September 5, 2010
The Meir Amit
Intelligence and Terrorism
In a speech given by IHH leader Bulent Yildirim two months prior to the
Marmara flotilla, he presented a radical Islamic ideology with anti-Western
and anti-Israeli motifs. He said that the aim of the flotilla was to isolate
Israel by "breaking the siege" and stressed his determination to reach Gaza.
1. IHH, the Turkish organization behind the last flotilla to the Gaza Strip,
holds a radical Islamic worldview with anti-Western and anti-Israeli
characteristics, close to that espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas'
2. IHH's radical Islamic ideology was reflected in a speech given by its
leader, Bulent Yildirim, at a large support rally in one of the suburbs of
Istanbul two months prior to the flotilla (March 31). In his speech,
Yildirim described the conflict between Israel and Hamas as part of a
so-called "attack" on Muslims worldwide. Yildirim lashed out against Western
countries and other countries for killing Muslims, praised Hamas, ignored
the Palestinian Authority, and slammed Israel and its government. In the
last part of his speech, Yildirim presented possible scenarios for which IHH
was to prepare during the flotilla, stressing the organization's
determination to reach the Gaza Strip under any scenario, even if Israel
used force against one of the ships.
3. The main points of his speech included (for more details see appendices):
a. Hamas is under attack from Israel, which aims to hit it due to Hamas'
election victory and "democratic" rise to power.
b. Israel's attack in the Gaza Strip (i.e., Operation Cast Lead) is part
of a global attack on the Muslim world: "Let us take a look at a picture of
all the wars in the world. The US is killing Muslims. Where? In Afghanistan.
NATO forces are killing Muslims. Where? In Iraq. Russia is killing Muslims.
Where? In Chechnya. China is killing Muslims. Where? In northern Turkistan.
Israel is killing Muslims. Where? In Palestine" (Yildirim then goes on to
accuse Thailand, the Philippines, and India of anti-Muslim actions).
c. "The Muslim man cannot be defeated by the oppressors and the
infidels;" "The day we agree to become slaves to the West [is the day] we
taste failure. That is the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Chechnya, but
Allah willing, we shall not allow it in Palestine." He further added, "If
Al-Quds [Jerusalem] will be in Muslim hands, the whole world will be in
d. The aim of the flotilla is to end the siege on the Gaza Strip and to
isolate Israel (i.e., a political goal rather than a humanitarian one).
Yildirim said that the goal would be achieved under any scenario as soon as
the flotilla was launched ("Plan A is to get in [the Gaza Strip]; plan B is
to get in; plan C is to get inside. Is there a chance of it happening? We
will get inside"). In Yildirim's view, the organizers of the flotilla only
stand to gain from it ("Look, Israel is losing Turkey, Jordan, and it will
be left with no friends in the region").
e. Yildirim listed three possible scenarios: the first-Israel would "act
smart" and let the flotilla reach the Gaza Strip; the second-Israel would
stop the ships and the passengers would be forced to spend a long time on
board (several weeks), causing political and propaganda pressure on Israel;
the third-Israel would attack the ship (hinting at the Mavi Marmara), the
passengers would defend it, and eventually it would break the siege
(Yildirim discussed the third possibility in an interview granted to the
Turkish newspaper Vakit on March 31: "The third option is that Israel can go
crazy and attack the flotilla. Obviously, that would put Israel in a
predicament"). Yildirim noted that the possibility of Israel opening fire
was taken into account in the third scenario.
4. Bulent Yildirim's speech fits well with the evidence we have, indicating
that the flotilla was a political and media provocation carefully planned by
IHH. The speech also demonstrates that the flotilla was not designed to
promote humanitarian goals; instead, its major aim was to further isolate
Israel on the international scene and to support Hamas in the Gaza Strip,
with which IHH shares a common ideology. Those who planned this provocation
had taken into account and even prepared in advance for the possibility of a
violent confrontation in which they could prevent the IDF from taking over
the ship. They also considered the possibility of the IDF opening fire.
Their purpose, as already mentioned, was to break the "siege" on the Gaza
Strip, even in a scenario of resistance from Israel, counting on Israel's
unwillingness to attack a ship sailing under a Turkish flag ("What can
Israel do? Will it open fire on us? Those who got on the ship took that into
consideration. We have already made up our minds .").
5. When addressing Western target audiences, human rights organizations and
humanitarian activists who joined forces with IHH to organize the flotilla,
IHH employed a markedly different terminology than that used by Bulent
Yildirim in his speech. To them and to world public opinion, the aim of the
flotilla was presented as providing "humanitarian aid" to the Palestinian
people while breaking the Israeli "siege" using legal means. FAQs published
on the IHH website in the months prior to the flotilla stressed that the
ships were bringing humanitarian aid for the needy Palestinian people in the
Gaza Strip (from IHH's English website).
A poster on the English version of the IHH website
A poster on the English version of the IHH website which appeared prior to
the launch of the flotilla. The terminology and portrayal of the goal are
completely different from those presented in Yildirim's speech, making no
indication of the preparations for a violent confrontation with the IDF that
IHH was engaged in at the time.
6. Comparison of the speech given by Bulent Yildirim to his "home crowd" in
Turkey and the way IHH presented the goals of the flotilla to Western ears
clearly shows that, during the preparations for the flotilla, IHH sent two
conflicting messages: to its "home crowd" of Islamic supporters in Turkey,
Yildirim presented the flotilla as an action taking place within the context
of Islam's fight on the "offensive" waged against it by world powers and
countries. Furthermore, he praised Hamas, set a clear political goal of
isolating Israel, played down the humanitarian aspect, and used belligerent
terminology. On the other hand, when giving statements in English, aimed
mostly at Western target audiences, IHH avoided making belligerent
statements or using radical Islamic rhetoric, emphasizing the goal of
sending "humanitarian aid" to the Gaza Strip and the dire situation of its
7. Viewed in the context of Turkey's internal situation, Yildirim's speech
is another example of the incitement campaign waged in Turkey by IHH (which
holds a radical Islamic ideology) against Israel, the US, and the West (as
well as other countries such as Russia and China, viewed by IHH as
anti-Muslim). It is worth mentioning that a critical article published in
the secular oppositionist newspaper Hurriyet slammed the ruling party for
allowing hate propaganda against Israel and the West and letting Hamas and
the Muslim Brotherhood engage in political and propaganda activities on
Summary of Yildirim's speech3
1. On March 31, 2010, two months before the flotilla, IHH leader Bulent
Yildirim gave a speech to a massive crowd in the Istanbul neighborhood of
Uskudar during the so-called "Days of Istanbul's support of Al-Quds
[Jerusalem]". On the same day, Yildirim granted an interview to the
newspaper Vakit which included several themes similar to those that had
appeared in his speech, even though the level of the radical Islamic
rhetoric in the interview was lower. The speech and the interview were part
of Yildirim's campaign to shape Turkish public opinion in the months prior
to the flotilla, both among Islamist "home crowds" (from which the
operatives that fought the IDF were recruited) and among the entire Turkish
2. In a speech titled "If Israel [wants to act] wisely, it will not stop the
flotilla", Yildirim detailed IHH's radical Islamic worldview. That worldview
considers the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general and the Israel-Hamas
conflict in particular to be a reflection of a wider, global conflict in
which imperialist and colonialist forces kill and suppress Muslims in
various places worldwide. Bulent Yildirim praised Hamas, slandered Israel,
and analyzed for his listeners the purposes of the then-to-be-launched
flotilla and the various scenarios he expected to take place during the
flotilla (the complete text of the speech in Turkish appears in Appendix B).
The portrayal of the conflict between Hamas and Israel
3. Bulent Yildirim portrayed Hamas' coming to power (2006) as a democratic
process which followed a democratic election. He claimed that following
Hamas' victory in the election, the whole world joined forces against it.
Hamas, according to Yildirim, was the victim of destructive global powers of
which Israel is part. Israel therefore imposed an embargo on Hamas and "most
of the world countries supported [it] without making a sound."
4. In his speech and other statements, Yildirim completely ignored Hamas'
jihadist ideology, its rocket attack on Israeli population centers, its
military buildup, and the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip. He also
ignored Hamas' violent takeover of the Gaza Strip (the Palestinian Authority
does not exist in his speech or other statements). Instead, he chose to
portray Hamas as an innocent victim of Israel and stronger world powers, as
part of the worldwide campaign against Islam.
5. Yildirim went on to portray Hamas as a movement with a different
worldview, "something outside of the global order". Hamas opposes the "new
order" of the world, which consists, according to Yildirim, of "colonialism,
the order of exploitation". "This is how they [colonialist powers] exploit
Africa, the countries of the Asian continent, the countries of Islam. using
Muslims as hostages in their internal wars".
6. Having thus described Hamas and the nature of its conflict with Israel,
Yildirim noted that there had been a war (Operation Cast Lead) in which
Hamas and Palestine won (in Yildirim's view, Palestine is represented by
Hamas; he makes no mention of the Palestinian Authority). "The weakest
people, with the most meager weapons, triumphed over one of the strongest
armies in the world". "First it was Hezbollah that taught [Israel] a lesson.
Then they got a lesson from Hamas in Gaza, and Israel was defeated. However,
Israel did not withdraw from Gaza following the defeat [sic] but suddenly
started shouting that there are terrorists in Gaza".
7. Yildirim then noted, "now the US supports that view as well" (i.e., the
view according to which there are terrorists in Gaza); its official position
therefore is that "the blockade must not be lifted until all terrorists are
eliminated". According to Yildirim, "several American diplomats who visited
civilian charitable societies delivered that message". However, there are
still men of conscience in the world, Yildirim said, who oppose that
position of the US, who seek justice by lifting the blockade, which is why
requests are coming in from people from across the globe who wish to take
part in the coming flotilla.
Defamation of Israel and its government
8. Yildirim portrays Israel as a country that brutalizes Muslims: "After
Israel's latest madness, nearly one million people were forced out of their
homes" (apparently, that imaginary number refers to Operation Cast Lead).
Israel, according to Yildirim, is ruled by extremist politicians who hold 85
percent of the cabinet. "Netanyahu is a psychopath" who ordered most of the
(targeted) killings. And yet, Yildirim said that he is the most moderate
member of the Israeli government, adding that the mad policy followed by
this government is its own creation.
9. In his speech, Yildirim emphasized the importance of the Al-Aqsa Mosque,
for which Muslims must sacrifice their lives and property, and the
significance of ruling Jerusalem: "If Al-Quds [Jerusalem] will be in Muslim
hands, the whole world will be in Muslim hands". He then added (in an
anti-Semitic tone), "the present rulers of Jerusalem are the Jews, the
Zionists. All the suffering and the evil in the world today is a result of
that. Jerusalem must therefore be liberated."4
The conflict between Israel and Hamas as part of the attack on the Muslim
10. Bulent Yildirim argued, "our power is the Muslim world, Muslim unity".
According to Yildirim, unless the Muslim world unites, "there is no saving
Gaza and Turkistan, which borders northern China"5 (a region where China, in
Yildirim's speech, is killing Muslims). Yildirim goes on to say that he had
been informed that "the population of northern Turkistan is 20-30 million
people, while the population of China is 1.3 billion people." That, Yildirim
said, is a mistake, since the Muslim nation numbers about two billion. "Once
those who oppose us are out of our way, we will become the population with
the greatest religious power," he added.
11. As an example of the power of unity, Yildirim mentioned the incident
involving the previous aid convoy in Egypt, which ended in a violent clash
with Egyptian security forces in which he and IHH had been involved: "There,
you saw what happened in Egypt when they tried to keep us from bringing in
the aid convoy. The whole Muslim world united. At that moment, many
countries expressed willingness to help organize another convoy." (referring
to Lifeline-3, an aid convoy that was involved in a violent clash with
Egyptian security forces which refused to let it enter the Gaza Strip in
12. Bulent Yildirim drew on several examples to demonstrate the scope of the
"attack" on Muslims worldwide: "Let us take a look at a picture of all the
wars worldwide. The US is killing Muslims. Where? In Afghanistan. NATO
forces are killing Muslims. Where? In Iraq. Russia is killing Muslims.
Where? In Chechnya. China is killing Muslims. Where? In northern Turkistan.
Israel is killing Muslims. Where? In Palestine. Thailand is killing Muslims
in Pattani Province. The Philippines is killing Muslims in Moro. India is
killing Muslims in Kashmir. The wars in Africa are over but "all the people
killed are Muslims. All of the killers are imperialist forces".
13. Yildirim further added that "the Muslim man cannot be defeated by the
oppressors and the infidels." "When do we feel defeated? The day we agree to
become slaves to the West [is the day] we taste failure. That is the
situation we experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Chechnya, but Allah
willing, we shall not allow it in Palestine, because the true owners of
Palestine are those who struggle."
Isolating Israel by "breaking the siege" on the Gaza Strip
14. According to Yildirim, the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip strengthens
Hamas (or "resistance", as he put it). "We must make sure we lift the siege,
[while] the role of those on the inside is to strengthen the resistance. As
long as the siege continues, the resistance will become stronger." He noted
that while he had visited many war zones in the world, he came to the
realization that Gaza Strip residents were one of a kind. They "do not
break", "they show photos of their friends and say, 'this one died a shahid
[martyr], and this one died a shahid, and this one will be a shahid.'"
15. Yildirim told his listeners that preparations were under way to launch
an eight-ship flotilla (ultimately, six vessels took part in it). The goal
of the flotilla, according to Yildirim, was to "isolate Israel". That goal
would be achieved by entering the Gaza Strip even if Israel attempted to
prevent it. The organizers of the flotilla only stand to gain from it: "We've
won as soon as the flotilla is launched." Yildirim had no doubt about
achieving the goal of isolating Israel: "Look, Israel is losing Turkey,
Jordan, and it will be left with no friends in the region". He then once
again mentioned the previous convoy, which confronted the Egyptian security
forces and which "gave the participants tremendous self-confidence".
16. At the end of his speech, Bulent Yildirim listed three possible
scenarios that could take place during the flotilla's voyage:
a. Scenario A, in which Israel "acts smart" and lets the flotilla enter
the Gaza Strip. In that scenario, Israel would locate the flotilla at sea
and let the ships enter the Gaza Strip. The flotilla would arrive quickly,
the "siege" would be broken, and Israel would not have to contend with
global public opinion. That scenario, according to Yildirim, "would be
beneficial for Israel, and at the same time it may not hurt us." In such a
scenario, the organizers would not settle for entering the Gaza Strip just
once; instead, "the siege must be lifted completely".
b. Scenario B: Israel would stop the ships, and the passengers would
remain on board for an extended period of time (several weeks). According to
Yildirim, stopping the flotilla would be considered a violation of the law:
"Israel has no right to stop the flotilla, and we will continue on our way
without stopping." A possible Israeli attempt to board a flotilla ship with
passengers from over 46 countries on board (hinting at the Mavi Marmara,
perhaps), "would allow us to buy more time". "Fifteen or twenty days will
pass. We will remain on board the ships. We will stay there for a month.
What will happen next? All of those countries' civilian organizations will
start demonstrating and protesting. The issue will be discussed in the
various parliaments." "The longer we can stay at sea, the more time we will
gain. All the officials from those countries will start running around.
Then, even friendly countries will disengage from Israel."
c. Scenario C: Israel would attack the ship (perhaps hinting at the Mavi
Marmara), its passengers would defend it, and the ship would eventually
"break the siege". Yildirim mentioned that out of five previous attempts to
break the siege, three had ended with ships successfully reaching the Gaza
Strip despite Israel's threats to open fire.7 Yildirim further added, "we
want to protect the flotilla at this point [that is, to continue the process
which started in the past]. What can Israel do? Will it open fire on us?
Those who came on board the ship have taken that into account. We have made
up our minds. We've succeeded as soon as we have made up our minds..."
17. In the last part of his speech, Bulent Yildirim stressed once again that
all three scenarios played into the hands of the flotilla's organizers. "If
we are attacked, we will benefit. If we cause stalling, we will also
benefit. If we manage to break [the siege], we will also benefit. That way,
we will make the siege meaningless."
18. He added, however, that one could not ignore the risks involved in the
flotilla. He said that he had been asked why his organization had bought the
ships instead of renting them. The answer was the following: "Dear brothers,
we tried and we worked hard to rent [ships], but nobody agreed because the
risk is too high..." He added, however, that it was a calculated risk: "They
[the Israelis] will not attack the flotilla because the ships are sailing
under a Turkish flag. A ship is like a country's consulate. Attacking a ship
is the same as attacking a Turkish consulate. In addition, it is not that
easy." Yildirim concluded by saying, "Allah willing, one day we shall see
1 Human rights and pro-Palestinian organizations which joined the coalition
led by IHH have also described the aim of the flotilla as being
humanitarian. Furthermore, the Human Rights Council in Geneva, which has
established its own fact-finding mission, also makes use of that terminology
(see UN Human Rights Council, The grave attacks by Israeli forces against
the humanitarian boat convoy, June 23, 2010, A/HRC/RES/14/1).
2 See our July 11, 2010 Information Bulletin: "Internal Turkish criticism of
the Islamic regime for enabling Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood to conduct
political-propaganda activity on Turkish soil and sway public opinion
against Israel and the West. In the background: a phone call from Turkey's
prime minister Tayyip Erdogan to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah".
3 rasthaber website, March 31, 2010.
4 That anti-Semitic tone became even more apparent in Yildirim's interview
to Vakit (March 31): "Those who rule Jerusalem rule the world. In fact, it
is now Zionism that dominates world affairs".
5 Yildirim referred to the region of Xinjiang in northwestern China, where
there exists a conflict between the Chinese authorities and the local Muslim
population. The IHH website accuses China of genocide.
6 See our July 19, 2010 Information Bulletin: "A comparison of the IHH
violence directed against the IDF during the Mavi Marmara flotilla (June
2010) and the violence employed by the Lifeline 3 activists against the
Egyptian security forces (January 2010) shows many similarities, especially
the central role of Turkey and the violent behavior of IHH".
7 Yildirim referred to four previous aid flotillas sent in 2008-2009 to the
Gaza Strip by the Free Gaza movement (which joined the last IHH-led
flotilla). Two flotillas reached the port of Gaza. In two other cases, the
ships were stopped by the Israeli navy. The fifth incident took place during
the Lifeline-3 convoy, when Yildirim rented a ship to transport the convoy's
vehicles by sea from the Syrian port of Latakia to the port of Al-Arish.
Ultimately, the ship did not set sail.