by Kanchan Gupta

Daily Pioneer
June 2 2010

It is laughable to hear the Government of Turkey describe Monday's
raid by Israeli commandoes on the so-called 'Freedom Flotilla' in
which nine 'peace activists', including four Turks, were killed as a
"bloody massacre". If the death of four Turks who set upon the Israeli
commandoes with knives and clubs, and shot at them after seizing
their pistols, is a "bloody massacre", then the chilling atrocities
committed on Armenians by Turks surely amount to the genocide which
they are described as but persistently denied by Turkey.

Let us not forget that the Armenian Genocide witnessed little girls
being snatched from their mothers' arms, dragged to the streets, raped
and left to bleed to death; that young and old, men and women, were
despatched to horrific deaths; that Armenian property was looted and
what could not be stolen was set on fire; and, that tens of thousands
were disinherited of their nationality and forced to seek shelter
in alien lands. And all this happened without Turkish authorities
lifting so much as a finger in admonishment.

Neither should we forget that till date Turkey has not owned up to that
crime against its own people and against humanity, nor has it allowed
others to recognise the massacre and worse for what it was. So much so,
US President Barack Hussein Obama, who has sought a full report on the
raid on the 'Freedom Flotilla' from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu "ASAP", chose not to use the word 'genocide' in his message
on the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide after promising to
do so, presumably because he was mindful of Turkish sentiments.

Therefore, we really need not be distracted by the official reaction
of Turkey which, apart from indulging in fiery rhetoric denouncing
Israel and allowing thousands of Islamists to march on the Israeli
Embassy in Ankara, has recalled its Ambassador to Tel Aviv. This could
be Turkey's first step towards snapping diplomatic ties with Israel, a
country with which it has had cordial relations for six decades. It is
Turkey's sovereign right to decide how it conducts its foreign policy,
as much as it is Israel's right to decide how it responds to what is
clearly a blatant Turkish provocation inspired by the ruling Justice
and Development Party, or AKP, which is increasingly veering towards
assertive Islamism for reasons which I shall dwell upon later. First,
a brief account of what happened on Monday and who is responsible
for what Turkey has so colourfully described as a "bloody massacre".

The 'Freedom Flotilla', a convoy of six ships of varying sizes, led by
the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, had set sail for the coast of Gaza,
ostensibly carrying "urgently required relief material for impoverished
Palestinians" living in the blockaded territory. The three-year-old
blockade of Gaza Strip is being enforced by two countries, Israel
and Egypt, for different though inter-linked reasons. Israel has
imposed its blockade, including maritime blockade off the coast of
Gaza, because it is currently in a "state of armed conflict" with
the Hamas regime which has repeatedly attacked civilian targets in
Israel with weapons that have been smuggled in via the sea route
and through tunnels connecting the Palestinian territory with Sinai
in Egypt. Gaza's Rafah border crossing with Egypt has also been
consistently misused by the Hamas militia for smuggling in arms,
ammunition and explosive material. Egypt, which has a peace agreement
with Israel and whose President Hosni Mubarak is not enamoured of
either the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the progenitor of Hamas, or
the Islamists who dream of Hamastan instead of Palestine, has not only
closed the Rafah crossing but is also building a steel-and-concrete
underground wall to prevent tunnels from being dug. The blockade of
Gaza Strip, really, is in effect a joint Jewish-Arab enterprise. We
could endlessly quibble over the details, but that would not change
the reality on the ground.

The 'Freedom Flotilla' was ostensibly organised by the 'Free Gaza
Movement', which claims the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza Strip are
living in abject poverty on account of the blockade. Israel says food,
medicines, fuel and all civilian goods are allowed to pass through the
blockade and tales of suffering, impoverished Palestinians are either
sheer propaganda meant to generate support for Hamas or exaggerated
to paint Jews as the persecutors of helpless Arabs, put countries
otherwise favourably disposed towards Israel on a guilt trip, and
keep the mills of anti-Zionism grinding in Arabia and beyond. What
is true is that Israel has prohibited the supply of material which
can be used for building tunnels and fashioning improvised rockets
that are regularly fired by the Hamas militia.

The tenuous ceasefire that followed 'Operation Cast Lead' has held,
but there's nothing permanent about it as Hamas considers it no more
than a hudna, to be used for regrouping and rearming its forces before
launching fresh attacks. Israeli authorities had repeatedly requested
the 'Freedom Flotilla' organisers to hand over its 'relief supplies'
for inspection before being despatched to Gaza Strip and not to
attempt reaching the Gaza coast. The organisers refused to either
allow an inspection of the cargo or to hand it over to the relevant
Israeli authorities.

That's understandable, because the purpose behind the 'Freedom
Flotilla' was not to help the poor and the famished of Gaza Strip,
but make a political statement that would find a resonance around the
world, forcing Governments and people to lend their voice to a 'moral
crusade' while ignoring Israel's national security imperatives. The
media chose to romanticise the 'Freedom Flotilla', sensing a soft story
that would tug at the heartstrings of newspaper readers and television
viewers, instead of raising relevant questions about the entire
dubious exercise and exposing the real organiser of the flotilla,
the Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi, or IHH, an Islamic charity with a
radical anti-Western orientation. There is sufficient documentation
to prove that beyond its legitimate philanthropic activities, the
IHH provides extensive support to radical Islamist organisations,
including Hamas, and that in the past it has maintained contacts with
and provided support to global jihad organisations.

Given these facts about those behind the 'Freedom Flotilla' and its
dubious cargo of material to help Hamas build tunnels and produce
improvised rockets, Israel was within its rights under international
law to stop the ships in international waters as the purpose behind the
'moral crusade' was to undermine Israel's sovereignty. Israel had two
options: Either score cheap brownie points by retreating before bogus
'moral crusaders', or court equally bogus international opprobrium
by protecting its national interest. It chose the latter, which,
we in India with an effete Government must concede, requires a lot
of gumption.

This brings us back to the enraged reaction of Turkey, more
specifically of the AKP regime in Ankara, to Monday's unfortunate
incident provoked by the belligerence of the so-called peace activists,
among them a crew of Al Jazeera and a Pakistani television anchor,
on board the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. A recent poll suggests
a dramatic shift in Turkish public opinion with the Left-secular
Republican People's Party, or CHP, surging ahead of the Islamist AKP.

The CHP is now seen to be commanding 33 per cent of the vote, compared
to 31 per cent for the AKP. The Right-wing Turkish nationalist
MHP stands third with 19 per cent of the vote. The next election is
scheduled for 2011, but the AKP, according to reports, has been toying
with the idea of calling an early poll rather than risk a worsening
economic situation. In such a scenario, what better way for the AKP
to shore up its electoral fortunes than by painting Jews as villains
guilty of "bloody massacre" of Turks and by extension Muslims? Other
Islamist regimes have played this game successfully, so why not the
AKP regime?

From: A. Papazian