The Gaza flotilla incident of 31 May 2010 cost the lives of nine Turkish men and left another flotillan grievously wounded in the head. Several Israeli soldiers were seriously injured as well, in an operation launched by Israel's IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) to halt the advance of a small fleet of ships toward Gaza. Afterward, relations between Turkey and Israel--longtime allies in a tough neighborhood--were seen to have reached their nadir as a result, when the Prime Minister of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, denounced Israel's actions. In the still turbulent wake of this notorious incident, TBR met recently in Istanbul with Huseyin Oruc, President of the Board of Directors of IHH (Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief), one of the main organizers of the international sea-borne mission to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and filed this report.
The goal was to break the siege of Gaza by traversing what IHH--a radical Islamist group with declared ties to Hamas and purported links with al-Qaeda--regards as Israel's illegal military blockade of the Palestinians in that region, Oruc said. But the motley collection of eight ships from seven countries (including Togo, Cambodia, and Comoros), bearing roughly 600 passengers in all, ran afoul of senseless Israeli brutality, he asserted--when the largest boat, Turkey's Mavi Marmara, was boarded and violence ensued, as credible reports have indicated. Or rather, as Oruc would have it, when Israeli soldiers attacked gratuitously--opening fire with machine guns, launching "a gas bomb," and killing two people immediately--both "shot in the head"--in an unprovoked act of aggression, typical of the Israeli mentality, before even a single IDF soldier had come aboard.
Moreover, in addition to needlessly and intentionally causing the deaths of well over half-a-dozen innocent and unarmed humanitarian workers, Israel subsequently removed 1/3 of another man's brain, Oruc asserted. They did this in order to conceal the fact that the IDF makes use of illegal ordnance. He did not further specify the nature of these mysterious weapons, but stressed that Jewish paranoia was the real reason for the confrontation, rather than any sort of legitimate security concerns: "They are paranoiac," he said. The reason the United States backs the mentally ill Jewish State is "the Israel Lobby" and Jewish control of the media.
And "they kill birds," Oruc added. This after TBR remarked on a pair of chattering parrots in a cage behind the IHH leader's desk. The little aviary was situated in a window affording what Oruc insisted was not only a nice view, but "the best" view of the Fatih mosque, which is next door to IHH offices. Fatih mosque is a magnificent structure indeed, on a par with others of Istanbul's architectural wonders--magnificent enough, in fact, that it was the site for funeral services in remembrance of Turkey's popular Islamist ex-prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, on Tuesday, March 1, the day after TBR met with the IHH. Khaled Mashal will attend the funeral, IHH eagerly informed at the time, proud of Turkey's association with the Hamas leader and singling him out for mention.
Although Oruc "would not call it [the Mavi Marmara incident] a victory" (gravely demurring at the suggestion his group might have scored a propaganda coup at Israel's expense in some quarters of global civil society), nonetheless, the whole world now understands what Israel is capable of, he explained (wearing a darkly serious expression, to match his all-black outfit). And for Oruc--prepared for such questions, with his steady martyr's eyes, his lugubrious tone, and nearly uninterruptable rhythm of speech--this is not only a kind of triumph. It's the kind he savors best.
Moreover, the flotilla succeeded in not only stripping Israel of its last veil of legitimacy in the eyes of the world, he said: It had also inspired the recent waves of revolution in the Arab world! For the intrepid humanitarian effort had demonstrated that a few people could stand up to a mighty state, and need not back down. Oruc's group's example had thus provided the kindling that soon thereafter set fire to the imagination of the Arab street--first in Tunisia, then Egypt, Libya, et al., he explained with deadly seriousness. And as a result--the whole Muslim world now looks to Turkey, the model for what change in these other countries might one day bring. Beneath the chest of a devout Islamist, there beat the heart of a proud Turkish nationalist. Never let it be said that these impulses--Islamism and nationalism--are simply at odds in Anatolia. While this is--or was historically--certainly often the case in Kemal Ataturk's modernizing state, today neo-fascist anti-Semites like Oruc combine the two.
"Not shaky, finished"--underlining "finished"--is how he responded to the question of where the tragic flotilla incident mow leaves Turkish-Israeli relations. And with that, TBR left him to mourn the passing of his fellow Islamist, the late PM Erbakan (deposed in Turkey's "postmodern coup" of 1997, mentor to today's ruling "mild Islamist" AKP party) and his anticipated visit with Khaled Mashal.