The Mavi Marmara
Vol: 105 Issue: 1 Tuesday, June 1, 2010
The United Nations Security Council met to condemn Israel’s boarding of the Mavi Marmara so quickly one would almost think the UN diplomats were already seated and debating it before it even happened.
Within hours of the confrontation at sea, Turkey had recalled its ambassador, severing Turkey’s sixty-one year diplomatic history with the Jewish State. Turkey is the only Muslim-majority state in the Middle East that has maintained diplomatic relations with Israel throughout modern Israel’s history.
First, the background story. A flotilla of six ships carrying 10,000 tons of ‘humanitarian aid’ was dispatched by Turkey to run Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government contacted each ship captain, as well as the non-governmental organizations and Turkish government supporting the flotilla.
Israel offered to allow the shipments, provided they were inspected first at an Israeli port to ensure there were no weapons or other embargoed equipment aboard. The requests were ignored and the flotilla continued steaming toward Gaza despite warnings that Israel would not permit it.
When the flotilla was about 80 miles from the Gaza coast, Israeli commandos — armed with paintball guns — rappeled aboard. Five of the ships were turned back.
But when the commandos boarded the sixth, the Mavi Marmara, they were swarmed by the waiting mob, who attacked them with knives, metal bars, guns and at least one firebomb.
That isn’t merely Israel’s version of the story. . . the entire incident was captured on video tape. One can see the ‘peace activists’ using iron bars like sledge hammers to rain down blows on the outnumbered Israelis.
One soldier was thrown overboard. Several others suffered gunshot wounds.
A soldier identified only as a sergeant told reporters at a military briefing that the activists on board “were armed with knives, scissors, pepper spray and guns.”
He said he was armed only with a paintball rifle. “It was a civilian paintball gun that any 12-year-old can play with,” he said. “I saw my friends on the deck spitting blood.”
A commando who spoke to reporters on a naval vessel off the coast, identified only as “A,” said he and his comrades were taken off guard by a group of Arabic-speaking men when they rappelled onto the deck.
He said some of the soldiers were stripped of their helmets and their pistols and some had to jump overboard to escape the violence.
A high-ranking naval official displayed a box confiscated from the boat containing switchblades, slingshots, metal balls and metal bats.
Turkey’s NTV network showed activists beating one commando with sticks as he landed on deck. Dr. Arnon Afek, deputy director of Chaim Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv, said two commandos were brought in with gunshot wounds. Another had serious head wounds, Afek added.
Everybody is referring to the flotilla as a ‘humanitarian mission’. The UN, the US, the Turks and especially the media. Everybody, that is, except the mission’s organizers.
A spokeswoman for the “Free Gaza” movement said the group’s goal wasn’t humanitarian. It was political.
“What we’re trying to do is open a sea lane between Gaza and the rest of the world,” Greta Berlin said in Cyprus. “We’re not trying to be a humanitarian mission. We’re trying to say to the world, ‘You have no right to imprison a million and a half Palestinians.'”
President Obama expressed his ‘deep regret’ over the Israeli raid, without offering any suggestions for how Israel should have handled the situation. By this time, it was clear that the battle was a premeditated act launched by the ship’s passengers, not the Israelis.
This is a good place to repeat what you won’t read many other places. The Israelis were armed with paintball guns. Not M16’s. Paintball rifles. Some of the IDF forces were carrying sidearms.
France asserted that “nothing could justify” the military operations against a “humanitarian initiative.” Sweden, Greece, Iceland, Germany, Denmark and Italy also criticized Israel in varying degrees, while Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, called for the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
The EU is rushing to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the ramifications of the Mavi Marmara incident. Spain, the current EU president, branded the storming of the flotilla “unacceptable.”
What would be acceptable? In 2005, Israel pulled out of Gaza, removing every Israeli civilian and every remnant of Israel’s military presence. Gaza’s inhabitants didn’t celebrate its ‘liberation’ — it attacked its liberators.
In their first free and open elections, they chose as their representatives Hamas — an organization that, according to its charter, exists for the sole purpose of ending Israel’s existence. Hamas has no other purpose.
In a very real sense, there is little difference between Turkey trying to run the Israeli blockade of Gaza to deliver ‘humanitarian supplies’ and an effort to bypass the US and deliver ‘humanitarian supplies’ to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
With two vital differences. First, the US Marines on that boarding party wouldn’t be armed with paintball guns. They’d have gone in locked and loaded.
And second, we wouldn’t have to worry about Israel throwing us under the bus afterwards.
About 2600 year ago, the King of Babylon dreamed of an immense golden statue and demanded the Prophet Daniel interpret its meaning.
Nebuchadnezzar’s image was that of a man with a head of gold, two arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, with two legs of iron and feet and toes of iron “mixed with miry clay.” Daniel’s interpretation formed the outline of future history.
Daniel interpreted the head of gold as representing Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire, followed by the two arms of silver, (Persian Empire) belly and thighs of brass, (Greek Empire) two legs of iron (Roman and Byzantine Empires) and the feet and toes of miry clay (revived Roman Empire of the last days).
Of these interpretations, the first four empires are proved by history. Most scholars identify the the ten toes as a revived form of the Roman Empire. But the Roman Empire existed as two different empires.
Constantinople was named for the Emperor Constantine and served as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and the seat of the Byzantine Catholic Church for almost a thousand years after the fall of Rome.
The Roman Byzantine Empire ruled from Constantinople until the city fell to Mehmet II of the Ottoman Empire in 1453. Mehmet made it the capital of his Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Empire’s Islamic caliphate then ruled the Middle East for the next four hundred years — until its defeat by the Allies in 1917 during the First World War.
In the 1920’s and 30’s the great post-war Turkish leader, Kemal Attaturk, oversaw the implementation of a new Turkish constitution that officially secularized the country and made the army responsible for keeping religion separate from government.
In keeping with that system, in 1998 the Turkish Constitutional Court declared the Islamic Welfare Party unconstitutional and ordered it disbanded. The Welfare Party’s leader, Recip Erdogan, was imprisoned for reading an Islamic poem at a demonstration opposing the Welfare Party’s dissolution.
But as the war on terror continued, the mood in Turkey began to change. In 2001, Erdogan founded the Islamic Justice and Constitution Party. In 2003 during the Iraq War, Turkey refused the US permission to cross its territory into northern Iraq. (Turkey is NATO charter member).
In 2008, when Erdogan’s party threatened to win a parliamentary majority, Turkey’s chief prosecutor tried to have it banned as unconstitutional.
This time, the court refused . Erdogan’s party captured an absolute majority, putting an Islamist in the top job for the first time since Attaturk secularized the country in the 1930’s.
Since Erdogan’s election, Turkey has turned away from the West and has begun restoring old relationships with members of its former caliphate.
The Turkish Islamists have been quietly watching as a handful of determined jihadists dedicated to the restoration of the Islamic caliphate brought the West practically to its knees.
Turkey’s resurging importance within the Islamic world is such that it was the chosen venue for the very first international address delivered by President Obama to the Islamic world at the start of his 2008 Apology Tour.
Since Erdogan’s party has come to power, Western relations with Turkey have steadily soured. In 2009, Erdogan was made an honorary citizen of Tehran during a visit with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rejected for EU membership, Turkey’s continuted membership in NATO is a subject of hot debate. Turkey’s new-found solidarity with Hamas in Gaza and its transparent set up of Israel as the fall guy suggests that Turkey is rethinking its hole card.
Turkey was the center of the Islamic world for almost a thousand years. And it is as if the West were deliberately driving the Turks into the jihadist camp, daring them to take up the cause.
The Mavi Marmara suggests that they just did.