Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Attempt of the "International" Flotilla to Break the Gaza Blockade

From an Op-ed, June 1, 2010, by Ely Karmon, Senior Research Scholar, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and The Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzlyia, Israel:

There are four strategic aspects involved in the botched attempt to break the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip and the tragic Israeli seaborne attack against the international flotilla on the night of May 31.

Hamas is interested to have free access to the Gaza harbor because it needs to provide the Palestinian population the necessary economic benefits it promised when it took control of the Strip in June 2007 by a bloody military coup. It also needs construction materials for rebuilding the houses and infrastructure destroyed during the Israeli Cast Lead operation triggered by the Hamas rocket attacks against Israel.

But above all Hamas wants to arm itself with long range missiles and other heavy weapons in order to be able to attack again Israel, on the example of Hezbollah.

Since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, not only Hezbollah has not been disarmed, as requested by the 1701 Security Council resolution, but it has rearmed itself with more than 40,000 missiles and rockets which cover all of Israel and practically kidnapped the Lebanese government and imposed on it, with Syrian, Iranian and Qatari support, the so called "Resistance" (Mukawma) strategy against Israel.

Not the UNIFIL forces in Southern Lebanon, nor the German Navy or EUROMARFOR - a force made up of ships from Portugal, Spain, Italy and France – did carry out their UN task of preventing the smuggling of illegal armament shipments to Hezbollah, as long as the Syrian border was uncontrolled and Iran and Syria were decided to support the Islamist organization.

Israel cannot permit itself to have a Hezbollah like entity in its southern border, 60 km. from its heavily populated central region.

The Israeli Navy and Army have succeeded to stop the attempt to give Hamas free hand to arm itself to the teeth.

The international organizers of the humanitarian aid flotilla are a hodgepodge of pro-Palestinian human rights groups of different political colors, naïve intellectuals and some anti-Zionist Israelis and Jews, which for years are struggling on all fronts to delegitimize Israel.

But the real force behind this operation were several Hamas front organizations and especially the Turkish IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi, IHH - Humanitarian Relief Fund), a radical Islamic organization close to the Muslim Brotherhood. IHH supports Hamas materially and its strategy of armed struggle and has been outlawed by Israel in 2008.

From their point of view, the results of the flotilla operation were a huge media and political success, in spite or better said because of the "martyrdom" of their militants killed when trying to stop with cold weapons the Israeli commandos.

(see activists on board chant songs of martyrdom and scenes of violence against soldiers)

The Islamic Movement in Israel, with his own radical representatives in the flotilla, headed by Sheikh Raed Salah, makes a political breakthrough on the international arena. The false informations diffused about Raed Salah's serious injury or even death triggered violent manifestations of Arab Israeli citizens and the movement will try to capitalize on this event.

This is actually a faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, exactly like Hamas; the Islamic Movement was in great part responsible for the breaking up of the Second Intifada in October 2000 with the false informations it disseminated about the "imminent" destruction of the al-Aqsa mosque by the Jews. Although only some of its militants have been involved in terrorist activities in the past, one must remember that the Hamas was also a "pacific" movement from 1967 to 1987, during which period it prepared its religious, social and military infrastructure for the armed struggle during the first intifada.

Turkey, the AK (Justice and Development) Party and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan are the new important players in this drama.

In its second term in power the AKP, the Islamist self-styled "conservative," party, has retreated significantly from its "moderate image and democratic ideals," has turned into an increasingly semi-authoritarian force and has accelerated its internal anti-secularism agenda on all fronts.

One of the signs of this Islamization process has been the manifest anti-Israeli policy of the Erdogan government. It began with an official visit of the Hamas leadership in Turkey in February 2006, continued with Erdogan's unashamed attack on Israel's President Shimon Peres at the 2009 Davos Conference, the downgrading of the military cooperation between the two allied countries and a continuous diplomatic crisis.
The AKP and its leaders feel very close to the Hamas, a brotherly Muslim Brotherhood movement, at the expense of the Palestinian Authority. In January 2010, under strong Turkish diplomatic pressure, Egypt permitted pro-Palestinian activists, mainly Turks, to enter the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border with a humanitarian aid convoy led by British parliamentarian George Galloway. The long stand-off culminated in clashes at the border, the death of an Egyptian soldier and the expulsion from Egypt of most of the activists.
In spite of Israel's attempts through diplomatic channels to convince the Turkish government to transport the present humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza through the Israeli border, the Turkish leaders preferred to support the provocative aid flotilla.

It seems the Turkish government was interested to achieve at all costs the end of the Gaza blockade and Hamas' international isolation in its bid for the leadership in the Palestinian issue, growing influence in the Arab world and strategic rapprochement with Syria and Iran.

The Palestinian issue is also an important card on the Turkish internal arena, a rallying populist flag for the Islamist masses, on the background of a continuing economic recession and serious progress in the public opinion of the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), according to recent polls.

The cynical use by Erdogan and AKP of the Palestinian issue stands in contrast with the Turkish policy on the Kurdish problem. Erdogan failed to achieve any agreement with the PKK and its leader Abdullah Ocalan, who abandoned efforts to seek dialogue with Turkey. On May 20, Turkish warplanes bombed dozens of Kurdish rebel targets in their enclave in Northern Iraq and on May 31 the PKK retaliated with a rocket attack against a naval base in ─░skenderun which left seven soldiers dead.

The AKP's government concern with the "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza is difficult to understand when Erdogan claims that “A Muslim can never commit genocide” and at the same time is hosting and defending Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who faces worldwide condemnation for the genocide taking place in Darfur.

By the way, what was the reaction of the Turkish government to the attacks on May 28 on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore, Pakistan, where at least 93 worshippers were killed in cold blood and more than a hundred wounded?

Never mind, no Muslim country protested the massacre and no country dared ask a Security Council urgent meeting.

However, it can be evaluated that the Turkish government will decide to expel the Israeli ambassador in Ankara and downgrade the diplomatic relations or even cut them off.

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