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With an Assist from the Muslim Brotherhood, Israel Shoots Itself in the Foot

Com­ment: With the rhetor­i­cal and diplo­mat­ic firestorm unfold­ing in the wake of the fias­co staged by Israel in the Mediter­ranean, a num­ber of things become obvi­ous, includ­ing ques­tions about how Israeli intel­li­gence failed to grasp the inevitabil­i­ty of such an event, if extreme cau­tion were not exer­cised.

And it was­n’t.

First, the IHH–the char­i­ty that was at the epi­cen­ter of events, dou­bles as a ter­ror-assist­ing net­work.

“Shoot­ing the Mes­sen­ger: A Look at the Facts on the Turk­ish Aid Group IHH” by Evan Kohlmann; counterterrorismblog.org; 6/1/2010. [1]

When I first pub­lished a research paper four years ago with the Dan­ish Insti­tute for Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies (DIIS) on the Turk­ish Mus­lim char­i­ta­ble group Insani Yardim Vak­fi (IHH), I did­n’t imag­ine it would get much of a response out­side the aca­d­e­m­ic con­fer­ence in which it was pre­sent­ed in Copen­hagen. How­ev­er, as a result of this week­end’s trag­ic Israeli raid on an IHH-spon­sored flotil­la of ves­sels attempt­ing to break the ongo­ing block­ade on Gaza, the group has sud­den­ly jumped into the head­lines, and has become a focus of intense debate over the inten­tions of the flotil­la orga­niz­ers and the con­tro­ver­sial killing of at least 9 would-be par­tic­i­pants by Israeli com­man­dos.

Though my DIIS paper made no men­tion of IHH’s activ­i­ties in Gaza or in sup­port of suf­fer­ing Pales­tin­ian refugees, some of those angered by the Israeli flotil­la raid have instead turned their emo­tion­al ani­mus on past crit­ics of IHH, such as myself. While I cer­tain­ly can’t speak with any author­i­ty on what took place on the Gaza flotil­la boats, I’m rather mys­ti­fied why the flotil­la killings–whether right or wrong–would have any bear­ing on the fac­tu­al ques­tion of whether the IHH has engaged in illic­it financ­ing and episod­ic sup­port to extrem­ist groups. The evi­dence in this regard is fair­ly weighty, and much of it comes direct­ly from the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment — not the Unit­ed States, nor the Israelis.

On Decem­ber 5, 1997, Turk­ish police raid­ed the IHH head­quar­ters office in Istan­bul and arrest­ed its prin­ci­pal lead­ers. Fol­low­ing their pre­lim­i­nary inquiry, on April 27, 1998, Turk­ish inves­ti­ga­tors launched a for­mal legal case against the IHH. Accord­ing to a report pro­duced by French coun­tert­er­ror­ism mag­is­trates, the inquiry was spurred by the sale of an AK-47 assault rifle to an IHH leader by “a mem­ber of the ille­gal orga­ni­za­tion VASAT.” Turk­ish police report­ed seiz­ing a series of dis­turb­ing items from the IHH in Turkey, includ­ing an explo­sive device, two sticks of dyna­mite, bomb mak­ing instruc­tions, and a “jihad flag.” The French mag­is­trates report not­ed that:

“It appears that the detained mem­bers of IHH were going to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chech­nya... The essen­tial goal of this Asso­ci­a­tion was to ille­gal­ly arm its mem­ber­ship for over­throw­ing demo­c­ra­t­ic, sec­u­lar, and con­sti­tu­tion­al order present in Turkey and replac­ing it with an Islam­ic state found­ed on the Shari­ah. Under the cov­er of this orga­ni­za­tion known under the name of IHH, [IHH lead­ers] act­ed to recruit vet­er­an sol­diers in antic­i­pa­tion of the com­ing holy war. In par­tic­u­lar, some men were sent into war zones in Mus­lim coun­tries in order to acquire com­bat expe­ri­ence. On the spot, the for­ma­tion of a mil­i­tary unit was assured. In addi­tion, towards the pur­pose of obtain­ing polit­i­cal sup­port from these coun­tries, finan­cial aid was trans­ferred [from IHH], as well as caches of firearms, knives, and pre-fab­ri­cat­ed explo­sives.”

An offi­cial review of the phone records from the IHH’s office in Istan­bul revealed two calls to the Bosn­ian Mujahideen Brigade unit head­quar­ters in Zeni­ca, five phone calls to a mem­ber of the Alger­ian Armed Islam­ic Group (GIA) based in Lon­don, and at least one call to Anwar Shaa­ban’s noto­ri­ous Islam­ic Cul­tur­al Insti­tute in Milan, Italy.

The IHH’s con­nec­tions to inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ism have even sur­faced in sworn wit­ness tes­ti­mo­ny in the U.S. fed­er­al court sys­tem. Dur­ing the tri­al of attempt­ed Mil­le­ni­um bomber Ahmed Ressam, not­ed French coun­tert­er­ror­ism mag­is­trate Jean-Louis Bruguiere took the stand and tes­ti­fied that IHH had played “[a]n impor­tant role” in Ressam’s bomb plot tar­get­ing LAX. Under repeat­ed ques­tion­ing, Bruguiere insist­ed that “[t]here’s a rather close rela­tion”: “The IHH is an NGO, but it was kind of a type of cov­er-up. in order to obtain forged doc­u­ments and also to obtain dif­fer­ent forms of infil­tra­tion for Mujahideen in com­bat. And also to go and gather[recruit] these Mujahideens. And final­ly, one of the last respon­si­bil­i­ties that they had was also to be impli­cat­ed or involved in weapons traf­fick­ing.”

None of this infor­ma­tion is con­sid­ered sen­si­tive or secret, nor is it par­tic­u­lar­ly dif­fi­cult to come by. Turk­ish gov­ern­ment offi­cials have open­ly acknowl­edged as much in major West­ern media out­lets. In August 1999, the gov­er­nor of Istan­bul was inter­viewed in the Wash­ing­ton Post after he per­son­al­ly ordered local IHH bank accounts frozen because of sus­pect­ed crim­i­nal activ­i­ty. He explained at the time, “All legal insti­tu­tions may have some ille­gal con­nec­tions. This might be the case here. If they don’t like it, they can appeal in court.”

To his cred­it, the for­mer Istan­bul gov­er­nor here under­scores anoth­er crit­i­cal point. Con­tem­po­rary ter­ror finance net­works are most effec­tive­ly cur­tailed using accept­ed legal sanc­tions and transna­tion­al coop­er­a­tion between region­al allies. Inci­dents such as the dead­ly Gaza flotil­la raid ulti­mate­ly under­mine the bat­tle against illic­it financ­ing, and weak­en shared inter­na­tion­al resolve to pun­ish those who manip­u­late human­i­tar­i­an relief as a cov­er to fund ter­ror­ism. The Israeli gov­ern­ment must be more mind­ful in the future of the wider polit­i­cal reper­cus­sions its attempts at puni­tive actions can have, whether tech­ni­cal­ly jus­ti­fied or not. Those reper­cus­sions impact not only the state of Israel, but also car­ry implic­it costs for the Unit­ed States and its Euro­pean allies.

The milieu [2] [2]that orga­nized the Flotil­la [2] is deeply tied to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood [3], the Islam­ic fas­cist net­work that spawned al-Qae­da, Hamas and Pales­tin­ian Islam­ic Jihad. Note the pres­ence in the flotil­la milieu of inter­ests tied to Youssef Qaradawi. One of the most influ­en­tial Sun­ni imams, he is close­ly linked to the Bank al-Taqwa.

In addi­tion, Al Jazeera [4] net­work (at the front of the media cov­er­age of the event) is close­ly tied to the Broth­er­hood.

“BREAKING NEWS: Dutch Foun­da­tion Tied To Gaza Flotil­la Orga­niz­er Was Work­ing With Turk­ish Char­i­ty Involved”; Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood Dai­ly Report; 6/2/2010. [5]

A Dutch Foun­da­tion tied to the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and linked to a major Gaza flotil­la orga­niz­er has been work­ing with the the Turk­ish char­i­ty known as Insani Yardim Vak­fi (aka IHH Human­i­tar­i­an Relief Foun­da­tion, The Foun­da­tion for Human Rights and Free­dom and Human­i­tar­i­an Relief), the spon­sor of the ship involved in the con­fronta­tion with Israeli naval forces. Accord­ing to Dutch records, the Sticht­ing (Foun­da­tion) KUDUS VAKFI was found­ed in 2003. Kudus Vak­fi is trans­lat­ed from Turk­ish as “Jerusalem Foun­da­tion” and it appears that Kudus Vak­fi is the same Foun­da­tion known ear­li­er as the Sticht­ing Jer­salem (Jerusalem Foun­da­tion) and which is a like­ly suc­ces­sor orga­ni­za­tion to the Al-Aqsa Foun­da­tion Nether­lands, whose assets were frozen in April 2003 by the Min­istry of the Inte­ri­or who stat­ed that the orga­ni­za­tion was col­lect­ing mon­ey for Hamas and/or orga­ni­za­tions relat­ed to Hamas that sup­port or devel­op ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties. . . .

. . . The Union of Good is a coali­tion of Islam­ic char­i­ties that pro­vides finan­cial sup­port to both the Hamas “social” infra­struc­ture, as well as its ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties. It is head­ed by glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood leader Youssef Qaradawi, [asso­ci­at­ed close­ly with Bank al-Taqwa–D.E.] and most of the trustees and mem­ber orga­ni­za­tions are asso­ci­at­ed with the glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. The Union of Good was banned by Israel in 2002 and was recent­ly des­ig­nat­ed a ter­ror­ist enti­ty by the Unit­ed States, although nei­ther Youssef Qaradawi nor any of the Trustees were sim­i­lar­ly des­ig­nat­ed. Despite the fact that action has been tak­en against some of its mem­ber orga­ni­za­tions in Europe, many of its oth­er Euro­pean mem­ber orga­ni­za­tions con­tin­ue to oper­ate. Fur­ther, the Union of Good itself does not appear to be under inves­ti­ga­tion in Europe. . . .

. . . Oth­er pre­vi­ous posts have also described the heavy par­tic­i­pa­tion [2] of the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in the Gaza flotil­la, the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood back­ground [4] of the Al Jazeera jour­nal­ist report­ing from the Turk­ish ship involved in the con­fronta­tion, and the intent of the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood [6] to send anoth­er flotil­la to Gaza.

It was clear what the flotil­la and “peace activists” had in mind–the “Lat­est Inci­dent.”

“Israel and the Block­ade” [Edi­to­r­i­al]; The New York Times; 6/1/2010. [7]

The sup­port­ers of the Gaza-bound aid flotil­la had more than human­i­tar­i­an inten­tions. The Gaza Free­dom March made its motives clear in a state­ment before Monday’s dead­ly con­fronta­tion: “A vio­lent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Pales­tine sol­i­dar­i­ty move­ment, draw­ing atten­tion to the block­ade.” . . .

So WHY did the Israelis fall so obtuse­ly into this trap, in which they have per­formed as their worst ene­mies have want­ed?! In future posts, we will explore some lines of spec­u­la­tion in this regard.