Another Erdoğan Victory: Why?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been elected. Again. 

First sweeping to power in 2002 as Prime Minister, Turkey has been under Erdoğan’s rule for 16 years. He and his Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, have won every general election with at least a plurality since 2002. They have also presided over two nationwide referenda in 2010 and 2017 respectively, in which their desired policy change has come into effect both times.

Under Erdoğan and the AKP, Turkish democracy is alive, but fragile and sickly. Staggering numbers of journalists sit in Turkish prisons. The press, especially television news, is mostly dominated by pro-AKP talking heads. Two of Turkey’s leading newspapers which regularly criticize the government, Hürriyet (Liberty) and Cumhuriyet (The Republic) have been put under extreme pressure by the government. Though not implemented by Erdoğan, the 10% threshold for political parties to get representation in the Turkish Grand National Assembly has proved restrictive, especially for the Kurdish left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which lacks any sort of support outside the majority Kurdish regions in the southeast part of the country.

President Erdoğan is often compared to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the sense that he still attempts to pursue some facade of democracy but has increasingly pursued an authoritarian rule. Like Putin in Russia, Erdoğan has a loyal following in Turkey, though his is not as large as Putin’s. The two men came to power at similar times, during internal crisis and widespread uncertainty, and both have gained followings for their insistence that their respective administrations represent stability and prosperity.

Western media outlets, however, cautiously predicted that while Erdoğan’s AKP would win the June 24 election, it would do so with only a plurality resulting in a hung parliament, and that while Erdoğan would win the most votes for the Presidential election, he would fall short of 50% and would need to win a runoff against a second-place contender. This was the year Erdoğan’s power would start to wane, it was claimed, and he may even lose the runoff. The economy was sputtering and the Lira was steadily losing value, Erdoğan’s claims of stability were weakening, it was said.

It looked like the opposition had learned some lessons as well. The Kemalist, social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) had nominated a charismatic man of the people for the presidency in Muharrem İnce over the bureaucratic Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, and he was commanding enormous rallies in Izmir, Istanbul, and Ankara. Meral Akşener, the center-right nationalist “she-wolf” of the newly established İYİ (Good) Party was going to cut into Erdoğan’s base and inspire MHP voters angry at Erdoğan to ditch their crimson three-crescent banners for the blue and gold sun flag of the İYİ Party. 

This was not to be. 

While the AKP did not win an outright majority in the Parliament, its partner in the People’s Alliance, the right-wing populist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), saw a mostly-unexpected surge in the polls. Expected to gain only around 4-6% of parliamentary votes, the MHP entered Parliament with a much stronger 11.1%, ensuring the AKP-MHP alliance would retain its majority in parliament. 

İnce won a respectable 30.6% of votes, but couldn’t bring Erdoğan below 50% and the CHP's parliamentary vote declined from 25% in November 2015 to 22.6% in June 2018. 

Meral Akşener, expected to get between 9-15% in the Presidential Election, slumped to 7.3%, and her İYİ Party only scraped 9.9% of votes. Together, Akşener and İnce barely managed to match the performance of the generally unpopular joint CHP/MHP candidate in 2014, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, who lost to Erdoğan 51.7% to 38.4%

Selahattin Demirtas, jailed presidential candidate for the Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), managed 8.4% of the vote while the HDP crossed the 10% threshold with 11.7% of the vote. 

Why did this happen? Why did the predictions of both the Western media and many of Turkey’s own polling agencies turn out wrong? 

The MHP Strikes Back

Perhaps the most surprising performance of the election was that of the aforementioned far-right Nationalist Movement Party. In 2015, the MHP, while not the loudest voice of opposition, was generally against the ambitions of President Erdoğan. It refused to become part of a possible coalition government with the AKP after the June 2015 election, ensuring a second round of elections in November. Its position in Parliament was weakened in the November 2015 elections. 

Not long after the November 2015 election, the MHP shifted from opposing Erdoğan to supporting him. In 2017, they backed the constitutional referendum that set in motion Turkey's transition from parliamentary democracy to presidential democracy, a referendum many saw as a thinly veiled power-grab by Erdoğan. This was viewed as a very risky move on party leader Devlet Bahçeli's part. Many MHP voters were vocally opposed to this referendum and the party's geographic stronghold in the south of Turkey voted predominantly against it. Bahçeli's shift to support Erdoğan also inspired Meral Akşener, a former member of the MHP, to try to usurp power from him. Akşener lost and left the party, founding the more centrist, civic nationalist İYİ Party in response. 

How the MHP managed to rebound in Sunday's election is still a bit unclear, but its resurgence and continued support for Erdoğan and the AKP turned out to be a successful gamble and the party now holds the parliamentary majority for the People's Alliance. 

İYİ Underwhelms

Meral Akşener's İYİ Party appeared on the scene in October 2017. Akşener, a charismatic and seasoned figure in Turkish politics, quickly attracted substantial attention. Early polling for the Presidential Election had Akşener winning second place and heading to a razor-thin runoff against Erdoğan as well as nearly 20% of the votes in the Parliamentary election. 

The İYİ Party was a party that looked like it would become a force to be reckoned with in its infancy. It was led by a popular new candidate. It railed against the establishment. Its center-right platform seemed to be perfect to combat the right-wing AKP and far-right MHP voters who opposed Erdoğan. 

Its momentum did not last, however, and the main reason for that may be its main ally, the CHP. 

In May 2018, the CHP put forth its presidential candidate, the popular and eloquent ex-physics teacher Muharrem İnce. Akşener's presidential bid had been announced months earlier than İnce's, but İnce quickly surpassed her in the polls. The two candidates were not adversaries in the way they would be with Erdoğan. Akşener welcomed İnce when he announced his running for president and expressed her preference for a wealth of candidates. Both İnce and Akşener pledged to support the other if the presidential election went to runoff. Nevertheless, İnce's campaign may have stopped Akşener's momentum cold. 

Despite that seemingly sudden momentum shift, İYİ is still in its early stages. Akşener isn't president, but she's still the leader of the party and may be able to grow its support in the coming years. The only question is whether she'll end up pulling support away from CHP voters or from the AKP/MHP coalition. 

Anti-Erdoğan Islamism Falls Flat

In Turkey, a political party must win 10% of the vote if it hopes to win seats in the Parliament. This rule was implemented in the 1980s and is often criticized by the opposition as excessive and exclusionary. In order to circumvent this obstacle, both pro- and anti- Erdoğan camps mobilized under the banners of alliances. The pro-Erdoğan People's Alliance consists of the AKP, MHP, and much smaller Great Unity Party, known by its Turkish initials BBP, while the opposition National Alliance is made up of CHP, İYİ, Saadet, and Democrat parties.

If you're familiar with Turkish politics, one of these parties should stick out like a sore thumb, and that's the Saadet (Felicity) Party. While the CHP, İYİ and Democrat parties are all secular Kemalist parties (the CHP is center-left, İYİ and DP are center-right), Saadet is a far-right Islamist political party. 

Why would a far-right Islamist party ally with secular parties, you ask? A shared distaste for President Erdoğan. Saadet is vehemently anti-Erdoğan, but it is far too small of a party to win seats with the 10% threshold, so it joined the National Alliance in hopes of accomplishing both parliamentary representation and the ability to chip away at Erdoğan's Islamist base. Temel Karamollaoğlu, Saadet's presidential candidate, never polled particularly high, but he did at times reach 4-5%. Had Saadet reached that 4-5%, Erdoğan would not have won the election outright and Turkey would have been headed to a runoff election. 

However, Saadet underperformed already-small expectations. Temel Karamollaoğlu only won 0.89% of the vote and the party received a paltry 1.35% of the vote for Parliament, which translates to 0 MPs. 

Turkey's next election will be at the latest, in 2023. Erdoğan is stronger than ever, but his grip on power isn't quite absolute yet. The Turkish economy is starting to sputter and slow down. The lira is losing its value - in 2013, $1 bought you 2 lira, today it buys you 4.7 lira. A major reason for Erdoğan's popularity has been the strength of the Turkish economy under his administration, but the cracks are starting to show, and so far he's been remarkably stubborn in tackling the emerging issues.

Erdoğan will have to play it safe with MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli in order to keep his majority in parliament. One day before the election, the Hurriyet Daily News reported that Bahçeli warned of a possible collapse of the alliance. His criticism was vague, but could result in early elections if it's not heeded.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Once More into the Breach: Turkey goes back to the Polls

For the fifth time in four years, the Republic of Turkey is going to the polls for a pivotal election.

In August 2014, Turkey went to the polls to directly elect their president. In previous years, a parliamentary vote elected the Turkish President, a mostly ceremonial position which was far less powerful than that of the Prime Minister's office. That rule was changed, however, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was popularly elected with 51.7% of the vote, decisively beating out cross-party candidate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu's 38.4% and Kurdish representative Selahattin Demirtaş' 9.7%.

Two elections were held in 2015. The first, in June, pushed Erdoğan's right-wing Islamist Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, down to 40.87% of the vote, enough for a plurality but short of a majority in the Grand National Assembly. The center-left Kemalist Republican People's Party (CHP) placed second with 25.98% of the vote, while the smaller far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and left-wing Kurdish-interest People's Democratic Party (HDP) picked up 16.29% and 13.12% of the vote.

Coalition negotiations were vigorous but ultimately fruitless, highlighting the polarization between Turkey's four major parties. The AKP refused to govern in a minority government. Negotiations for a unity government between the AKP and CHP broke down. The HDP and MHP both refused to enter into coalition with the AKP. A CHP-MHP minority coalition with "outside support" from the HDP was rejected by the MHP.

A second election was called for November, and the results were a return to the status quo. Despite the predictions pointing towards little change in the result from June and another hung parliament, the AKP rebounded from its weak showing in June as it managed to push some MHP and HDP voters back into its camp while the CHP very, very slightly improved its vote total.

In 2017, Turkey voted on a national referendum that aimed to change the parliamentary democracy system to a presidential system similar to that of the United States, France and Brazil. It was widely considered among President Erdoğan's critics to be a consolidation of power and another move towards authoritarianism in the already-fragile Turkish democracy. The referendum very narrowly passed 51.4% to 48.6% and seemed to unite many of the anti-Erdoğan factions: secular social democrats, far-right nationalists, and Kurds. Despite the MHP's support for the changes proposed in the referendum, many MHP voters spurned their party's official campaign and voted against the referendum.

Turkey's next election was originally scheduled for November 3rd, 2019. On April 18th, however, President Erdoğan, echoing his recently-turned allies in the MHP headed by Devlet Bahçeli, called for an earlier election. Yet Erdoğan took it one step further than Bahçeli and decided to move the elections up from November 2019 to June of 2018, two months earlier than Bahçeli's proposal for August 2018. 

The direct election of the Turkish President in these upcoming elections has brought a new face and a new party into the forefront. Meral Akşener, a former member of Parliament from the MHP, founded the Good (İyi) Party in October 2017. The İyi Party in practice seems to be a more moderate nationalist party, a center-right counterpart to the center-left Republican People's Party, and an alternative for disillusioned MHP members who dislike their party's alliance with the AKP. Indeed, soon after its creation, four MHP MPs and a CHP MP defected from their parties and became members of the Good Party. 

Meral Akşener is a fascinating, seasoned and charismatic figure. She is a practicing Muslim, but does not wear a headscarf and her party praises the secular governmental framework championed by Turkey's venerated founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. According to The Economist, she frequently is heard "peppering her speeches with wisecracks and jokes." In direct presidential polls, she trails Erdoğan, but not by much. Her campaign is also somewhat of a crusade against the bloated, corrupt and ineffective establishment in Turkey which has frustrated many who are sick of Erdoğan, in power since 2002. While Akşener's political career is not young, she has experienced a political revival with her vigorous campaigning against the constitutional referendum in 2017 and her break from the MHP. 

Now that the President of Turkey is a position set to take on more power than it had before, the campaign has become one of considerable interest. Erdoğan has not formally declared his candidacy, but likely will do so soon under the People's Alliance, a coalition between the AKP and MHP. In a way, this may be a admittance of weakness as the MHP's alliance with AKP and the rise of Meral Akşener has split MHP voters. Parliamentary representation for political parties in Turkey relies on surpassing a threshold of 10%, which the MHP would have trouble attaining without allying with Erdoğan. Members of Parliament are also not going to be able to run for both a seat in the Grand National Assembly and the Presidency.

Meral Akşener herself looked like she may have had to run as an independent due to a technicality regarding the Iyi Party's being too young to stand in the Parliamentary election, but in a show of solidarity, fifteen MPs from the CHP changed over to the Iyi Party, securing her ability to run as a member of her new party and her party's ability to elect representatives. The center-left CHP has two candidates who have declared interest so far: Didem Engin and Öztürk Yılmaz. The party's leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, previously said he would not run for president, but that may change as the campaign jump-starts over the next month. Polls indicate that Erdoğan will likely win the first round, but unlike in 2014, he will probably have to head to a second-round runoff, most likely against Akşener.

Akşener has one difficult problem standing in her way, however: the Kurds. As a former member of the MHP, Turkey's Kurdish population is unlikely to rally to her cause, and some of the more conservative Muslim Kurds may support Erdoğan over her. Aksener was a supporter of the Turkish military operation in Afrin in northern Syria, a Kurdish enclave which offered little resistance. While Aksener is critical of Erdoğan, she is still nationalistic and may continue Turkey's involvement in Syria against the enclave that the Kurds in Syria have carved out for themselves. While the Syrian Democratic Forces are not exactly the same as the terrorist organization known as the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the two organizations do share an ideology and former PKK fighters likely work in the SDF's armed ranks. The main difference is that the SDF is a militant group that has mostly fought against Islamic State, whereas the PKK has been fighting a sort of guerrilla war against Ankara. Whatever your views on the conflict between Turkey and the PKK are, it is understandable why the Turkish government does not support this group.

While Akşener has campaigned in the southeastern part of Turkey, her being able to rally the Kurds to her cause is unlikely, and she may have to look elsewhere to secure victory in the Presidential election. The Iyi Party is a center-right party in practice, the AKP is right-wing, and the MHP is far-right. As stated previously, while Akşener believes in the principle of secular government, she is a practicing Muslim and sometimes described as devout. This may enable her to win over moderate AKP voters in Turkey's urban centers, people who are Muslim and who have conservative values but may not necessarily want religion in the government. In the national referendum last year regarding the transformation from parliamentary to presidential democracy, densely populated areas surrounding Istanbul and Ankara voted down Erdoğan's "Yes" campaign...but just barely. The AKP is still influential and powerful in these cities, though it is not dominant the way it is in the heartlands such as Konya. If the Iyi Party presents itself as an alternative in these areas and pushes the election to a runoff, this is where Aksener could make the pivotal difference, converting just enough votes from AKP to Iyi may push her ever so slightly over the top. 

The latest polls have Erdoğan in a convincing lead for the first round of the Presidential Election, but not enough to avoid a runoff. Akşener looks like the primary challenger who will be going up against him in the second round. She trails him narrowly in the second round, 52.2%-47.8%. As the campaign develops and the elections draw closer, it will become more evident as to whether Akşener can tap into moderate AKP voters having doubts about Erdoğan. She seems to be pulling most of her votes from CHP and MHP voters at the moment, but her charisma, popularity and populist sentiment may be just enough for her to produce a monumental upset.   

As of May 7th, 2018, Turkey's election showdown has become more defined.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will appear as a member not of the AKP, but of the Cumhur İttifakı (People's Alliance), a coalition of the AKP and MHP.

His opponents are numerous. On May 4th, the CHP nominated Muharrem İnce as their presidential candidate. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the CHP, stuck to his claims that he would not run for president, Selahattin Demirtaş was nominated from behind bars to be the HDP's candidate, Meral Akşener will carry the banner of the İyi Party, and Temel Karamollaoğlu will run with the Saadet (Felicity) Party, an Islamist anti-Erdoğan party. A handful of minor party and independent candidates will also run. Doğu Perinçek has expressed his interest in running with the left-wing nationalist Patriotic Party, Vecdet Öz with the center-right Justice Party, ex-MHP member Sinan Oğan, ex-AKP member and economist Tuna Bekleviç.

Despite the wealth of candidates running in the Presidential Election, only about three of these stand a chance at winning the Presidency: Erdoğan, İnce, and Akşener. 

İnce and Akşener, though rivals in the Presidential Election, have shown an ability to cooperate due to their shared anti-Erdoğan stance. For the parliamentary election, CHP and İyi have teamed up with the far-right Saadet (Felicity) Party and the center-right Democrat Party. Together these four parties (CHP, IYI, DP and SP) make up the Nation Alliance, a direct rival to the AKP-MHP coalition. A poll conducted on the 1st of May puts the People's Alliance at 270 parliamentary seats, the Nation Alliance at 230, and the Kurdish HDP at 100, resulting in a hung parliament. This alliance building would bypass the 10% election threshold, 

While İnce and Akşener seem to understand that they will need each others' support to defeat Erdoğan, their parties do differ on one important issue: the Kurds and the HDP. During coalition negotiations, the CHP expressed interest in bringing the HDP into the anti-Erdoğan coalition, but Akşener and the İyi Party did not support this. İnce has expressed interest in visiting Selahattin Demirtaş in prison as well as claiming that “The HDP are also children of this nation". 

Erdoğan is almost guaranteed to win the first round of the Presidential Election as he heads the most politically united group in Turkey, but he is unlikely to win with over 50% of the vote, which will force him to a runoff. He will almost certainly face either İnce or Akşener in that runoff. İnce and Akşener both narrowly trail Erdoğan in runoff polling, and it looks like they will attempt to use different strategies in their hopes of unseating the current President. It seems as though İnce will try to rally the Kurds to his ticket in a second round by appealing to their frustration with Demirtaş still in prison, whereas Akşener will try to chip away at Erdoğan's base by appealing to her faith and her center-right political platform. 

Both strategies are ambitious in Turkey's polarized political climate. No first-round presidential polls have been conducted since İnce was chosen as the CHP's candidate, so it remains unclear as to whether he or Akşener will command more support in the first round of voting. The most recent poll had Akşener edging out second place with 24% of the vote whereas a generic CHP candidate would receive about 20%, but İnce is a popular and charismatic candidate just like Akşener.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Natalie Portman and the Plight of Polarization

Israeli-American actress Natalie Portman, famous for her roles in the Star Wars prequels and Black Swan, is under fire for her refusal to attend a ceremony in Israel to receive the Genesis Prize, an American award which recognizes Jewish people for their substantial contributions to their respective fields.

The ceremony was quickly cancelled after her announcement.

Portman claims her reason for not attending is because of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to attend. Portman, who has kept her Israeli roots close, has been critical of Netanyahu and was "...very, very upset and disappointed” when he won re-election in 2015. She has also said she "find[s] his racist comments horrific,”

Portman was quick to clarify, however, that her refusal to attend the event was not meant to appear as a general boycott of Israel, merely the Israeli Prime Minister and his political platform.

Unfortunately, her personal protest was immediately twisted by both sides to fit their own respective narratives. Israel's Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz claimed her decision bordered on anti-Semitism, and according to Ha'aretz, "On Friday, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev said: “I was sorry to hear that Natalie Portman has fallen like ripe fruit into the hands of supporters of BDS.""  Knesset member Oren Hazan, also from Likud and currently serving a suspension, suggested the actress should have her Israeli citizenship revoked.

On the other hand, members of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) were overjoyed at Portman's protest. An article in Forward proudly proclaims "Actually, Natalie, you ARE practicing BDS". The article claims that "I understand your hesitation to “boycott the entire nation. But this is not what BDS is. Individuals are not the target of boycott efforts — the state is. These things can and should be separated."

Both claims are unfair to Mrs. Portman.

Accusing an actress who has strong ties to Israel and who has expressed her admiration for Israeli culture and her Jewish faith on multiple occasions of "bordering on anti-Semitism" is ridiculous and facetious. Not only is it inaccurate to accuse Portman of anti-Semitism, it furthers the stereotype that Israelis become overly defensive at criticism directed at their country and revert to accusing their critics of anti-Semitism even if they harbor no ill sentiment towards Israelis or Jews in general. Anti-Semitism is unfortunately still alive and well and even growing in some areas with the rise of the nationalist, populist right. Natalie Portman is not part of that nasty rising tide.

These sentiments reflect a sour turn towards right-wing populism in Israel. When former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to protest police brutality and lingering institutional racism by kneeling during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner before football games, he was personally vilified and insulted by U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters as being disrespectful and unpatriotic. However, nonviolent protest is part of the right to constitutional freedom of speech and assembly that Americans are explicitly given in the First Amendment. While one does not have to agree with Kaepernick’s protest or motives, it is unfair to jump to the conclusion that he is unpatriotic; many would argue his dissent was a patriotic demonstration as it showed a desire for the US to fix lingering problems in its justice system. Kaepernick and Portman are both engaging in civil disobedience, a form of non-violent protest, a right which is integral in any free society. It is extremely important that those claiming to be democratic remember that their elected representatives are not above criticism, scrutiny or protest.

On the other hand, it’s condescending, opportunistic and flippant to commandeer Portman’s protest of Netanyahu, a Prime Minister whose party only received 23.4% of the votes in the last General Election, into an implicit or unintended support for the BDS movement. It is especially insolent when she publicly and explicitly claims her personal views do not equate to support for the movement.
The author of the aforementioned article which claims Portman is actually practicing BDS, claims that BDS is not about boycotting the “entire nation”, but the “state”. True, “nation” and “state”, while often used interchangeably, do not have the same meaning. “Nation” generally refers to the people of a country, “state” to the government of that country. These terms, however, are most certainly intertwined. When a country is predominantly ethnically and/or religiously homogenous, and Israel could be considered as such when it calls itself as a Jewish, democratic state, it is referred to as a “nation-state”.  Israel is about 75% Jewish, 21% Arab (mostly Muslim, some Christian) and 4% other (Druze, for instance).

The problem with this distinction is that it is murky at best. BDS often claims its roots in the South African anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. South Africa’s venomously racist apartheid government, in place from 1948 until it was significantly weakened in 1990 and fully dismantled by 1994, was put under serious international sanctions in the 1980s. The economy was put under considerable strain and many claim that the economic hardship was an instrumental part of the South African government’s repeal of the apartheid laws under President F.W. De Klerk.

Sanctions, while a peaceful method of protest used by many different governments, have often been criticized as disproportionately affecting ordinary people while those in power feel little if any pressure. This was an oft-repeated line when Fmr. President Obama desired to strike a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran and a thaw with Cuba. Supporters of these foreign policy objectives claimed that ordinary Iranians and Cubans, whether supporters of their respective governments or not, were the ones to hurt most from sanctions. If a general boycott of the Israeli government was enforced, there is a possibility that it would have the same effect: economic strain on the working man who has little direct involvement with the government’s policies, little if any pressure on those in power. How exactly does BDS plan to boycott Israel and not have that affect the ordinary Israeli?

BDS, like most political protest organizations, has a method and a message. Its method, in theory, borrows from long-utilized methods of nonviolent protest. Boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning are all legitimate forms of peaceful protest. In theory, these are seemingly sound methods of getting a message out even if the message may come across as disagreeable.

In practice, however, BDS often engages in posturing which can alienate people who may be willing to criticize specific policies enacted by the Israeli government, but who are not supportive of a wholesale boycott. The smash hit superheroine movie Wonder Woman was met with ire and calls for boycott from BDS as the protagonist is played by Israeli actress Gal Gadot. When faced with criticism, some supporters claimed their desire for a boycott was due to the fact that Mrs. Gadot was a soldier in the Israeli Defence Forces, where she served two years of mandatory conscription and had voiced support for on social media. But considering Gadot's service in the IDF was mandatory, she did not see combat, and she does not enact policy, many saw the boycott as prejudiced rather than specifically critical of a Israeli government policy platform. Is a former conscript wrong to express patriotic feelings for the army and country she served?

Portman is well within her rights to criticize and express her disagreements with Prime Minister Netanyahu. It is unfortunate that her plain, direct explanation of her decision has been co-opted by those on both sides of this hopelessly complicated, tangled conflict.