Bulent Yildirim’s interview on the Turkish newspaper Star
1. On November 14, 2010, Bulent Yildirim, the leader of the IHH, a Turkish organization which played a major role in the latest flotilla, gave an interview to the Islamic government-affiliated newspaper Star. The interview focused on the Mavi Marmara incident and the developments that followed.
2. The interview consisted of two major parts:
a. In the first part, Bulent Yildirim discussed at length a motion by the U.S. Congress to designate the IHH as a terrorist organization. He once again used the anti-Semitic motif according to which "the Zionists” (a term which now substitutes "the Jews”) control the U.S., including the president, the Congress, the administration, and the media. He said that the "Zionism” also controls the drug and weapons industries and the media across the globe.
b. In the second part of the interview, Yildirim discussed the Mavi Marmara incident. He once again accused Israel of deliberately massacring innocent passengers, claiming they had carried no weapons. He defended the assistance extended by the IHH to Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and threatened that the IHH would not leave Israel alone until it lifted the so-called siege of the Gaza Strip. Yildirim made the far-fetched claim that Israel had committed the Mavi Marmara "massacre” to let Turkey know that Israel is the country that owns the Mediterranean Sea, with its oil and gas resources (according to Yildirim's allegation, the site of the raid on the Mavi Marmara is the location where Israel wants to produce underwater gas). He made another grotesque claim according to which Israel had been planning to attack Gaza and Lebanon and commit a massacre there, and that only the humanitarian aid organizations that organized the flotilla had taken action to prevent that from happening.
3. The interview provides an insight into the character and thought patterns of IHH leader Bulent Yildirim. He appears to hold radical Islamic views, adhere to extreme anti-Semitic beliefs drawn from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and harbor hostility towards the U.S. and Israel. The unfounded narrative of the Mavi Marmara flotilla which he repeatedly disseminates in interviews to Islamic Turkish target audiences is aimed, in our assessment, to divert criticism and complaints voiced in Turkey against the IHH, and at the same time provide the IHH with the platform to continue helping Hamas, with the Turkish government's support (even though Yildirim portrays the IHH as an independent organization).
4. It should be mentioned that, in a speech given about two months prior to the flotilla, Yildirim had described it as a constituent in the campaign against "the infidels” (including Israel, the U.S., Russia, and China) who "rob” the Muslims, and argued that if Muslims could control Jerusalem, they would control the world.1
5. See Appendix for the main points of Bulent Yildirim’s interview.
Main points of the interview given by IHH leader Bulent Yildirim
to the Turkish newspaper Star
1. On November 14, 2010, the Turkish daily Star published an interview given by IHH leader Bulent Yildirim to Star reporter Fadime Özkan. The interview focused on the Mavi Marmara incident and the developments that had followed. The article begins by saying that the backdrop for the interview was the possibility that the IHH would be designated as a terrorist organization in the U.S. in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident, and the expectation that Israel would submit the findings of its internal enquiry committee to the UN Secretary General.
2. An Islamist daily, Star is considered to be affiliated with the Turkish government. The wording of the questions and the way they were presented to Bulent Yildirim is a possible sign, in our assessment, that the interview was staged and that the questions and answers had been scripted in advance to provide the IHH leader with a proper platform to respond to his critics and present his views to Islamic Turkish target audiences (Yildirim expresses himself differently to his partner Western human rights organizations and to world public opinion).
The Jews dominate the U.S. and the world
3. In the beginning of the interview, Bulent Yildirim was asked to address the motion by the U.S. Congress to designate the IHH as a terrorist organization. The main theme of his detailed answer was the claim that "the U.S. is ruled by Zionism”.2
4. The main points of Bulent Yildirim’s reply were as follows:
a. The motion to designate the IHH as a terrorist organization was born following the Mavi Marmara incident and was the initiative of Jewish Congressmen. It demonstrates just how much influence Jews have on life in the U.S. and to what extent they have been able to enslave that country. Collecting signatures in the Congress to submit the motion demonstrates better than anything else "the dirty face” of the Congress. According to Yildirim, if the initiative is passed, it would expose "the dirty face of the Zionists in the U.S.”.
b. Bulent Yildirim noted that the Zionists are fond of saying, "Give us the money of any country, and we will make sure to pass any laws we see fit, thus running that country.” He added that, under the system used in the U.S., "The funds which the Zionists provide allow the election of the senators and the ministers”. President Obama is concerned about that phenomenon; consequently, the U.S., in its UN votes, "has positioned itself with the occupying, unjust, and dishonest Zionists.” He further added, "Therefore, Obama, during his term, can allow himself to be enslaved by the Zionists”.
c. The IHH will not cooperate with the U.S. Congress. "Ours is the right way. The whole world knows we are right.” According to Yildirim, the Zionists have lost some of their power in the U.S., while the Muslims there, despite the hardship and torture they undergo, represent Islam in a respectable manner. Israeli-influenced American media has taken Israel’s side as usual. However, "Alternative U.S. media has gained a kind of power it never had before.” He also said that the ever-increasing human rights organizations were able to deal with the Israeli manipulations.
5. Bulent Yildirim was then asked by the reporter about the measures he deemed necessary to deal with the "world media”, which also supported Israel and slammed the IHH. His response to that question was also exploited for an anti-Semitic incitement: according to Yildirim, the "Zionism” rules the world in four spheres: the drug industry, the food industry, the weapons industry, and the media. The media provides considerable power to the spheres of fuel, finance, and weapons. That is the foundation used by the Zionists to "handle world media”. "The Zionists acquire media across the globe”, Yildirim said.
6. In an attempt to cast himself in a heroic light, Yildirim said that during his interrogations in Israel, the interrogators had threatened to use all the might of (Zionist) propaganda against the IHH. His response was, "Not this time [...]] From this day on, no matter what your media says, no matter how many Hollywood movies you make, people have started using their brains... The whole world watched your Mavi Marmara massacre on television. Try as you might to explain your position, you’ve lost...”3
Israel’s motives in taking over the Mavi Marmara
7. Later in the interview, Bulent Yildirim extensively discussed the Mavi Marmara incident. He claimed that Israel had intended to kill innocent Turkish civilians and the attack on the ship was tantamount to an attack on Turkey. Referring to the claim that the flotilla was a provocation aimed to grant Hamas a legal status, Bulent Yildirim claimed that Hamas was legal because "it ran in the election and won it”. "Is it a crime that they [Hamas] gained the people’s trust?” he asked.
8. Yildirim listed the motives behind the flotilla organized by the IHH, raising false, baseless claims. According to Yildirim, while the IHH is a "humanitarian organization”, it does not conceal its Islamic identity. Being an Islamic organization, the IHH had to intervene to prevent Israel from engaging in actions that "would lead to a world war”. He further added, "If it wasn’t for the Mavi Marmara, Israel would be willing to attack in Gaza and in Lebanon and commit a massacre there, and then everybody would have to intervene. We knowingly prevented a war”. When asked, "You say that based on what information?” Bulent Yildirim replied, "Everybody knows that! All the strategists! Israel prepared for war. It stocked up on weapons after [Operation] Cast Lead. All of its storehouses were full. It was going to commit a massacre. The important thing is that the humanitarian aid organizations took action to prevent that from happening”.
9. Bulent Yildirim said, "Prior to the launch of the flotilla, we had consulted with maritime law specialists to make sure that the flotilla was not illegal”. He further added, "Do you know why Israel attacked us? The site approved by the Israeli General Staff is the same site where they now want to extract underwater gas.” Bulent Yildirim went on to develop that idea: "South of Cyprus there are large gas and oil deposits. That area belongs to Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Egypt, and southern Cyprus. Israel attacked us there to send a message to the other countries: ‘I am going to extract that gas. I own the Mediterranean Sea.’ The message it sent to Turkey was, ‘Don’t you dare coming to this region. We’re in charge here.’”
Other claims on the Mavi Marmara incident and the behavior of the IHH
10. Bulent Yildirim took advantage of the interview to reiterate well-known claims already made by the IHH (and Turkey) about the flotilla:
a. IHH operatives carried no weapons. According to Yildirim, the Mavi Marmara passengers were civilians who carried nothing but humanitarian aid. He noted, "We legally left the Turkish customs... The customs searched us and let the whole world know what cargo we carried on board the ships” (note: numerous cold weapons were found on board the Mavi Marmara, including knives, clubs, axes, and slingshots, which had been prepared in advance and brought on board in Istanbul, to the best of our knowledge).
b. Israel is accused of a premeditated massacre of Mavi Marmara passengers. Yildirim claims that if it wasn’t for the Israelis’ intentions to commit a massacre, they could have first taken over the other ships, with only 10-12 passengers on board. Instead, they chose to attack the ship with the most passengers [i.e., the Mavi Marmara] because "they were planning to kill and thus send a message to the whole world and to Turkey.” He said that the families of the victims had filed an appeal to the international tribunal in Hague, but added it was doubtful that the trial would actually take place.
c. Warnings received by the IHH from Turkey. Yildirim stressed that the IHH was an independent, autonomous civilian organization. According to Yildirim, the organization does not follow the dictates of the Turkish government, and it does not matter which government is currently in power. "When the ship [Mavi Marmara] set sail,” Yildirim said, "we held official discussions with the authorities. The government presented its ideas to us. We were warned that Israel could take action, that it could do this or that, that things could become unpleasant; we were told [by the Turkish government] that we should give up and call it off. We took the term ‘attack’ to mean that they [the Israelis] could damage the ship’s propellers and try to stop it.” Bulent Yildirim stressed once again that "The government definitely did warn us. It has to protect its citizens. It held talks with the U.S., Israel, and Egypt.” Yildirim added that the possibility of a military takeover by Israel "was not on our minds” and that if it had been, "they may have terminated our activity as a civilian organization.”4
d. Bulent Yildirim’s relations with Foreign Minister Davutoglu: in response to a question about the issue, Yildirim responded that "We know and cherish Ahmet Davutoglu,” but "We have no special relations with him.” Yildirim does not deny that "The government has taken us under its wing”, explaining that it was a necessity dictated by reality as far as the Turkish government was concerned: "Are we not citizens of this country? The behavior of the prime minister, the president, and the foreign minister flattered us and moved us... They said that the Turkish government would protect us, and flags were raised everywhere in Turkey. If Turkey had not protected us, it would have been selling itself short.”
e. The demands from Israel following the flotilla: according to Yildirim, the flotilla resulted in the emergence of a new reality that Israel would have to pay for. He accused Israel of killing nine people by long-range fire (note: IDF soldiers used live ammunition only when they had no choice and when it was necessary for self-defense, that is, when they were attacked and their lives were in imminent danger). He added that prior to the flotilla, the IHH’s goal was to "draw attention to the siege [on] Gaza”. Now that blood was spilled, Turkey demanded that Israel apologize and pay damages, which could prove useful. However, he added that the demand of the IHH and "the people of conscience" was that "the siege on Gaza be lifted”.
f. The IHH has ties with the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip. Yildirim noted that people from the U.S. and Europe asked him what government they met with when they came to Gaza. The answer: "With the Hamas leadership. In Gaza, we cooperate with Hamas, because they are in power.” Yildirim also rejected the claims on smuggling weapons to the Gaza Strip by addressing the people making such claims (as well as Israel): "Who can smuggle weapons to the Gaza Strip? You closed it off from all sides” (note: in practice, weapons and terrorist operatives are brought into the Gaza Strip in extensive smuggling operations, despite the preventive measures taken by Israel and Egypt).
g. The results of the UN inquiry panel. Yildirim was asked about the possible results of the UN inquiry panel (headed by Geoffrey Palmer, appointed by the UN Secretary General) in light of the conclusions Israel was about to give it in mid-November.5 Yildirim stressed that the "UN Commission [on Human Rights] confirmed that we are right”; accordingly, he went on to claim that the report published following the inquiry would be "a political report.” However, Yildirim expressed his hope that the report published by the inquiry panel appointed by the UN Secretary General would be positive, too: "What can they say? We were sailing in the open sea, as unarmed civilians. Israel carried out an armed intervention. The best they can do is to say that we caused a provocation. Even if we did, so what? Is Israel stupid enough to respond to such a provocation?... Will they ask [us] why we resisted? They [the Israelis] came with armed forces, what could we do?”
h. The nature of the IHH: Yildirim defined the IHH as an organization fighting against world injustice, analyzing the political reality in various places across the globe. He did not go into details about the organization’s activity. He claimed that the IHH began receiving more donations following the Mavi Marmara incident, even though his organization did not "chase” donations. When asked about the IHH’s budget, Yildirim replied that it was about 120-130 million new Turkish liras (around 100 million dollars), used by the organization to provide aid to 125 countries.
1 See our September 5, 2010 Information Bulletin: "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”.
2 Anti-Semitism in the Arab/Muslim world is usually aimed against Israel as a Zionist-Jewish state, being the concrete enemy, and the Jewish people, perceived to be a supporter of Israel. In many cases no clear distinction is made between vicious criticism against Israel on one hand and against the Zionist movement and the Jewish people on the other.
3 Later in the interview, Bulent Yildirim told nonsensical stories about what he had been through during his detainment in Israel. For example, he claimed that Mossad interrogators had given him a DNA test to see what kind of toxins could harm his body.
4 This is a biased account aimed to counter accusations against the government of Turkey of failing to prevent the flotilla from setting sail, as well as claims about the IHH being responsible for the clash despite having been warned by the Turkish government. The account contradicts previous remarks made by Yildirim prior to the launch of the flotilla, during a speech given in an Istanbul suburb about two months before the flotilla (March 31). He listed three possible scenarios that could take place during the flotilla’s voyage. The third scenario was that "Israel could go crazy and attack the flotilla.” He added that the third scenario included the possibility of Israel opening fire: "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...”
5 Soon after the incident, the UN Commission on Human Rights released a one-sided report strongly biased against Israel.