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Once again, Palestinian activists have announced their intention to break through Israel’s blockade of Gaza. On Tuesday, Huseyin Oruc, spokesman for the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), a Turkish Islamic aid group the Israeli government and other countries consider a terrorist organization, said an international coalition of 22 non-governmental organizations plans to send 15 ships with a total of 1,500 people. Israel has urged the Turkish government to stop the mission, but officials in Ankara insisted that they don’t have the right to prevent it. The attempt to break the blockade would be the second one a year after nine people were killed aboard the Mavi Marmara when they attacked Israeli commandos attempting to board the vessel on May 31, 2010.
Relations between Israel and Turkey, long-time allies before the incident, have yet to recover. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party government, which has moved Turkey away from its previously secular traditions towards Islamism, froze relations with Israel after the deadly incident. The prime minister has since demanded an apology from Israel as a condition for improving relations. Israel has refused, and relations continue be be strained. Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoglu indicated as much in a Monday interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. “We urge Israel not to repeat the same mistake,” he said. “It is Israel’s responsibility not to implement [a blockade] against Gaza. A fact-finding mission of the UN declared that this … is illegal.” “The Mediterranean does not belong to any nation,” he added, contending that last year’s flotilla “raid” occurred in international waters.
Yet it is not just Israel which considers this new attempt to run the blockade as unnecessarily provocative. During a meeting with the U.N. Security Council on April 21, Israel’s UN Ambassador Meron Reuben warned that the organizers of the so-called peace flotilla had “ties to Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” and that “participants engaged in the planning of this flotilla have made very troubling statements expressing their willingness to become martyrs in this effort.” Both the United States and Germany echoed that sentiment with U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice contending that “[T]here are distinct mechanisms to deliver goods to Gaza and there are no justifications to sail directly to Gaza,” and German Ambassador Peter Witting calling on the organizers to “find other ways to deliver aid to the people of Gaza.”
IHH leader and flotilla organizer Bulent Yildirim was defiant. In a speech on April 7, during a memorial service held in the Turkish city of Alanya for IHH operatives killed aboard the Mavi Marmara, he declared that “we [participants in the upcoming flotilla] are not afraid to die as shaheeds,” and reiterated the IHH’s determination to continue dispatching flotillas until “the siege of Gaza is lifted” and “we complete our journey to Al-Aqsa [mosque].” He claimed the flotilla will go on as scheduled and that it will include “a ship from every country in Europe” as well the Mavi Marmara.
Another group involved in the flotilla is the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) a left-wing organization of anti-Israeli activists established in the United States in 2001. On their California website, the ISF posted a call for applications from its membership to participate in the upcoming attempt to run the Israeli blockade. According to The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center the ISM is recruiting activists “who previously participated in ISM flotillas, especially those who were detained and deported by Israel.” Anticipating a confrontation, the website instructs those who participate to “deploy broad use of the tactic of ‘greater nonviolent resistance after capture,’” including “[R]efusing deportation until a set of conditions is met” and “[E]xtreme nonviolent noncooperation during captivity”
The radical group Free Gaza Movement (FGM), which organized the previous flotilla, is also involved in this one. They have stated their intention to name the upcoming provocation “Freedom Flotilla–Stay Human” in honor of Vittorio Arrigoni, a pro-Palestinian activist who was found murdered in the Gaza strip hours after being kidnapped there. Despite attempts by radicals to blame Israel for the crime, the BBC reports that Salafist radicals, an Islamist movement that considers Hamas too moderate, was responsible.
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