The Gaza Blockade

A collection of press cuttings
June 3, 2010

Edited by Andy Ross

Turkey Versus Israel

David Ignatius, The Washington Post

By attacking the relief flotilla, Israel picked a fight with Turkey. Once Israel's most important regional ally, Turkey now seeks to challenge Israel's hegemony as the local superpower. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a Muslim populist with a charismatic message: We won't let Israel push us around. Where Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is often a buffoon, Erdogan is a genuinely tough rival.

The Turkish challenge was voiced Tuesday by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who likened the Israeli attack to "pirates off the coast of Somalia." He warned at a breakfast meeting with reporters: "Now it is time to decide: Are we in a civilized world, or do some continue to have the law of the jungle? If it is the second, we know what to do."

The Blockade

Fred Kaplan, Slate

We can argue that Israel's blockade of Gaza is legitimate. But a blockade is an act of war. Israel's actions on the Mavi Marmara reflect a total disconnect between military means and political ends. The failure appears to have been the result of gross incompetence and strategic malfeasance.

Israel Versus Gaza

The New York Times

The Obama administration considers Israel's blockade of Gaza to be untenable and plans to press for another approach to ensure Israel's security while allowing more supplies into Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that if there were no blockade in place it would mean "an Iranian port in Gaza."

A senior American official said: "Gaza has become the symbol in the Arab world of the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, and we have to change that."

Time To Disengage

Aluf Benn, Haaretz

The "flotilla affair" offers a good opportunity to complete the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and leave Hamastan to its own devices.

AR  I agree with Benn: Israel should disengage completely from Gaza and seal the borders. Then it can treat the first rocket barrage as a pretext for all-out war against Hamastan. But first try to pacify Turkey — a war that dragged in Turkey as well as Iran would be unwinnable for Israel.

Turkish Press Coverage

Robert Mackey, The New York Times

Today’s Zaman, an English-language newspaper in Turkey, reported in detail on the raid:

Gaza returnees share horror stories from Israel

Today's Zaman, June 3

Ali Buhamd, deported from Israel along with 18 other activists, was on the Mavi Marmara, a passenger ship in the flotilla that was attacked by Israeli naval forces in international waters on Monday. There are at least nine dead because of the attack according to Israeli officials, but witnesses, such as Humanitarian Aid Foundation (IHH) President Bülent Yıldırım, say more people were killed and their bodies dumped into the sea.

Buhamd said: "I saw a soldier shooting a wounded Turk in the head. There was another Turk asking for help, but he bled to death."

Kevin Ovenden of Britain, who arrived in Istanbul on Thursday, said a man who had pointed a camera at the soldiers was shot directly through the forehead with live ammunition, with the exit wound blowing away the back of his skull.


More press cuttings
June 4, 2010

Edited by Andy Ross

Turkey's new role as hero of the Arab world

Bronwen Maddox, The Times

Turkey is capitalizing on the new adoration of its Arab neighbors. No longer Trojan Horse of the West but Champion of the Palestinians, a cause where Arab leaders have failed — that is the new role opening for Turkey.

President Gül declared that Turkey would not forgive Israel for the attacks. "Turkey-Israel relations will not be as they were," he said. As he spoke, protesters in Arab cities waved the Turkish flag.

Posters of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister, are everywhere in the demonstrations. Erdogan, who called Israel "a festering boil in the Middle East" and the attacks "a bloody massacre," is emerging as the hero of the week in the Arab street.

Turkey's role in the Gaza flotilla affair

By Con Coughlin, The Telegraph

Turkey has lost no time in leading the international chorus of condemnation for Israel's cack-handed response to the Gaza flotilla. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu even claims that the military interception of the flotilla has become Turkey's 9/11.

The Turks appear to have overlooked the evidence that many of those on board the Mavi Marmara were hell-bent on an armed confrontation. How else do you explain the presence of gas masks, bullet-proof vests, knives and axes on the vessel? The team of Israeli commandos that rappelled from a helicopter on to the ship's upper deck were met by a lynch mob, some of whom had openly professed a desire to achieve martyrdom prior to the voyage.

Turkey's bold attempt to forge an important diplomatic alliance with Israel now lies in tatters. For more than a decade, Turkey has delicately balanced the needs of its Muslim population against the strategic interests of collaborating with Israel on regional security issues. As a founder member of the NATO alliance, modern Turkey saw its destiny as lying with the West rather than the repressive and increasingly Islamist regimes in its former Ottoman dominions.

Those aspirations have been thwarted. The Turkish government increasingly finds itself on a collision course with the West. The frustrations of millions of frustrated secular Muslims may lead them down the path of Islamist radicalization.

AR  Israel has massively increased the risk of triggering a historic tragedy for humanity. Like the Spartans at Thermopylae, the Israelis could go down fighting vast armies of enemies — Arabs, Turks and Persians — against whom they have no chance, however valiantly they fight, however hideously they rack up the body count. In the aftermath, the rest of the world would be faced with a regional cauldron of boiling and self-righteous zealots eager to globalize their victory.


Yet more press cuttings
June 5, 2010

Edited by Andy Ross

Turkish prosecutors go after Israeli politicians

Today's Zaman

The Istanbul Bakırköy Prosecutor's Office has started a probe into Israel's attack. Among the prosecutors' evidence are the autopsy reports of the eight Turkish citizens and one U.S.-Turkish dual citizen who were killed in the attack. If the prosecutor's office can compile enough evidence against Israel at the end of its probe, it will charge Israeli officials with various crimes, including murder, injury, taking hostages, attacking Turkish citizens on the open seas and piracy. The main suspects in the investigation thus far are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

Navy Boards Rachel Corrie

Jerusalem Post

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu described the boarding of the Rachel Corrie containing activists and aid for Gaza as a quiet operation. Netanyahu distinguished between the boat of Irish and Malaysian activists and the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara: "The different outcome we saw today underscores the difference between peace activists who we disagree with but respect their right to express their different opinion and flotilla participants who were violent extremist supporters of terrorists."

AR  Netanyahu's praising the peace activists may cause him to reflect on Israeli conduct: if Israel's manners were more peaceful we'd have a more harmonious world. The "tough neighborhood" is tough in part because no-one dare relax among all those hotheads. But someone must be first.


Yet more press cuttings
June 6, 2010

Edited by Andy Ross

Israel: We will not apologize


An official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry says the Turkish demand for an official apology was mainly an excuse to allow Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to cut diplomatic ties with Israel.

Israeli Minister Dan Meridor canceled his participation in this week's Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, sponsored by Erdogan and held in Istanbul. Meridor canceled due to security concerns.

Report: Erdogan considering visiting Gaza


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is weighing the possibility of traveling to the Gaza Strip in order to "break the Israeli blockade," the Lebanese newspaper al-Mustaqbal reported on Saturday, according to Army Radio.

Erdogan is under intense political pressure to cancel security agreements with Israel. But the Turkish military establishment strongly opposes the idea of cutting security ties with Israel.

Flotilla activists: Go back to Auschwitz

Jerusalem Post

The Middle East Media Research Institute has released video statements made by Bulent Yildirim, head of the IHH Turkish Islamist organization that organized last week's blockade runners. Addressing his listeners as the "people of paradise," Yildirim said: "Raise your fists to the skies and repeat after me: What can the enemy do to me? I carry paradise in my heart. ... If they kill me — that is martyrdom for the sake of Allah. Allahu akbar."

"We had no choice"

Jerusalem Post

When Staff Sergeant "S" abseiled down from an air force Black Hawk helicopter onto the Mavi Marmara, he did not expect to be landing in what he called "a battlefield" and facing off against a group of murderous mercenaries.

The last naval commando to rappel down onto the ship from the helicopter, S said he was immediately attacked by what the IDF called a "mob of mercenaries."

Looking to his side, he saw three of his commanders lying wounded. As the next in the chain of command, S immediately took charge. He pushed the wounded soldiers against a wall and created a perimeter of soldiers around them. He then pulled out his Glock pistol.

The attackers had already seized two pistols from the commandos and fired repeatedly at them. S and his colleagues opened fire. S killed six men. His colleagues killed another three.

"When I hit the deck, I was immediately attacked by people with bats, metal pipes and axes. These were without a doubt terrorists. I could see the murderous rage in their eyes and that they were coming to kill us."

S is being considered for a medal of valor.

Turkey not flexing its muscles but pressing for universal values

Today’s Zaman

Questions over the limits of Turkey's soft power have been recently raised regarding its leverage over its NATO ally the United States in its efforts to internationalize the issue of the Israeli raid. Ankara has stated that Israel would have to bear the consequences of violating international law.

Ankara rejects the interpretation of the issue as a power game. Said a senior Turkish diplomat: "Turkey has not embarked on this road to flex its muscles. What we say is a manifestation of what kind of a world we want to see."

AR  Now I see the merits of both sides. The Israelis are doing what they think is right independently of the risk of massive escalation. The Turks are trying to help the people of Gaza independently of the Hamas issue. But Israel is right to resist Hamas. And Turkey is right to press for a more humanitarian resolution.

My proposal: Israel should relax its embargo and intensify efforts to accommodate the moral concerns of Turkish moderates. Turkish moderates should resist calls for more Islamization.


Another press cutting
June 7, 2010

Edited by Andy Ross

Israel and Turkey

Christopher Hitchens, Slate

The state of Israel may now regret its past collaboration with some of the worst elements in modern Turkey. If this era of unseemly collaboration is over, then so much the better. A group of Turkish and Arab activists seek to donate materials described as humanitarian aid to Hamas. But is it really humanitarian to make contributions to a ruling party that has a totalitarian and racist ideology?

Hamas' charter and many of its official proclamations announce that it endorses the so-called Protocols of the Elders of Zion. What if the international community were to tell the Hamas leadership we will consider lifting the sanctions if you will renounce the Protocols?


Another press cutting
June 9, 2010

Edited by Andy Ross

Thorny Turkey

The New York Times

Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a hero to the Arab world. His new foreign policy is openly challenging the way the United States manages Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Turkey is finding its footing in its own backyard, a troubled region that has been in turmoil for years, in part as a result of American policy. Turkey was also frustrated in its desire to join the European Union.

"The Americans, no matter what they say, cannot get used to a new world where regional powers want to have a say in regional and global politics," said Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations at Bilgi University in Istanbul. "This is our neighborhood, and we don't want trouble. The Americans create havoc, and we are left holding the bag."

Turkey is now a vibrant, competitive democracy with an economy that would rank as the sixth largest in Europe. Unlike Jordan and Egypt, which rely heavily on American aid, it is financially independent of the United States.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister, says economics is at the heart of the new policy. His governing party is made up of merchants and traders, who are more devoted to their business interests than to advancing Islamic solidarity.

"Economic interdependence is the best way to achieve peace," he said. "In the 1990s we had severe tension all around us, and Turkey paid a huge bill because of that. Now we want to establish a peaceful order around us."

But Erdogan's confrontation with Israel, which he accused of "state terrorism" in the flotilla raid, raises alarms for Americans. Many see his fiery statements as a sign that he is aligning himself with Islamic rivals of the West.

"The Jewish community in Turkey is not at all alarmed," said Ishak Alaton, a prominent Jewish businessman in Istanbul. The tough talk, he said, is Erdogan's attempt to score points ahead of an election.

Shafeeq Ghabra, a political science professor at Kuwait University, argued that Turkey had stepped into a vacuum left by a failed peace process, and that it was trying to "save the Palestinians from becoming desperate again and save Israel from itself."

Turkish and American officials play down their differences, saying they share the goal of peace in the Middle East.


Another press cutting
June 19, 2010

Edited by Andy Ross

Turkey 1, Iran 0

Elliot Hen-Tov and Bernard Haykel
The New York Times


Iran stands to lose much influence as Turkey assumes a new role as the modern and democratic nation willing to take on Israel and oppose America. Washington stands to gain if a newly muscular Turkey can adopt a leadership role in the Sunni Arab world.

Prime Minister Erdogan has positioned Turkey as an interlocutor between the Islamic/Arab world and Israel and the West. Erdogan is not only a devout Sunni but also the democratically elected leader of a dynamic and modern Muslim country with membership in the G-20 and NATO.

AR This is good analysis. Did someone in Israel see this outcome in advance?

Another press cutting
June 25, 2010

Edited by Andy Ross

Turkey and Iran

Lee Smith, Weekly Standard

Turkey has emerged as a regional power and the guarantor of Arab interests against Israel and Iran. Either Ankara wants to restore Arab pride by handing over a Hamas scrubbed of Iranian influence or the Turks simply want to use the Palestinian cause to enhance their own regional credentials. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states see that Turkey is Sunni and Iran is Shia. Ankara will mediate between the Arabs and the West.