Category Archives: Freedom Flotilla

Israeli navy intercepts ship in flotilla sailing toward Gaza Strip

The New York Times reports: Israeli Navy forces intercepted a ship that was sailing toward the Gaza Strip early Monday to protest a maritime blockade of the coastal enclave, military officials and activists said.

The ship was intercepted in international waters and was being led to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, a military statement said.

Pro-Palestinian activists have repeatedly sought to reach Gaza by sea, an action that Israel regards as highly provocative, to protest restrictions on the movement of both people and material in and out of the enclave. [Continue reading…]


Blogging for old media

News this week that eBay founder Pierre Morad Omidyar is ready to invest $250 million in a new media venture, should have come as unsettling news to staff at the Washington Post.

Jay Rosen says Omidyar “was one of the people approached by the Washington Post Company about buying the Post,” and since Amazon’s Jeffrey Bezos paid $250 million for the Post, it doesn’t sound like he outbid Omidyar. On the contrary, it sounds more like Omidyar felt like if he was going to spend that amount of money, it would be better spent creating a new organization than taking over an old institution.

Technology journalist David Kirkpatrick, describes the Post’s buyer like this: “Bezos is like a trickster. He’s like a very calculating, secretive genius.” Chances are, he views his purchase as a technologist and entrepreneur would: the acquisition of a platform and a strong brand. The bits inside that structure — traditionally known as journalists — must all be aware that they are each expendable.

So what’s a lowly blogger inside the newspaper going to do when afraid that he might seen get trimmed off like a piece of fat? Take new risks and try and stand out? Or curry favor inside the organization by flattering his superiors?

There is a social and journalistic taboo around speculating about motives. After all, since motives are inherently private, such speculation can easily be refuted — even if it happens to be accurate. Still, assessing motives is something that human beings do all the time, even if discretion usually dictates that those assessments, like the motives themselves, also remain concealed. Once in a while, though, it’s worth breaking the taboo.

On Wednesday, the Post’s associate editor and columnist, David Ignatius, revealed this:

The Turkish-Israeli relationship became so poisonous early last year that the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to have disclosed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers.

Opinion writers like Ignatius revel in their occasional ability to break news, since it underlines their privileged access to high-level sources. At the same time, they have a habit of making themselves a mouthpiece for such sources. Ignatius, for instance, has been branded as “the CIA’s spokesman at The Washington Post.”

On Thursday, Max Fisher, the Post’s foreign affairs blogger, took the opportunity to give Ignatius’s column an extra boost and suggested that it might have helped resolve an enduring mystery: why it had taken the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, almost three years to apologize to Turkey for the deadly attack on the Mavi Marmara in 2010.

That refusal to apologize is now “much more understandable” — at least in Fisher’s mind — now that (thanks to Ignatius) we know about Turkey’s “effort to slap the Israelis” by outing their Iranian intelligence assets.

Under the headline, “Now we know why Netanyahu wouldn’t apologize for the Gaza flotilla raid,” Fisher is nevertheless forced to concede that this “explanation” explains virtually nothing: “This does not explain, of course, why Netanyahu wouldn’t have apologized between the initial 2010 raid and this reported 2012 spy outing.”

Indeed. On the other hand, Netanyahu’s unwillingness to apologize may in fact answer what Fisher regards as a remaining mystery: “Why did the Turkish government out these Israeli spies?” Urrmmm… how about because the Israelis wouldn’t apologize for killing nine Turkish citizens. (Note, Turkey now denies the outing ever occurred and says Ignatius’s story is a smear campaign.)

Now if Fisher really wanted to dig into the bad blood between Turkey and Israel, he might want to make a less complimentary reference to Ignatius and look back at the 2009 row at Davos which the columnist seriously mishandled.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan took exception to a thundering address delivered by Israeli president Shimon Peres who claimed that the IDF’s conduct, while slaughtering hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza, was above reproach. Ignatius tried to hush Erdogan by insisting that everyone would rather get to dinner, after which the Turkish prime minister famously stormed off the stage.

Fisher wants to point out that “many developments in international relations happen in secret,” as indeed they do, and that only later are some of these mysteries unraveled by sage-like columnists.

But in this case, the columnist was no sage and the most important developments were highly visible.


Turkey, Israel make U.S.-brokered peace after Mavi Marmara apology

Today’s Zaman reports: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered an apology to Turkey for a 2010 raid on an aid flotilla that resulted in the deaths of eight Turks and a Turkish American, ending a deep crisis in ties between the two former allies.

In a statement carried by Reuters, Netanyahu said he “expressed apology” to the Turkish people for any error that could have led to loss of life in the flotilla incident. He also said Israel has agreed to pay compensation to the families of the victims and that Israel and Turkey agree to work together to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.

A Turkish official in Ankara confirmed the apology, telling Today’s Zaman that Netanyahu called Erdoğan to offer an apology and that Erdoğan accepted it.


Documents reveal how U.S. let Israel off the hook over ‘execution’ of American Furkan Dogan

Alex Kane reports: In May 2010, 18-year-old American citizen Furkan Dogan was shot at point-blank range by Israeli naval commandos as he was standing on the deck of a ship and filming the violent raid on the flotilla to Gaza. It took three days for the U.S. to contact his family–and that was after the U.S. made repeated inquiries to the government of Israel for information about his death.

That information was recently revealed by the Center for Constitutional Rights after obtaining documents that have now been published as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests to the U.S. government. The documents reveal new details on the U.S. government’s actions in the aftermath of the flotilla.

In the immediate aftermath of the flotilla raid, Ahmet Dogan, the father of Furkan, desperately called U.S. officials to inquire about the whereabouts of his son, who was a passenger on the flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza. Ahmet did not know where his son was, but was extremely worried after he saw news reports stating that the Israeli military had violently raided the ship in international waters and killed 9 passengers in the early morning hours of May 31, 2010. On June 3, 2010, Ahmet Dogan identified his son’s body as being amongst the dead after he saw his son’s body riddled with bullets in Turkey.

That same day, e-mail messages between U.S. officials in Istanbul and Washington concerning the death of Furkan Dogan were being sent back and forth. [Continue reading…]


Video: Gaza-bound ship ‘attacked by Israel forces’

The Associated Press reports: Israeli troops on Saturday commandeered a Gaza-bound ship that tried to break through Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-ruled seaside strip, the military said. European lawmakers and other pro-Palestinian activists aboard did not resist, and the Finnish-flagged vessel was diverted to an Israeli port.

The voyage by the ship, Estelle, marked the latest challenge to the air, land and sea embargo of Gaza that Israel imposed after the Islamic militant Hamas group seized the territory in 2007. Israeli officials say they need to enforce the blockade to prevent weapons smuggling.

Hamas called for more attempts to break the sea blockade.

Six Israeli naval vessels stopped the Estelle when it was about 30 nautical miles from Gaza, and masked soldiers boarder the ship and ordered it to sail to Israel’s Ashdod port, said Victoria Strand, a spokeswoman for the activists.

The Swedish-owned Estelle left Naples, Italy, on Oct. 7 with about 30 people from eight countries, including lawmakers from Norway, Sweden, Greece and Spain, as well as Israeli activists and a 79-year-old former legislator from Canada.


Flotilla controversy within Occupy Wall Street shows Palestine continues to be a fault line


At about midnight Palestinian time, all was quiet on the Mediterranean Sea. All reports coming from the Tahrir and Saoirse indicated that the two unidentified (possibly Israeli) ships and planes, which had been trailing the humanitarian vessels an hour before, had receded into the distance, and posed no immediate threat. The international activists aboard the Canadian and Irish vessels announced they were heading off to sleep, as journalist Hassan Ghani, aboard the Canadian Tahrir, tweeted that “I remember these feelings a year ago onboard the Mavi Marmara; the tension but also the hope of reaching Gaza the next morning”. Folks eyeing the Twitter-sphere found themselves “praying that this is not the calm before the storm”, and encouraging the 27 crew members to “stay steady in your tracks and strong in your minds”.

In the midst of this calm, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement posted a surprising and exhilarating tweet:

“We support and would like to express #solidarity to #FreedomWaves #Palestine #ows”.

Moments later, the Twitter representative of the Canada Boat to Gaza posted an appreciative response, “We are thrilled to receive the support of #OccupyWallStreet Looks like only the 1% support the Israeli blockade of Gaza.” The Twitter-sphere flared up with expressions of praise and affirmation, proving that the 99% naturally link the struggle for the Occupation of Wall Street with the struggle against the Occupation of Palestine as two facets of a single universal liberation struggle.

Approximately four hours later, however, Occupy Wall Street’s tweet mysteriously disappeared from its home page on Twitter. The Twitter-sphere was instantly taken aback — “didn’t realize #OWS is non-political!!” remarked one tweeter, while another insisted that “If #OWS can not support #FreedomWaves and #Gaza then they should not compare themselves to #ArabSpring or #Tahrir.” The Canada Boat to Gaza, who earlier had nodded in satisfaction, now, shook its head in disappointment, offering, in the face of Occupy Wall Street’s fear of involving itself in the Israel-Palestine conflict, a few words by Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Many tweeps asked “Why did @OccupyWallSt delete a tweet showing solidarity with #FreedomWaves?” or “@OccupyWallSt Did you seriously delete the tweet supporting #FreedomWaves WHY?” The closest official answer came from Daniel Sieradski, a new media activist who has been central to the OccupyJudaism activities. Sieradski explained, the “#FreedomWaves tweet was unauthorized, did not have reflect #OWS community consensus and was subsequently deleted.” He added, “#OWS does not have a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” and “#OWS is a consensus based movement. The GA has never discussed the I/P issue & even if it did, it would never reach consensus.” Sieradski acknowledged he was not speaking as a spokesperson from Occupy Wall Street but he had “heard what happened from people close to it.” I was not able to receive an official explanation from the Occupy Wall Street movement about why tweet being deleted.

As the controversy blazed across Twitter, it opened a space for the 99% to express the obvious connections between the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the global dominance of the 1% — “#OWS is inseparable from #Palestine. 1% funding Israeli settlements and extremist settlers? Priceless.”; “#OWS is inseparable from#Gaza. The 1% diverts resources from the 99% by Israel’s blockading and shelling 100% of Gaza”; “The Tear Gas used in #Oakland is the same tear gas used in#Palestine, when protesters demonstrate non violently”, to cite a few among the myriad examples. Not everyone on twitter was upset however. The tweeter ‘Fatima600’, who had been using this racist name to fire verbal attacks at the flotilla throughout the night, responded, “They are tired of having their movement hijacked!!!!! I love you #OWS!!!!”

Hours later, @OccupyFortWorth expressed its support for Freedom Waves for Gaza — “Our support for #Gaza and #Freedomwaves is limitless. It emanates and echoes from the deepest purest regions of our heart. Love. Solidarity”, asserting, in contrast to #OccupyWallSt’s hesitancy, that “we don’t mind losing followers who are uncritical or unwilling to engage the issues (Or who are reflexively pro-Zionist.)”.

Ben Lorber is an American activist with the International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank and a journalist with the Alternative Information Center in Bethlehem. Visit his blog at

This post originally appeared at Mondoweiss and is reposted here with permission.


Israelis seize boats carrying supplies to Gaza Strip

The Los Angeles Times reports: Israel’s navy intercepted a pro-Palestinian protest flotilla Friday as it attempted to break a sea blockade around the Gaza Strip, the third such attempt in less than two years.

Israeli officials said the takeover of two boats carrying 27 activists, journalists and crew members occurred without the kind of violent clash seen in May 2010, when nine Turkish activists, including one with dual U.S. citizenship, were shot and killed as they resisted takeover by Israeli commandos.

The latest ships, the Canadian-owned Tahrir and Irish-owned Saoirse, were escorted to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where crew and passengers were expected to be detained for questioning.


Israel Navy contacts Gaza-bound aid vessels

Haaretz reports: Two protest boats approached the Gaza coast on Friday with the intent to violate Israel’s naval blockade of the territory and were met by Israeli navy vessels, Palestinian activists said.

In Gaza, activist Amjad Shawwa said the boats were about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Gaza and had been warned over the radio by an Israeli navy ship to change course.

The Israelis told the boats, carrying supplies and 27 international pro-Palestinian activists, that they were entering a closed military zone, Shawwa said.

He said the passengers intended to continue to Gaza.

Activists in Gaza and Ramallah said they lost radio contact with the ships shortly after 1 p.m.

The Israel Defense Forces said that the Israel Navy had contacted the Gaza-bound ships and informed them that Gaza is under a maritime security blockade. The IDF told the ships they could turn around or dock in the Egypt or at the Ashdod port. The ships deed not heed that call and continued towards Gaza.

Israel’s navy has intercepted similar protest ships in the past, towing them to the Israeli port of Ashdod and detaining participants. Israel says its naval blockade of Gaza is necessary to prevent weapons from reaching militant groups like Hamas, the Iran-backed group that rules the territory. Critics call the blockade collective punishment of Gaza’s residents.

Israel’s government has said the activists can send supplies into Gaza overland.

In May 2010, nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed when they resisted an Israeli operation to halt a similar flotilla. Each side blamed the other for the violence.

The incident sparked an international outcry and forced Israel to ease its land blockade on Gaza, which was imposed in 2006 and tightened, with Egyptian cooperation, after Hamas seized control of the territory the following year.

Militants in Gaza have fired thousands of rockets into Israel in the past decade, and now have much of southern Israel in range.

Speaking after prayers at a Gaza City mosque, Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister, addressed the passengers aboard the boats, saying, “Your message has been delivered whether you make it or not.”

“The siege is unjust and must end,” Haniyeh said.

On Thursday, the Obama administration warned U.S.citizens on the boats that they may face legal action for violating Israeli and American law. The activists include Americans and citizens of eight other countries.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S.was renewing its warning to Americans “not to involve themselves in this activity.”

The U.S., like Israel and the European Union, considers Hamas a terrorist organization.


U.N. experts say Israel’s blockade of Gaza illegal

Reuters reports:

Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip violates international law, a panel of human rights experts reporting to a U.N. body said on Tuesday, disputing a conclusion reached by a separate U.N. probe into Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship.

The so-called Palmer Report on the Israeli raid of May 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists said earlier this month that Israel had used unreasonable force in last year’s raid, but its naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled strip was legal.

A panel of five independent U.N. rights experts reporting to the U.N. Human Rights Council rejected that conclusion, saying the blockade had subjected Gazans to collective punishment in “flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

The four-year blockade deprived 1.6 million Palestinians living in the enclave of fundamental rights, they said.


Erdogan calls for a secular Egypt

Al-Masry Al-Youm reports:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday called on Egyptians to adopt a secular constitution, noting that secularism does not mean renouncing religion.

A secular state respects all religions, Erdogan said in an interview with the private satellite TV channel Dream before heading to Egypt for a two-day visit.

“Do not be wary of secularism. I hope there will be a secular state in Egypt,” Erdogan said.

He stressed that people have the right to choose whether or not to be religious, adding that he is a Muslim prime minister for a secular state.

Erdogan said Egypt needs to meet some requirements for establishing a modern state, including better management of human resources, more attention to education, improved management of financial resources and eliminating corruption.

Today’s Zaman reports:

Erdoğan, visiting Egypt at the start of a North Africa tour, said Israel continued taking steps that undermine its own legitimacy, noting that it killed nine Turks on an aid ship trying to break the blockade of Gaza last year and more recently shot dead five Egyptian soldiers.

He reiterated that a UN report defending the Israeli blockade of Gaza as legal was “null and void” for Turkey and insisted that Turkey’s relations with Israel will not return to normal unless Israel apologizes for the 2010 raid, pay compensation for families of the victims and lifts the blockade of Gaza.

“Turkey does not recognize the Gaza blockade,” Erdoğan said, reiterating that Turkey will take measures to ensure freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean and vowed that Turkey will press for an International Court of Justice review of the blockade.

“States, just like individuals, have to pay the price for murders, for acts of terrorism they committed so that we can live in a more just world,” he said.

The Turkish prime minister also said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a “matter of humanity” and added that the current status quo can no longer be maintained. He vowed support for Palestinian efforts for recognition at the UN General Assembly. “Our Palestinian brothers should be able to have their own state. It is time for the flag of Palestine to fly at the UN,” he said, calling on the Arab League countries to support the Palestinian bid.

The paper also reports:

Turkey’s Military Electronics Industry (ASELSAN) has produced a new identification friend or foe (IFF) system for Turkish jet fighters, warships and submarines and the new software, contrary to the older, US-made version, does not automatically identify Israeli planes and ships as friends, a news report said on Tuesday.

The new IFF has already been installed in Turkish F-16s and is expected to be installed in all Navy ships and submarines, the report, published in Turkish daily Star, said. It will be fully operational when it is installed in all military planes, warships and submarines.

The F-16 jet fighters, purchased from the US, came with pre-installed IFF software that automatically identifies Israeli fighters and warships as friends, disabling Turkish F-16s from targeting Israeli planes or ships. ASELSAN-made IFF will allow Turkish military commanders to identify friends and foes on the basis of national considerations.

Turkey was unable to make modifications to the friend or foe identification codes in US-made F-16s, while Israel was given a different version of the software allowing Israeli authorities to make modifications. Israel was also authorized to view the version given to Turkey, according to Star.


Turkey: Israel’s raid on Gaza flotilla was ’cause for war’

Reuters and the Associated Press report:

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan saw “cause for war” with Israel last year after a deadly raid on a Turkish ship headed for Gaza, according to a transcript of a recent interview.

State news agency Anatolia released late on Sunday what it said was an original Turkish-language transcript of an interview Erdogan gave to Al Jazeera television last week. It included elements not broadcast as well as original wording for sensitive comments that had been transmitted only in Arabic translation.

Among previously unpublished elements, Erdogan said Israel’s deadly raid last year on the Gaza-bound flotilla would have justified going to war: “The attack that took place in international waters did not comply with any international law. In fact, it was cause for war. However, befitting Turkey’s greatness, we decided to act with patience,” he said.

The transcript in Turkish from Anatolian, apparently provided by Erdogan’s office, also gave the following account of the prime minister’s response to a question on what Turkey would do to ensure free passage for its ships in the Mediterranean.

“Right now, without a doubt, the primary duty of Turkish navy ships is to protect its own ships,” Erdogan said.

“This is the first step. And we have humanitarian aid that we want to carry there. This humanitarian aid will not be attacked any more, as it was the case with Mavi Marmara.”


Erdogan slams Obama for silence on Israel’s Gaza flotilla raid

Haaretz reports:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated on Saturday his country’s intent to refer the legality of Israel’s Gaza blockade to The Hague, adding a criticism of U.S. President Barack Obama’s position regarding Israel’s 2010 of a Turkish Gaza-bound flotilla.

Speaking a convention of businessmen in the central Turkish city of Kayseri broadcast live on Turkey’s state news channel TRT Erdogan vowed to continue the legal struggle for justice for the nine people killed in the raid.

“We will carry this struggle to The Hague and Erdogan criticizes Obama,” the Turkish premier said, criticizing Turkish opposition leaders for what he described as “acting as advocates for Israel.”

Erdogan was also deeply critical of the United States position on the Mavi Marmara incident, pointing out that he had to point out to Obama how the attack had left nine Turks dead from wounds inflicted by 35 bullets mostly fired from close range, one of them an American passport holder.

“I asked President Obama whether the reason he showed no interest in one of his nationals being killed was because [the victim] was [ethnically] Turkish – he didn’t reply,” said Erdogan.

Today’s Zaman reports:

A warning by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Israel reiterating his country’s firmness on ensuring freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean sent shockwaves throughout the region after it was interpreted as a prelude to a naval confrontation with its former ally.

But officials in Ankara made clear on Friday that Erdoğan’s remarks during an interview with Al Jazeera were quoted out of context. Some of his quotes were compiled later both by Al Jazeera and Reuters in a way that implied these quotes had followed each other, the same officials said. “Turkish warships, in the first place, are authorized to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Erdoğan was quoted as saying by Reuters in the interview, broadcast by Al Jazeera with an Arabic translation.

“From now on, we will not let these ships be attacked by Israel, as what happened with the Freedom Flotilla,” Erdoğan was also quoted as saying by Reuters.

In the Turkish version of the text of the interview provided by the Anatolia news agency, however, Erdoğan, in response to a question on ensuring the freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean, says: “At the moment, no doubt, Turkish warships are first of all liable to protect their own ships. This is the first step. And there is humanitarian aid which we will extend. Our humanitarian assistance will no longer be attacked as happened in the case of the Mavi Marmara.”

A senior government official speaking to Today’s Zaman on Friday said Erdoğan’s remarks cannot be interpreted to mean that Turkey has been preparing to send humanitarian aid ships to the region that will be escorted by Turkish warships. “We have put forth a principle by saying that we will ensure the freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean and that this field is not an Israeli playground.

As long as Israel does not interfere in the freedom of navigation, we do not plan on sending any warships to escort humanitarian aid ships,” the official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Today’s Zaman. “The misquoted remarks suggest that we have been readying to provide a warship to escort each humanitarian aid ship. This is not the case. However, Turkey will protect its citizens’ rights in the event of any interference in international waters,” the official added.


Turkish warships will escort aid vessels to Gaza

Today’s Zaman reports:

Turkey said on Thursday it would escort aid ships to Gaza and would not allow a repetition of last year’s Israeli raid that killed nine Turks, setting the stage for a potential naval confrontation with its former ally.

Raising the stakes in Turkey’s row with Israel over its refusal to apologise for the killings, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Al Jazeera television that Turkey had taken steps to stop Israel from unilaterally exploiting natural resources in the Mediterranean.

“Turkish warships, in the first place, are authorised to protect our ships that carry humanitarian aid to Gaza,” Erdoğan said in the interview, broadcast by Al Jazeera with an Arabic translation.

“From now on, we will not let these ships to be attacked by Israel, as what happened with the Freedom Flotilla,” Erdoğan said.

Referring to Erdoğan’s comments, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: “This is a statement well-worth not commenting on.”

Relations between Turkey and Israel, two close US allies in the region, have soured since Israeli forces boarded the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara aid ship in May 2010.


Ankara and Tel Aviv, collision course or path to progress?

Haaretz reports:

Turkey on Monday informed Israel’s top diplomat in Ankara that nearly all senior Israeli embassy personnel must leave the country by Wednesday.

Ella Ofek, the deputy to the Israeli ambassador to Turkey and the person currently in charge of the Israeli embassy in Ankara, was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday. Ofek was informed that all Israeli diplomats ranked above the level of second secretary, including the IDF military attaché, must depart Turkey by Wednesday.

The only Israeli diplomats permitted to remain include embassy spokesman Nizar Amir and personnel who provide consular services.


Turkish FM says flotilla issue not just between Israel and Turkey

Today’s Zaman reports:

Firmly opposing the portrayal of the recent escalation of the crisis between Turkey and Israel solely as a bilateral affair which must be resolved between the two countries, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has warned that when dealing with Israel’s lethal 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, in which nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed, the international community should not ignore the fact that Israel’s repeated breaches of international law and ethics lie at the core of the issue.

Davutoğlu made these remarks when he was called upon to answer various questions concerning a new set of Turkish measures against Israel from his European counterparts at an informal meeting of the European Union. The meeting on Saturday gathered together 27 ministers from EU member countries, as well as their counterparts from Iceland, Turkey, Croatia, Montenegro and Macedonia, all nations aspiring to join the bloc, in the Baltic Sea resort of Sopot, Poland.Davutoğlu was the last minister to take the stage, where he answered questions apparently prompted by his announcement Friday in Ankara that Turkey has downgraded its diplomatic ties with Israel to the level of second secretary, and giving the Israeli ambassador and other high-level diplomats until Wednesday to leave the country.

In other measures against Israel, Turkey suspended military agreements, promised to back legal suits brought against Israel by the families of the raid victims, and vowed to take steps to ensure that freedom to navigate is maintained in the eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking with Today’s Zaman late on Saturday en route from Sopot to Turkey, Davutoğlu said he first explained to the assembled ministers how the situation in the eastern Mediterranean has been prone to escalating tensions due, to the unresolved Cyprus conflict and the ongoing crisis in Syria. “I brought up the issue of the overall dynamics in the eastern Mediterranean. I noted that everyone should be careful, and told them about the Israel issue. Everyone came up to me and asked if there is anything they can do about it. They agree that Turkey is right, and they advise us to ease up the tension. I told them that it is an issue in its own right for us, with or without the Arab Spring or the Middle East conflict. When the incident happened a year ago, there was no Arab Spring. It is about principles for us. Our people were murdered by an army outside of combat conditions,” Davutoğlu told Today’s Zaman.

“I told them that this is what upset us: Among those detained on that ship there were people from most of the countries sitting around this table. We brought them from Tel Aviv to İstanbul and sent them back to their countries. When our people returned, the issue was suddenly dubbed an Israeli conflict. If they had stayed there, it would have been your issue too. This is not a particular issue between us and Israel; it is an issue between Israel and international law and ethics and the international community. So if you want to help, go tell Israel to apologize and pay compensation. If you just do that, that would be best help,” the minister added. The foreign minister was referring to the fact that the Mavi Marmara, aboard which eight Turks and one Turkish-American were killed during the May 31, 2010 raid, was part of a flotilla which included about 600 activists from 32 different countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Greece, France, Sweden and the US.


‘Israel’s bullying in eastern Med is over’

Hürriyet Daily News reports:

The eastern Mediterranean will no longer be a place where Israeli naval forces can freely exercise their “bullying” practices against civilian vessels, a Turkish official said Friday.

The official said this would be the outcome of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s statement earlier in the day that “Turkey would take every precaution it deems necessary for the safety of maritime navigation in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Davutoğlu’s statement about providing maritime safety in the eastern Mediterranean grabbed the most attention among the various sanctions against Israel the foreign minister announced Friday. He did not further elaborate, however, on what he meant by taking “every precaution.”

The Turkish foreign minister’s statement will likely spark a new faceoff between Turkey and Israel, the region’s strongest armies, in the eastern Mediterranean. A potential confrontation between the two countries’ navies would have serious negative consequences for regional stability.

Turkish diplomats told the Hürriyet Daily News that the Turkish Navy will be more visible in the eastern Mediterranean through regular patrolling in international waters. “A more aggressive strategy will be pursued. Israel will no longer be able to exercise its bullying practices freely,” one said.


Turkey to challenge Gaza blockade at International Court of Justice

The Guardian reports:

Turkey is to challenge Israel’s blockade on Gaza at the International Court of Justice, amid a worsening diplomatic crisis between the once close allies.

The announcement by Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu appears to rebuff UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s attempt to defuse the row over Israel’s armed assault on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in which nine people were killed.

Turkey dramatically downgraded its relations with Israel, cutting military ties with its former ally and expelling the country’s ambassador over his government’s refusal to apologise for the killings of eight Turkish citizens and a Turkish American last May.

Ban said today that the two countries should accept the recommendations of a UN report that examined the incident. The report found Israel had used “excessive and unreasonable” force to stop the flotilla approaching Gaza, but that it was justified in maintaining a naval blockade on the Palestinian enclave.

But Davutoglu later dismissed the report, stating it had not been endorsed by the UN and was therefore not binding.

“What is binding is the International Court of Justice,” he told Turkey’s state-run TRT television. “This is what we are saying: let the International Court of Justice decide.

“We are starting the necessary legal procedures this coming week.”