A press conference in Istanbul where it was announced that an international coalition was planning another flotilla to the Gaza Strip. Third from the left is the Turkish representative, Durmush Aydin, the IHH’s vice president for international relations (IHH.org.tr, August 12, 2014).
1. On August 12, 2014, a press conference was held in Istanbul to announce a new flotilla to end the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The press conference was organized by the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FCC), led, in ITIC assessment, by the IHH. According to an IHH report and a Coalition press release, discussions about the new flotilla were held at IHH headquarters in Istanbul on August 10 and 11, 2014. Present were representatives from Greece, Norway, Sweden, Canada, France, Britain, Spain, South Africa, Malaysia, Jordan and Indonesia.
2. The organizers claimed the flotilla would express solidarity with the Palestinian people and that the coalition members supported the Gazan demands for a seaport. They also claimed that many Mediterranean port administrations intended to declare the port of Gaza a so-called “sister port” and that in the coming months protests would be held in various ports and on the high seas (Yenisafak.com and IHH.org.tr, August 12, 2014).
3. The IHH website listed the various organizations and networks in the coalition organizing the flotilla – some national and some international – familiar from previous attempts to send flotillas to the Gaza Strip and from the international anti-Israeli campaign. The organizations participating in “The Freedom Flotilla Coalition” are the following (IHH.org.tr, August 12, 2014):
1) The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza
2) Freedom Flotilla Italia (Italy)
3) Gaza’s Ark (the Gaza Strip)
4) IHH Insani Yardim Vakfi (Turkey)
5) International Committee for Breaking the Siege on Gaza (ICBSG)
6) Rumbo a Gaza (Spain)
7) Ship to Gaza (Greece)
8) Ship to Gaza (Norway)
9) Ship to Gaza (Sweden)
4. Other participants in the flotilla, but not members of the IHH steering committee, are the following (IHH.org.tr):
1) Palestine Solidarity Alliance (South Africa)
2) Free Gaza
3) Haluan Palestin (Malaysia)
4) Life Line to Gaza (Jordan)
5) Miles of Smiles
6) Sahabat Al-Aqsa
5. The IHH is a radical Islamic Turkish jihadist organization whose ideology is anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic. It is well-connected to the Erdogan administration. It is an important factor in the international coalition waging the campaign to delegitimize Israel, and participates in its activities. It collaborates with Islamist organizations in Turkey, anti-Israeli organizations in the West, and organizations in the Arab-Muslim world and in the West affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
6. The IHH was the moving spirit behind the flotilla project to challenge Israel’s policy regarding Gaza Strip maritime activities(aimed to prevent the smuggling of weapons by sea into the Gaza Strip). It played a main role in the flotilla that ended with the violent confrontation aboard the Mavi Marmara (May 31, 2010). It helped plan the flotilla, purchased three of the ships (including the Mavi Marmara), placed Turkey’s governmental capabilities at the disposal of the coalition that dispatched the flotilla and planned the violent confrontation with the IDF without the knowledge of the other flotilla participants. IHH operatives were central to the violence aboard the Mavi Marmara, which ended with the deaths of ten operatives, nine wounded IDF soldiers, and dozens of wounded passengers. The IHH is apparently trying to exploit anti-Israeli criticism caused by Operation Protective Edge and the Hamas demands for a seaport in the Gaza Strip to renew the flotilla project to the Gaza Strip, understanding it will be met with support from the Turkish government.
IHH leader Bülent Yildirim (right) gives a speech aboard the Mavi Marmara to encourage them for the expected confrontation with IDF soldiers.
7. During and after the Mavi Marmara affair, the IHH and the Turkish government represented the organization as a human rights organization operating in humanitarian spheres, and either hid or denied its radical Islamic jihadist nature. However, its violent nature was manifested in the behavior of its operatives against the IDF aboard the Mavi Marmara and against an Egyptian security force about six months previously. Speeches given by its leader, Bülent Yildirim, also manifest its radical Islamist nature and anti-American anti-Western orientation. All of the above clearly indicate that its violent ideology and character, grounded in its jihadist past, have not fundamentally changed or disappeared. Given the nature of the organization, it should be recognized that in any future interaction with Israel, it would not hesitate to employ violence, as it did aboard the Mavi Marmara.
8. According to the IHH website, during Operation Protective Edge the organization sent $8 million worth of medicine, food and other vital commodities to the Gaza Strip. The delivery to the Gaza Strip was coordinated with Mehmet Kaya, IHH representative in Gaza. The humanitarian aid from Turkey was unloaded at the Israeli port of Ashdod and from there transferred to the Gaza Strip by truck through the Kerem Shalom crossing (Cogat.idf.il). In addition, the IHH engaged in strong anti-Israeli incitement and propaganda in Turkey, including calls for boycotts and isolation, organizing broadcasts on 30 radio and TV stations calling for a boycott of Israel. Bülent Yildirim said to Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman “You are Hitler. You and your cabinet are committing an offense by carrying out genocide” (IHH.org.tr, August 13, 2014).
9. For a profile of the IHH, see the Appendix.