Flotilla ship boarded by Israelis
owned by Hamas-linked terrorists
Mossad agents ‘were among the boarding party’
In yesterday’s penultimate episode of its Gaza Flotilla investigation, we saw how Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement had called the Israeli allegations of links between IHH and Hamas “propagandist character assassination”. IHH owns the vessel Malvara Marmara – whose boarding by the Israelis has since evoked so much condemnation in the States and elsewhere.
As Berlin’s defence of IHH sounded like a cross between Lord Mandelson caught with his fingers in the till and Kruschev caught shipping missiles to Cuba, it seemed a good place to start digging around. What we discovered inspired this Slog series as a whole. See what you think.
IHH (like most extreme organisations) talks a lot about freedom, peace, humanitarianism, rights and the evils of war. It was established in Turkey in 1992 by the Turkish Refah Party…a party so radically Islamist, even the Turks banned it in 1998 – for ‘violating the principle of secularism in the constitution’.
IHH first came to prominence supplying Bosnian Muslims during the Yugoslav civil war. More recently, IHH has also established branch offices in a number of European countries.
While IHH is quite clearly involved in many humanitarian activities, Foreign Office sources confirm that it overtly supports Hamas. The IHH is also known to several European and US security agencies as a group sympathetic to al Qaeda, and one which, again, FCO contacts suggest maintained regular contact with al Qaeda cells and the Sunni insurgency during the Iraq War.
The British foreign (and therefore secret) service is far from being alone in this view. According to Carnegie Endowment analyst Henri Barkey, IHH is “an Islamist organization” that “has been deeply involved with Hamas for some time.” A 2006 report by the Danish Institute for International Studies characterized IHH as one of many ‘charitable front groups that provide support to Al-Qaeda’ and the global jihad.
According to a leaked French intelligence report seen by a Slog source, IHH has supported jihadist terror networks not only in Iraq, but also in Bosnia, Syria, Afghanistan, and Chechnya. The same document shows that, in the mid-1990s, IHH leader Bülent Yildirim was directly involved in recruiting “veteran soldiers” to organize jihad activities, and in dispatching IHH operatives to war zones in Islamic countries to gain combat experience. The report also stated that IHH had transferred money as well as “caches of firearms, knives and pre-fabricated explosives” to Muslim fighters in those countries.
This same Bülent Yildirim told a pre-voyage press conference on April 7, 2010 that the forthcoming flotilla would represent a “test” for Israel. He warned that Israeli opposition to the initiative would be viewed as “a declaration of war” against the countries whose activists were aboard the ships. So Mr Yildirim is clearly a peace-loving bloke.
Despite the line currently being taken by the Obama administration, the U.S. government first designated IHH as a terrorist organization long before 9/11 – in fact the year was, the Slog understands, 1996. A CIA dossier of the time ties IHH to extremist groups in Iran and Algeria, and nails it as a facilitator of terrorism in Bosnia. US intelligence agencies, the Slog has learned, have never changed their view of IHH.
A CIA spook line-tap and examination of IHH telephone records in that year provided conclusive evidence of repeated calls to an al Qaeda safe house in Milan. This finally tipped the scales against IHH, and further confirmation came during the April 2001 trial of would-be “millenium bomber” Ahmed Ressam. The accused’s evidence revealed that IHH had played an “important role” in the plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport two years earlier.
As usual, Israeli espionage agency Mossad was well ahead of the game. In 2008, Israel banned IHH from the country because of the organization’s membership of the ‘Union of Good’ (UOG), a Hamas-founded umbrella coalition comprising more than 50 Islamic charities thought to channel money and goods to Hamas-affiliated institutions. UOG is headed by Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi.
In December 2008, the U.S. government designated UOG as a terrorist entity that was guilty of “diverting” donations that were intended for “social welfare and other charitable services,” and using those funds to strengthen Hamas’ political and military position.
This is the point in the story when we have to start dealing with murky hearsay, rumour, and tipoffs from a range of characters with a vibrant rainbow of agendas. But one thing is very clear from all the Slog’s research and enquiries: the Israelis knew exactly what to expect from IHH: they had been told by Mossad in advance exactly which vessel to board. Mossad was more than prepared to put itself on the line to prove this…which is why the Israeli espionage agency had several agents among the Marva Marmara boarding party.
Some allege that the non-Mossad Israeli soldiers themselves were unaware of its involvement. This might explain why some of them walked into arms-fire they weren’t expecting. Other sources suggest, however, that Mossad ran the whole operation, some of its members deflecting attention while the real objective of the mission could be achieved: the execution of several key terrorists known to the agency as jihadists.
As with most international incidents, the truth is very rarely simple – and neither side has anything approaching a monopoly of it. Even Pearl Harbor has been revealed in recent years to have been ‘expected’ by Roosevelt – a President genuinely committed to the eradication of militarist fascism….and therefore prepared to turn the blind eye. Churchill did something similar in relation to the Coventry World War bombing raid, sacrificing some civilians to the greater need for success on D-Day: his Ultra decoders know of the raid, but to prepare for it would have alerted the Nazis to a crucial reality – that their ‘unbreakable’ battle code had in fact been broken.
It is this reality that makes the global response to Israeli action against the aid flotillas so naive in some quarters, and hypocritical in others. Turkey, for example, professed shock and horror about the Marva Marmara incident – and then welcomed the flotilla detainees back as heroes of freedom. But in December 1997, the Turkish authorities – acting on a tip from sources claiming that IHH leaders had purchased automatic weapons from other regional militant Islamist groups – initiated a domestic criminal investigation of IHH. The ensuing search of IHH’s Istanbul bureau uncovered a large assortment of firearms, explosives, bomb-making instructions, and a jihad flag….not unlike the haul found on the Marva Marmara, in fact. (See yesterday’s Slogpost about Reuters attempts to crop out weapons from the photographic evidence).
Our bottom line on this is that both sides have been variously spinning and lying – but that the flotilla promoters are suspiciously coy about their motives, and their outrage at Israeli actions frankly laughable. Both sides knew what to expect – as did most major EU member States and the US administration: it would be stretching credulity beyond the limits of endurance to suggest that President Obama was not briefed on the security aspects of the forthcoming showdown.
Where does the majority of the hypocrisy lie? For my money, it lies with the attackers and the so-called neutrals. But Israel remains far too easy to goad: had it chosen to reveal the security aspects – and finger the ‘innocents’ in Turkey and the EU – this would have put the flotilla’s backers into a tricky position. In that context, the Israelis still stand accused of intemperate action. But its denigrators stand accused of far worse.