Yildirim accusing China of genocide in East Turkistan
A poster on the English version of the IHH website
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’ parent movement).
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).
Yildirim accusing China of genocide in East Turkistan
(IHH website, July 1, 2010)
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 Muslim hands.”
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 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 residents.1
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 Turkish soil.2Appendix A
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 public.
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.”4The conflict between Israel and Hamas as part of the attack on the Muslim world
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 January 2010).6
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 Palestine free.”
İHH Başkan Bülent Yıldırım: İsrail Akılıysa Bize Engel Olmasın!
Üsküdar meydanında düzenlenen "İstanbul'dan Kudüs'e Dayanışma Günleri" devam ediyor.
Vatandaşların yoğun katılımıyla devam eden "İstanbul'dan Kudüs'e Dayanışma Günleri'nin bugünkü konuğu İHH Başkanı Bülent Yıldırım'dı.
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.