Gaza Flotilla Shakedown
In the "Believe It Or Not" mega-farce of Middle East politics, the latest candidate for world-turned-upside-down is the story of Israel offering $100,000 apiece in compensation to the families of nine Turkish "activists" killed in May aboard the flagship of the flotilla that set out to break the Israeli blockade on terrorist-controlled Gaza. This offer is part of the haggling that has reportedly been going on between Israeli and Turkish officials, in what the New York Times describes an an effort "To Repair Ties." The Turkish government is demanding an apology, as well. Israel is reportedly willing to express "regrets" for the loss of life, and, the Times reports, would like "whatever deal emerges to end the United Nations Inquiry and other international legal actions."
In some quarters this may pass for diplomacy. But the deal shaping up here sure looks, walks and quacks like a shakedown. It's Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who ought to be apologizing to Israel. The Gaza flotilla was a calculated provocation -- a violent propaganda stunt to damage Israel. With a big boost from the UN, it's still right on track to do exactly that.
Recall that in hope of peace, Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Instead of getting peace, Israel got yet more Palestinian terrorism, including bombardment by thousands of rockets. By 2007 Gaza was controlled by the terrorist group Hamas -- backed and armed by Iran, and dedicated to the destruction of Israel. That's the reason for the Israeli blockade, which the Gaza flotilla proposed to break.
The organizers of the Gaza flotilla advertised themselves as "peace activists." promising that their aim was simply to deliver "humanitarian aid." But the Turkish organizers among this crew were members of a Turkish nonprofit, the IHH, which, as my colleague Jonathan Schanzer reported in a May article on "The Terror Finance Flotilla," "was banned by the Israeli government in July 2008 for its ties to terrorism finance." The IHH belongs to a Saudi-based umbrella organization, the Union of Good, which the U.S. Treasury designated in 2008 as "an organization created by Hamas leadership in late-2000 to transfer funds to the terrorist organization." In case that sounds to Americans like merely another headache for people in faraway lands, Schanzer also noted that French magistrate Jean-Louis Brougiere "testified that IHH had an 'important role' in Ahmed Ressam's failed 'millennium plot' to bomb the Los Angeles airport in late 1999."
This was the flavor of some of the folks who, with the blessing of Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan, set sail for Gaza aboard the "peace activist" flotilla flagship, the Mavi Marmara. Israel offered to offload the "humanitarian supplies" and deliver them overland. That offer was refused. When Israeli commandos tried to peacefully board the ship (as they did successfully with the rest of the flotilla), dozens of "peace activists" -- wielding knives and metal rods -- mobbed and attacked them, beating and stabbing. The Israelis fought back in self-defense. That was how those nine Turks died.
You know the rest of this script. Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan denounced Israel and demanded punishment for Israel. The United Nations -- ever ready to assist in such endeavors -- convened an inquiry, which produced a report flagrantly biased against Israel (don't take my word for it -- the Obama administration protested to the UN Human Rights Council that "we are concerned by the report's unbalanced language, tone and conclusions"). Threats of further slanted inquiry and international legal action against Israel have continued. This has become an industry. For Israel to pay the families of its attackers is not a way to buy better ties with Turkey. It's a way to invite more attacks. But the larger question by now is not how Israel should handle this. What's most disturbing is that the free world stands by and accepts it as business as usual that Turkey's Erdogan -- having wished godspeed to a terror-linked group embarked for terror-controlled Gaza -- demands apologies from the real victims.