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Why the Mavi Marmara pulled out?

HDN | 6/20/2011 12:00:00 AM |

There is no surprise in the news that the Mavi Marmara will not be part of the fleet expected to set sail soon to force the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

There is no surprise in the news that the Mavi Marmara will not be part of the fleet expected to set sail soon to force the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The reason for this development is now being explained as the result of “technical difficulties.” It is clear however, there is much more involved than mere “technical difficulties.”

Representatives of the Turkish Islamic charity group, known as the İHH, are going out of their way to say there was no government pressure on them in their decision not to include the Mavi Marmara in the fleet. There is however every reason to believe the opposite.

It is nevertheless clear, the impression the government applied pressure on the İHH not to send this ship to Gaza, is not one that suits the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, administration either.

If it were known the AKP could put pressure on the organizers not to include the Mavi Marmara in this new attempt to force the Israeli blockade, then the question would arise as to why the government did not prevent the ship last year and thus avert the developments that resulted in the death of nine Turks at the hands of the Israeli military.

Then there is the “Fethullah Gülen” dimension in all this. Gülen, the leader of a very influential Turkish Islamic group, who lives in self imposed exile in the United States and who has a very large following among AKP supporters, spoke out against the Mavi Marmara’s attempt to break the Israeli blockade last year.

These remarks sent a shock wave among Islamist groups who waited in vain for a denial from Gülen that he has said anything disapproving of the Mavi Marmara’s attempt. Put another way, there are also Islamists who questioned the rationality of the Mavi Marmara being involved in a new Gaza flotilla.

In addition to this, there are the statements by the international organizers of the flotilla that suggest there was some dissatisfaction that the attempt to force the blockade on Gaza, was being successfully presented by Israel as being essentially a Turkish-Islamist initiative, which of course it was not.

In the meantime Israel announced the Turkish Red Crescent Society had been given permission to take in all the necessary medical material required to Gaza through the Erez crossing point.

It was clear this was aimed at disarming the İHH’s argument that they were taking urgently needed medical supplies with the Mavi Marmara. It is hard to believe the Turkish government was not somehow involved in this development.

And of course developments in Syria, where the regimes brutality against its own people continues unabated, cannot be overlooked either. The honesty of the İHH would have been questioned if it insisted on emphasizing Gaza at a time when it should, as a humanitarian aid organization, be rushing with all its capabilities to the Turkish-Syrian border to help the refugees there.

Neither must the fact there was no insurance company that would insure the Mavi Marmara under these circumstances, be overlooked. The Turkish government could not afford to be seen as having done nothing if an uninsured ship carrying hundreds of Turkish citizens was to head out to the high seas under these circumstances.

In the end the fact the Mavi Marmara would be heading for Gaza and thus causing a new crisis for Turkey at a time when its regional responsibilities are increasing, is not something Ankara could have risked. An unnecessary and untimely crisis has thus been averted.

This, of course, begs the question as to whether this will be a step in improving Turkish-Israeli ties. That does not seem likely any time soon since Israel has shed Turkish blood and as far as Turks across the board are concerned, must atone for it.

Israel however does not appear set to do this and so the strain will continue for the foreseeable future.

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