News / Middle East

    Turkish Group Planning New Attempt to Break Israel's Blockade of Gaza

    Bulent Yildirim, the president of the IHH, the Turkish Islamic aid group that organized a Gaza-bound flotilla last May, speaks to the media in Istanbul, Turkey, Jan. 24, 2011 (file photo)
    Bulent Yildirim, the president of the IHH, the Turkish Islamic aid group that organized a Gaza-bound flotilla last May, speaks to the media in Istanbul, Turkey, Jan. 24, 2011 (file photo)
    Dorian Jones

    Last May, Israeli forces killed nine Turkish citizens trying to break the Israeli sea blockade of the Gaza strip. The killings resulted in relations hitting rock bottom between these former close allies. Now a new crisis is looming. With the anniversary of the deaths approaching, another attempt is being planned to break Israel's blockade.  

    Last year's killings saw nationwide protests in Turkey. The nine Turkish citizens were killed on the Turkish ship the "Mavi Marmara," which was part of a flotilla of ships seeking to break Israel's economic blockade of the Gaza strip. One year later,  the main organizers of last year's voyage, the Turkish-based Foundation for Human Rights, Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, or IHH, is preparing a new blockade-busting voyage.

    The Leader of the IHH is Bulent Yildirim, who said they are getting the flotilla ready and that there will be a ship from every country in Europe. Yildirim said the "Mavi Marmara" from Turkey will be part of it, and until the blockade is lifted on Gaza, the intifada will continue by land, by sea and by air.

    Cooled relations


    Last year's killing of Turkish citizens by Israeli forces, who maintain they were acting in self defense, saw relations between Israel and Turkey - former close allies - reach a crisis point. Almost 12 months later, there has been little improvement, with the Turkish government demanding compensation for the victims and apologies, something Israel refuses to do.

    The prospect of a new flotilla caused Israeli ambassador Gaby Levy to call on the Turkish government to stop it. Senior Turkish diplomat Selim Yenel said there is little they can do.

    "Its not a government act, we are doing our best to avoid any kind of tension," said Yenel. "In the end it's an NGO (non governmental agency).  As we could not prevent the first one, I don't think we can prevent the second one either. So we will, of course, if the flotilla sets sail, we will again be asking them to be prudent, but I think prudence is something Israelis should have to do much more."

    Political Islamic ties

    Istanbul University professor Nuray Mert said the Turkish government, however, can intervene by claiming there are close links between the Islamic-rooted charity organizing the flotilla and the ruling Turkish AK party, which also has its roots in political Islam. Mert warns that if the new flotilla sails, it will set back any chance of an improvement in Turkish-Israeli ties.

    "Any chance of rapprochement, any level of rapprochement will be postponed," said Mert. "We will all know that the government has close links with the those people who were in the first flotilla and preparing for the next one, apparently. They are very close to the government, so of course the government can stop the effort."

    Avoiding conflict?

    Taking a tough stance against Israel plays well, though, with much of the Turkish electorate, especially among much of the ruling AK party's grass root supporters. That's according to political columnist of the Turkish daily Haberturk, Soli Ozel. He said that's an important consideration with an election coming up this June.

    "Well, right before the election, the Turkish government is not going to do anything that will look as if they are caving into the Israelis," said Ozel. "But I hope it goes without a major incident and suppose both sides are going to be slightly wiser."

    Observers warn that with Syria in turmoil, the last thing the region needs is a new crisis. But with the flotilla due to leave in the coming weeks, a new crisis could well be looming.

    Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora