ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish action movie that opened in cinemas across the country Friday begins with Israeli soldiers raiding a Turkish aid ship and shooting at unarmed activists on deck. A Turkish undercover agent then appears in Jerusalem vowing to hunt down and kill the Israeli commander who ordered the attack.
Based on the real-life May 31 attack on a Turkish ship that tried to bust through the blockade of Gaza as part of an international flotilla, the movie "Valley of the Wolves — Palestine" could worsen already tense relations between Turkey and Israel.
As the Turkish protagonist, Polat Alemdar, and his two hit men chase after the villain Moshe ben Eliezer, Israelis are portrayed as merciless tyrants who kill Palestinian women and children and long to take over Muslim lands to create a "Greater Israel" spanning from "the river Euphrates to the Nile."
The popular TV series "Valley of the Wolves," on which the feature-length film is based, already caused a diplomatic dispute between Turkey and Israel last year and Israel's ambassador Gabby Levy told Turkey's Anatolia news agency this week that the movie was slanderous.
It quoted Levy as saying that some "generalizations about the Jewish people, certain anti-Semitic approaches" were "disturbing."
Levy also expressed dismay that the film's special gala viewing on Wednesday and its Friday opening came around the same time as the Jan. 27 International Holocaust Remembrance day, which Turkey marked with an official ceremony at an Istanbul synagogue.
Levy was not available for comment on Friday, the embassy said.
Turkey and Israel signed a military cooperation agreement in the mid-1990s that made Turkey the closest ally of Israel 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 reached near collapse after the raid.
Turkey is demanding an apology and compensation for the victims of the flotilla attack before ties can return to normal. An Israeli inquiry that cleared its military and government of wrongdoing in the raid has made reconciliation more difficult. Turkey revealed details of its own investigation describing alleged Israeli violations of international law during the attack.
Dressed in a sleek suit, Alemdar — a mix between James Bond and Rambo — leaves a trail of dead and destruction as he takes on the heavily-armed Israeli army. The film features bedazzling action: a nail-biting car chase, exploding vehicles, planes and buildings and a helicopter being downed.
Acerbic dialogue between the Turks and the Israelis has ben Eliezer warning Alemdar, played by Necati Sasmaz, that he would not leave the "Promised Land" alive. Alemdar responds: "I don't know what part of these lands were promised to you, but I promise you six feet under."
In one encounter, Alemdar shoots the cigar-smoking, ponytailed ben Eliezer in the eye, forcing the Israeli to wear an eye-patch that makes him look like a pirate. It was not known if the eye patch was a subtle allusion to Turkey calling the flotilla raid "an act of piracy."
Director Zubeyr Sasmaz — Necati Sasmaz's brother — told AP Television News that the film aims to expose injustices against Palestinians.
"This is not about taking revenge for Mavi Marmara," Sasmaz said in reference to the Turkish ship on which the eight Turkish activists and one Turkish-American were killed in the Israeli commando raid. "The goal of the film is to show what the Palestinians are going through."
The "Valley of the Wolves" series and films have a cult-like following in Turkey. But the films and TV series also have been sharply criticized in Turkey and in other countries for exulting nationalism, racial hatred and violence.
A 2006 prequel — "Valley of the Wolves — Iraq" — had Alemdar and his men battling U.S. occupying forces in Iraq. It became a box office hit in Turkey, despite criticism over the film's anti-American and anti-Semitic overtones, including a scene depicting a Jewish doctor harvesting organs from the dead.