A flotilla smoke screen?

The world condemns Israel for the deadly raid on the Mavi Marmara, ignoring the growing threat of radical Islam.

Turkey protest flag burning 311 (photo credit: AP)
Turkey protest flag burning 311
(photo credit: AP)
The international reaction to the events surrounding the Gaza flotilla this week reflects the growing divide between the real strategic situation facing the Middle East, and a strange “virtual” conflict conjured up by Islamist propagandists for consumption by their Western dupes. The emergence and proliferation of this latter perception is testimony both to the tireless, skillful and fervent activity of Islamist ideologues and organizations, and to the profound credulity of considerable sections of Western public opinion.
What happened on the flotilla is a product of the growing Islamization of regional politics and, it appears, the failure of Israeli planners to develop a coherent response to this. The Turkish IHH group (Insani Yardim Vakfi – Humanitarian Relief Foundation), which sponsored the Mavi Marmara, is a grouping connected to the global Muslim Brotherhood. Going back to the 1990s, it has engaged in facilitating the journeys of young Islamists to some of the hottest fronts of the international jihad: to Afghanistan, and before that to Chechnya and Bosnia.
Like other organizations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, IHH isopenly and unambiguously opposed to the existence of Israel, and iskeen to assist Islamist organizations seeking to destroy it.
IHHhas read the zeitgeist of the early 21st century well. It seeks tocombine a superficial commitment to “human rights” and the mantle ofvictimhood, with support for Islamist militancy against the West. Theseaspects, and the contradiction between them, have been very much inevidence this week.
Journalists who covered the previous “aidconvoy” to Gaza – George Galloway’s over-ground Viva Palestinaextravaganza last year – were among the groups least surprised by theweek’s events. On that convoy, there was a very notable divide betweenyoung, Western leftist participants, and a hard-core group of TurkishIslamists, who openly proclaimed their commitment to jihad and fightingIsrael. The Turkish Islamist contingent was there courtesy of IHH.
Thelatter group were centrally involved in the clashes with Egyptiansecurity forces on the southern Gaza border at that time, in which oneEgyptian policeman was killed. Western participants in the convoy, someof whose genuine naivete and out-of-placeness in the Middle East cannotbe overstated, were afraid and depressed by their unexpected companions.
Itremains a mystery as to how the Israeli authorities remained unaware ofthis very significant divide between the participants in the flotilla.The Turkish Islamists came to fight in an ongoing conflict whose aimsand dimensions they understood with perfect clarity. This may beascertained by their preparations, their actions and by statements madeby them prior to the events.
AT FIRST glance, it appears thatsimple ignorance of this situation led to the inadequate planning thatresulted in what happened on the ship. In the usual Israeli fashion,poor preparation was to some degree offset by the rapid adjustment andskillful performance of the naval commandos. Still, it is to be hopedand expected that the following item of knowledge will now penetratethe awareness of the security establishment: What took place on thedecks of the Mavi Marmara was a skirmish in theIsrael-Islamist conflict.
The meeting between the ambitions ofIslamist states such as Iran from above, and the genuine and massiveenergies from below that are being generated by Islamist movements formthe engine behind this conflict. The Hamas enclave in Gaza is thedistant, furthest west outpost of the Iranian-led regional Islamistbloc.
The IHH activists wanted to open the sea road to Gaza.Their purpose was not humanitarian. As has been seen, the Hamasauthorities have rejected the rapid entry into the Strip of the paltryaid brought by the convoy. Rather, it was strategic. They hoped tobreak Gaza’s isolation, and allow the blighted Strip to flourish – asan armed camp pointed at the Jewish state and as an example of Islamicgovernance.
They have not yet succeeded in this. They have,however, scored an achievement in their accompanying goal of deepeningthe diplomatic solitude of Israel.
Such were the plans of the Islamist element on the Mavi Marmara, and of the IHH organizers behind them.
Inmuch of the West, there is a flat refusal to engage with or internalizethis reality. Instead, an avalanche of copy and media coverage wasgenerated by the events in which Israel’s concerns were seen as utterlyinexplicable, the Islamist militants on the ship were depicted aspeace-loving humanitarians and it was suggested that sanctions againstIsrael would be the best way to solve the problem.
What isperhaps chiefly ironic in the situation is that the Western lack ofawareness of what is really taking place in the Middle East may evenhave been mirrored by the Israeli planners who failed to note thedifference between Islamist militants and Western fellow travelers. Butwhether or not that was the case, the Western response to these eventsreflects a profound disconnect between perception and reality inrelation to the region. The establishment of this disconnect is one ofthe chief strategic achievements of the Islamist side.
Meanwhile,back in the real world, Iran, the chief beneficiary of Western andIsraeli confusion, this week announced its determination to continueenriching uranium to 20 percent and beyond. Iranian official Ali AsgharSoltanieh casually dismissed the possibility that proposed sanctionswould divert Teheran from its course. He also refused to commit toabandoning enrichment, even if the proposed Turkish-Brazilian fuel swapdeal were implemented.
This item was buried at the bottom of thefront page on the Reuters Web site, below a report of a cyclone off thecoast of Oman. The main headline, at the top of the page andaccompanied by a large photograph, was on Binyamin Netanyahu’sopposition to an international inquiry into the MaviMarmara events. The news agenda suits the aims of the Teheranregime and its allies perfectly. The real business proceeds quietly,while the world remains diverted by the noisy sound and light show1,500 kilometers to the west.
The writer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya.