Tag: Flotilla

ERDOGAN, SUPPORTING HAMAS, BLOCKING ISRAEL, PUSHING “REFORMS”, IS “TAKING TURKEY BACK 1,000 YEARS”

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Erdogan Taking Turkey back 1,000 Years with ‘Reforms’Amir Taheri, New York Post, Oct. 4, 2013—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan this week unveiled his long-promised “reform package” to “chart the path of the nation” for the next 10 years — that is, through 2023, 100 years after the founding of Turkey as a republic. Which is ironic, since Erdogan seems bent on abolishing that republic in all but name.

Why is Turkey Sheltering a Hamas Operative?Jonathan Schanzer, Real Clear World, Sept. 18, 2013—Turkey is a member of NATO and an aspiring member of the European Union — but it has one alliance that sets it apart from its Western counterparts: It's an important base of operations for at least one high-ranking member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
 
Lost in the Pipeline: Tracking Jihadists from Turkey to SyriaIdris Emen, Al-Monitor, Oct. 1, 2013—Amid already controversial allegations that Turkey is aiding armed groups in the Syrian civil war, it has emerged that young men between 18 and 30 are being recruited to fight in Syria, mainly from the province of Adiyaman, but also from Bingol, Batman, Urfa, Diyarbakir and Bitlis.
 
Despite Apology, Turkey Blocking Israel-NATO CooperationHerb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2013—Nearly six months after Israel’s apology to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara incident, Ankara continues to completely block any NATO cooperation with Israel, Greece’s Ambassador Spiros Lampridis told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
 
On Topic Links
 
Has Turkey Become the 'Pakistan of the Middle East'?Kadri Gursel, Al-Monitor, Sept. 23, 2013 
The Real Beneficiaries of Erdogan’s DemocracySemih Idiz, Al-Monitor-Turkey Pulse, Oct. 3 2013
Turkish Military Linked to Christian MurdersBarbara G. Baker, World Watch Monitor, Sept. 26, 2013
Turkey Protests New Police AggressionVeli Sirin, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 19, 2013
 

 

ERDOGAN TAKING TURKEY BACK 1,000 YEARS WITH ‘REFORMS’
Amir Taheri

New York Post, Oct. 4, 2013

 
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan this week unveiled his long-promised “reform package” to “chart the path of the nation” for the next 10 years — that is, through 2023, 100 years after the founding of Turkey as a republic. Which is ironic, since Erdogan seems bent on abolishing that republic in all but name. His plan to amend the Constitution to replace the long-tested parliamentary system with a presidential one (with himself as president and commander-in-chief) is only part of it. He’d also undo the key achievement of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
 
In the 1920s, Ataturk created the Turkish nation from the debris of the Ottoman Empire. Ataturk and the military and intellectual elite around him replaced Islam as the chief bond between the land’s many ethnic communities with Turkish nationhood. Over the past 90 years, this project has not had 100 percent success. Nevertheless, it managed to create a strong sense of bonding among a majority of the citizens. Now Erdogan is out to undermine that in two ways.
 
First, his package encourages many Turks to redefine their identities as minorities. For example, he has discovered the Lezgin minority and promises to allow its members to school their children in “their own language.”  Almost 20 percent of Turkey’s population may be of Lezgin and other Caucasian origin (among them the Charkess, Karachai, Udmurt and Dagestanis). Yet almost all of those have long forgotten their origins and melted in the larger pot of Turkish identity. What is the point of encouraging the re-emergence of minority identities?
 
Meanwhile, Erdogan is offering little to minorities that have managed to retain their identity over the past nine decades. Chief among these are the Kurds, 15 percent of the population. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, the AKP, partly owes its successive election victories to the Kurds. Without the Kurdish vote, AKP could not have collected more than 40 percent of the votes. Yet his package offers Kurds very little.
 
They would be allowed to use their language, but not to write it in their own alphabet. Nor could they use “w” and other letters that don’t exist in the Turkish-Latin alphabet but are frequent in Kurdish. Kurdish leaders tell me that the package grants no more than 5 percent of what they had demanded in long negotiations with Erdogan.
 
Another real minority that gets little are the Alevites, who practice a moderate version of Islam and have acted as a chief support for secularism in Turkey. While Erdogan uses the resources of the state to support Sunni Islam, Alevites can’t even get building permits to construct their own places of prayer. Armenians, too, get nothing — not even a promise of an impartial inquest into allegations of genocide against them in 1915.
 
The second leg of Erdogan’s strategy is to re-energize his Islamist base. Hundreds of associations controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood are to take over state-owned mosques, religious sites and endowment properties — thus offering AKP a vast power base across Turkey. Indirectly, Erdogan is telling Turks to stop seeing themselves as citizens of a secular state and, instead, as minorities living in a state dominated by the Sunni Muslim majority. Call it neo-Ottomanism.
 
Erdogan is using “Manzikert” as a slogan to sell his package. Yet this refers to a battle between the Seljuk Sultan Alp Arsalan and the Byzantine Emperor Romanos in 1071, the first great victory of Muslim armies against Christians in Asia Minor. It happened centuries before the Ottoman Turks arrived in the region.
Invoking the battle as a victory of Islam against “the Infidel,” Erdogan supposedly has an eye on the battle’s thousandth anniversary. Does he mean to take Turkey back 1,000 years? The Ottoman system divided the sultan’s subjects according to religious faith into dozens of “mullahs,” each allowed to enforce its own laws in personal and private domains while paying a poll tax.
 
It’s doubtful most Turks share Erdogan’s dream of recreating a mythical Islamic state with himself as caliph, albeit under the title of president. His effort to redefine Turkey’s republican and secular identity may wind up revitalizing it.

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WHY IS TURKEY SHELTERING A HAMAS OPERATIVE?
Jonathan Schanzer

Real Clear World, Sept. 18, 2013

Turkey is a member of NATO and an aspiring member of the European Union — but it has one alliance that sets it apart from its Western counterparts: It's an important base of operations for at least one high-ranking member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made no secret of his desire to transform Hamas into an accepted member of the international community. In 2011, he told a U.S. audience that the Palestinian party was not a terrorist group, and he has repeatedly vowed to visit the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Ankara has also provided Hamas with significant financial support — as much as $300 million, according to some estimates.

In his attempts to strengthen Hamas, Erdogan has also allowed his country's ties with Israel to suffer. The Turkish leader famously stormed offstage during a contentious 2009 panel with Israeli President Shimon Peres, in protest of Israel's isolation of Gaza. Relations between Ankara and Jerusalem plummeted further the following year, after Turkey's largest NGO dispatched a flotilla that tried to break Israel's blockade of Gaza, leading to clashes between Israeli commandos and [armed] activists that left nine Turks dead.

More recently, however, the two countries have take steps to bury the hatchet. This year, U.S. President Barack Obama facilitated a phone call between Erdogan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which began a process that resulted in Israel issuing an apology for the incident and agreeing to pay reparations to the victims' families. Mutual interests in Turkey — namely the ouster of Syria's Bashar al-Assad — have provided additional hope for rapprochement.  However, Erdogan's support for Hamas could become a serious stumbling block for a further warming of ties with Israel. The Turkish premier's ties with Hamas remain as strong as ever — in fact, they appear to have deepened.

Turkey currently serves as the home for Hamas operative Saleh al-Arouri, whom the Palestinian movement's website identifies as the founder of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's armed wing, in the West Bank. One senior Israeli intelligence official described him to me as "one of the most important leaders of Hamas … involved in a lot of things including finance and logistics."…

Arouri was originally recruited by Hamas while studying at Hebron University, and he has served as a high-ranking military leader for the movement since the early 1990s, according to U.S. court documents. After serving several stretches of jail time, Israel released him in March 2010, possibly as part of an effort to secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. After Arouri's release, he served as a political official in Hamas's headquarters in Damascus, where he reportedly played a role in negotiating the Shalit deal, which brokered the soldier's freedom for more than 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli custody.

When Hamas parted ways with Syria over the Assad regime's massacres in the country's ongoing civil war, Arouri left Damascus and is believed to have started operating out of Turkey last year. He has not been shy about his presence there: In March 2012, for example, he was part of a Hamas delegation that took part in talks with Turkish officials, including Erdogan. In October 2012, he traveled from Turkey to Gaza to attend the visit of Qatar's emir to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

But diplomacy appears to be only one part of Arouri's job. He is also allegedly involved in Hamas's illicit financial networks. In April 2013, Israeli security services announced the arrest of two Palestinians for smuggling money from Jordan to Hamas operatives in the West Bank. During the interrogation, according to the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security service, one smuggler admitted that he was moving the money upon the orders of Arouri.

Presumably, those orders were issued from Turkey. The veteran Israeli analyst of Palestinian affairs, Ehud Ya’ari, recently noted that Turkey is allowing Arouri to direct efforts to rebuild Hamas's terrorism infrastructure in the West Bank. If Arouri really has, as Yaari writes, "taken sole control of the movement's activities in the West Bank," Turkey appears to have in effect taken over from Damascus and become Hamas's West Bank headquarters….

Given the strategic importance of Turkey to the United States, particularly in light of Turkey's role in helping to support the Syrian opposition, officials in Washington have demurred on confronting Ankara. Obama, who has maintained cordial ties with Erdogan, has given no indication that Turkey's relationship with Hamas is a problem for Washington. The only notable exception was a bipartisan congressional letter in May that expressed "concerns about Turkey's relationship with Hamas."

But a recent uptick in Hamas terrorism out of the West Bank may change Washington's calculus. Israel's Shin Bet recently foiled a Hamas plot to establish a terrorist cell in the West Bank city of Hebron. Meanwhile, there have been seven attempted attacks out of the West Bank so far this year, compared with six all last year.

If Arouri is behind the funding, recruiting, or planning of any of these Hamas operations in the West Bank, it will have grave consequences for Turkey. To the letter of the law, Turkey could meet criteria as a state sponsor of terrorism. Strange friends for a nation that views itself part of the Western alliance.
 
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury Department, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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LOST IN THE PIPELINE: TRACKING JIHADISTS FROM TURKEY TO SYRIA
Idris Emen

Al-Monitor, Oct. 1, 2013

 
Amid already controversial allegations that Turkey is aiding armed groups in the Syrian civil war, it has emerged that young men between 18 and 30 are being recruited to fight in Syria, mainly from the province of Adiyaman, but also from Bingol, Batman, Urfa, Diyarbakir and Bitlis. Al-Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, as well as pro-Assad groups, have established a presence in Adiyaman city, recruiting young men for jihad or in return for money and taking them to Syria via Kilis, Hatay and Sanliurfa in 15-strong groups.
 
About 200 people are said to have gone to Syria from Adiyaman alone. Relatives are touring camps in various regions in Syria to find their sons. Gang leaders ask for ransom or threaten to kill the recruits when families want to take their sons back. Yet, some have been able to bring their sons home. At the end of a lengthy investigation, we managed to find four families whose sons went to Syria. Our first interview was with M.D., the father of twin brothers O.D. and M.G.D., who left home on Sept. 2, saying they were going to enroll in university.
 
Here is what M.D. said: “Last year, when my sons were preparing for the university exam, they used to go out at night on the pretext of studying. Their behavior began to change in time. They first grew beards and then began telling their sisters to cover their heads. When we discussed the Syrian civil war, they would get angry with me and say: ‘There are things you do not understand. You do not understand Islam. This is jihad and everybody must fight in jihad.’ One day I followed them and saw them going to the home of a fellow in the neighbourhood who goes by the nickname ‘the Haji Butcher.’ When they came back, I asked them why they went there. They said they were meeting with a group of five to six people, called Redd-i Cuma [Friday rejection], to talk about religion and watch videos concerning Muslims. I cautioned them to not go there again. The boys kept performing prayer, but they never went to the mosque. They did not perform the Friday prayer, for instance. They rejected it. Those men tricked my sons by making them watch videos with violent content.”
 
M.D. recounted how he traveled to Aleppo in Syria and went from camp to camp until he tracked his sons down in a villa. “One day my sons telephoned to say they were in Syria, fighting. They said they were there for jihad and told me not to go after them. I went to the police to explain the situation, but they told me my sons were legally adults and did nothing. I went to Aleppo with a guide and toured six camps in four days. There were young men from Adiyaman, Bitlis and Bingol in the camps. I found both my sons in a camp in Aleppo. When I told the gang leader that I had come to take them back, he replied: ‘The boys are fighting for jihad here. Are you an infidel, since you are trying to stop them from jihad? If you show up again here, we’ll shoot and bury you on the spot.’ When I said I wanted to see the boys, he told me they would receive a 45-day training and once it was over, they could go to Adiyaman to see their family if they wished. I couldn’t bring my sons back,” M.D. said.
 
M.T.A. is another father whose son went to Syria. He said his son, 23-year-old Y.A., left home two months ago for Istanbul to work, taking 500 Turkish lira [$250] with him. “I was told that after he went to Istanbul, my son returned to Adiyaman and stayed here two days and then went to Syria, joining the Ahrar al-Sham organization. Once I learned that, I went to Kilis with a guide. I paid the guide to go to Syria and bring my son back. When the guide returned, he told me that my son had joined Ahrar al-Sham and had gone to fight after completing training. The organization changed my son’s name to Abu Musa. I don’t know whether he is dead or alive. My only wish is that they bring my son home as soon as possible,” M.T.A. said, appealing for help from the authorities.
 
F.B., for his part, was able to bring his son back. The 25-year-old A.B., married with two children, went to Syria via Hatay two months ago and joined a pro-Assad group. F.B. had to bargain for his son’s life and pay a ransom. Here is his account of what happened: “A month before Eid el-Fitr, my son suddenly vanished. I learned he went to Aleppo via Hatay. I decided to go to Syria to bring him back. I crossed to Syria from Kilis and paid 150 Turkish lira [$75] to someone to take me to the camps. In Aleppo, I learned that my son was in a camp called Abu Dijla. They let me see a commander there. I told him I had come to take my son home. The commander said my son had gone to fight and he knew nothing about him. I reacted defiantly and his men pointed their guns at me. At that moment, I fainted. When I came round, I saw my son walking toward me in a group of 50 men. They carried weapons and were clad in Arab robes. I passed out again at the sight. When I came back to my senses, they let me see another commander, who asked for a donation. I had only 200 Turkish lira [$100] left. They took the money and let my son go. As we were leaving the camp, I noticed that two boys, aged about 18, were looking at us. My son said they were also from Adiyaman. My son had been told he would be fighting against Assad, but that camp belonged to pro-Assad forces. I brought my son back at the risk of my life.”
 
The people of Adiyaman are uneasy about young men going to Syria. “We hear that some types are paying money to the youth as they organize them to go to Syria. This is scaring us all,” a shopkeeper said. Rumors in Adiyaman suggest even the existence of a gang taking young men to Syria. Yet, the governor’s office and police headquarters in Adiyaman refused to comment on our questions about the issue.

Contents


 

DESPITE APOLOGY, TURKEY BLOCKING ISRAEL-NATO COOPERATION
Herb Keinon

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 12, 2013

 
Nearly six months after Israel’s apology to Turkey for the Mavi Marmara incident, Ankara continues to completely block any NATO cooperation with Israel, Greece’s Ambassador Spiros Lampridis told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday [Sept. 11] Following the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, NATO member Turkey adamantly opposed Israeli involvement – “even the most innocent” – in any NATO programs, he said. These programs included joint exercises, intelligence exchanges, and research and technological development programs.
 
“We were hoping that after the arrangement between [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu and [Prime Minister Tayyip Recep] Erdogan in the spring, Turkey would pull back a little and allow some of the programs,” he said. “But there is nothing.” By not allowing Israel’s participation in NATO programs, he added, Turkey was blocking participation with other Mediterranean countries, because Israel and other nations in the region – Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria – took part in NATO projects as a bloc. “We can’t cooperate with any of them, because the programs are all blocked, nothing can go through,” he said.
 
Lampridis said he was surprised by the continued Turkish opposition, especially since practical cooperation between Turkey and Israel was taking place on a daily basis, “like where Turkey has an advantage, of course, and Israel is demonstrating goodwill.” For example, since Turkish goods can no longer be transported overland through Syria to the Persian Gulf, every week hundreds of Turkish trucks arrive via ferry to the Haifa Port where they then proceed across the country to the Jordan border crossings, carrying millions of dollars worth of goods to Jordan and onward to the Gulf.
 
“If Israel behaved in the same negative way that Turkey was behaving, it could have said ‘no’ to Turkey, told them, ‘This is your problem. I don’t need these trucks blocking my highways.’ But Israel is cooperating, and Turkey is deriving great benefit from this.” One Foreign Ministry source confirmed this arrangement, stressing that it came at the initiative of the private business sector in Turkey, which is very keen on maintaining close ties with Israel. Erdogan’s government was not involved in setting up the program.

The Greek ambassador also took Erdogan to task for blaming Jews and Israel for the unrest over the summer in Turkey and for the overthrow of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. “You just don’t say such things,” he said. Asked if he thought Erdogan was an anti-Semite, he replied, “Even if he is, is it the position a prime minister takes? He can do it privately if he wants. You don’t do it openly and expose a whole country – a country that has never been anti-Semitic in the past, to tell the truth, especially under the Ottoman Empire, when it was a haven for Jews. Other countries were not, Turkey was. What’s wrong with the guy? It really beats me.” He also said that he believed Erdogan’s policies and comments on Israel were directed toward the Muslim world, believing they would make him a leader there. But, he said, a series of missteps in the Arab world, first and foremost with Egypt, had weakened Turkey’s position there as well.
 
Regarding the situation in Syria, Lampridis made it clear his country was opposed to US military action at this time. “The best approach is to seek a solution that would be constructive and diminish the possibility of things going wrong in the region,” he said. “We have enough violence in the region. If there are more violent actions, nobody knows where they will lead.”  Lampridis said the peaceful removal of the chemical weapons stockpiles from Syria – as the Russians have proposed – would “obviously” be beneficial to Israel, because if there were violence “you don’t know what spillover there could be.”
 
The envoy said there was hope that the Russian proposal could lead to a positive momentum and to a “greater resolution” of the Syrian civil war. “What alternative do we have?” he asked. “We can let them kill each other for the next God knows how many years, and then expect spillover in Lebanon, Israel – God forbid – Jordan and the entire region. The region is unstable enough as it is, unfortunately.” While Assad is “bad enough,” he said that his possible replacements – be they from the Nusra Front or other al-Qaida factions – “could be much worse.”
 
While Lampridis said he was not overly confident that the Russian proposal would ignite a whole new dynamic, “we don’t have many options. “We are hearing another one from President Obama [the military option],” he said. “But he doesn’t have a clear okay from Congress; he does not have too many allies in the international community, and he does not have the majority of the public. We don’t have really too many alternatives. We always think that the peaceful alternative, if it works, is the best policy.”
 
 

Has Turkey Become the 'Pakistan of the Middle East'?Kadri Gursel, Al-Monitor, Sept. 23, 2013—Turkish territory in the border region that arches from Hatay to Gaziantep is on the way to becoming the “Peshawar of the Middle East,” that is, a region where the state has no control over the border and outlawed forces move as they like.
 
The Real Beneficiaries of Erdogan’s DemocracySemih Idiz, Al-Monitor-Turkey Pulse, Oct. 3 2013—Some view it as a “silent revolution” while others say “the mountain gave birth to a molehill.” There are also those calling it “treacherous” because it whittles away at core values for Turkish nationalists.
 
Turkish Military Linked to Christian MurdersBarbara G. Baker, World Watch Monitor, Sept. 26, 2013—Nearly six years into the court trial over the murder of three Christians in southeastern Turkey, documents have emerged confirming that secret military units were involved in those assassinations and others.
 
Turkey Protests New Police AggressionVeli Sirin, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 19, 2013—A deep split in Turkish society is visible: Both secular Turks and religious Muslim AKP voters see their lifestyles threatened and their freedoms stolen. More elections will not conceal the dissatisfaction of the Turkish populace.
 
 

 

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The Fall of the Israel-Turkey Relationship

On Sunday, October 23, a devastating magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck southeast Turkey, killing hundreds and injuring thousands more. In a show of solidarity, Israeli officials called their Turkish counterparts to offer sympathy and relief aid. Turkey’s response prompted Commentary magazine editorialist, Jonathan S. Tobin, to pen the following:

 

“How determined is Turkey to repudiate its decades-long alliance with Israel? [The] decision by the Turks to…refuse assistance from Israel is a stunning indication of how far the Islamist government in Ankara is willing to go to make a point.… [Turkey’s Prime Minister Recip Tayip] Erdogan would apparently prefer to see his compatriots die rather than to allow Jews to help them.…”

 

Admittedly, Turkey did eventually accept Israel’s help, an act Defense Minister Ehud Barak hoped “may help reduce tension and open a new page in our relations with Turkey.” However, Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, quickly downplayed the gesture, reaffirming that the “political conditions remain” and that despite the support Ankara would not change its position vis-a-vis the Jewish state.

 

This episode begs the question: how did the once-strong Israel-Turkey relationship deteriorate to such a degree?

 

Many identify as the turning point the now-infamous May 2010 flotilla incident, in which nine Turkish nationals were killed when Israeli soldiers boarded the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish government-sponsored ship attempting to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

 

However, a closer examination shows that Turkey’s dismantling of its strategic partnership with Israel began long before.

 

Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline B. Glick notes that since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power in 2002, the regime “has inculcated the formerly tolerant if not pro-Israel Turkish public with virulent anti-Semitism.” Israel recently chastised Turkey’s Education Ministry for sponsoring an antisemitic website.

 

Glick also highlights the Turkish government’s support for terrorist groups like the al Qaida- and Hamas-linked IHH, which organized the flotilla to Gaza. Erdogan’s allegiance to Hamas, for instance, was already made overt following Israel’s 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead, when the Turkish prime minister acted as the “international community’s” most vocal critic of the Israeli incursion into Gaza. Most conspicuous was Erdogan’s public, and well-publicized, rebuke of President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2009. Erdogan has also stated, “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization.… They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land.”

 

More recently, Erdogan’s National Security Council removed Iran and Syria as designated threats, but labeled Israel a “major threat.” With respect to Iran, in particular, Turkey has become the regime’s economic lifeline, allowing the mullahs to use Turkish markets to bypass UN sanctions. And Turkey is one of a handful of countries to have invited the President of the Islamic Republic, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on a formal visit.

 

It is worthwhile noting that Israel’s Operation Cast Lead has been largely vindicated. The military operation, aimed at halting Hamas’ indiscriminate firing of missiles at civilian population centers, provoked global condemnation, culminating in the UN’s issuance of the biased Goldstone Report. Yet Richard Goldstone, the UN fact-finding mission’s chief investigator, this year retracted many of his most dubious accusations—including charges of “war crimes” levied against IDF soldiers—in sequential op-eds written in both the Washington Post and NY Times.

 

This past September, after repeated delays at the behest of the Turkish government, the UN finally released the Palmer Report, the findings of an independent inquiry into the Mavi Marmara episode headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer. The report exculpated Israel for its defensive actions against Turkish militants aboard the ship, stating that IDF commandos “faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers…requiring them to use force for their own protection.” Moreover, the report confirmed the legality of Israel’s Gaza blockade: “Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure…and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”

 

Israel accepted the Palmer Report’s findings. Turkey rejected them outright, declaring the report “null and void.” Ironically, it was Turkey that had initially demanded the official UN probe.

 

Immediately following the report’s release, Turkey elevated its confrontation with Israel to new heights. Erdogan’s government downgraded the Jewish state’s diplomatic standing to second secretary level, effectively giving Israel’s ambassador 48 hours to leave the country. Turkey froze military cooperation with Israel, fortified its naval presence in the Mediterranean, and warned that the Turkish war ships would escort future flotillas to Gaza.Turkey also pledged to refer Israel’s blockade of the Strip to the International Court of Justice—despite the Palmer Report’s corroboration of the legality of the blockade—while simultaneously threatening to sue the IDF soldiers who took part in the raid.Turkish officials even went so far as to harass forty Israelis on a Tel Aviv-to-Istanbul flight by sequestering them upon landing and subjecting them to humiliating “searches.”

 

Concurrently, Erdogan embarked on a tour of Arab states to support the Palestinians’ unilateral bid for statehood at the United Nations. Using the trip as a platform to up his anti-Israel rhetoric, Erdogan called Israel “a spoiled child,” and claimed “the Israeli people are [always] resorting back to the issue of genocide in history and…acting as if they are the victims all the time.” At a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, Erdogan stressed that Israel had to “pay a price for its aggression and crimes,” and subsequently accused Israel of committing “state terrorism,” claiming Israeli policies were “cause for war.”

 

Erdogan also steadfastly adhered to a previous demand that Israel apologize to Turkey for the flotilla incident, despite the Palmer Report’s recommendation that Israel only make “an appropriate statement of regret.”

 

Yet Turkey’s shift away from Israel was clearly predictable. Since taking office, Erdogan’s Islamist AKP party has reshaped Turkey in a manner that foreshadowed conflict with the lone democratic state in the Middle East. The government has used unlawful means to suppress and silence all significant organs of secularist opposition. The regime has limited press freedoms, blocking websites such as YouTube and imprisoning more than 60 journalists. According to the International Press Institute, Turkey has more jailed journalists than any other country in the world, including China and Iran.

 

The repression has also extended to Turkey’s military. The Kemalist constitution originally designated Turkey’s military as the protector of secular Turkey, bound to combat all threats posed by religious political parties. Over the past decade, however, the AKP has done everything possible to criminalize the military’s leadership and reduce its constitutional powers. To date, more than 160 officers have been charged with involvement in claimed coup plots. The witch-hunt peaked in 2007 with the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy, which resulted in the conviction of senior military commanders on trumped up allegations of attempting to topple the AKP government.

 

A government that suppresses internal freedoms can be expected to oppose and confront countries—including Israel—which maintain and promote freedom. Turkey fits the bill. In an interview earlier this year, former Turkish President Suleyman Demirel warned that the AKP has established “an empire of fear” in Turkey.

 

As a result, Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes in September wrote a National Post article designating Turkey, in addition to Iran, as “the most dangerous state of the region.” Pipes focuses on the AKP’s Islamization of the country, calling the phenomenon “Islamists without brakes,” and points to the abrupt resignation of four out of five Turkish chiefs of staff on July 29 as the end of the secular republic founded in 1923 by Kemal Ataturk.

 

“A second republic headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist colleagues of the AK Party began that day,” Pipes asserts. “The military safely under their control, AKP ideologues can pursue their ambitions to create an Islamic order.”

 

Today, Erdogan is well positioned to capitalize on his Neo-Ottoman ambitions. Flush with victory after June’s election, in which his AKP won 50% of the vote, Erdogan’s goal of expanding Turkey’s influence throughout the Middle East has been given new life.

 

“Believe me, Sarajevo won today as much as Istanbul. Beirut won as much as Izmir, Damascus won as much as Ankara, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, and the West Bank,” Erdogan said of his landslide win.

 

Barry Rubin, director of Israel’s Global Research in International Affairs Center also believes “The elections in Turkey mark[ed] a revolution, an event every bit as significant as the revolutions in Iran and Egypt.” Like Pipes, Rubin claims that “The Turkey of secularism and Western orientation is finished. The Turkey that belongs to an alliance of radical Islamists abroad and at home has been launched.”

 

(Charles Bybelezer is Publications Chairman
for the
Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)

SINKING THE FLOTILLA, FREEING GILAD SHALIT

 

 

 

 

 

UN RULES THAT ISRAELI BLOCKADE IS LEGAL
IN BLOW TO FAILING FLOTILLA

 

More bad news for the dwindling number of flotilla activists hanging around the ports of Greece. The now completed UN Inquiry on last year’s Gaza flotilla incident aboard the Mavi Marmara found that Israel’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza is legal and the Israeli government owes no apology or reparation to Turkey.

The UN investigative committee, headed by former Prime Minister of New Zealand and internationally renowned jurist, Geoffrey Palmer, actually criticizes Turkey for not doing enough to prevent the flotilla from setting sail and for also providing a somewhat anaemic and lacking investigation into the events of May 2010.

Now the part that is going to really take the starch out of the flotilla activist’s kafiyehs is that…the Turkel Committee’s report—the committee conducting Israel’s official investigation—conclu[ded] that the Israeli investigation (in stark contrast to Turkey’s) was conducted in a professional and independent manner.…

The Palmer UN inquiry has exposed the singular defining characteristic of the flotilla activists and those who support and fund them; it’s not about human rights, it’s all about an idiotic campaign to bully and delegitimize Israel. They’re failing, and miserably.(National Post, July 8, 2011.)

 

 

 

WHY FREEDOM FLOTILLA 2 DIDN’T FLOAT
Hadar Sela

Pajamas Media, July 3, 2011

 

Since its inception the organizers of the Freedom Flotilla 2—a group of ship-borne activists seeking to break Israel’s partial sanctions on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip—have encountered a broad range of largely unrelated technical, legal, bureaucratic, and political difficulties.

While participants claim that they are undertaking a humanitarian mission, since the flotilla is largely organized by radical Islamists and anti-Israel activists at a time when sanctions have shrunk to the minimum designed to limit the weapons and military power of Gaza’s rulers—it seems more of a Hamas support group.

Initial announcements that a 15 to 20 vessel flotilla—including two large passenger ships—carrying 1,500 activists from 100 countries would set sail dwindled, as of the time this article is written, to 327 passengers (over 10% of whom were journalists) from 20 countries sailing on 9 small boats. Lack of funds and public interest may have played a role…but undoubtedly the major factor was the sudden and unexpected pull-out of the vessel the “Mavi Marmara” (which also took part in the 2010 flotilla) in mid-June.

The IHH is a radical Islamist group based in Turkey with ties to terrorist groups. In the first flotilla, IHH activists armed with iron bars attacked Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two of them. An Israeli rescue attempt resulted in nine of the Turks being killed.

While the IHH cited technical problems as the reason for the refitted ship’s withdrawal, there is reason to believe that diplomatic pressures and internal Turkish political factors as well as difficulties in obtaining insurance for the voyage may have played a part. Having just won the parliamentary elections, the Turkish government has no need to provoke a major new crisis with Israel and antagonize a U.S. government that seems content to tolerate its other policies.

The UN secretary general’s appeal to the governments of countries in the Mediterranean region to use their influence to discourage the flotilla and the announcement that the UN’s investigation into the previous flotilla has concluded that the naval blockade of Gaza is in keeping with international law no doubt encouraged the European Union and the many individual Western governments which issued subsequent statements dissuading their citizens from participating in the project. Such concerns were not raised prior to the previous flotilla.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went further and described the intended voyage as “not helpful” and provocative after the State Department had issued repeated official warnings to the 36 American participants that they should not attempt to make the journey to the “dangerous and volatile” region, together with reminders regarding penalties under U.S. law for providing support to foreign terrorist organizations.

Legal problems facing the flotilla organizers included severe difficulties in securing insurance for the boats due to major insurers having been approached by the NGO Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center), which also filed a complaint with the Greek coast guard regarding the suspected lack of seaworthiness of seven of the boats comprising the flotilla. In addition, Shurat HaDin approached the maritime communications company Inmarsat, warning of the potential for damages suits and charges of aiding and abetting terrorism.…

Public exposure of the connections of some of the flotilla’s organizers to Hamas also caused significant problems for its organizers. Just Journalism detailed the alleged Hamas connections of the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza official Mohammed Sawalha, and four Dutch journalists pulled out of the flotilla after having discovered the extent of involvement of the Hamas-linked activist Amin Abou Rashed in the organization of the Dutch-Italian boat.…

The internal economic and political crisis situation in Greece, where most of the flotilla’s boats had grouped, brought about a general strike which contributed to the delay in the flotilla’s departure as ports and marinas closed down as a result. In addition, a possible case of sabotage to the propeller of the Swedish-Norwegian boat in Greece and a similar (though disputed) incident concerning the Irish boat in Turkey incurred heavy expense for repairs and necessitated further postponement of departure.…

By the beginning of July, some of the journalists had openly stated their intention to abandon the project rather than spend an unknown additional amount of time waiting.

This factor presumably contributed to the decision made by the flotilla organizers to set sail on the afternoon of July 1 with the U.S. boat—the “Audacity of Hope”—despite not having secured the relevant permissions. The journey was brought to an abrupt end by Greek authorities after some 25 minutes at sea when the Hellenic coast guard, aided by Greek commandoes, turned the boat back to a naval port near Athens.…

On July 1, the Greek cabinet banned all the vessels comprising the flotilla from leaving port. Apparently some of the flotilla movement’s organizers have now expressed pessimism not only regarding the ability of the current flotilla to get underway, but as to the future of the movement as a whole.

 

USING LAWFARE TO ANCHOR THE GAZA FLOTILLA
George Jonas

National Post, July 6, 2011

 

Adam Shapiro, a board member of the Free Gaza Movement that sponsors the floating insult to human intelligence its organizers call Freedom Flotilla, was addressing supporters in New Jersey. As quoted by the British commentator Melanie Philips, Shapiro felt no need to mince words.

“Free Gaza is but one tactic of a larger strategy,” he explained, “to transform this conflict from one between Israel and the Palestinians…to one between the rest of the world and Israel.”

While it’s hardly news that the flotilla’s purpose is to de-legitimize Israel, rather than to relieve human suffering, it’s nice to have it confirmed by Mr. Shapiro. A flotilla is not required to bring food or medicine to Gaza. The blockade, in place since 2007, is to keep out things that go bump in the night. Israel is trying to reduce the flow of war material: the stuff of which rockets, mortars, bombs and underground tunnels are made.

The Free Gaza Movement is misnamed, unless it wants to free Gaza from Hamas. The strip’s inhabitants need to be liberated only from corrupt and dysfunctional fanatics who mask their own inability to govern with stubborn efforts to wipe Israel off the map, or goad it into acts of self-defence that make its bad press worse and increase its isolation.…

Israel has to be very, very careful. It’s the one country that isn’t quite entitled to defend itself. Never mind bad press. Israel could get in trouble with Judge Richard Goldstone or one of his brethren. Its defenders could face war crime charges faster than you can say International Criminal Court.

Israel’s dilemma is a bit like a homeowner who is confronted by a home invader in a country like Canada. If the homeowner does nothing, the intruder gets his silver; if he pulls a gun, the police get him for improper storage of a firearm—or worse. “You chambered a round, sir? You keep your ammunition in the same room as your weapon?”

This is how civilization ends up protecting barbarity. But if the law is a genie, ready to serve anybody who lets it out of the bottle, it occurred to a bright group of Israeli lawyers that they can rub a bottle as well as the next guy. They founded Shurat HaDin (Israeli Law Centre) whose motto is “bankrupting terrorism—one lawsuit at a time.…”

Accordingly, in a Manhattan court two weeks ago, a suit was launched by an American victim of a Palestinian suicide bomber to confiscate 14 seafaring vessels, which were allegedly outfitted by funds illegally raised in the United States, contrary to 18 U.S.C. section 962. What’s that section? Never mind. The legal jungle is littered with bottles, and any one may contain a genie.

One of the plaintiff’s attorneys, the founder of Shurat HaDin, described the case as the first of its kind. “We intend to seize the Gaza Flotilla ships and turn them over to a victim of Palestinian terrorism,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner was quoted as saying.…

Then, on June 6, the U.S.-based global satellite company Inmarsat was put on notice that it may be liable for “massive damages and criminal prosecution,” if it provided communication services to the blockade runners.

Shurat HaDin’s lawyers were rubbing the bottles and, lo and behold, genies started emerging. Some insurers bowed out. Greek authorities stopped ships from setting sail to the Gaza Strip last Sunday.…

Our times are savagery plus paperwork. We set out for hostile shores as readily as Viking raiders, except the style of Erik the Red wouldn’t be cramped by his inability to obtain insurance, and ours might be. Lawfare is clever, but before we applaud dressing politics in judicial robes, we should remember that, just like warfare, it’s a game two can play.

Living by the law carries the same caveat as living by the sword. One must be prepared to perish by it.

 

SHIP OF USEFUL IDIOTS?
Margaret Wente

Globe & Mail, July 7, 2011

 

I regret to report that this year’s Freedom Flotilla to Gaza is a bust. The hardy band of activists—including a couple of dozen Canadians and the novelist Alice Walker—failed to break Israel’s…blockade and deliver their cargo of humanitarian relief to the suffering Gazans. In fact, they barely made it out of port. The Canadians’ boat, the Tahrir (Arabic for “liberation”) was immediately intercepted by the Greek coast guard. An early alert that the boat might be sinking proved to be a false alarm. It was merely gouged when the coast guard took it back to the marina and ran it into the dock.

The Canadians didn’t really expect that their effort to run the blockade would succeed. They hoped for something better—martyrdom, perhaps. Maybe there would be a repeat of last year’s debacle, when Israeli forces killed nine people on the Mavi Marmara. “We’re expecting to be tasered,” said Kevin Neish, a white-haired B.C. activist who enjoys volunteering as a human shield. Mary Hughes Thompson, another white-haired activist who co-founded the Free Gaza Movement, was serene. “If anything should happen to me—if I should die—I can’t think of a better cause,” she told the CBC.

Despite their best efforts, nothing happened.…

This year’s useful idiots included the usual aging peaceniks, left-wing university types, a few Jewish radicals, and the kind of people who show up to protest against logging and genetically modified foods. It doesn’t seem to bother them that Gaza is controlled by Hamas, widely regarded as a terrorist group. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. It endorses The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic forgery that describes Zionist plans for world domination. (Too bad the journalists didn’t ask about that.…)

Israel’s blockade exists to stop rampant weapons-smuggling into Gaza. But the activists are unruffled by the Hamas connection. To them, the terrorists are all in Israel. They regard the suffering of Gazans as equivalent to the suffering of southern U.S. blacks under segregation, and the Gaza flotilla as the moral equivalent of freedom marches in Alabama. One of the passengers aboard the Tahrir was David Heap, a university professor whose father took part in the civil-rights movement. Mr. Heap says his father, too, was “ridiculed when he went to Selma to join Martin Luther King.…”

Gaza is a wretched place. But Gazans are not the most wretched of the Earth. Flat-screen TVs, new cars, lavish weddings, and Israeli mineral water are abundant. If the activists really cared about people in desperate need of humanitarian relief, they’d be sailing to North Korea or Sudan. If they really cared about murderous dictatorships, they’d be protesting against Bashar al-Assad. Instead, they’d rather martyr themselves to enable terrorists. They wouldn’t be the first, or the last.

 

GREECE SIDES WITH ISRAEL
Benny Morris

National Interest, July 8, 2011

 

Back in the 1950s, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion adopted what came to be known as the “Peripheral (or Peripheries) Policy” regarding Israel and the Middle East.

In 1948 the surrounding Arab states had invaded the newborn Jewish state. In the latter stages of that war and in its immediate aftermath, Israel tried to make peace with them on the basis of the post-war territorial status quo. But Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, and the other Arab states beyond, and their societies, refused to agree to peace principally because they continued to oppose a Jewish state, whatever its territorial configuration.

So Ben-Gurion, to reinforce Israel’s security and political standing, resolved to reach out to and forge alliances with the region’s non-Arab or non-Islamic states and groups, including Iran and Turkey, and the Druse of Syria, the Kurds of Iraq, the Christians and animists of southern Sudan, and the Maronites of Lebanon. These states and groups, on the “periphery” of the Muslim Arab world, all had conflicts with Muslim Arab states and groups.…

Here lay the origin of the Israeli-Turkish relationship. In 1949 Turkey, with a tradition of bad relations with the Arabs, was the only Muslim country to extend de jure recognition to the State of Israel and in the 1990s the ties burgeoned into a special relationship, with full diplomatic relations and hefty defense ties running into billions of dollars annually.…

[But] the rise of the Islamist government under Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the massive growth of the Turkish economy resulted in a radical reshaping of Turkey’s foreign policy. While still officially a member of NATO and while still officially seeking membership in the EU, the country has steadily distanced itself from the West…include[ing] a steady erosion of Turkey’s ties with Israel (but not to the point of formally severing diplomatic relations) a steady growth of its ties, political and economic, with Syria and Iran and very public patronage of the Palestinian national cause.

This was the background to the dispatch last year, from Turkish harbors, of the first “humanitarian aid flotilla” to the Gaza Strip, besieged by Israel since its 2007 takeover by the Islamist Hamas Party. The flotilla tried to break the naval blockade of Gaza’s coastline and Israeli naval units responded by boarding the boats. On the flotilla’s “flagship,” the “Mavi Marmara,” the Israeli commandos killed nine Turkish activists who had attacked them with crowbars, knives and bottles.…

A second flotilla, largely based this time in Greek ports, was due to set sail last week for Gaza, but most of the boats remain in harbor and it is not clear at the moment whether the flotilla will ever set out. In part, this is due to mechanical failures on at least two of the boats…which an Irish activists’ spokesman was quick to attribute to Israeli saboteurs.…

But the chief reason for the hold-up or cancellation of the flotilla is undoubtedly the realignment of political forces in the Eastern Mediterranean during the past year or two. Last week the Greek Government officially prohibited the boats from sailing to Gaza and proposed that the cargo of food and medicine they intended to convey be transferred to Greek government ships, which would offload the cargo in Ashdod, Israel, or El Arish, Egypt, for eventual trans-shipment to Gaza. Indeed, the Greek coast guard even chased after an American vessel, “The Audacity of Hope,” that set sail from Piraeus without permission and forced it to return to Greece after arresting its captain.

Over the past year, Netanyahu, extending, as it were, Ben-Gurion’s Peripheral Policy, possibly with some assistance from Washington (which is unhappy with the turn Turkey has taken in recent years), initiated this realignment, with Israeli interest and favor shifting from Ankara to Athens. Israeli-Greek relations, traditionally extremely cool—Greece was the only European democracy to have voted with the Arabs in 1947 against the UN General Assembly partition resolution, which endorsed the establishment of a Jewish state, and Greece only established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1990—have now warmed considerably, with Netanyahu and Georgios Papandreu exchanging visits last year and with Israeli tourism to Greece rising from 100,000 in 2009 to 250,000 in 2010 (the Israelis who commonly sojourned in vast numbers in Turkey now boycott that country). Israeli-Greek military cooperation and joint exercises have similarly increased.

Without doubt, the current, deep Greek economic crisis, in which Greece needs support from Washington and Western investments, is also playing a part in the improved Greek-Israeli relationship as is the prospect of Israel turning in the coming decade into a major natural gas exporter, following the recent discovery of vast natural gas fields off the Israeli coastline. Greece’s “friendship” with the Arabs during the past sixty years was largely a function of its need for Arab oil.

 

THE INVISIBLE PALESTINIANS
Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, June 27, 2011

 

…The media could have a reporter spend an hour researching the Israeli and international self-described human rights community’s silence on [Gilad] Schalit’s plight and the shameless absence of any concerted demand by the self-proclaimed human rights community for his immediate release. Over the weekend, Israeli and international “human rights” groups B’Tselem, Amnesty International, Israel; Bimkom; Gisha; Human Rights Watch; International Federation for Human Rights; Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza; Physicians for Human Rights, Israel; Public Committee Against Torture in Israel; and Yesh Din all got together to release a statement about Schalit. They failed to call for his immediate release.

Certainly a banner headline reporting this outrage would have sold papers. All of these stories and journalistic stunts are low-cost and would sell newspapers. And at a minimum, none of them would harm Schalit’s chances of getting released.

Yet the media have opted to sell the tale of the government’s culpability for his suffering due to its failure to bow to Hamas’s ever-escalating demands.

The media’s behavior is puzzling not merely because they have options besides supporting Hamas. It is puzzling because their obsessive coverage of Schalit arguably hurts their tireless efforts to sell the public on the notion that it is a terrific idea to give Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem to Schalit’s captors. By reminding the public of Schalit, the media are also reminding the public that the Palestinians are not interested in peace and that they use the land Israel gives them to attack us. That is, their Schalit campaign undermines their appeasement campaign.

Finally, their demand that Netanyahu “release” Schalit is alienating their readers. In the face of their intense campaign, “for Gilad” according to a poll published last month by Maariv, only 41 percent of the public agrees with their surrender at all cost strategy and 51 percent opposes it.

So by any rational measure, the media are acting against their own interests by pushing the pro-Hamas line. The only explanation that remains is irrational. But it is also consistent with the media’s serial irrationality on everything concerning Israel’s relationship with the Arab world generally and the Palestinians in particular.

The explanation is that like the rest of the Left—in Israel and worldwide—the media hold Israel responsible for Hamas’s imprisonment of Schalit because they perceive the Arabs generally and the Palestinians specifically as objects rather than actors. The only actors they see are Israel and the US.

Just as the international Left sends ships to aid and comfort Palestinian terrorists in Gaza to fight the so-called “occupation” which ended six years ago, so the Israeli media says the government is holding Gilad Schalit hostage. In both cases, the Palestinians are invisible, and inert.

To its credit, after five years of inaction, last Thursday, the Red Cross finally asked Hamas to prove Schalit is still alive. Gazans reacted to the move by attacking the Red Cross office in Gaza. This major story received little mention in the media. And that makes sense. How can they cover a story about a group of people they can’t be bothered to notice?

WHAT SIEGE?—RAFAH OPENS, GAZA PROSPERS, YET THE FLOTILLA COMETH…

 

 

 

The Canadian Institute for Jewish Research cordially invites you to its

23rd Anniversary Gala

Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Congregation Shaar Hashomayim
450 Avenue Kensington, Westmount, Quebec, Canada

DISTINGUISHED KEYNOTE SPEAKER

MOSHE ARENS
Former Israeli Defense Minister and Ambassador to the U.S.

 

Also Featuring

Prof. Barry Rubin

Outstanding internationally-renowned Middle East analyst

 

Tax receipts will be issued for the maximum allowable amount

 

For additional information. or to register for the 23rd Anniversary Gala,
please call Yvonne at 514-486-5544 or contact us by e-mail at yvonne@isranet.org
.

 

 

BREAKING NEWS:

“Days after Egypt, with great fanfare, opened its border permanently with Gaza, new restrictions have been imposed on Palestinians who want to cross.… ‘Since Tuesday, we are witnessing complications that we cannot understand,’ said Salama Baraka, director of the crossing.… Ghazi Hamad, a Hamas deputy foreign minister, said that Hamas authorities had contacted the Egyptians for clarification.… Maan, a Palestinian news agency, quoted an Egyptian official as saying that [the new restrictions were imposed because] Hamas was sending in ineligible people, including some involved in smuggling.… (NY Times, June 2.)

 

 

OPENING RAFAH
Editorial
Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2011

 

Our government’s concerns that the opening of the Rafah crossing by Egypt will increase the chances of arms smuggling into Gaza are legitimate. Its fears of terrorists exploiting the crossing are well-founded. But arms and terrorists are finding their way into Gaza anyway and Egypt’s move might, in the final analysis, constitute a less than unremittingly negative development for Israel, especially if Cairo maintains security control there and does not allow the unsupervised transfer of goods.

Egypt’s change of policy, reopening the crossing to pedestrian traffic after a four-year closure, is a reflection of Egypt’s new orientation in the wake of president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster rather than a shift designed to advance Israeli interests in any way.…

One major negative consequence of the reopening of the Rafah crossing is readily foreseeable. It will boost Hamas’s falling popularity vis-a-vis Fatah. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in March and April found that support for Hamas had fallen among those living in Gaza to only 34 percent compared to 75% giving a positive rating to Fatah.

By way of comparison, in 2007, 62% of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip rated Hamas favorably. The Israeli-imposed blockade, which many Gazans evidently realize is a direct result of Hamas’s belligerence against Israel, plainly contributed to this fall in popularity. Undermining Hamas was, in fact, the only express Israeli objective that was significantly achieved by the blockade, which also set as goals the release of St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit and prevention of arms smuggling.

But while opening the Rafah crossing might strengthen Hamas, the move might also gradually lead to Israel’s complete “disengagement” from Gaza—six years after the formal Israeli attempt to disconnect itself. The painful and polarizing forced evacuation of thousands of law-abiding Jewish residents, accompanied by a complete military withdrawal, was undertaken by prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2005 with the specific goal of unloading the diplomatic liability caused by Israel’s “occupation” there.

Far from leading to the creation of a mini-Palestinian state there willing to live in peace and maintain correct diplomatic and economic relations with both Egypt and Israel, Gaza two years later was violently taken over by Hamas, and has continued to constitute a launching ground for terrorist attacks, Kassam rockets and mortar shells.

In response, Israel, together with Egypt, imposed a land, sea and air blockade. In the often distorted international perception, Israel, though not Egypt, was routinely depicted as an oppressor that had turned the entire Strip into a giant prison, with far too little emphasis placed on the self-evident security concerns that underpinned Israeli policy. Israel has been widely disparaged despite facilitating Gazans’ access to basic necessities, coordinating the day to day needs of residents there and working in conjunction with UNRWA, the UN’s World Food Program, the World Health Organization and other humanitarian organizations.

Now, with the reopening of the Rafah crossing, there is a path open to the original goal of disengagement—the complete ending of Israeli responsibility for Gaza, and the fostering of self-reliance there. As long as Hamas, an organization bent on the destruction of Israel, remains in power, the border between Israel and Gaza will remain sealed. But now, Gazans’ ties to the outside world can be rerouted through Cairo.

Despite the blockade, Hamas has managed to smuggle in outrageously large amounts of arms. In 2010 alone, hundreds of short range rockets passed through tunnels into Gaza, as did between 20 and 40 long-range rockets, about 1,000 mortar shells and several tons of high quality TNT, according to Shin Bet estimates. The reopening of the Rafah crossing to pedestrians is unlikely to drastically exacerbate that dire reality.

Meanwhile, the closure at both ends of the Strip had enabled Hamas to claim that Gaza’s citizens were suffering a humanitarian crisis, and led to controversies and clashes with “human rights” flotillas on the open seas—with particularly horrendous consequences in the case of the Mavi Marmara exactly a year ago. Now, one end of the Strip is more open, and the Gaza “prison” claims are more manifestly untenable.

Israel has already indicated a willingness to consider allowing credible international forces to inspect any future such flotillas. Better that Israel’s navy patrol Gaza’s shores as it does Lebanon’s and stops suspicious vessels such as the MV Francop—found in November 2009 to be carrying arms destined for Hezbollah.

This was not its aim, but the opening of the Rafah crossing removes any last justification for such flotillas. There was never a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and now its populace is no longer being denied access to the rest of the world either.

 

IS GAZA STILL OCCUPIED?
Eugene Kontorovich & Paula Kweskin
Jerusalem Post, June 1, 2011

 

This month, another flotilla is set to breach Israel’s lawful maritime blockade on Gaza. Organizers claim it will sail to the “occupied” Gaza Strip to deliver “much-needed supplies,” yet both premises are false. Earlier this year, the International Committee of the Red Cross declared there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Moreover, the proposition that Gaza remains occupied by Israel has recently been refuted by an unexpected source—a UN Security Council resolution.

A staple claim of Palestinian supporters is that Israel’s occupation of Gaza did not end with the military withdrawal and the accompanying uprooting of nearly 10,000 Jewish residents. The Goldstone Report relied on this argument, and it is widely echoed by international lawyers and the press.

This view has never had much to recommend it. Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations provides that a “territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army.” Similarly, the Geneva Conventions, even in the broadest interpretation urged by the International Committee of the Red Cross, require that ground forces exercise “control within” the territory.

Moreover, an occupying power must be able to provide all governmental functions—to run things inside the occupied territory, not simply patrol the borders. Yet the de facto government of Hamas rules Gaza without Israeli intervention.

The argument for occupation has been that since Israel maintains “absolute authority over Gaza’s airspace and territorial sea [it is] manifestly exercising governmental authority in these areas,” in the words of Prof. Iain Scobbie. Others claim that border control amounts to “effective control” of the interior. But prior blockades, like that of Cuba by president John F. Kennedy, were never considered occupations. Moreover, border controls are typical along every international frontier, even among the friendliest of nations. Nor does Israel control all of Gaza’s borders.… In the wake of Egyptian political changes, the Rafah border is now completely open, further hollowing the argument that it is Israel exercising control over entry to Gaza.

The recent UN Security Council resolution authorizing force against Libya provides an excellent experiment in whether the legal arguments widely made about Israel are also applied in parallel cases. In March, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973 in response to Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s violent crackdown on anti-government rebels. The resolution authorized military action, delineated a no-fly zone across all of Libya, froze Libyan assets, and authorized the extensive use of force against Libyan troops.

Yet Resolution 1793 specifically rules out any “occupation” of Libyan territory. This was not stray language. The prohibition of occupation has helped secure the support of several skeptical nations.

At the Council meeting, Lebanon’s delegate stressed that the resolution would not result in the occupation of “even an inch” of Libyan territory. So we now have confirmation from the Council that a broad embargo, no-fly zone and months of constant aerial bombardment do not constitute an “occupation.” Certainly these activities have considerable effect on Libya, and “control” much of what happens there. Obviously Israel’s much less comprehensive and invasive measures against Gaza do not constitute an occupation by this standard.

Of course, the Libya resolution proves nothing new; the arguments that Gaza remained occupied after 2005 were always quite surprising. The obviousness of the above principles when applied anywhere but to Israel should give pause to those who think that even a full withdrawal to pre-1967 lines will lead to Israel’s international legitimacy, or preclude the fabrication of new pretextual claims.

(Eugene Kontorovich is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law;
Paula Kweskin is a legal researcher.)

 

ISRAEL FACES NEW FLOTILLA THREAT
P. David Hornik
FrontPage, June 1, 2011

 

It was a year ago on Tuesday that Israeli naval commandos intercepted the Mavi Marmara, one of a convoy of six ships that had sailed from Turkey with the aim of breaking Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. The commandos, attacked with metal bars, clubs, and knives by a mob of jihadists from the terror-linked IHH organization, fought for their lives and killed nine of the assailants—sparking yet another round of international Israel-bashing and investigations.

Now, a year later, the same IHH is, along with the Free Gaza Movement, organizing another flotilla—and it’s supposed to set sail for Gaza toward the end of June.

On Tuesday, Israel’s Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, which is connected to military intelligence, published an explosive expose on the new flotilla. IHH leader Bulent Yildirim and another senior figure in the organization, Huseyin Oruc, say this one will be much larger—numbering 15 ships, including the Mavi Marmara again, and a total of 1500 passengers.

As with last year’s flotilla, the non-Turkish contingent can be expected to consist of leftist-NGO and other Western fellow travelers of the jihad, largely under the Free Gaza Movement’s aegis. Yildirim says members of Arab parliaments and anti-Israeli “Jews from around the globe” will also be on board.

The IHH claims that this time none of the passengers will have weapons, and that it is prepared for UN or European observers to inspect the flotilla’s cargo. The Meir Amit Center expresses “skepticism,” noting that for the previous flotilla IHH also claimed that the luggage of the passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara had been inspected by the Turkish authorities as they boarded the ship in Istanbul. In reality, the “inspection,” if it was indeed carried out, was meaningless, because many weapons were loaded aboard the ship, as was military equipment and tools for making improvised weapons.

Some other reasons for skepticism that this new flotilla will be a pacific one:

• Shaheeds. In its major propaganda campaign for the new flotilla, the IHH has been “glamoriz[ing] the memory of the nine shaheeds…killed aboard the Mavi Marmara [last year], and instilling hatred for Israel.” Yildirim has also “made various incendiary speeches in which he stressed IHH’s determination to proceed with the flotilla, even at the price of additional shaheeds.”

• A “surprise.” In speeches, IHH members have also warned Israel that there will be a “surprise” this time. The Meir Amit Center thinks this could refer to a plane being sent to Gaza. “In a speech [Yildirim] gave on April 7, 2011, at a memorial service for the…Mavi Marmara [operatives], he said that the Gaza Strip would also be reached by air” and that “the organization was in the process of acquiring a plane.”

• The nature of the IHH. As the Meir Amit Center noted in an earlier bulletin, the IHH is a radically anti-Western, Islamist group “which in the past provided support for the global jihad.” In a May 5 press conference with other Turkish Islamist organizations in an Istanbul suburb, the IHH denounced the killing of Osama bin Laden by the United States. In a speech two months before the embarking of last year’s flotilla, Yildirim said: “the United States is killing Muslims.…NATO forces are killing Muslims.… Israel is killing Muslims…. A Muslim cannot be defeated by oppressors and infidels.… The day we agree to be the slaves of the West [is the day] we taste defeat.… If the owners of Al-Quds [Jerusalem] are Muslims, control of the world will be in Muslim hands.”

Israel is indeed not counting on any pacifism from the next flotilla. Israeli media have been reporting that Flotilla 13—the same naval-commando force that boarded the Mavi Marmara last year—has called up all of its reserves and been training intensively with the air force to confront the new threat. On Tuesday, it was further reported that Israel is preparing “surprises” of its own, and that—while the goal is to take over the ships nonviolently—“soldiers were under order to use force to neutralize armed danger and neutralize attackers if necessary.”

As Israeli chief of staff Benny Gantz noted, “The flotilla’s organizers want to provoke us, not to provide aid to Gaza. There is no humanitarian problem; hundreds of trucks of food and supplies enter Gaza every day.” Gaza’s situation was further eased by Egypt’s opening of the Rafah crossing this week, and the sole purpose of Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is to stop weapons from reaching Hamas, the anti-Israeli terror organization that runs it and repeatedly shells Israeli communities.

Israel has been striving hard to drive those points home on the diplomatic front, and so far with some success. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked governments to discourage activists from launching the new flotilla, and the United States and the European Union have also come out against it.

And where is Turkey in all this? The answer is that Turkey is not only doing nothing to discourage the venture but is, in effect, the force behind it.

As the Meir Amit Center notes in the same expose, the “IHH and the flotilla project receive political, propaganda and logistical support from the Turkish government.” In a TV interview on May 21, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated that “Turkey will give the necessary response to any repeated act of provocation by Israel on the high seas.” There could be no clearer endorsement of the new flotilla than that open threat.

If the expanded, 15-ship flotilla sails as planned, then, the stakes will be high. Turkey, which not long ago had close strategic ties with Israel, has under the Islamic AKP government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan been moving steadily toward hostility. With Israel also facing threats from civilian marches and a hostile post-Mubarak Egypt, its immediate environs are potentially explosive. Strong Western backing for Israel in defending itself against this second Turkish flotilla would send the right signal of resolve against the mounting jihadist tide. But it is hard to be optimistic.

 

CALM WINDS AND FOLLOWING SEAS
Shlomo Shpiro
Jerusalem Post, May 30, 2011

 

A year after the failure of the Turkish flotilla to breach the Gaza blockade and the ensuing violence, Israel may face a similar attempt again. But recent developments in the region mean that a new flotilla may be met with different reactions on both sides of the Mediterranean.

Four major developments over the past year have decreased the political threat posed by a new flotilla.

The first is the simple fact that, despite much publicity and several announcements, no flotilla has sailed since the first was blocked exactly a year ago on May 31.

While the organizers’ rhetoric remains as viciously anti-Israel as before, the number of volunteers actually willing to brave the IDF’s reaction was so far much smaller than the IHH hoped for and not enough for an impressive show of force. The IDF had a year to analyze and learn lessons from the last incident…and prepare new and innovative methods to stop any ship. The novelty factor of such a flotilla is now smaller since it lost the surprise effect, while doomsday prophesies about adverse world reactions to Israel’s stopping of the flotilla quickly faded against the dramatic pictures from Tahrir Square and the streets of Syria.

The second development is Turkey’s declining status in the Arab world as a result of the Arab Spring revolutions.… The ousting of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments, NATO’s attacks on Libya and the riots in Syria could bring similar demonstrations in Turkey against its radicalizing regime. By encouraging the first flotilla, Turkish authorities may have bitten off more than they could chew: While official European and American political reactions were mild, the Turkish economy is deteriorating—[Turkey’s trade deficit with the European Union, its largest trade partner, more than doubled in the previous year, from 8 billion to over 19 billion euros, while inflation soared to almost 9 percent]—as more firms are reluctant to invest in a country now perceived as increasingly radical and unpredictable.… European leaders fear that further radicalization in Turkey could bring similar radicalization of the large Turkish minorities inside the EU, especially in Germany. [This alone may induce the EU] to discreetly signal [to] Ankara the need to moderate its anti-Israel rhetoric.

The third development is the expanding strategic alliance between Israel and Greece. Under previous governments, Greece traditionally took a pro-Palestinian line, but this position is rejected by a younger generation of Greeks who view Israel, with its economic success and flourishing hi-tech industries, as an example to follow.

Over the past two years, Greece and Israel came closer than ever before, with cooperation extending from intelligence and security to the scientific and economic fields. Greek society suffers greatly under a massive austerity plan, higher taxes and a bureaucracy which throttles innovation and economic expansion. Sick of their ailing economy and IMF meddling, many Greeks see the Israeli model of economic growth as the one to emulate. While the Greek-Israeli alliance is not aimed specifically against Turkey, it does present Ankara with a new variable in its relations with Israel.

The fourth development is the recent official opening of the Gaza-Egypt border. Contrary to initial Israeli reactions, this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. While the opening of the border has no security significance, since heavy weapons and Hamas activists are regularly moved through tunnels under the border, it undermines the main ideological argument of the flotilla planners that Gaza is under siege. The border crossing will serve as a societal “safety valve” to allow ordinary Palestinians to visit families or travel for business abroad. In addition, the spirit of democracy and peaceful revolution may seep into Gaza from other Arab capitals.

The Israeli government should bear these developments in mind when formulating its reactions to a new flotilla.

(Shlomo Shpiro is deputy head of the political studies department at Bar-Ilan University
and senior research fellow at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies.)