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Flotilla Gaza-bound again, as anniversary is remembered

IHH’s deputy chairman, Huseyin Oruc: “This siege is illegal. It was illegal and it was right of all of the peoples, all the NGOs, all the civilians to go to Gaza”

Flotilla II poster (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

Tuesday marks the one year anniversary of an Israeli raid on a group of ships in the Mediterranean that left nine Turkish nationals dead.

The ships, known as the Freedom Flotilla, were bound for Gaza and said to be containing $20 million dollars worth of aid for the Palestinian territory. But with Gaza’s shores blocked by Israel, many predicted – correctly- that a confrontation was inevitable. On this one year anniversary, organizers say they are still determined to break what they call an illegal blockade … and they have more ships are ready to set sail.

It’s clear that on 31 May, 2010, the night-time images of Israeli commandos boarding one of the Gaza-bound vessels shocked much of the world. Several of the 600 passengers sailing on the Mavi Marmara used metal rods to fend off what they viewed to be an invasion.  At least two Israeli troops were injured. The commandos responded with live gunfire, killing eight Turks and one Turkish-American.

Sukru Peker was on the Mavi Marmara that day. He was shot in the leg, and says he still finds it difficult to watch the images:

“When I see the video I remember that moment. Of course that is something you cannot forget. Those moments of clashes… I remember that very moment now again, I am so emotional.”

IHH’s deputy chairman, Huseyin Oruc (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

IHH’s deputy chairman, Huseyin Oruc (photo: Roee Ruttenberg)

The flotilla was organized by a number of groups, including Turkey’s IHH, a self-professed foundation for human rights, freedom and humanitarian relief.  Though when I visit their headquarters in Istanbul, I arrive just as a Palestinian diplomat leaves, IHH’s deputy chairman, Huseyin Oruc tells me his group had (nor has) any political connections or aims:

“It was totally humanitarian actions, totally to reach the peoples in Gaza suffering because of the seize of the Israelis, and it was declared as much by the UN and many international bodies. This siege is illegal. It was illegal and it was right of all of the peoples, all the NGOs, all the civilians to go to Gaza.”

The events of that day drew widespread international condemnation against Israel for its actions. One of the most vocal critics was Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Some, including the Israeli government, accused him of politicizing the issue to gain further support for his ruling, Islamic AK Party. And in less than two weeks, he is hoping to get re-elected.

Oruc denies reports that Erdogan asked the group to postpone the launch of an additional flotilla until after the vote:

“We are not being ordered by the government to stop or to go.  We are taking our decision ourselves and we are applying it.  We are limited within the law.  If you are not against the law, no government has a right to say something to you, to stop you or to let you go.”

The Mavi Marmara is still docked in Central Istanbul, closed to its namesake, the Marmara Sea. It’s currently seal off by customs officials … and police boats frequently patrol the waters that surround it.  The IHH paid $1.2 million to acquire the vessel, and it has spent tens of thousands of additional dollars repairing it after it was released by the Israelis and returned to Turkey.

And the group says it is planning to help fund another fleet, called the Freedom Flotilla 2, loaded with aid and passengers.  It is scheduled to sail in late June. And despite his physical and mental scars, Peker is once again registering to be on-board, claiming:

“We are not afraid of clashes, because we are not going there to clash.  We are going there to bring aid to these people who are in need. Humanitarian aid. We have nothing to do with the fights. It’s just aid.”

Admittedly, he and others might be inspired by this:

… a Turkish-film called “Valley of the Wolves: Palestine,” released months after the confrontation at sea.  Though not a documentary, the film initially simulates the events onboard the Mavi Marmara. However what follows is starkly different. The film’s Turkish hero goes on a manhunt for the Israeli general in charge of the operation, and along the way, his fictitious elite team kills numerous Israeli soldiers.

But though it was widely popular on-the-screen in Turkey, organizers of the next flotilla say they are not seeking revenge, nor do they expect a confrontation.  They say they’d like to symbolically break Israel’s naval blockade on Gaza, but are hoping for smooth sailing.

WATCH Roee Ruttenberg’s report from Istanbul, Turkey on CCTV News by clicking HERE

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Nimrod

      one torpedo .

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ali

      Typical Israeli right winger nut case, who thinks he can throw his weight around.

      You can have your one torpedo. But there will be 20 boats coming your way, so which one are you gonna shoot, tough guy?.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Carl

      Thanks Nimrod, you’ve really clarified things for me. Before i didn’t know what to think about the IHH, international waters and maritime law, the legality and morality of the blockade on Gaza. I was stumped as to whether this latest flotilla was a provocation or a brave act. But ‘torpedo’ has – and I doubtless speak for many – really added to the article (which compared to your comment was really rather vague). In fact I’d go as far as to say it was for purposes such as this that the Internet was invented.

      The only thing you could help everyone with now is I suppose is whether ‘torpedo’ is good or bad: you know, ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’

      Thanks.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Nimrod

      The dudes on the Marma had it coming big time. The video footage taken before and during the incident is overwhelming. There is one guy saying he is looking forward to die, the fat IHH boss is filmed holding some crass speech in front of the manipulated sitting on the deck.
      How can you argue the video footage?
      As with the BDS scene, this is not about Human Rights. This is about aggression against Israel hidden behind an Islamist NGO, which is being coordinated with Erdogan and the Neo-Ottoman Circus crew. The politicisation of the “NGO” has a long history in this conflict. Party affiliated NGO’s are instruments ( a Foreign Legion if you will ) if states doing their dirty work. They seek cover behind western left wing organization’s who fail to understand the connection or, as I believe, willingly align themselves for the “greater struggle”, but claim ignorance.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Danny

      Nimrod, your name fits you perfectly (look up what it means on Google). By torpedoing one of the ships, Israel will become even more hated and isolated than it is today. It will be a gift to Hamas. I hope Israel is smarter this year than it was last year, though I have my doubts. Israel is a country full of ‘nimrods’, many of whom occupy senior positions in the army and the government. Let’s hope the ‘nimrods’ do not have a say this time.

      Reply to Comment
    6. abban aziz

      doesn’t make much sense because the international red cross declared gaza is no longer suffering a “humanitarian crisis” 4 months ago.

      better off sending these supplies to egypt or libya, gaza has a surplus of aid that they send it back to israel LOL.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Nimrod

      @ Dany
      Nimrod is a classic Jewish name from the Torah. It is good to inform oneself about a culture one is so passionately engaged with.
      I often get the idea that the largest critics of Israel know nothing about it.
      Like the muppets on the next flotilla.

      Reply to Comment
    8. directrob

      Nimrod,
      The IDF has also pictures of a soldier killing a protester holding a canon (or was it a Nikon).
      ,
      By the way I do not think your posts are helping the government of Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    9. max

      Directrob, such statements need a proof in order not to be judged as fabrications (AKA lies).

      Reply to Comment
    10. directrob

      Max,
      Ok you asked for it…
      .
      I assume the IDF has pictures of most of the people being killed. I think you are not calling that a fabrication. One person filming and one taking photographs were killed.
      .
      Now about the photographer.
      .
      Iara Lee has pictures of people being dead and alive.
      .
      See:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwsMJmvS0AY
      .
      At 40.05 you see a bearded guy in a striped shirt walking with a camera.
      .
      At 56:06 a dead guy in a striped shirt is brought down.
      .
      His name is probably Kovdit Kililar a 38 year old father of two children.
      .
      See also the UN report:
      http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/15session/A.HRC.15.21_en.pdf
      .
      Paragraph 120
      “Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition both from the top deck at passengers on the
      bridge deck below, and after they had moved down to the bridge deck. At least four
      passengers were killed and at least nine injured (five with firearms injuries) during this
      phase. None of the four passengers who were killed, including a photographer who at the
      time of being shot was engaged in taking photographs and was shot by an Israeli soldier
      positioned on the top deck above, posed any threat to the Israeli forces.”
      .

      Reply to Comment
    11. abban aziz

      and who owns the UNHRC? Oh yeah, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya (Lolz), China…yes, countries with stellar human rights records.

      Everyone in the real world knows if the US or the British boarded those ships it would be a blood bath. The fact that Israel risked the lives of their soldiers by roping them into a mob of angry armed Islamists (yes, Islamists and Turkish mercenaries) suggests discrimination.

      Like the Goldstone Report, the UN of course refuses to recognize testimony from sources that don’t conflict with their pre-determined agenda (such as the captain of the flotilla who said the ship was loaded with armed activists waiting to attack troops from the get-go) or Israeli soldiers defending themselves after one of them was injured and almost taken hostage (hence the point-blank range shooting which was dubiously described as “execution.”)

      No military scholar or tactical expert agrees with the idiotic findings of these ivory tower Islamists who accept anti-Israeli propaganda without challenge.

      Osama Bin Laden could have been on that flotilla and it wouldn’t change the reaction of the Left.

      Reply to Comment
    12. David

      you sum it up Abban Aziz.
      Had a US boarding party roped into this, things would have looked different.
      On videos you can see soldiers using paintball guns against the mob, it is incredible. The notion that special forces were used to randomly kill these people is bizarre.

      Reply to Comment
    13. max

      “I assume the IDF has pictures of most of the people being killed.”
      So it isn’t facts anymore, but assumptions…
      .
      I’d propose that you look for yourself at the list of attendees at the HRC, and let us know if you accept this honorable list as representing your view of Human Rights

      Reply to Comment

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