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Breaking the Blockade

After Hamas’s 2008 rocket siege prompted Israel’s responsive Operation Cast Lead, which Erdogan lambasted as a “crime against humanity,” Sheikh Qaradawi exhorted Muslims the world over to observe a “Day of Anger.” IHH mobilized to assist Hamas. Zeyd Aslan, the aforementioned IHH trustee and leading AKP parliamentarian, accused Israel of “genocide” against the Palestinians. IHH leader Bulen Yildirim, who enjoys warm relations with Erdogan, met with Hamas’s top political official, Khaled Mashaal, in Syria before attending a Hamas rally in Gaza. There, Yildirim proclaimed, “All of those who do not stand by the Palestinian people will meet their end and destruction,” and that “all the Islamic people will demand that their leaders become like Recep Tayyip Erdogan.” [1]

In May 2009, IHH cosponsored a “World Popular Conference for the Support of Palestine” in Istanbul. Featured were Qaradawi, Yildirim, AKP officials Aslan and Cemal Yilmaz Demir, representatives from the violent jihadist groups Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and an array of global Muslim Brotherhood grandees, including Ghannouchi of Tunisia, Jamal Badawi, a pioneer of the Brotherhood’s American network, and Mohammed Akram Adlounisecretary-general of the al-Quds [Jerusalem] International Institution and author of the “Explanatory Memorandum” outlining the Brotherhood’s “grand jihad” to destroy the West. Steven Merley of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, provides the flavor of the rally. Sheikh Qaradawi insisted that to help the Palestinian “resistance” is “not a contribution – it is an obligation” to be satisfied by “financial means.” Adlouni, meanwhile, lionized Erdogan for tearing into Israel’s president  [Shimon Peres] at Davos, reaffirming that “Turkey is still the caliphate as the center of our lives in our heart. I wish all the Arab countries would follow Turkey’s example by taking this stance. Israel is trying to Judaize Jerusalem!”[2] [On a panel with Peres, Erdogan had railed, “President Peres, you are old, and your voice is loud out of a guilty conscience. When it comes to killing, you know very well how to kill. I know well how you hit and kill children on beaches.”]

By late 2009, IHH joined a coalition of Islamist and Leftist organizations, led by Viva Palestina and the Free Gaza Movement, in a confederation to break what they describe as Israel’s “siege of Gaza.” Front and center of the scheme was George Galloway, a radical Leftist and notorious Hamas supporter who was reelected to the British Parliament in 2012. The coalition’s modus operandi was (and, as this is written, remains) to organize ostensible “humanitarian aid” caravans, for the true purpose of challenging the restrictions around Gaza’s borders.

It is worth remembering why these restrictions – tightly guarded land crossings, closely patrolled air space, and a sea blockade – were put in place. In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip, territory it had captured from Egypt during wars of Arab-Muslim aggression designed to destroy the Jewish state. The withdrawal, which involved the painful dismantling of settlements and forced evacuation of Israeli citizens, was an olive branch extended to Palestinians and their jihadist leaders. Common sense, of course, says that appeasing terrorists results only in more terrorism. More terrorism is precisely what Israel got.

Hamas characteristically took the concession as weakness rather than civility. The violent jihad, involving thousands of rocket attacks, only intensified. Israel abided even this campaign while under intense international pressure to pretend that Hamas’s rival Palestinian faction, the marginally less rabid Fatah, was a worthy negotiating partner. But when Hamas followed up its “democratic” electoral victory in early 2006 by forcibly ousting Fatah from Gaza in the June 2007 coup, Israel had no choice but to seal the parts of Gaza’s borders that it controls. Egypt, too, shares a border with Gaza, but the Mubarak regime in Egypt simultaneously sealed it due to what the U.S. Congressional Research Service described, with unwitting prescience, as “concern for the possibly destabilizing effects of Hamas’s relations with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which the government of President Mubarak considers a threat.”

The vital purposes of the blockade are obvious – at least to anyone who is neither an Islamic supremacist nor a transnational progressive living safely in the West: namely, protect Israeli citizens from suicide terrorism, prevent arms shipments from reaching the jihadists, and pressure the Palestinians into real negotiations. Alas, the latter would call for acceptance of two conditions Hamas, in its incorrigible anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, is too barbaric to contemplate: conceding Israel’s right to exist and renouncing terrorism (meaning, truly renounce it, without the deceptive caveat that “resistance” is … um, kosher).

Even the U.N., though notoriously quick to condemn Israeli defense measures, acknowledged the blockade’s propriety in a lengthy 2011 special report. By contrast, the portrayal of the blockade by Erdogan & Co. as a humanitarian catastrophe – one that purportedly renders Gaza a “concentration camp” – takes propaganda to the level of obscenity.

Israel liberally permits the importation of food, medicine, other necessities, and many luxury items. What it bars are munitions and “dual-use” items that would materially support Hamas and the jihadist campaign by which Palestinians choose to be the enemies of their own prosperity. There is no humanitarian reason to challenge the blockade because Israel liberally allows humanitarian deliveries after they undergo an inspection. Yet, echoing Qaradawi, Galloway bellowed that, in the wake of Operation Cast Lead, “actions speak louder than words” and that the best anti-Israel strategy was “to try to create a siege.”

This is exactly what the Leftist-Islamist coalition did, to disastrous effect, in January 2010. A convoy launching from London in early December 2009, carrying 80 vehicles loaded with what was described as “medical, humanitarian and educational aid,” was enthusiastically greeted in Istanbul less than two weeks later. Top Erdogan government officials, including the deputy prime minister, foreign minister, and the speaker of parliament, feted a convoy delegation that included Galloway, IHH President Yildirim, and the aforementioned Aslan (honcho of both the IHH and AKP). Thereafter, IHH merged another 62 vehicles into the convoy, packed with similar cargo. The full caravan set out on the drive to Gaza, by way of Syria, Jordan, and finally Egypt. Along for the ride were over 200 Turkish citizens (about half the total in the convoy), including several senior AKP members. Prominent among the latter was Murat Marjan, chairman of the Turkish Parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

In Egypt, the convoy endeavored to enter Gaza through the Rafah Crossing. The Mubarak government, however, refused to allow the entire convoy to cross into the Strip, insisting that some of the vehicles would have to try entering through Israel. An angry confrontation resulted, with agitators rebuking Egyptian riot troops as pawns of the Zionist enemy. Demonstrators began pelting the troops with stones, prompting them to open fire. In the ensuing melee, a Palestinian gunman shot an Egyptian soldier to death, while two Palestinian demonstrators were wounded and dozens of other people were injured.

The Egyptian government relented and allowed all convoy participants to enter Gaza briefly – to deliver their wares and leave immediately – only after top officials in Erdogan’s government, including Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, interceded with their counterparts in Cairo. Once in Gaza, the AKP government officials in tow were warmly embraced by Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s Gaza chief. Haniyeh is formally recognized by Erdogan’s government as the “Palestinian Prime Minister,” which is what taking the Islamic “democracy train” to the jihadist coup station will get you. Alluding to the AKP emir’s upbraiding of Shimon Peres at Davos, Haniyeh yipped, “We still haven’t forgotten Prime Minister Erdogan’s courageous act in the face of Israel’s attacks and blockade.” “With the new policy Turkey has been pursuing,” he added, “the Middle East is also being reshaped.”

Indeed.

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