Tag: Mavi Marmara

TURKEY & ISRAEL RECONCILE, DESPITE TURKISH ANTISEMITISM AND SUPPORT FOR ISLAMISTS

The Turkish-Israeli Reconciliation: A Balance Sheet: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, July 6, 2016— In Israel, where last week's headlines often feel like ancient history, the cabinet's decision on the reconciliation package with Turkey faded fast.

The Turkey-Israel Agreement: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Breaking Israel News, July 6, 2016— My late father, Nahum Kuperschmidt, was a construction site metalworker, a job that was not especially complex, but required absolute honesty.

Turkey: Victim of Its Own Enthusiasm for Jihad: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, July 7, 2016 — The government big guns in Ankara just shrugged it off when on June 5, 2015, only two days before general elections in the country, homegrown jihadist militants for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syia (ISIS, or ISIL or IS) detonated bombs, killing four people and injuring over 100, at a pro-Kurdish political rally.

The Tragedy of Modern Turkey: Asli Aydintasbas, Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2016— Last week, I was on an inbound flight to Istanbul when terrorists at Ataturk Airport blew themselves up, killing 44.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Importance of Interests in Israel-Turkey Reconciliation: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, June 20, 2015

Double Game? Even as it Battles ISIS, Turkey Gives Other Extremists Shelter: Joby Warrick, Washington Post, July 10, 2015

Will Turkey's New Diplomatic Push Reduce Its American MB Support?: Abha Shankar, IPT News, July 7, 2016

An Ottoman Return to Jerusalem?: Pinhas Inbari, JCPA, July 5, 2016

 

 

 

THE TURKISH-ISRAELI RECONCILIATION: A BALANCE SHEET                                        

Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman            

BESA, July 6, 2016    

 

In Israel, where last week's headlines often feel like ancient history, the cabinet's decision on the reconciliation package with Turkey faded fast. It was replaced by anguish and anger over the murder of a Jewish 13-year-old in her bed, and the shooting attack on a family car that took the life of the father – foul deeds that have yet to be denounced by Palestinian leadership.

Still, the Turkish-Israeli reconciliation remains a bold government decision that was taken in defiance of popular sentiment. The cabinet vote, seven to three in favor, was in roughly inverse proportion to public opinion. The decision represented a conjunction of grand strategy and manipulative diplomacy; of national security and business interests; of cold calculation and identity politics; of raw power and legal finery. At the end of the day, the reconciliation leaves Israel morally bruised but strategically better off.

 

Many in Israel were outraged by the deal, in part because it did not (and indeed, could not) provide for the return of two individuals and the bodies of two soldiers held by Hamas. Others are angered by Israel’s apology and payment for the Marmara incident. The Marmara was the lead vessel in a Turkish flotilla that was seeking to breach Israel's legal blockade of the terrorist entity in Gaza in 2010. Israeli commandos raided the vessel, and nine Turkish nationals were killed in the melee. On board the ship were a large number of activists from IHH, a radical Islamist group in Turkey.

 

For the Turkish victims’ families to be paid millions in compensation – albeit ex gratia – is not easy for Israelis to accept, particularly in light of the Palmer report that stated unequivocally that Israel acted within her rights during the raid. Several of the IDF soldiers who were involved have tried to petition the courts against the payment. There is no hope, moreover, even among supporters of the deal, for a true change of mind on Erdoğan's part with regard to Israel. His hostility towards Israel is deeply ingrained, as is his sympathy towards Hamas. Our close associates of recent years, Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt, all view Turkey with extreme suspicion.

 

Why agree to the deal, then? The answer lies within the realm of strategic calculation, as well as within the dynamics of the negotiations. A cost-benefit analysis should be made not in the abstract, but against the background of what had already been conceded and what has now been gained. The most painful “give” – the apology (not for the operation itself, which was legal under the law of the sea, but for "operational mistakes" during the raid) – was already made in March 2013, under heavy pressure from the Obama Administration. At the time, the principle of compensation was also agreed upon, roughly at the levels ultimately incorporated in the agreement. Three other considerations stood in the way, however, and a fourth constraint was added in 2014. But all four obstacles were overcome by mid-2016.

 

Politics: As long as Erdoğan was still fighting to impose his new model of Turkish constitutional practices, centered on an empowered presidency, Israel saw no need to lend him a helping hand. Once he had solidified his position, however, it became pointless to wait for a different political proposition in Ankara. Meanwhile, political changes in Israel secured Netanyahu against the prospect of an aggressive parliamentary campaign by the hard right to protest the decision…

 

Gaza: Again and again, in his aggressive (and occasionally anti-Semitic) style, Erdoğan promised to insist on a “third condition” besides the apology and compensation: the lifting of the “siege” on Gaza. Working in close association with Qatar, he placed himself at the service of Muslim Brotherhood offshoots across the region, including Hamas. For Israel, this was a deal breaker. Hamas cannot possibly be allowed to trade freely, or the Strip will soon be inundated with Iranian arms. Thus, a broad range of face-saving alternatives was offered to the Turkish side, designed to enable Erdoğan to retreat while claiming to advance.

 

The sides ultimately agreed to these terms: Turkey will be allowed to build a power station and other facilities in Gaza. (This is actually a prospect welcomed by Israel, since the IDF is acutely aware of the need to overcome power and water shortages there). But all relevant supplies will be unloaded at Ashdod Port, inspected, and driven in by truck through the Kerem Shalom Crossing. In effect, the Turkish government conceded Israel's point…                                                                                                                              

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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THE TURKEY-ISRAEL AGREEMENT                                                                           

Dr. Mordechai Kedar                                                                                                     

Breaking Israel News, July 6, 2016

 

My late father, Nahum Kuperschmidt, was a construction site metalworker, a job that was not especially complex, but required absolute honesty, because although no one knows exactly what a metalworker does to keep precipitation from leaking into a building, the first rains are enough to expose any careless work on his part. He taught me an ironclad rule: When dealing with decent people you don’t need a contract, but if the people you are dealing with are not decent, a contract will do you no good. Every time I have to sign a contract I check on the decency of the other party before doing so. And the same rule that works in the private sphere works in the public sphere.

 

The agreement signed by Israel and Turkey this week is meant to restore relations between the two countries to the level they were before the Mavi Marmara incident in May 2010. When the Justice and Development Party headed by Recep Tayyib Erdogan won the 2002 Turkish elections and blanketed the relations between Turkey and Israel with an Islamist cloud emanating from the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose modern version of political Islam’s policy was to deny Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state or to be the homeland of the Jewish people.   The Jews were supposed to be under Islamic subjugation as a class of “protected dhimmi” with limited rights at best.

 

Diplomatic relations with Israel were part of Erdogan’s inheritance, but he gradually chilled and downgraded them, while he warmed up to and developed relations with the Islamic entity in Gaza, ruled by Hamas, the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Marmara was Erdogan’s contribution towards breaking the Israeli blockade on Gaza, and Israel’s success in preventing that from happening was a bitter pill for him to swallow.

 

Under the Islamic party’s rule, Turkey had to put up with, at first, a number of heretical vestiges of the secular vision of the “Attaturk” (Mustapha Kamal) regimes that ran the country from the 1920’s until the Islamists returned to power. That included several casinos that continued to operate until a few years past 2002, the sale of alcoholic beverages and beaches where the prevalent attire was light years away from Islamic norms. The flotilla crisis occurred in May 2010 and its aftermath is now in the hands of President Erdogan, who has to decide if he, the Islamist, will reestablish the relations with Israel which he himself caused to be severed. The decision is not an easy one, especially for a person whose egocentricity trumps every objective factor, so that he has to swallow his pride in order to agree to the deal.

 

Except that the past few years have left him no choice. Despite his political ambitions to live in peace with all the nations surrounding Turkey, he managed to find himself in conflict with every one of them. He is accused of providing the bridge which Jihadists crossed into Syria, destroying that country; he supported ISIS mainly by purchasing raw fuel that the group produced in Syria and Iraq; he shot down a Russian warplane in 2015 and found himself at odds with Putin; he is up to his neck in a struggle with the Turkish, Syrian and Iraqi Kurds; he is in  mess with the Iranians who strongly support  Assad, whom he hates with a passion, and he also has to sit by and watch the Iranians take over the Arab areas on the southern border of Turkey, Iraq and Syria, after their takeover of Lebanon by means of Iran’s proxy, the Hezbollah.

 

As soon as Turkey itself became a target for ISIS terror attacks, Erdogan found himself in a war with Islamic fanatics – exactly like Israel. He knows one or two things about Hamas involvement in training, arming and drilling Jihadists in the “Sinai Province of Islamic State” and it is possible that his decision to reach an agreement with Israel will cause a certain chill in his relations with Hamas. Time will tell, especially if Turkey keeps its commitment to prevent Hamas from using Turkey as a base of operations. In the agreement, Turkey agreed in principle to the continuation of Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza, and all Turkish aid to Gaza will arrive through the port of Ashdod after its contents are checked and authorized by Israel. This is a great achievement for Israel – and it is quite possible that Hamas will refuse to accept the aid under these conditions.

 

Another Israeli achievement has to do with marketing gas to Turkey by way of an undersea pipeline, and perhaps even eliciting Turkey’s help in marketing gas to Europe. This is a very important part of the agreement, considering the fact that in the past few years several Turkish politicians have expressed their belief that Turkey has rights to the gas in the deposits that Israel discovered, and there was even the possibility of Turkey initiating hostilities against Israeli gas installations in the Mediterranean. Including the gas issue in the agreement puts an end to any future Turkish claims on rights to the gas deposits.

 

The price Israel paid for the agreement with Turkey was not a minor one, nor is it an easy one to pay. In exchange for ending all Turkish claims against IDF soldiers and Israeli politicians with regard to the Marmara, Israel agreed to apologize for the killing of ten Turkish citizens during the takeover of the ship and to the payment of 20 m. dollars, not directly to the families, but to a fund to be managed by the Turkish government.

 

Israel dropped its demand to return Avera Mengistu and Hasham Alsaid as well as the remains of the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. The reason for that is simple. Israel feels that Hamas will be far from pleased by the agreement, to put it mildly, and will not be willing to do anything that might help it succeed. Instead of empowering Hamas by granting it the ability to sabotage the agreement, Israel decided to leave the humanitarian issues on a bilateral level, between Israel and Hamas. That aside, no country can mortgage its relations with another important country in order to solve and bring to an end problems involving specific persons. It is true that the two fallen IDF soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, were sent to war by the state, and it is true that the states’ commitment to them is absolute, still – since they are, sadly, not among the living – the issue is an emotional and symbolic one for the citizens of Israel, while relations with Turkey are in the field of national, strategic, political and economic interests of the organizational aspects of the state.

 

All in all, the agreement with Turkey is a good one, balanced and of significant benefit to the important needs of the state of Israel. One wonders, naturally, what factors helped Israel reach this agreement. Turkey’s needs are a critical factor, as described above, and there are rumors to the effect that Israel was the go between in the easing of the antagonism between Russia and Turkey with respect to the Russian aircraft downed by Turkey. It is not far fetched to assume that Saudi Arabia contributed to the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel as well, and perhaps even the US added its blessing to the nascent agreement. With all that, the agreement is mainly a result of the extremely successful management of the negotiation process that brought it about…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

                                                           

 

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TURKEY: VICTIM OF ITS OWN ENTHUSIASM FOR JIHAD                  

Burak Bekdil                                   

                                        Gatestone Institute, July 7, 2016

 

The government big guns in Ankara just shrugged it off when on June 5, 2015, only two days before general elections in the country, homegrown jihadist militants for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syia (ISIS, or ISIL or IS) detonated bombs, killing four people and injuring over 100, at a pro-Kurdish political rally. Again, when IS, on July 20, 2015, bombed a meeting of pro-Kurdish peace activists in a small town on Turkey's Syrian border, killing 33 people and injuring over 100, the government behaved as if it had never happened. After all, a bunch of "wild boys" from the ranks of jihad — which the ruling party in Ankara not-so-secretly aspires to — were killing the common enemy: Kurds.

 

Then when IS jihadists, in October, killed over 100 people in the heart of Ankara, while targeting, once again, a public rally of pro-peace activists (including many Kurds), the Turkish government put the blame on "a cocktail of terror groups" — meaning the attack may have been a product of Islamists, far-leftist and Kurdish militants. "IS, Kurdish or far-leftist militants could have carried out the bombing," the prime minister at the time, Ahmet Davutoglu, said. It was the worst single terror attack in Turkey's history, and the Ankara government was too demure even to name the perpetrators. An indictment against 36 suspects, completed nearly nine months after the attack, identified all defendants as Islamic State members. So there was no "cocktail of terror." It was just the jihadists.

 

In the last year, there had been further jihadist acts of terror, targeting Turks and foreign tourists, but with relatively few casualties up to now. At an Istanbul airport, however, a mysterious explosion, which the authorities hastily attempted to cover up, was probably the precursor of the latest mega-attack in Istanbul. The management at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport said on Dec. 23, 2015 that: "There was an explosion at the apron and investigation regarding its cause is progressing … Flights have resumed." That unidentified explosion consisted of three or four mortars fired at a passenger plane parked at the apron. The attack killed one unfortunate cleaner.

 

The incident was quickly "disappeared" from the public memory. One person dying in a mysterious explosion was too minor for a collective Turkish memory that had grown used to casualties coming in the dozens. It was, in fact, a powerful message from the terrorists: We will target your lifeline — air traffic. Every year about 60 million travelers pass through Istanbul's main airport, Ataturk. Turkey is now building an even bigger airport that will host 150 million passengers a year. Completing the mission from December's "minor and unresolved" attack at the Sabiha Gokcen Airport, the terrorists visited Ataturk Airport on June 28, killing at least 45 and injuring hundreds of people. Turkish prime minister, Binali Yildirim, said that it was "probably" an attack by IS. Days later, the suicide bombers were identified as jihadists of Central Asian origin.

 

In a state of perpetual denial, Turkey's Islamist rulers are still too bashful to admit any linkage between political Islam and violence. Ironically, their denial exposes their country to the risk of even more Islamic terror. Worse, the political Islam they fuel in their own country is growing millions of potential jihadists at home. In November, a Pew Research Center study found that 27% of Turks (more than 20 million) did not have an unfavorable opinion of IS — compared to, say, 16% in the Palestinian territories…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

 

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THE TRAGEDY OF MODERN TURKEY                                                                                   

Asli Aydintasbas                                                                                                              

Wall Street Journal, July 4, 2016

 

Last week, I was on an inbound flight to Istanbul when terrorists at Ataturk Airport blew themselves up, killing 44. My plane was diverted, and upon landing in Ankara I called a friend and we had a drink. It wasn’t that I wasn’t saddened by the attack, but like most people in Turkey I’ve grown dangerously accustomed to living with violence and death.

 

Between Islamic State and Kurdish separatists, across Turkey over the past year there have been 15 bombings and suicide attacks, resulting in nearly 300 deaths. In the country’s southeast, where the collapse of peace talks last summer gave way to a Kurdish insurgency, the government claims it has killed 6,900 Kurdish militants. Military and security personnel have suffered about 600 casualties, and civilians killed in the crossfire between government forces and the Kurdish separatists have numbered a few hundred more. And there you have it: 8,000 Turkish citizens dead in one year, and a return to the 1990s-style half-free, half-oppressive national-security state. An annus horriblis in every way.

 

Amid this whole mess, how can one worry about being in an airport attacked by Islamic State when there have been similar bombings on the subway, a pedestrian street in downtown Istanbul and a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara? I now understand how people could party in one part of Beirut while fighting raged on in another. In times of chaos, you become desensitized to death. You take precautions, then go about your business. How else to live?

 

Turkey’s descent into turmoil has largely to do with the current state of the Middle East and the spillover from the Syrian war. On top of hosting 2.5 million Syrian refugees, we live with a region infested with jihadists, stricken by sectarian wars, home to al Qaeda and Islamic State. A decade ago Turkey was a model Muslim democracy on its way to membership in the European Union. Now we are facing old-fashioned authoritarianism at home and the regional fallout from the Arab Spring. The Turkish government’s decisions over the past few years have aggravated its maladies. At the outset of the Syrian war, Turkey’s ruling Islamists were so fervent about a regime change in Damascus that they turned a blind eye to the flow of jihadists into Syria. That’s how Islamic State prospered.

 

Turkey wasn’t alone in this mistake. Many European governments also watched as young men bought tickets to Istanbul and crossed into Syria early in the war. When I went to Syria in late 2012, I simply strolled across olive groves in Kilis, with no controls, no stamps. Groups of foreign fighters waited in the shade of trees to meet up with their opposition contacts. In the years that followed, Islamic State and other groups used Turkey as a safe passageway, a recruitment ground and a corridor for goods and services. At one time, it may have been forgivable to see the Assad regime as the “real problem” and the jihadists as a “future problem.” But Turkey’s blindness has persisted. Ankara kept thinking it could develop a modus vivendi with Islamic State on its borders, until it was too late.

 

Far less forgivable is Turkey’s decision last year to overhaul its Syrian policy so it could prevent Syrian Kurds from gaining strength on its southern flank. “PYD is more dangerous than ISIS,” Turkish president  Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said about the Syrian Kurdish group. This was only a few months after the Kurds put up an epic struggle to expel the Islamic State in the town of Kobani on the Turkish border. Ankara watched warily in 2015 as Kurds steamrolled through Islamic State-controlled territory on its border with the help of U.S. airstrikes. This should have been a cause for celebration. The Syrian Kurds are secular, well-organized and made up in part by volunteers from Turkey’s own Kurds. They are also affiliated with the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has been in peace talks with Ankara for years.

 

Instead, Ankara closed its borders to those towns captured by Kurds from Islamic State. Mr. Erdogan ended the peace talks at home and joined an international coalition against Islamic State, hoping to pull Washington away from its burgeoning alliance with the Kurds. Turkey continues to support a coterie of jihadists and nonjihadist opposition groups in Syria, but when it comes to Kurds—our cousins, our citizens, our neighbors—we become irrational.

 

Ankara sees the Kurdish movement as an existential threat and Islamic State as a nuisance. Its primary concern in Syria is the prevention of a contiguous Kurdish zone there, out of fear that a “Kurdish belt” in northern Syria would entice Turkey’s Kurds to call for greater autonomy. That’s no way to keep a country together, and it hurts Turkey’s long-term interests and the international fight against Islamic State. Turkey should support the idea of a Kurdish belt on its southern borders, grandfather a Kurdish zone, isolate itself from the instability in Iraq and Syria, and return to the peace talks at home. With nearly 20% of its population being Kurds, Mr. Erdogan’s anti-Kurdish policy in Syria aggravates the insurgency at home.

 

This is the tragedy of modern Turkey. Its current Islamist rulers burn with nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire. But they are the products of a timid 20th-century nation-state, narrow-minded and unable to provide lasting solutions to transnational ills. Both the Kurdish issue and the Islamic State mess are intertwined and require big thinking. The sensible solution would be to work with the Kurds to stave off Islamic State, not the other way around.

 

Contents        

                                                                                                   

On Topic Links

 

The Importance of Interests in Israel-Turkey Reconciliation: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, BESA, June 20, 2015— Israel's once-close relationship with Turkey began losing its luster in 2003, when Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected prime minister. The deterioration never caused an actual rift between the countries, but it was clear that the Islamist Erdoğan, who is now Turkey's president, was leading his country toward a conflict with Israel.

Double Game? Even as it Battles ISIS, Turkey Gives Other Extremists Shelter: Joby Warrick, Washington Post, July 10, 2015—To his Turkish hosts, Rifai Ahmed Taha was a tiny, elf-like man with an oversize beard and colorful past. To U.S. officials, he was a dangerous terrorist who would be tracked and targeted — if ever he left his Turkish sanctuary.

Will Turkey's New Diplomatic Push Reduce Its American MB Support?: Abha Shankar, IPT News, July 7, 2016—Turkey is mending fences with Egypt and cutting back its support for the Muslim Brotherhood in response to the deadly terror attacks that have struck the country over the past year, The London Times reports.

An Ottoman Return to Jerusalem?: Pinhas Inbari, JCPA, July 5, 2016—Following Israel’s reconciliation agreement with Turkey on June 26, 2016, attention was given to Turkey’s involvement in Gaza and how it can influence Hamas. But attention was not paid to Turkey’s deepening involvement in east Jerusalem and in the mosques on the Temple Mount, in particular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.)

THE RE-EMERGENCE OF TURKEY— ‘NEO-OTTOMANISM’ OR ISLAMIC REVOLUTION?

 

 

 

BREAKING NEWS:

Hamas Rejects German Mediator’s Offer on Shalit

 

JERUSALEM—Hamas [has] rejected an offer to free captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit made by [a] German mediator, a deal which the Israeli government had accepted.

Hamas political bureau deputy chief Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzouk called the offer “unjust” and said the German mediator “endorsed the unfair and unjust positions of the Zionist government.… There is no chance that the German mediator will return, because he is not carrying out his duties and is failing in his mission.…”

A German government spokesman confirmed on Monday that Israel had accepted the mediator’s proposal.…

 “This proposal was harsh; it was not simple for the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday in a statement released after the weekly Cabinet meeting. “However, we agreed to accept it in the belief that it was balanced between our desire to secure Gilad’s release and to prevent possible harm to the lives and security of the Israeli people.…”

June 25 marked the fifth anniversary of Shalit’s capture in a cross-border raid near Gaza. (JTA, June 28.)

 

 

JUNE 28, 1941: THE YASSI MASSACRE—
“THAT SUNDAY”
Baruch Cohen

In loving memory of Malca, z’l

In memory of the victims of the Yassi Pogrom

 

“Besides Germany itself, Romania was thus the only country which implemented all the steps of the destruction process from definition to killings” (pg. 485).

“Witnesses and survivors testifying to the manner in which the Romanian conducted their killing operation speak of the scenes unduplicated in Axis Europe” (pg. 486).

Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews

“The Judaic religion is a satanic fatally criminal and perverse faith. The murderous satanic character of Yid religion…logically and unavoidably breeds nomadic and parasitic Judaism the way we see it now around the world.”

 

A.C. Cuza—Leader of the Romanian Christian Party,
1924 “Shvut”—Tel Aviv University, 1963

From Diaspora Research Institute Centre
for the History of Jews in Romania,
Tel Aviv, 1993

 

In Romania, the killings of Jews began in June 1940 with the retreat of the Romanian army from territories ceded to Soviet Russia. The extermination policy of Romanian Jews, which had been latent in Romania since the 1920s, was received enthusiastically by civil and military administrators, as well as the infamous fascist Iron Guard movement.

On June 11 and 12, 1941 the Romanian and German governments signed several accords in Munich and later in Berchtesgaden. Romania not only became a most devoted ally of Germany, but unconditionally supported Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

On the eve of Saturday, June 28, 1941, the chilling cry of air sirens could be heard throughout Yassi. The government claimed it was a “false alarm”. Later in the day, however, the sky was set ablaze by rockets, signaling to the public to begin the pogrom against the Jews. The following day, Duminica Aceia, the Sunday That Was, would unfold as the bloodiest day in the history of Romanian Jewry.

The Yassi Jews were forcibly gathered and brought to the police headquarters where they were fired upon at random. Within twenty-four hours, a proud, creative, and culturally rich Jewish community was destroyed. Yassi was the cradle of Yiddish theatre, yet in a matter of moments the internationally renowned Abraham Goldfarb Yiddish Theatre was no more! Of the 35,000 Jews who lived in Yassi, an estimated 10,000-12,000 were brutally maimed or murdered. An additional 2,420 Jews were crammed into two death trains, the horrors of which continue to this day to echo in the souls of the few who managed to survive.

“By the number of its victims, by the bestiality of the means used to torture and kill, by the vast scope of the pillaging and destruction, by the vast scope of the public authorities to whom the life and property of the citizens were entrusted,” writes Matatias Carp in his book Cartea Neagra: The Black Book, “the Pogrom of Yassi marked at the local level the crowning of an accursed, injurious effort which violated the Romanian conscience for a period of three-quarters of a century, and it opens at the worldwide level the most tragic chapters in history. It became the signal, not only to the Romanian Antonescu’s government, but also to all fascist Europe or massacres which during the following years were to kill six million Jewish people.”

Curzio Malaparte, an Italian journalist for the Corriere dela Sera, at the time reported that “there were groups of Jews in the street followed by soldiers and inhabitants of city arrived with sticks and iron bars, groups of gendarmes firing weapons into the doors and windows of Jewish homes.” As Malaparte writes in his book Kaput, “packs of dogs ran up gendarmes, and soldiers armed with guns were watching over them seeking to separate the corpses and put them at the cage of the streets.”

The Romanian government’s policy regarding the Jews was clear and deliberate, as noted by I.C. Butnaru in his book The Silent Holocaust: “Ion Antonescu, Romania’s Fuhrer, clearly stated [that] ‘It makes no difference to me that we’ll go down in history as barbarians. The Roman Empire performed a series of acts of barbarian according to our present standards and nevertheless it was considered the most significant political establishment. There has not existed a more favorable moment in our history. If it is needed, shoot all of them with machine guns.”

Such are the terrible recollections of the notorious “Sunday That Was,” the day of the Yassi Pogrom!

Zakor! Remember! Never again! Never forgotten!

Itgadal V’itkadash.

(Baruch Cohen is Research Chairman for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)

Sources:

Butnaru, I. C. The Silent Holocaust: Romania and its Jews. New York: Greenwood Press, 1992

Hieberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. Chicago: Quadrangle Paperback Books, 1967

Matatias, Carp. The Black Book – Cartea Neagra: Vol 2. Bucharest: Diogene, 1996.

 

STEALTH ISLAMISM IN TURKEY
Barry Rubin

Jerusalem Post, June 13, 2011

 

The elections in Turkey [held June 12] marked a revolution. When Iran’s revolution happened and the Islamists took over in 1979, everyone knew it. In contrast, Turkey’s revolution has been a stealth operation. It has succeeded brilliantly, while Western governments have failed shockingly to understand what’s going on.

Now we are at a turning point—an event every bit as significant as the revolutions in Iran and Egypt. Of course, it will take time, but now Turkey is set on a path that is ending the republic established by Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s. 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.

Here are the election numbers: The stealth Islamist party, Justice and Development (AKP), received almost exactly 50 percent of the vote. Under the Turkish system, this will give it 325 members of parliament, or about 60% of the seats. On the opposition side, the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) got about 26% of the vote and 135 seats. The right-wing Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) took 13%, giving it 54 seats. There are also 36 independents, all of them Kurdish communalists. Eleven parties didn’t make the minimum 10% barrier (they received only about 1% or less each).…

The outcome is…overwhelmingly bad…[as] the AKP’s percentage of voters keeps rising. Most of the people who back the party don’t want an Islamist regime, and don’t think of the AKP in those terms. It rather seems to them to be a strong nationalist party respecting religious tradition that is making Turkey an important international power and is doing a good job on the economy.

The AKP got almost—remember that, almost—everything it wanted. It increased voter support more than any other party, and will be in power for four—and perhaps many more—years, infiltrating institutions, producing a new constitution, intimidating opponents, altering Turkish foreign policy, and shifting public opinion against Americans and Jews to a larger degree.

The only point on which the AKP seemingly fell short is that it didn’t get the two-thirds of parliament needed to pretty much write Turkey’s new constitution any way it wanted.

But so what? Deals with a few willing parliamentarians from other parties could provide the five additional votes needed for submitting an AKP-authored constitution to a referendum. The government can offer individuals a lot, including what I will delicately call personal benefits for their support. And given the way the parliamentary elections went, the AKP can almost certainly win that referendum.

In short, the AKP is entrenched in power, and can now proceed with the fundamental transformation of Turkey.

The AKP has become famous for the subtlety of its Islamism, disguising itself as a “center-right” reform party. Some people in the Arab world are starting to talk about this as a model. Notably, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is fascinated by the strategy. Yet as the Islamist party gains more and more power and support—Turkey has demonstrated this—it becomes more ambitious, daring and extreme.

This would include:

• A constitution that would take the country far down the road to a more Islamist society.

• A more presidential style of government, empowering the mercurial (a nice word for personally unstable and frighteningly arrogant) Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to become chief executive.

• A government that can infiltrate, take over and transform the remaining hold-out institutions, especially the armed forces and courts, along with the remainder of the media that has not yet been bought up or intimidated by the Islamists.

• A government whose policy is to align with Islamists like Iran, Syria (not Islamist but part of the Tehran-led alliance), Hamas, Hezbollah and perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood.

• A government against US and Western interests.

• A government that, to put it bluntly, hates Israel, and many of whose members hate Jews.

• For Israel, the end of any dreams of restoring the alliance with Turkey, or even normal diplomatic relations.

This is the regime that sponsored the first Gaza flotilla and is now behind the second. From an Israeli perspective, Turkey’s government is now on the side of our enemies.

It is hard to state these unpleasant realities, and many will not want to face them. There will be no shortage of soothing analyses and encouraging talk about Turkish democracy succeeding, moderate Muslim politics, and how “great” it is that the army’s political power is destroyed.

Don’t be fooled.

This is a [occurrence] for the United States and Europe, as well as for the prospects of stability and peace in the Middle East. And it isn’t great news for the relatively moderate Arab states either. It is the end of the republic as established by Ataturk in the 1920s and modified into a multi-party democracy in the 1950s.

Yet how many people in the West actually appreciate what’s happening? How many journalists will celebrate the election as a victory for democracy? Lenin once reportedly remarked that he would get the capitalists to sell him the rope with which to hang them.

The AKP has gotten the West to provide that rope as a gift.

(Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs [MERIA] Journal and Turkish Studies.)

 

LANDSLIDE ISLAMIST VICTORY IN TURKEY
Ryan Mauro

FrontPage, June 13, 2011

 

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory in [the June 12th] elections. The Islamists won half of the vote, leaving them short of the two-thirds majority they sought in the parliament, which would have allowed them to rewrite the constitution unobstructed. However, the AKP’s huge victory means the Islamists will still control Turkey and oversee the writing of a new constitution.

The election actually results in a slight loss for the AKP. The party currently holds 331 of the 550 seats in parliament, and is projected to now only have 325. The Islamists must win the support of only five non-AKP seats to put up a draft constitution for a referendum. The popularity of Prime Minister Erdogan and his party means that such a referendum is very likely to pass. The AKP may not have the two-thirds majority that would have allowed for a unilateral writing of the constitution, or even enough to unilaterally submit a draft for a referendum, but not much stands in its way.

“Elections taking place today are likely to be the last fair and free ones in Turkey. With Turkey’s leading Islamist party controlling all three branches of the government and the military sidelined, little will stop it from changing the rules to keep power into the indefinite future,” wrote Dr. Daniel Pipes of the electoral results.

In September, 58 percent of Turks voted in favor of a referendum that paved the way for a new constitution. Tellingly, Iran endorsed the referendum. A key objective was to undermine the power of the military that has acted as a vanguard of secularism. It asserts civilian control over the military and increased the power of the president and the parliament over the judiciary. Both the presidency and the parliament are controlled by the AKP.

The Erdogan government’s reforms were welcomed in the West because they make Turkey more democratic structurally, but these reforms have coincided with disturbing crackdowns on political opponents. The government has blocked many websites, including YouTube, without having to explain why. Over 60 journalists have been imprisoned for what they’ve written. Two of them were arrested in March and have still not been informed of the charges against them. As Dr. Barry Rubin points out, the Erdogan government has “repressed opposition and arrested hundreds of critics, bought up 40 percent of the media, and installed its people in the bureaucracy.”

There has also been a concerted effort to decrease the political influence of the military. Over 160 current and former military officers have been charged with involvement in an alleged coup plot in 2003. It has been called the “the largest-ever crackdown on Turkey’s military.” The government claims that elements of the military sought to carry out attacks, including the bombing of mosques. Those arrested have also been accused of planning to foment conflict by provoking Greece to shoot down a Turkish military aircraft. Top officials including the former commander of the First Army and former leaders of the air force, special forces and navy have been arrested. Erdogan’s opponents allege that the arrests are politically-motivated.

Erdogan was originally a member of the Welfare Party, which has been called the “motherboard of Turkish Islamists.” He was arrested for his involvement in the party. He later formed the AKP, which has been praised by the Muslim Brotherhood for “exposing of the failure of the secular trend.” Erdogan’s foreign policy has become increasingly hostile to the West as his party has grown in power.

His National Security Council removed Iran and Syria as designated threats, but labeled Israel as a “major threat.” Erdogan opposed the International Criminal Court’s indictment of Sudanese President Omar Bashir because, in his words, “no Muslim could perpetrate a genocide.” He has received an award from Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and has dragged his feet in confronting him. Erdogan said in June 2010, “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization.… They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land.”

Erdogan has brought Turkey closer to Iran. In December, Ahmadinejad addressed the Economic Cooperation Organization in Turkey and declared that an “Islamic World Order” must replace the secular capitalist world order. Turkey has opposed U.N. sanctions on Iran, and Erdogan and President Gul met with the Iranian-backed militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr in the spring of 2009 despite the American and Iraqi blood on his hands. Turkey has denied reports that the Iranian regime secretly donated to Erdogan’s campaign.

Turkey has held joint military exercises with Syria and has been accused of having a joint military campaign with Iran against Iraqi Kurdish militants. Fortunately, Erdogan has turned on Syrian President Assad in the wake of his violence against his people. Turkey is hosting meetings of the Syrian opposition, but Erdogan may be trying to assist the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

Erdogan has become increasingly confrontational towards Israel, with the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident as the prime example. The extremist IHH group behind the ambush of Israeli soldiers has strong ties to the Erdogan government and the AKP. A French counter-terrorism magistrate determined that the IHH’s goal is “overthrowing the democratic, secular and constitutional order present in Turkey and replacing it with an Islamic state founded on the Shariah.” The Israeli Defense Forces now has photos of IHH members with guns onboard the Mavi Marmara.

Erdogan’s AKP will now begin working on a new constitution. Turkey’s fate will soon be decided, and the Islamists are in the driver’s seat.

 

SYRIAN CRISIS WARMS TURKEY-ISRAEL TIES
Marc Champion & Jay Solomon
Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2011

 

Unrest in Syria is triggering early signs of a thaw in relations between Israel and Turkey, as Ankara adapts its assertive foreign policy to meet fallout from the Arab Spring.…

In the latest sign, Turkish newspapers published an interview with Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in which he called for reconciliation with Ankara and praised Turkey’s Syria policy, appealing to a common interest in the stability of a country both Israel and Turkey border. “The leadership demonstrated by Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan over the issue of Syria was very, very encouraging. This should be noticed and appreciated in the region,” said Mr. Ayalon, who became infamous in Turkey after he humiliated Ankara’s ambassador on camera last year.

Mr. Ayalon’s comments followed surprisingly warm letters of congratulation to Mr. Erdogan for his June 12 re-election, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli Knesset.

Turkey, for its part, pressed a Turkish charity not to send the Mavi Marmara, the Gaza-bound aid ship on which Israeli commandos last year killed nine passengers, for a repeat voyage later this month.

That is a significant change from a year ago, when Turkey’s relations with Israel and then the U.S. chilled in the wake of the Mavi Marmara clash and Ankara’s decision to vote against a U.S.-backed resolution to impose new United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran.

It also appears Syria’s crackdown has pushed Ankara and Washington into closer cooperation. U.S. officials said Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan and President Barack Obama have discussed Syria twice by phone during the recent crisis and have developed a similar view on how to handle President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. officials said Washington in many ways is now following Ankara’s lead on Syria, as Turkey tries to persuade the regime to change, but not necessarily to leave power. “The president and Prime Minister Erdogan have a very close relationship,” said a White House official. “They talk often and get a lot of interesting things done.…”

Turkey and Israel remain at odds, however, over the Palestinian issue.… Mr. Erdogan [recently] called Israel’s treatment of Gaza “inhumane” at a news conference in Ankara with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He also pledged to support Mr. Abbas’s bid to secure UN recognition in September—a move Israel and the U.S. oppose.

An Israeli diplomat acknowledged relations with Ankara remain difficult. “There are things going on behind the scenes, but when it comes to heads-of-state meetings, we are not there. It is more quiet diplomacy,” he said.

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.)