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The Right Way

Mistakes-In hindsight

By: Dr. Alex Sternberg

Turkish President Erdogan lashed out at Israel and Prime Minister

Netanyahu after the Hamas led attack on Israel by over 30,000 Gaza Arabs

was met with live fire resistance by Israel. During the attack on Israel’s

border, 17 attackers were killed when they and a mob of Arabs rushed the

border to break through into Israel proper. This was the latest provocation

by Hamas terrorists to use women and children as human shields to try to

score a public relations coup against Israel. Erdogan, a long time supporter

of Hamas was seething at the latest failure of his friends.

The mass invasion of Israel was billed by Hamas as a “non-violent,

peaceful” expression of the desire of the Arabs to return to their lost

homeland of Palestine.

The “peaceful” protesters were armed with Molotov cocktails, slingshots

with heavy metal projectiles, burning and exploding tires rolled at the Israel

troops. As is the habit of the Arab “freedom fighters”, they send in the

women and children first, followed by the armed attackers. Naturally, when

Israeli troops come under fire they return fire. Ergo, the “innocent civilians”

lamented by Erdogan.

Hamas, the dominant Palestinian group in Gaza, admitted that five of the

dead were members of its armed wing. Israel said eight of the 15 belonged

to Hamas, designated a terrorist group by Israel and the West, and two

others came from other militant factions. So much for “innocent civilians”.

One has to wonder at the mindset of the parents who encourage their

children to participate in such exercises. Perhaps they have no choice.

Erdogan condemned Israel for what he called an "inhumane attack" on

Palestinians in Gaza on Friday during a speech on Saturday. He called

Netanyahu a terrorist and Israel a terrorist state.

Netanyahu, never known to be at a loss for words when defending Israel,

responded to Erdogan's condemnation of Israel in a tweet on Sunday

morning: "The most moral army in the world will not receive moral

exhortations from those who for years have indiscriminately bombed

civilian populations. Apparently this is how Ankara marks April first."

Need we remind Erdogan that Turkey still continues to deny the massacre

of over one million Armenians by Turkish soldiers during World War One.

In a later tweet, Netanyahu said: “Erdogan is not accustomed to being

answered back to, but he should start getting used to it. He who occupies

northern Cyprus, encroaches on Kurdish territory and massacres civilians

in Afrin cannot preach to us on values and morals.”

This type of back and forth is becoming more common place between

Israel and Turkey lately. Although allies and friends for decades, Israel’s

relationship has been steadily declining with Turkey ever since Erdogan

came to power. Long gone are the close military cooperation between the

Turkish military and Israel, as well as the sharing of Turkish airspace for

Israeli Airforce maneuvers.

Erdogan, a close ally and supporter of the Moslem Brotherhood, a fanatical

Moslem fundamentalist group founded in 1920’s Egypt, has become an

avid supporter of even the most radical Moslem groups. But this is not

surprising for those who have been Erdogan observers.

One can only wonder at the “buyer’s remorse” that Netanyahu must be

feeling at the effort at reconciliation he attempted between Israel and

Turkey some five years ago.

In May 31, 2010, the Turkish based Turkish Foundation for Human Rights

and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), organized an attempt to

break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, under the guise of bringing

humanitarian aid to the beleaguered people of Gaza. You may recall that

Israel unilaterally left Gaza in 2005 uprooting over 20 beautiful Israeli

communities living there for over 20 years.

Shortly after Israel evacuated Gaza, Hamas in a bloody civil war against

the PA, massacred their Palestinian brothers and took power. They

immediately set about lobbying rockets into southern Israel and attacking

Israel. In an attempt to put pressure on Hamas, Israel blockaded the Strip

and prevented the entry of materials that had military use from reaching the

hands of the terrorists. Hence, the blockade.

The Turkish group IHH together with a Hamas based Gaza group

organized a flotilla of 6 ships bring humanitarian aid to Gaza and to break

the blockade. The ship Mavi Marmara was the flagship.

Israel saw the outfitting of these ships in Turkey as a provocation and

warned both Turkey and the organizers to abort the mission, stating

categorically that none of the ships would be allowed to dock in Gaza.

IHH ignored the warnings.

On the night of May 31,2010, the Israeli Navy contacted the ships while in

international waters and ordered them to sail to Ashdod to submit to

inspection of their cargo or they would be boarded. The flotilla flagship Mavi

Marmara refused. Radio transmissions reported fiery rhetoric from the

ships warning of heavy Israeli casualties if Israel attempted to board them.

Israel sent a combination of navy speed boats and helicopters with

Shayetet 13 navy commandos on board. Five of the ships were boarded

without significant resistance but the IHH and Hamas activists aboard the

Mavi Marmara put up stiff resistance. Armed with swords, knives, metal

bars and some pistols, they beat and stabbed the commandos who were

coming down from the helicopters by rope. Some commandos were thrown

overboard and 9 were seriously wounded. Meeting such lethal resistance

from between 40 to 600 activists aboard, the commandos opened fire in

defense. Ultimately, 10 Turkish and Hamas activists were killed as Israel

took control of the ship.

Naturally, this incident was followed by an international outcry condemning

Israel with demands for an “impartial and transparent” investigation.

Sounds familiar?

After numerous inquiries several facts were established.

According to flotilla organizer Greta Berlin, the Israeli soldiers didn't start

firing until an activist sized a gun from one of them. Five of the activists who

were killed had previously declared their desire to become shaheeds or


The New York Times, in an editorial, said, "At least some of the activists on

the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, were seeking a confrontation – and got


After all the hoopla died down, it was discovered that while three of the

ships did carry medical and humanitarian supplies, the Mavi Marmara did

not. Instead, they had stored weapons and were manned by activists

spoiling for a physical and possibly deadly confrontation with the Israeli

Navy. As the New York Times pointed out,- they got one.

Erdogan was very much in the thick of planning the Mavi Marmara attack,

outfitting the ships and enabling them to sail to confront Israel.

Perhaps Israel was still naïve about Erdogan and was optimistic that the

plunging relationship with Turkey after the Mavi Marmara could be


After much negotiations, Israel agreed to pay $20 to the families of the

dead activists with Netanyahu apologizing to Erdogan in a much-publicized

phone call.

So, this brings us to the present.

I can only imagine, how much Netanyahu regrets today making that

humiliating apology and the $20 dollar reward he had agreed to pay.

Yes, hindsight is 20-20. I think this is all the more reason why he slaps

Erdogan whenever he can.

Many in Israel’s thought that the gesture was wasted as Turkey by that time

was in the grips of radical Sunnis. Erdogan has often been tied to dreams

of a caliphate, a remaking of the Ottoman Empire of old. When he shaves, I

bet, he sees Suleiman the Magnificent looking back at him.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan expressed regret that Israel had

agreed to reconciliation with Turkey in 2016. Asked about the détente

reached between the two countries, ending six years of animosity after the

2010  Mavi Marmara  incident, Erdan said, “The agreement should not have

been approved, and trying to improve ties with Turkey was a mistake.”

The present Gaza episode reminds every one of the Mavi Marmara with

some key differences. Israel has still not developed a more sophisticated

and clever way of thwarting these publicity maneuvers by the Arabs. But

they are more ready to defend themselves without any apologies. I don’t

imagine we will have the numerous soul-searching “independent and

transparent” inquiries of years ago. At that time, the UN Human Rights

Commission condemned Israel. President Obama was not interested in

helping Israel. Today, things are different.

We are reminded during this Pesach season that “in every generation

some rise up against us to annihilate us.” May the Almighty continue to

defend us through the able hands of our Israeli military.

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