Ideas for ‘reverse flotillas’ gain steam

Israeli groups mull sailing toward Turkey to "remind the world of Turkish hypocrisy."

Gaza Boat 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Gaza Boat 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Although most of the recent talk regarding flotillas has revolved around ships sailing toward Gaza, at least two plans have emerged for “reverse flotillas” – from Israel toward Turkey – to highlight what organizers have labeled the Turks’ “shameless hypocrisy” in their criticisms of the Jewish state.
The most ambitious of the two plans has been devised by members of Israel’s National Student Union, who this week announced their intention to set sail toward Turkey, in an effort to bring humanitarian aid to the “oppressed people of Turkish Kurdistan” and to members of the “Turkish Armenian minority.”
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Student Union chairman Boaz Torporovsky, who has been leading the reverse flotilla charge, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, “Hundreds of people have volunteered for the flotilla, and many more are contacting us all the time for ways they can help.
“Our plan is to deliver much-needed humanitarian assistance to the Kurds of Turkey, who by the way outnumber Israelis and Palestinians combined,” he said.
“And to show that Turkey has its own issues when it comes to the treatment of its minorities, which they should consider before criticizing us.”
Torporovsky added that the National Student Union members had two separate flotilla ideas, both of which they hoped to embark on soon. The first was a flotilla of private yachts that would head out to sea if additional Gaza-bound flotillas entered Israeli waters.
“We would like to greet them at sea,” he said. “And explain to them, peacefully – we don’t want any violence – what it is that’s really going on here.
We’d like to show them the truth and help them understand that the reality here is not what they’ve been told.”
Torporovsky said that many yacht owners had already volunteered for that phase of the plan, and that he and his colleagues were preparing for the arrival of a number of Gaza-bound ships, of European or even Iranian origin.
The second phase of the National Student Union members’ flotilla plan would be the more ambitious journey to Turkey, though Torporovsky admitted they were hard-pressed when it came to funding it.
“We need three things to pull this part off,” he said.
“Money, logistical support and balls – and we’ve got the last two things covered.
“But it’s here that we really get into the shameless hypocrisy of the Turks, because while they criticize us day and night, they are oppressing the Kurds and silencing the world when it comes to recognition of the Armenian Genocide.”
 Torporovsky said his group had already found a captain for the vessel, a retired Israel Navy sailor, but the ship itself was proving harder to acquire.
“It’s not easy to find a large, sea-bound vessel,” he said.
“But we’re looking, and we’re raising funds, and as soon as we’re able to do it, we will.”
But the reverse-flotilla talk hasn’t stopped there.
Another sea-bound venture is being organized in an effort to draw attention to Turkey’s own controversial policies – this time to Cyprus, to “call for an end to the Turkish occupation” of the island’s northern half – and is being organized by Meretz activist Pinchas Har-Zahav, and his son Haim, who has also signed on for the voyage.
The group is also set to include Alex Goldfarb, who was an MK with the Tzomet and Yiud parties from 1992 to 1996, and is being subsidized by an unnamed wealthy Israeli.
Speaking to the Post on Monday, Haim Har-Zahav said the goal of the voyage was to “remind the world that Turkey is not innocent.
“If Uruguay or Iceland were the ones criticizing us so harshly, it might be a different story,” he said. “But we’re talking about a country that only seven years after [the Six Day War and the beginning of Israeli control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank] began occupying Cyprus.
“We’re talking about a country that has systematically killed the Kurds and refuses to acknowledge their role in the Armenian Genocide,” he said.
“And so no, we will not accept this. The hypocrisy has to stop here.”
Har-Zahav added that the ship’s passengers were not looking for a violent confrontation and if told to turn back, they would.
“But we feel that it’s important for us to show and remind the world that Turkey is not a righteous country, but a near-rogue state, and that we, the Israeli people, are not suckers.”
 Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.