Turkey denies offering assistance to Gaza flotilla organizers
Records of the meeting between the heads of the flotilla two weeks prior to embarkation and other similar documents were found on laptop computers confiscated by the Israel Defense Forces.
Data found on a laptop of a passenger of last May’s Gaza bound flotilla indicates that the flotilla’s organizers received assistance from the highest levels of the Turkish government, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Edogan and other senior government officials.
Records of the meeting between the heads of the six groups behind the flotilla, in Istanbul, two weeks prior to embarkation and other similar documents were found on laptop computers confiscated by the Israel Defense Forces following the takeover of the flotilla.
The documents suggest long-term and detailed preparations by the organizers, months in advance, including readying for various scenarios, including the landing of commandos on the ships using ropes from helicopters.
The Turkish government denies offering any assistance to the flotilla’s organizers.
Immediately after the takeover of the ships on May 31, the IDF confiscated all computers and documents on the vessels. The material was taken to the intelligence analysts, and some of it went to the
Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, an organization that is authorized to analyze intelligence, headed by Dr. Reuven Erlich. The ITIC released the information in a report earlier this month.
The most significant document of the batch, which sheds light on the role of the government of Turkey, was found on the laptop of a Polish journalist, Ewa Jasiwicz, who is a member of the Free Gaza Movement, part of the coalition of groups that took part in the flotilla. The document is a record of a meeting held in Istanbul on 16 May, and participants were the heads of the organizations involved and the captains of the vessels.
Dror Feiler, a former Israeli who lives in Sweden and who participated in the meeting and was on the flotilla, confirmed to Haaretz details of the meeting and the context in which the statements were made. Jasiwicz was not available for comment.
The Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv said in response that “for the Turkish government the flotilla was a civilian initiative. If it was a government initiative we would have handled it, and this was not the case. In the public statements it was said that this was a civilian initiative.”
According to the document, the meeting opened with a briefing on the support of various states to the flotilla:
“Turkey − A. Government did not announce openly support for the mission at first; but [in the] last few days, [we have been] getting direct support from PM and other ministers. During [face to face] discussions, [they] openly said that if we have any difficulties, gov[ernment] will extend what support they can”
“Sweden − A. Gov[ernment] not taking supporting position. Trying to have meetings with foreign minister and defense minister. Hiding behind EU, saying they can’t act alone. B. Have support from different parties plus Church of Sweden.”
“Cyprus − A. Position is that they will do what is legal. B. According to European classifications/law, Gaza is not an official port; it is local fishermen’s port.”
Another portion of the meeting dealt with an update on the condition of Izzat Shahin, who was sent to the West Bank to set up a branch of the IHH group and was arrested by the Shin Bet security service. The update says that the IHH began a campaign in support of Shahin and are trying to press governments to inquire why he had been arrested. They also said that the Shin Bet had claimed at court that he was part of the flotilla being organized.
Under the headline “Strategy at Sea,” the organizers made a number of decisions on how to counter an IDF assault. It was decided that each of the six groups participating in the flotilla would select someone who would be part of the decision makers. They would be positioned on the Mavi Marmara, which was the flagship of the flotilla.
Various scenarios were discussed: In the case shots were fired, simply as a challenge or a warning, they were to carry on and at the same time work through the media and politically. If the firing was targeted, they were to stop and evaluate the situation.
The captains would decide what to do, taking into consideration matters of safety. If the ship was being towed, the passengers would embark onto a different vessel.
In case the path was blocked, they were to advance until they were physically stopped. As for defending the ships, the participants said that there was not much to be done.
According to the record, the organizers were not opposed to the aid they were carrying being taken to the Gaza Strip through Israel.
“Of course we are not opposed to the cargo being taken to Gaza, but we must stress that ... our mission is not to bring aid to Gaza but human rights to the Palestinian people. Therefore we will not agree to the transfer of the cargo [by Israeli authorities] to Gaza.”
Another released document is an internal document of Free Gaza, entitled “Strategy.” The document was authored on March 7, 2010, and details the poor financial state of the organization, the preparations for the flotilla, scenarios for confrontations with IDF soldiers, preparations and instructions on dealing with imprisonment, political and public relations goals in the media.
The group decided not to hire a cargo vessel to Gaza since the strategic aims of the flotilla were met by the Mavi Marmara.
A large portion of the document deals with response scenarios to Israeli behavior. The strategy that was decided was that there would be no turning back at any price, which would make the only way of stopping them the use of force.
The document notes that there are two ways the Israelis would get on the ship: from helicopters or by ships alongside the vessel.
“In order to prevent landing from the air, sharp obstacles must be put on the deck, making the landing too dangerous. If the soldiers do land, we will focus on the bridge, which will require replacing the windows with bulletproof windows, and the doors with steel doors.”