News / Middle East

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

William Ide

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

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs