As the public relations war in the wake of the Gaza flotilla raid reaches its peak, today the New York Times published an article on its website with a headline that read, “Turkish Funds Helped Group Test Blockade of Gaza”.
The article stands out in its objectivity and analyzes the “Free Gaza” organization and its connection to the Turkish IHH in depth. This contrast with the reports on Sunday about the raid on the flotilla that relied on Turkish media outlets followed by Free Gaza’s own website. As mentioned, the organization at first claimed that the navy killed 20 “peace activists,” a report that later turned out to be false.
“We’ve become famous,” said Omar Farouk, one of the heads of IHH, said to the New York Times. “We thank the Israeli authorities very much.
The official IDF spokesperson site, by the way, wrote that “On the deck of the Gaza flotilla boat, Mavi Marmara, there was a group of 40 people without personal identification, mercenaries associated with the Al Qaeda terrorist organization. Such was revealed in a special meeting of the security cabinet on Tuesday.”
Returning to the article in the Times, the heads of the IHH claim that the group is funded by the religious merchant class, an affluent section of Turkish society that has brought the party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to power.
The Times also revealed the group’s connection to state officials in Turkey, despite the fact that it is officially defined as an NGO. In this way, for example, the boat where the drama and violent demonstrations against the navy commandos took place, the “Blue Marmara,” was actually purchased by a government company in Istanbul for $1.8 million.
The article in the Times clarifies Israeli public relations efforts, which in this case bore fruit. According to the article, the pro Israel organization “Israel Project” sent a link to their site exposing the true face of the IHH as an anti Western radical Islamic organization that supports Hamas.
“This is an Islamist charity, quite fundamentalist, quite close to Hamas,” Henri J. Barkey a professor of international relations at Lehigh University, told the Times. “They say they do charity work, but they’ve been accused of gunrunning and other things, and their rhetoric has been inflammatory against Israel and sometimes against Jews.”
Greta Berlin, spokesperson for the Free Gaza movement who was married in the past to both a Jewish American and a Palestinian, spoke to the Times about the group’s beginnings in 2006. ““We asked ourselves, what can we do to make a difference? We said, ‘Let’s sail a boat to Gaza.’ That was literally how it started.” She said that the first few times, the boats actually succeeded in getting to Gaza without interference from the Navy, but at a certain point the IDF saw the flotillas as a growing threat for weapons smuggling.