Bülent Yildirim, leader of the Turkish organization IHH, said in another fiery speech that “We are not afraid to die as shaheeds” and would continue “until we complete our journey to Al-Aqsa mosque”


1. A speech by IHH leader Bülent Yildirim and a document which appeared on the ISM website about applying to participate in the voyage are the first indications of the tactics both organizations intend to use in a scenario of confrontation with Israel:

1) IHH leader Bülent Yildirim recently gave a fiery speech with anti-Semitic overtones declaring that "we [i.e., IHH participants in the upcoming flotilla] are not afraid to die as shaheeds." He emphasized the IHH’s determination to continue dispatching flotillas until "the siege of Gaza is lifted" and "we complete our journey to Al-Aqsa [mosque]." In our assessment, the speech, similar to the one he gave two months before the Mavi Marmara flotilla, may indicate Yildirim has taken into consideration that this flotilla may also entail casualties. His speech may be interpreted as publicly paving the way for the use of force and violence by operatives of IHH, an organization with a violent record (e.g., the Mavi Marmara and the Viva Palestina convoy).

2) The International Solidarity Movement (ISM), on the other hand, an extreme left-wing organization based on the West Coast of the United States, instructed its activists to use nonviolent tactics. Past experience with similar anti-Israeli organizations and networks has taught that the concept of "nonviolent resistance" is open to broad interpretation. The ISM pays special attention to the tactics its activists should use after they have been captured by Israel (assuming that the flotilla will lead to detentions, including of figures well known in the United States). Their objective is to make it difficult for Israel to deal with the detainees and deport them, and to make as much political and propaganda capital as possible.

The implications of Bülent Yildirim’s Alanya speech

2. On April 7, 2011, a memorial service was held in the southern Turkish city of Alanya for the IHH operatives killed aboard the Mavi Marmara. IHH leader Bülent Yildirim gave a speech with anti-Semitic overtones in which he referred to the upgraded flotilla. He said that "We [i.e., the IHH] are not afraid to die as shaheeds," "We will not retreat until the siege of Gaza is lifted" and "we complete our journey to Al-Aqsa [mosque]."1

3. The ceremony in Alanya was another event in the ongoing IHH campaign to glorify the nine Turkish IHH and IHH-affiliated operatives who died aboard the Mavi Marmara and became "shaheeds." Almost all the operatives who were killed (eight of the nine) belonged to Islamist organizations and seven announced before the event that they desired to be shaheeds (martyrs for the sake of Allah). Bülent Yildirim’s remark that "We are not afraid to die as shaheeds" and remarks of determination may indicate that IHH has taken into account that this flotilla may also entail casualties. In addition, his remarks may be a way of publicly paving the way for a possible IHH use of force and violence against Israel during the upgraded flotilla.2

4. IHH operatives have a history of violent behavior, not only aboard the Mavi Marmara but during the Viva Palestina convoy six months previously. (During the convoy’s entrance into the Gaza Strip, IHH operatives were involved in a violent confrontation with the Egyptian security forces.)

The ISM deploys for "nonviolent resistance"

5. The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is a network of anti-Israeli activists established in the summer of 2001 by extreme left-wingers in the United States. It is based on the West Coast and is frequently involved at friction points in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories (in the style of Bila’in.) The ISM also belongs to the coalition organizing the upgraded flotilla. Senior ISM figures – Huwaida Arraf, Adam Shapiro and Greta Berlin – also head the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) and hold key positions in organizing the upgraded flotilla in collaboration with IHH.

6. The ISM’s Northern California website recently posted a call to its activists to send applications for participation in the upgraded flotilla:3

1) "The selection process will favor activists" who previously participated in ISM flotillas, especially those who were detained and deported by Israel. Traveling expenses will be paid by participants. The North Carolina branch is willing to offer partial sponsorship to those "who wish to be considered."

2) The number of participants will be decided by the committee organizing the ship [i.e., the American ship], but the ISM estimates it at between 30 and 60.

3) The flotilla will be led by the Flotilla Steering Committee, which will determine its strategy.

4) The ISM (and in our assessment similar organizations) will deploy broad use of the tactic of "greater nonviolent resistance after capture," for example:

i) "Refusing deportation until a set of conditions is met"

ii) "Extreme nonviolent noncooperation during captivity"

5) The "strategies are subject to discussion and agreement by both the participants and the Flotilla Steering Committee."

7. As in the past, the ISM – and similar organizations – stress slogans like "nonviolent resistance," which are familiar and readily acceptable to Western ears. However, the Mavi Marmara affair proved that the term is open to broad interpretation by the various anti-Israeli organizations and their activists, who in reality are eager to confront IDF soldiers.4 Activists aboard the other five ships in the recent flotilla also used physical and verbal violence, although not to the same extent as aboard the Mavi Marmara.5 For example:

1) Violence was used to confront IDF soldiers aboard the Sfendoni ["Boat 8000"]: the use of evasion tactics which endangered boats on the high seas; throwing various objects at soldiers approaching the ship; attempts to snatch soldiers’ weapons; shoving soldiers down flights of stairs and close physical confrontations involving dozens of activists. An attempt was also made by activists to barricade themselves on the bridge.

2) The Challenger tried evasion tactics and in effect forced the IDF to chase it for considerable distances. The soldiers who boarded the ship were met with violence, which included verbal abuse, attempts to shove them, uncontrolled violent behavior by a number of activists and activists who barricaded themselves in several cabins.

3) The activists aboard the Defney had made considerable preparations for a confrontation, which included positioning a crane to prevent IDF soldiers from rappelling from helicopters onto the deck (forcing them to chose a location closer to the bridge, endangering their lives), stringing cables, positioning accordion barbed wire, and leaving piles of gravel, stones and iron rods near the ship’s hull. When they reached the ship the soldiers were met with verbal abuse from the crew.

8. Of particular note is the fact that the ISM organizers will favor activists experienced in the organization’s activities in friction points in "Palestine," especially those who were detained and deported by Israel. ISM activists are involved in the "Bila’in-type" protests in Judea and Samaria where "soft violence" is employed (especially by Palestinians), which has often led to casualties of both Palestinians and IDF security forces.

9. The ISM appeal to its activists indicated that the basic assumption of the organizers is that activists who participate in the planned upgraded flotilla (including well-known personalities from the United States and other countries) can expect to be detained by Israel. Thus, as with the previous flotilla, great consideration is being given to tactics aimed at making it difficult for Israel to deal with detainees, to postpone their deportation as long as possible and while they are detained, to make the greatest amount of political and propaganda capital. It is reasonable to assume that their tactics will be backed up by legal and media briefings regarding detainee rights, by instructions regarding behavior during detention and after release, and by documentation and exposure in the global media.

1 Bülent Yildirim noted that the proposed upgraded flotilla may be postponed. For further information see the April 8, 2011 ITIC bulletin, " IHH leader Bülent Yildirim said the upcoming flotilla to the Gaza Strip might be delayed." at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e181.pdf

2 Two months before the Mavi Marmara flotilla, Bülent Yildirim gave a militant speech before an audience of supporters which, in retrospect, may have been paving the way for the violent events which occurred. For further information see the date ITIC bulletin, " In a speech given by IHH leader Bülent Yildirim two months prior to the Marmara flotilla, he presented a radical Islamic ideology with anti-Western and anti-Israeli motifs" at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e123.pdf.

3 Norcalism.org/flotilla.html , "Nonviolent Resistor Application for 2011 Gaza Freedom Flotilla."

4 See, for example, the June 28, 2010 ITIC bulletin, Inside documents of the Free Gaza movement seized in the recent flotilla expose considerable discrepancies between its strategy and tactics and its public stance

5 For further information about the IHH’s use of violence, see the January 23, 2011 ITIC bulletin, "Detailed testimony from IDF officers and soldiers, supported by documentation, reveals for the first time the aggressive, brutal fighting carried out by IHH operatives and their accomplices against Israeli forces aboard the Mavi Marmara" at http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/ipc_e162.pdf.