1. The Gaza Flotilla Was Supported by the Turkish Government

There is strong evidence for Turkish governmental involvement in the Gaza
flotilla incident, including the office of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. As
this report demonstrates, Turkish government support for the flotilla was
channeled through the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood network. It included the
attendance of officials from Turkey’s ruling AKP party at many important
Turkish/MB network events in support of the flotilla, a meeting by Erdogan
himself with a delegation of Global Muslim Brotherhood and flotilla movement
leaders from Britain and France shortly before the flotilla, and a message
of support from Erdogan to an IUMS meeting held shortly after the flotilla
incident. In addition, in a March 2010 speech, IHH leader Bulent Yildirim
implied that the flotilla had official Turkish backing by incorrectly
asserting that the flotilla as a whole was “sailing under the Turkish flag”
and that Israel would never attack it since that would be ”the same as
attacking a Turkish consulate.” Turkish government administrators
facilitated the purchase of the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, from the
Istanbul municipality, which was controlled by the AKP, as well as its
departure from Turkish ports.1 The Israeli Intelligence and Information
Center has also reported the finding of a laptop computer aboard the Marmara
containing the minutes of a meeting held by the flotilla organizers on May
16, 2010. The laptop document reportedly revealed claims by the IHH
Vice-President, who chaired the meeting, that over the last few days the
flotilla had received support from Erdogan and other ministers and that if
the flotilla should run into difficulties, “gov[ernment] will extend what
support they can.”

The support given by the Turkish government to the Gaza flotilla is not
surprising, given the increasingly Islamist nature of AKP foreign and
domestic policy in recent years. Recently disclosed U.S. State Department
cables reveal concern over Turkey’s “new, highly activist foreign policy”
ascribed in part to the influence of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, said
to be laboring under “neo-Ottoman fantasies” of regaining lost Muslim lands
and avenging Muslim defeats. Like the Muslim Brotherhood, which envisions a
restoration of Islamic rule, at an initial stage, in parts of Europe that
were once under the banner of Islam, a participant at an AKP think tank
meeting expressed the reportedly widespread belief that a neo-Ottoman Turkey
would want to “take back Andalusia and avenge the defeat at the siege of
Vienna in 1683.” The same cable also asserts that many in the AKP believe
that it is Turkey’s role to spread Islam in Europe. The recently disclosed
U.S. diplomatic material provides a context for understanding Erdogan’s
ideological ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood network, ties which this
report has documented date back to Erdogan’s affiliation in the 1970s with
the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi Wahhabi charity with
known connections to extremist and terrorist groups. It should further be
noted that the Gaza flotilla was also supported by leaders of the Grand
Union and Saadet parties who participated in Turkish/MB network events.
State Department cables expressed the view that Erdogan was trying to avoid
being “outflanked” on Israel by politicians from these other Islamist
parties, providing additional insight into his support of the flotilla. It
should also be noted that a personal representative of Erdogan was reported
to have intervened with Egyptian authorities during the December 2009 Viva
Palestina land convoy, which also included five AKP deputies and 200 Turkish
citizens. In another speech during a convoy welcoming ceremony in the Syrian
port city of Latakiyah, IHH leader Bulent Yildirim thanked both Bashar Assad
and Erdogan for “their stances, the ongoing support to the Palestinian
people and their efforts to end the siege on Gaza.”

2. IHH Was Not Acting Alone – The Role of the Global Muslim Brotherhood

The Gaza flotilla incident brought into sharp focus an even more significant
longterm development: the growing relationship between the Erdogan
government and the Global Muslim Brotherhood, which has given rise to some
of the most notorious Islamist terrorist groups – from al-Qaeda to Hamas.
Since 2006, Turkey has become a new center for the Global Muslim
Brotherhood, while the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip acted as the main axis
for this activity. The AKP allowed key elements of the Global Muslim
Brotherhood, and above all the International Union of Muslim Scholars, led
by Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, to operate freely on Turkish territory, with its
active support, as witnessed by the large number of conferences held
recently in Istanbul and sponsored and/or attended by Global Muslim
Brotherhood leaders. The cooperation between the Global Muslim Brotherhood
and the Erdogan government appears to have been based on mutual interests.
Erdogan and the AKP were able to indulge the “neo-Ottoman” goals of
reasserting a sphere of influence in former Islamic areas, while at the same
time outmaneuvering the other Islamist parties and, as a bonus, satisfying
Erdogan’s reported hatred of Israel. For their part, the Global Muslim
Brotherhood was able to begin operating out of a major state without any of
the interference that it normally encountered elsewhere in the Arab world.

Erdogan chose not to rely on the official organs of the Turkish state alone,
but rather on non-governmental organizations with which he and the AKP had
close ties. Prominent among those Turkish NGOs was IHH which subsequently
became the focus of attention in the aftermath of the flotilla. However, as
this report demonstrates, the IHH was not acting alone but rather was an
integral part of a Turkish Muslim Brotherhood network comprised of seven
NGOs with strong links to each other, to the Global Muslim Brotherhood, and
to the Turkish political establishment. Taken together, the network
possesses a business, a charity, and legal, organizational, and Palestinian
advocacy capacity; two of its most important leaders are Turks of Arab
ethnic origin who are associated with European Muslim Brotherhood

The Turkish/MB network has been supported by nearly the whole of the Global
Muslim Brotherhood, whose affiliates, from a number of Middle Eastern
countries, provided passengers for the Mavi Marmara. In addition, the Global
Muslim Brotherhood frequently held press conferences and demonstrations to
demonize Israel, initiated legal actions against Israeli leaders, and
delivered aid to those in conflict with Israel. The Turkish/MB network
played a major role in supporting the Gaza flotilla prior to its launching
through statements and press conferences, and one of its most important
leaders, MAZLUMDER Chairman Ahmet Unsal, was on board the flotilla. In the
aftermath of the flotilla, the Turkish/MB network continued its support in
more official statements, and at a post-flotilla event in Kuwait, Turkish/MB
network leader Gazi Misirli revealed that MUSIAD had played a major role in
funding the flotilla by “coordinating” donations. In addition, the
Turkish/MB network was in ongoing contact with Hamas leaders as well as with
the Union of Good, the coalition of charities headed by Youssef Qaradawi
that raises funds for Hamas. These conclusions raise three further important

3. The Flotilla Was Not A Humanitarian Effort

Although IHH declared that the flotilla was humanitarian in nature, the
history of IHH suggests that it is not only a humanitarian organization.
Some of the IHH’s key founders fought in the 1990’s in the Mujahidin Brigade
of the Bosnian Army along with many veterans of the war against the Soviets
in Afghanistan. In addition, there have been multiple reports of
terrorist/jihadist activity by IHH, including allegations that IHH was in
possession of weapons and explosives, was recruiting soldiers for jihad and
sending them into war zones such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya, and
that calls had been made from IHH headquarters to an Al-Qaida guest house.
The reports also say that during the 2003 Iraq war, IHH sent donations and
aid to areas under insurgent control in Iraq, including to Fallujah in
mid-2004, before US and British forces defeated a coalition there made up by
Al-QaidaIraq and former Baathists at the end of the year. Finally a French
magistrate testified in a US court that IHH played an important role in the
2000 Al-Qaida Millennium bomb plot targeting Los Angeles International
Airport (LAX).

In addition to these reported terrorist ties, this report demonstrates that
IHH and the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood network had numerous contacts with
Hamas and the Hamas government in Gaza including joint press conferences,
delegations to Gaza, and telephone calls with Hamas leaders, including Gaza
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. IHH and its leaders met with senior Hamas
activists including Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus, held
joint press conferences with Hamas spokesmen, and attended a Hamas rally in
Gaza. The Turkish/MB network also had a relationship with the ‘Union of Good’,
a coalition of charities headed by Youssef Qaradawi raising money for Hamas
and reported by the Israeli government to include IHH as a member
organization. This relationship included hosting a Congress of the Union in
Istanbul that included the IHH chairman as well as the reported transfer by
IHH of tens of thousands of dollars to two Hamas charities associated with
the Union. Both Israel and the US have designated the Union of Good as a
terrorist organization.

Aside from these terrorist connections, this report demonstrates that IHH
and the rest of the Turkish/MB network are in fact Islamist, politicized
organizations. During the run-up to the Iraq war, IHH convened large anti-US
rallies and during the 2004 fighting In Fallujah called for a boycott of US,
British, and Israeli goods, claiming: “The United States has been committing
a massacre in Fallujah, city of Iraq.” IHH also further organized in 2004
anti-Israeli and anti-US demonstrations in Istanbul, and by 2006 its website
had shifted its focus largely to anti-Israeli reporting, Other NGOs in the
network engaged in similar political activity. MAZLUMDER, the network’s
legal component, also showed early signs of politicization, holding anti-US
demonstrations during the Iraq war and joining IHH to protest a 2004 NATO
summit. In 2005, MAZLUMDER began its own focus on anti-Israeli rhetoric.

4. The Intent of the Flotilla Was Breaking the Blockade and Delegitimizing

The Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has provided
evidence that the violent altercation with Israeli forces was most likely
planned by IHH in advance of the flotilla.2 If this is true, given that IHH
was embedded in the Turkish/MB network that in turn was supported by both
the Turkish government and the Global Muslim Brotherhood, it must have been
clear to IHH and its leaders that a violent altercation would have
repercussions for these partners. While it is beyond what can be proven with
information available to the public, it is difficult to believe that IHH
would have taken such a risk without the knowledge and assent of key players
such as Youssef Qaradawi, the Turkish Prime Minister or his representatives,
and/or Kuwaiti funders and flotilla participants.

Whether or not the violence was planned, this report demonstrates that the
intent of the flotilla was breaking the Gaza blockade and delegitimizing
Israel. The choice of the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) as the flotilla’s Western
partner is telling, in that FGM had grown out of the International
Solidarity Movement (ISM), known for its ties to Palestinian terrorist
organizations as well as for sponsoring political protests in the West Bank
and Gaza and welcoming any violence that occurred in consequence. The ISM
was also known for encouraging its volunteers to compare Israel with the
Nazis. This report demonstrates that the IHH has been acting in concert with
the Turkish/ MB network and the Global Muslim Brotherhood in a massive
effort to demonize and delegitimize Israel by leveling accusations of
serious crimes, such as massacres and genocide and by invoking Nazi imagery
such as concentration camps in connection with Israeli actions and policies.
This effort included numerous conferences, press events, demonstrations, and
other activities during which such charges were made. At the 2008 Right of
Return conference in Damascus, Hamas leader Mashaal raised the concept of
sending a fleet of boats to Gaza in order to break the Israeli blockade,
while a Western activist was reported to have brought a plan to open a ship
line between Cyprus and Gaza that would “not only break the siege but also
embarrass Israel on the side of democracy and human rights.” Erdogan himself
met a group that included representatives of the European Campaign to End
the Siege of Gaza (ECESG) in Istanbul on May 12, 2010 and told them,
according to their account, that it was Turkey’s intention to end the Gaza

5. There Are Serious Implications from the Gaza Flotilla for Turkey’s Future
Relations with the West

Whether or not the Turkish government was aware of any IHH advance plans for
violence, there is no doubt that the effort by the Turkish/MB network was
supported by that government, its leaders and representatives, and by other
Islamist political parties. That Turkey and its government have become
partners of the Global Muslim Brotherhood has implications for both Turkey
and its Western allies, including NATO. Until recently, Turkey has been a
vital lynchpin of the West as a whole and of NATO in particular. However,
the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates are strongly anti-Western. This
clearly emerges from Qaradawi’s own rhetoric, with his repeated references
to the goal of Islamic domination of Europe. The IHH president, Bulent
Yildirim, sees the Islamic world in direct conflict with the West, as well
as with Russia, China, and India. How Turkey can maintain its traditional
role as a Western ally while its political leadership is tying it to some of
the most virulent anti-Western forces remains a difficult question.

Moreover, the historical precedents for partnerships of Middle Eastern
governments with the Muslim Brotherhood are troubling for another reason.
When Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Hassan Turabi was ruling the Sudan in the
1990s, the country became a haven for terrorists of all kinds including
Osama bin Laden, who based his operation there until 1996. While Turkey has
not yet progressed to this point, its support for a Hamas/ Muslim
Brotherhood-related propaganda effort is not encouraging, and terrorism is
not the only concern. Under the AKP government, Turkey has shown increasing
signs of Islamization, a primary goal of the Global Muslim Brotherhood. With
Saudi Arabia struggling to control its own export of Islamic fundamentalism
and extremism, the possibility exists that Turkey could become another
center for exporting such activities. Also, as a growing economic power,
Turkey is in a position to become a financial supporter of the Global Muslim
Brotherhood as well as providing a sanctuary for its anti-Western political

6. How Could the Role of the Global Muslim Brotherhood Be So Overlooked?

The Global Muslim Brotherhood and its Turkish allies were able to play a
major role in both the Gaza flotilla and in years of prior anti-Israel
activity without this role being reported by the global media or other
sources of public information. On the contrary, there does not appear to
have been awareness in any quarter that the Global Muslim Brotherhood was
active inside Turkey. Moreover, in recent years there has been a troubling
trend in the West to present the Muslim Brotherhood as a more moderate
Islamist alternative to al-Qaeda, without considering its true ideology and
intentions. Since its early days in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood operated
overtly as a social and religious organization engaged in charitable
enterprises, but at the same time it had a covert side known as the “Secret
Apparatus” that trained cadres in the use of weaponry and engaged in
political assassination. This duality continues to the present day. This
speaks well of the efforts by the Global Muslim Brotherhood to obscure both
its nature and its activities, while casting doubt on the ability of the
media or others to monitor and report on this activity. Israel, being
perhaps the major current target of the Global Muslim Brotherhood, would be
well advised to enhance its efforts to track the activities of the Global
Muslim Brotherhood in both Turkey and other countries in the region.