The Israeli inquiry commission report issued Sunday 23rd January 2011 defended Israel’s actions when Israeli marines boarded the large Turkish cruise ship, the Mavi Marmara, in the early hours of 31 May 2010.
The inquiry concluded that the marines acted in self defence and in a professional manner when surprised by violent resistance by some of the activists on board, despite the fact that their actions led to the deaths of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American citizen.
You may be tempted to disregard the Israeli report (despite the presence of two international observers, including David Trimble and a retired Canadian general, both of whom endorsed its findings and its independence). However it is worth pressing the pause button for two or three minutes, and focusing on the “other side” in the confrontation, the key activists on the Mavi Marma.
The hard core of the activists were 40 members of the IHH , an organisation described in the report as “a Turkish humanitarian organisation which assists terrorist organisations with a radical-Islamic and anti-Western orientation”. This description appears accurate – the German affiliate of the IHH was banned by the German government shortly after the interception. The IHH activists, who boarded in Istanbul without any security inspection, were quite separate from the general passengers and activists on the boat who boarded the ship in Antalya following a security inspection. When the interception occurred, the ship’s captain ordered the passengers to return below decks, at which point the IHH activists and 60 other activists who joined them, refused to go below, put on lifejackets and armed themselves with a variety of weapons. Because of this the inquiry report considered the IHH activists as “direct participants in hostilities”, for whom the normal protection afforded civilians is not applicable under international law.
Anyone who saw the BBC’s Panorama programme, or internet film clips of the preparations of the Turkish activists from the IHH, will have noted the extent of their organisation and how quickly they began disassembling the iron rods comprising much of the railings on the vessel. There is a significance to this action that has been missed by everybody, including the authors of this latest report.
In December 2001, Ayman al-Zawahiri, ideological chief of Al Qaeda, published his famous manifesto Knights under the Prophet’s Banner. The knights in the title refers to the Jihadists of the present day, comparing them to the Muslim knights who defeated the Crusaders, and who are expected by Al Zawahiri to kill those whom he states are the enemies of Islam, Jews and Christians, or in Western terms, Israel, the US, and the Arab and Western allies of the US. His book continues with the following chilling threat: “It is always possible to track an American or a Jew, to kill him with a bullet or a knife , a simple explosive device, or a blow with an iron rod.”
Thus it is clear that the IHH activists were not peaceful protestors but “direct participants in hostilities”, with all that entails. The role of the ruling party in power in Turkey, the AKP, is also of interest, and a matter to which I will return.
- Review Essay on Sayyid Qutb, the Trotsky of the Militant Islamists 16 December 2010
Richard Whelan is the author of Al Qaedaism The Threat to Islam The Threat to the World, published by Platin in a Turkish language edition in Turkey, and by Ashfield press in Ireland. His website is www.richardwhelan.com.