Latest Blockade Busting Attempt off Gaza
posted at 4:39 pm on May 16, 2011 by J.E. Dyer
Alert readers may remember that Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, formerly the chief sponsor of the “Cordoba House” Islamic center near Ground Zero in Manhattan, has extensive ties to Islamism in Malaysia, which include serving on the board of the Perdana Global Peace Organization. Perdana is headed by Malaysia’s former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, a noted 9/11 Truther and anti-Semite. Mahathir Mohamad was awarded special recognition from Yusuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, at the Muslim Brotherhood’s annual “Jerusalem” (al Quds) conference in early 2010.
Perdana was a major sponsor of the 2010 flotilla, which transported “activists” from the terrorist-affiliated Turkish organization IHH into the waters off Gaza in an attempt to break Israel’s naval blockade. The blockade is in place to prevent the arming of Hamas, but it doesn’t prevent Gazans from having normal access to humanitarian or commercial goods, something demonstrated repeatedly by news organizations and attested to recently by the Red Cross.
16 May blockade-running attempt
Perdana is at it again, however. On Monday 16 May, a Perdana-sponsored ship, M/V Finch, set out from the Egyptian port of El Arish in an attempt to break the blockade. An Israeli patrol ship warned the Finch off, and when the master proceeded toward the coast in spite of the IDF order, the Israeli ship fired a warning shot (with a .50-cal deck gun, according to the media reports). Finch was still recalcitrant, so the Israeli ship fired a second warning shot.
Malaysian media outlet Bernama has a summary here, which includes a transcript of the bridge-to-bridge conversation. The IDF appears to have maintained protocol throughout. The confrontation ended with the Finch back in Egyptian waters, under escort from the Egyptian navy. (Referred to in the Bernama story as a “rescue.”)
2011 Gaza flotilla…
The latest information from planners of the international 2011 Gaza flotilla is that it will get underway the third week of June. And as Legal Insurrection pointed out last fall, the spokeswoman for the Freedom Flotilla Coalition – one of the international groups arranging the flotilla – has already said the flotilla is not about humanitarian aid. It’s about breaking the blockade.
The attempt to break the blockade with a multi-ship flotilla is the second of the major efforts planned against Israel in 2011. The first – this past weekend’s Third Intifada/Nakba riots – was hampered by uncooperative national authorities in Lebanon and Egypt. The lead-up to the flotilla drama in June may feature non-cooperation from the port authorities in Mediterranean countries as well (e.g., Greece). But the hinge point is Turkey, which will have ships and participants again this year.
…waiting on the Turkish election
Turkey’s long-anticipated general election, which will decide whether Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist party retain national leadership, is to be held on 12 June. There was some confusion in the last several weeks as to whether the 2011 flotilla would be delayed until after the election, and it now appears that it will be. Erdogan clearly doesn’t want the bad press from a flotilla incident – one in which Turkey has had a prominent role – to affect the voters’ decision.
But if Erdogan wins the 12 June vote, the flotilla planners will be emboldened. For this and other reasons, the Turkish election bears watching. Erdogan’s last electoral victory was by a substantially lower margin than his first, and his government has increased its repressions of speech and the press since then, as well as consolidating power in the executive by eliminating the independence of the judiciary. Erdogan’s record, which includes his numerous openly Islamist statements, is better known to Turks than to Westerners; Turkish voters are well aware that a vote for his party means an effective end to the Kemalist tradition of liberal secularism in government and society. If they hand him a victory in June, that outcome will be information about the majority sentiment in Turkey.
It is not clear what would happen if Erdogan’s Kemalist rivals were to gain the upper hand with the election. That outcome – granted, an unlikely one – could affect the 2011 flotilla, whose planners are counting heavily on Turkey. The election on 12 June will be a turning point from a number of perspectives.
“US Boat to Gaza”
Americans are planning to participate in the flotilla again, however, this time with a ship named Audacity of Hope. The US-flagged ship in the 2010 flotilla was an 80-foot yacht, Challenger 1, but it is not clear what kind of ship Audacity of Hope is. (If someone knows, please post.) It will reportedly have more than 50 passengers, but they will meet the ship in the Mediterranean, so that’s not much of a clue as to ship type.
The “US Boat to Gaza” organization continues to hold fundraisers like the one scheduled for 25 May in Manhattan, which will include an evening cruise from the Skyports Marina and a grip-and-grin with “some of the passengers who will travel on the US BOAT TO GAZA, the Audacity of Hope.” Our neighbors to the north are not being outdone in this: there is a Canadian “boat to Gaza” effort as well, which also features river-cruise fundraisers. The Canadians have named their ship the Tahrir.