News / Middle East

Analysts: Aid Flotilla Designed to Draw International Attention to Blockaded Gazans

As Israel sends home about 700 activists detained in a deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip, a clearer picture is emerging of the wide-ranging backgrounds of those involved and their motivations.  Middle East analysts say that from its outset, the floating protest of Israel's blockade of Gaza was designed to draw international attention to the situation there.  

George Washington University political scientist Nathan Brown says that while the aid flotilla consisted of six ships and carried hundreds of activists from countries around the globe, one could call the floating convoy a semi-official project of the Turkish government.  

"It clearly had very high backing from the current Turkish government, sort of led by a conservative-Islamist coalition," Brown said. "But it included a whole host of activists from different countries, European countries; there were some Americans on board, former diplomats, [members of the] International Solidarity Movement, which is sort of more of a younger movement -- for the most part consisting of people who are interested in backing the Palestinian cause."

Brown notes that some of the boats in the convoy set sail from Turkey, and that the Turkish government recently has taken the lead in trying to get humanitarian supplies into Gaza.

Three of the six boats -- including the Mavi Marma -- are flagged in Turkey.  A prime backer of the flotilla was a Turkish aid group that Israel has accused of being a front and fundraising arm for Hamas, the Islamist militia that now runs Gaza.  The aid group denies the allegations.

The United States and the European Union regard Hamas as a terrorist organization.

The spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mark Regev, says the aid group -- The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, which is known by its Turkish acronym IHH -- is involved with terrorists.

"The IHH is also documented by Western governments; the Turkish government itself has conducted raids in the past against IHH facilities," the Israeli spokesman said. "They are known for their extremist politics, their support for and connections with terrorist organizations."

Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Edward Peck was one of a wide range of individuals in the convoy.  He says the mission was an attempt to deliver aid and to help the Israeli government see the advantages of letting relief materials into the Gaza Strip.  

"We went there, it was humanitarian; it was not political, religious or hostile.  We were not armed.  We were pacifist, we were activists.  Let these people free.  My reaction is disappointment," Peck said.

Organizers say the boats involved in the convoy were carrying about 10,000 tons of aid and politicians from more than 40 countries.  In addition to the IHH, the Free Gaza Movement was also a key organizer of the flotilla.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his lawmakers at the parliament in Ankara, June 1, 2010, a day after Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of international peace activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Mo
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his lawmakers at the parliament in Ankara, June 1, 2010, a day after Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of international peace activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Mo

George Washington University's Nathan Brown says he does not believe that the intent of the flotilla was to incite violence, especially given the perceived support it had from the Turkish government.  He says it was an attempt to shift international attention to the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

"They [i.e., the Turkish government] certainly were giving their support to an effort to change the international spin on the situation in Gaza, changing it, as I say, from a security situation -- you have got a terrorist group in Gaza, kind of the way that Israel presents it -- to one in which you have got a population under siege," Brown said.

But Reva Bhalla, a senior Middle East analyst for the private intelligence firm STRATFOR, says the flotilla's objective was clear -- to create an international incident.

"This was not just about transferring humanitarian aid," Bhalla said. "And you could see that very clearly just in the media coverage of the issue."

Bhalla notes that there were reporters on board the boats -- including from al-Jazeera -- waiting to film everything as it was playing out.

"So in effect, this not only undermined Israel's blockade of Gaza, but it also gave enormous street credibility to the Turks, who have been surging their influence throughout this region," Bhalla said.

Bhalla says that although it is unclear how close the connections are between the convoy and the Turkish government, there were members of Turkey's ruling party who were expected to be on the ships, but at the last minute decided not to go.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs