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An unseemly haste appeared to accompany the criticisms leveled toward Israel following the confrontation between Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and a flotilla of “humanitarian” vessels attempting to break the Israeli-led blockade of Gaza. As details surrounding the group largely responsible for organizing the flotilla come to light the prematurity of those criticisms becomes ever more apparent.
Insani Yardim Vakfi, known by its Turkish initials IHH, helped to fund and organize several of the ships that comprised the flotilla which engaged IDF personnel on May 31. A brief look into the background of IHH helps to provide clarity in understanding the potential concern with which Israel may have viewed the oncoming vessels.
Ties between the IHH and myriad radical organizations go back several years. Evan Kohlmann analyzed the relationship between non-governmental organizations (NGO) and radicalization in a study conducted for the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) in 2006 and devoted considerable attention to the actions of IHH.
The Turkish government, vociferously condemning the recent actions of the IDF, conducted its own investigation into the organization as far back as 1997. In a raid of IHH offices in Istanbul authorities “uncovered an array of disturbing items, including firearms, explosives, bomb-making instructions, and a ‘jihad flag.'”
Turkish authorities also discovered that IHH officials were “purchasing automatic weapons from other regional Islamic militant groups.” Given the once dubious opinion of IHH that prevailed within the Turkish government it is particularly galling that they now condemn Israel for attempting to prevent its reaching Gaza.
Since Hamas obtained control of Gaza three years ago it has been a source of great concern for the state of Israel. Thousands of projectiles have been lobbed into Israeli territory by Hamas and continually endanger the lives and well-being of its inhabitants. To expect Israel to idly stand by while a flotilla of vessels, organized and funded by an NGO with well-known ties to radical organizations, attempts to enter Hamas-controlled Gaza is incomprehensible. Israel cannot afford to allow potential financial and operational assistance to reach Hamas leadership.
The loss of life that occurred on May 31 during the confrontation between IDF personnel and the IHH-backed flotilla was tragic. It must be acknowledged, however, that Israel faces a particularly difficult set of security concerns and the unwillingness of many global leaders to refrain from casting judgment against Israel prior to recognizing the legitimacy of their concerns was especially unfortunate.