The Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla that resulted in the deaths of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American has led Israel and its supporters to argue (see The Weekly Standard, 5/31/10) that the Turkish government and a prominent Turkish humanitarian organization are “terrorist” sympathizers with ill intentions toward Israel and the United States. In a series of articles (e.g., New York Times, 6/8/10, and Washington Post, 6/7/10), the U.S. corporate press has joined in.
Today, the Washington Post reports that IHH, the Turkish aid group involved with the flotilla that attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, has a “dual message of aid and confrontation.” Their evidence for the confrontational attitude of IHH? A banner on the side of their building that reads, “Israel, murderers, hands off our boats!” Don’t pay attention to the fact that IHH was attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and that it was Israel that confronted and killed people on the ship.
The Post goes on to report claims that IHH has links to Al-Qaeda, citing a 2006 report by “U.S. terrorism investigator” Evan Kohlmann. But two paragraphs down, the Post quotes a “think tank with ties to Israel’s Defense Ministry, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center,” that states there is “no known evidence of current links between IHH and ‘global jihad elements.'”
What’s not mentioned in the Post article is that no government besides Israel considers IHH a terrorist organization (The Christian Science Monitor, 6/1/10). In fact, IHH delivered humanitarian aid to Haiti in the aftermath of the January earthquake at a time when the United States military took a leading role in directing relief efforts there. Would the U.S. have allowed a terrorist organization into Haiti? IHH has also helped out in New Orleans (New York Times, 5/31/10).
Marsha B. Cohen (Mondoweiss, 6/4/10), an expert on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, has already debunked IHH’s “terror ties,” and cast doubt on the credentials of Evan Kohlmann, pointing to a Spinwatch.org article on Kohlmann that thoroughly details his lack of expertise. Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, noted (Alternet, 8/6/08) that Kohlmann assisted in the prosecution of Osama bin Laden’s former driver by producing a film that was “pure propaganda,” raking in $45,000 for the film and his testimony as an “expert witness” in the much criticized trial.
But be scared! According to the Post:
In the group’s two-story headquarters, IHH members — mostly men in their 30s and 40s dressed in jeans or casual business attire — oversee operations in dozens of countries. The group provides humanitarian aid such as freshwater wells and medical care, as well as Islamic services such as training for prayer leaders. A world map on one wall depicted Palestine, but not Israel.