WHY ALL THE CONJECTURE ABOUT TURKEY?

Not a week goes by without reading an article about Turkey and the governing party, the AKP, in which the economic and the reformist wonders of the AKP are applauded and the newly emerged Anatolian conservative middle class is not mentioned as the magnificent result of the AKP’s free market oriented capitalist economic policies, one of the best performers of its kind in the world.

It is a Turkish lady named Gonul Tol, the Director for the Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute, doing the honors in the December 21st issue of the Foreign Policy magazine this time out.

The piece is confidently titled “Why Turkey is not turning Islamist.” I personally am not claiming it is definitely turning Islamist; it certainly may not be, but has this particular writer been granted special powers by the Almighty to be able to know with such clarity that Turkey is not turning Islamist? Just as I have no way of knowing what the future may hold for the Turkish people, she has no way of foretelling, either. Particularly because Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister and the AKP leader, has been granted by the recent referendum the power to practically handpick the majority of the members of the high judiciary (the judicial branch) in addition to all of Members of the Parliament from the AKP (the legislative branch) and all the ministers in his cabinet (the executive branch) which he already could handpick even prior to the plebiscite. Of course, I am aware the new constitutional amendments do not state that the PM elects whomever he chooses. However, is Tol aware that the majority of the judiciary, including the members of the Constitutional Court, will be elected by the parliament, which the AKP MP’s handpicked by Erdogan control, and the President, whom the same parliament controlled by the AKP and handpicked by Erdogan elected? To put it succinctly, the Prime Minister directly or indirectly controls all three branches of the government. Who then, other than the Prime Minister, could possibly know? On the other hand, which other democratic leader in the world runs his nation according to the laws he wants on his own and with the judiciary he picks should adjudication be necessary? Dictators do, but who else? Surely we know that dictators put on a democratic veneer for their undemocratic behavior; who can guarantee Erdogan has not?

We are told,

“The diverse structure of the AKP’s support base has a moderating effect on the governing party’s policies, mitigating against the likelihood of Turkey transforming into an Islamic state.”

How would that happen if suddenly Erdogan were to decide that there will be no more elections? How would the AKP’s support base manage to make sure that the likelihood of Turkey transforming into an Islamic state diminished? Theoretically speaking – at which the writer is apparently excellent, they could go to their MP’s or the judiciary. Nevertheless, how could anyone be sure that those handpicked by the PM himself would go against his wishes? Again, Tol has the presumptive answer:

“The AKP’s candidate selection in the 2007 elections points to the party’s deliberate effort to do exactly this.”

The party’s deliberate effort? Does she have a clue how the party selects its candidates? Does she have an inkling how theTurkish people then elect their MP’s? The party leader selects the candidates, puts them in an order of preference in each district, and then according to the results of the vote for each party in each district, that many candidates enter the parliament for that party from that district. Hence, how “the diverse structure of the AKP’s support base” can have a real moderating effect would be anyone’s guess at best and in the “Ayatollah Ali Khamenei fashion” at worst.

She also contradicts herself when she says,

“Turkey’s deteriorating relations with Israel and flourishing ties with
Syria and Iran have given the skeptics resonance in Washington and
heated the debate about AKP’s Western democratic credentials…
This misreads both the AKP and the domestic dynamics within Turkey,
however. The AKP’s voter base is both socially and politically heterogeneous
with diverse and sometimes conflicting interests, which forces the AKP
to move towards the center of the political spectrum in order to maintain
power.”

As I have pointed out above, the AKP voter base no longer has any real power to move the party to the middle. That can only happen if Erdogan feels like it. Moreover, the fact that Erdogan has moved Turkey’s foreign policy in a radical direction invalidates any claim that the party’s support base has had any influence on its policy. Pew Foundation’s latest poll of the Middle East clearly shows that the Turkish people overwhelmingly do not support cozying up to Hamas or Hezbollah; yet the AKP and Erdogan have taken on a strong pro-Hamas role while befriending Hezbollah. In addition, when asked if Islam plays a large role in politics, 69% of the Turkish people now say it does whereas the number was 45% in 2002, the year when the AKP rose to power.

The recent myth of the rapidly rising Islamic bourgeoisie under the AKP rule is another falsity with regard to Turkey. There most definitely is a new Islamic elite reaping the benefits of the everpresent corruption that has been operational in the traditional relationship between the Turkish governments and the Turkish business world. The corruption existed before, and it is still there. The difference is that it used to be coalitions which competed with each other to hand out government projects to their own cronies, but to their chagrin, ended up limiting the handouts due to infighting. Now under the single-party AKP rule, Erdogan basically hands them out or allows his ministers and bureaucrats to allocate the tenders among the businesses as it is not too difficult to surmise that without the PM’s approval, the political and bureaucratic careers could easily come to an end. As a consequence, two groups have benefited the most in the last eight years. First, those close to Erdogan and the party have become the new elite. Secondly, the old wealthy elite, who have not withheld their political support for the AKP, most notably TUSIAD (the Turkish Industry and Business Association) – coincidentally, where Dr. Tol worked as the program manager.

The single-party rule which indeed has caused the corruption to go nearly out of control – Wikileaks cables even suggest that PM Erdogan himself holds eight bank accounts in Switzerland, has also proved to be a blessing as Turkey did not have to get tangled up in coalition bickering and as in the 1950’s and 1980’s, could afford extended single-party terms, which always coincide with higher economic growth as things get done without the internal competition by coalition parties. This, combined with the global economic prosperity preceding the ultimate collapse in 2008, blessed the AKP with visible accomplishments. To be fair, the AKP’s handling of the economy, deliberately or accidentally, proved impressive in its first four years in power, while not abandoning the financial discipline of the Kemal Dervis era (2001-2002). On the other hand, the AKP’s economic performance has been arguable at best since the last quarter of 2006, when the party appeared to forego the fiscal discipline (to engage in the election economy of handouts to regions of mass poverty) in return for good election results. Turkey’s foreign reserves which were 26.7 billion dollars in 2002 has gone up steadily over the years to 75.4 billion dollars in August 2010. This basically explains the consistency shown by the Turkish Lira against the US Dollar and the Euro, which in return gives us an idea about how Turkey has managed to keep the inflation rate in check while financing its economy mostly via borrowing – a fact that no writer ever mentions – in addition to massive privatization to foreign investors. The external debt held by Turkey has gone from 129.5 billion dollars to 277 billion dollars in the third quarter of 2008, then decreasing to 266.6 billion dollars by the first quarter of 2010. In the same time period, foreign direct investment increased from 1.1 billion dollars in 2002 to 22 billion dollars in 2007, only to go down to 18.3 billion in 2008 and then steeply to 7.9 billion dollars in 2009. These statistics do not go against the possibility that confidence by international capital in Turkey increased over the first five years when the AKP governed with fiscal responsibility and then ebbed following a decline in confidence for whatever the reasons may have been.

However, what is clear is the fact that the unemployment rates during the AKP tenure have not decreased and stayed over 10.3% until reaching 13.6% in 2008. In addition, there has not been a newly emerging middle class among the pious Anatolians. The only reason such an impression has been made on the outsiders is the fact that for the first time in Turkish history, someone made an attempt to organize small- and middle-size business people and regional associations around Turkey and formed TUSKON in 2005. TUSKON does appear to hold summits, meetings and conferences and engage in trade bridge programs to enable Turkish businessmen to interact and hopefully do business with their foreign counterparts. On the other hand, the effectiveness of such activities, while useful I am sure, is still debatable at this moment in time. The real problem that stands in the way of most small- and mid-size Turkish businesses who try to market their products internationally is the high taxation by the Turkish government in all aspects, from energy to employment taxes, and the AKP has not done much to change it. Turkish businesses who prove able to export to other countries are for the most part, big businesses, to which the AKP surely caters in exchange for discreet political support or at least for not going on opposition and which are able to acquire financing in the international arena, often investing globally. On the other hand, a new Anatolian Islamic elite has certainly emerged and become an economic factor. Even the old wealthy elite are now in a position to partner up with the new elite to be able to get government contracts or take part in privatization.
Then, the writer openly claims that the Ergenekon trial is

“an important step toward democratization, insofar as it challenges the military’s legal ability to intervene in political affairs.”

But then goes ahead to list all the shady and undemocratic behavior by the AKP government, which basically nullifies her strong initial statement. Her shallow wording also renders it unlikely that she has actually read any of the thousands of pages of the indictment, nor does she seem to have read about it anywhere other than in the international media or in the Turkish media outlets close to the AKP.
She continues,

“However, one cannot turn a blind eye to the human rights violations triggered by the trial. Some implicated in the case, including military officers, journalists, political activists, academics and leaders of NGOs have been held without charge for several months before the release of indictments. The government has brought lawsuits against journalists who have reported on the Ergenekon case. The frequent ban of websites, including YouTube, and the increasing pressure on newspapers critical of the government, continue to violate freedom of expression and restrict citizens’ access to information.

After eight years in power, the AKP is faced with a choice between continuing its commitment to liberal economic reforms and democratization or yielding to authoritarian and conservative demands. If the 2011 elections hand the AKP another term in government with at least 38 to 40 percent of the popular vote, which many believe will be the case, the AKP will have the backing to continue the reform process it has embarked on since 2002. After eight years in government and two electoral victories with substantial majorities, it is clear that the AKP does not have a covert plan to establish an Islamic state.”

What is she saying? Is the AKP committed to liberal reforms and democratization, or is it risking yielding to authoritarian and conservative demands? If it is committed to democratization, why is Dr. Tol concerned about risk of authoritarianism? If the AKP may be yielding to authoritarian demands, then how is it clear that the AKP does not have a covert plan to establish an Islamic state? After all, it was only on September 12, 2010 that Erdogan was able to do away with the remaining obstacles to a possible authoritarian rule. How does Gonul Tol know he does not have the intentions? Did Erdogan or one of his men tell her? Let’s say she was told, how can she know it is not a lie?

In theory, the writer may know what she is talking about. In reality, she has no idea and is just feeding the reader rehashed media junk.

And junk about Turkey is all the Foreign Policy magazine has been publishing on Turkey. Shame on them for risking their established credibility. Then, one cannot help but wonder, “Risking it in return for what?”

Okan Altiparmak is a consultant and a filmmaker based in Istanbul, Turkey.

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A Detailed Critique of “The Historical Blindness of Turkey’s Detractors” – By Aliza Marcus in Foreign Policy

So many people have asked to me to comment on Aliza Marcus’ piece in the FP that I decided to go over it paragraph by paragraph to show how badly researched it was. Having done so, I am now forced to say that Aliza is flat-out delusional about Turkey due to her failure – deliberately or because of ignorance – to touch upon the conditions in pre-1980 Turkey and to her invalid assumptions since 1980. One cannot truly evaluate anything that took place in Turkey in the 80’s without examining the developments and the resulting state of anarchy in late 1970’s.

Here is my critique paragraph by paragraph:

1. “Thirty years ago this month, Ilhan Erdost, a leftist Turkish publisher, was beaten to death by soldiers in Ankara’s Mamak military prison. He had been detained by the military regime, which had just taken power in a coup d’état. His crime was publishing a book by communist theorist Friedrich Engels. He was 35 years old.”

There were abuses and beatings during the coup. Whether it was for publishing a book alone needs to be corroborated. Every single leftist I know who was abused in those days says he was totally innocent and that pre-1980 days were the democratic days. Ask other Turks if they were. Electricity was cut off daily, people had water once every 2 or 3 says, you could not find toilet paper or chicken to buy. American cigarettes and jeans were banned, etc. Plus you were not allowed to open your shop on Sundays. You certainly could not go out at nights for fear of getting shot. If you saw soldiers with machine guns around, you felt safe because the police – like teachers, bureaucrats, workers – were split into leftists and nationalists (the right). You could travel outside of Turkey once every three years and could take only $500 with you. No, I am not talking about the post-1980 coup days. I am talking about the days preceding the coup.

2. “Erdost’s widow, Gul Erdost, marked the anniversary by announcing that she planned to file a lawsuit against those she holds accountable for the killing: the generals who staged the Sept. 12, 1980, coup.

OK. Let her. I am all for it. Let’s see if she wins going against the 92% approval that bad constitution got in the referendum. No, it did not get 92% because people were forced to; it got 92% because people were tired of infighting and trusting the generals, wanted to put it past them . The general population, of course. Not those who were tortured. There was some torture. Arguably not because of orders from the top, but out of frustration and the desire to avenge the bad days. Not right, but those were the circumstances… unlike today when the political conditions are more or less normal.

3. “Gul Erdost has Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to thank for the chance to finally challenge the military. Thirty years to the day that tanks rolled through Turkish cities, giving rise to arguably the most brutal and anti-democratic period in the country’s history, voters approved a package of amendments to the constitution drawn up by the former military rulers. These changes included removing the article that granted the military rulers perpetual immunity from prosecution.”

Really arguably and depending on who you were in the late 1970’s. Yes, 92% of voters approved it. Like it or not. And what changes? They were no changes. That was a yes or no vote for the whole constitution. Not the single yes or no vote for 26 separate and unlinked clauses that people had to vote for this past September (Oh yes, a violation of the 2006 Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practice on Referendums). I despise the 1982 constitution but that is a different matter. Facts are facts and should presented that way for people to judge on their own.

4. “Yet to hear many U.S.-based analysts tell it, Erdogan is tearing down Turkey’s democracy, not building it up. These critics — out of either willful disregard or sheer ignorance — misrepresent what Erdogan has accomplished and why voters continue to support him. They depict Erdogan’s government as an ominous departure from Turkey’s past — ignoring the abuses that occurred under the country’s previous governments.”

So, if we don’t agree, it is out of either willful disregard or sheer ignorance? What makes Aliza such an expert?

5. “He has approved changes, however limited, giving Turkey’s Kurdish population greater cultural rights. He has also done away with state security courts, whose mix of civilian and military judges ruled on alleged offenses against the state.”

Giving Turkey’s Kurdish population greater cultural rights like granting them representation via lifting of the 10% threshold for the Kurdish party to get into the parliament? Erdogan has done away with the state security courts only in name and form, turning them into “special criminal courts” which the gov’t is currently using for the ergenekon case.

6. “Turks, clearly, are pleased with Erdogan’s efforts. In 2007, they returned Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) to office, five years after the party first swept to power. And with Erdogan’s support, the recent referendum on the constitutional amendments passed by more than 15 percentage points.”

Oh yes, so clearly 100% of Turks! How does one reach the conclusion that the results of a referendum, which did not have to do with economic or foreign policy, translate into being pleased with Erdogan’s efforts without going over what exactly was voted.

7. “Anti-AKP critics are not convinced. They portray Erdogan as a power-hungry Islamic radical intent on turning Turkey into an authoritarian, fundamentalist state. They claim that the government has concocted an “elaborate political fiction” that the Turkish armed forces planned a coup in a plot dubbed “Ergenekon.” The arrest of some 60 military officers and civilian supporters for allegedly planning this coup, they say, was done solely to harass and stifle their opponents. Allegedly, the evidence against the military officers and civilian backers has been fabricated, creating a “climate of fear” for secular Turks.”

Untrue that there is no climate of fear for Turks who disagree, let alone secular Turks? What about the students who just got jail time for protesting? Or this guy named Mehmet Haberal, who is still in jail without an indictment even after he won a civil case against the judges for keeping him in prison without a good reason?

8. “In this false narrative being peddled by the AKP’s critics, human rights abuses are rampant and Turkey’s courts have been turned into pawns of the government’s repressive policies. U.S. policymakers, desperate for a moderate Islamic state, are oblivious to the prime minister’s true agenda, according to these analysts. Few people are aware of what is really going on because the Turkish media, the story goes, are too blinded by their hatred of the military to investigate Erdogan’s abuses, thoroughly cowed by threats of legal action, or under the control of Islamists.”

Can she prove that the opposite is true? One can conceivably claim it was essentially (though still a stretch from a political control point of view) a similar situation with the judiciary prior to the AKP. But it is easy to prove that the judiciary is now controlled by the executive branch much more directly as most members are directly or indirectly elected by the legislative and executive branches, both of which are practically handpicked and thus controlled by Erdogan himself.

9. “But, in fact, Turkey is more democratic and more respectful of human rights today than it has ever been. Progress is slow and imperfect — and there are still abuses of power, some quite serious — but things are much, much better.”

What does she say here? Unintelligible writing.

10. “After the 1980 military coup, the junta suspended all civil liberties and then severely curtailed them when it drew up a new constitution that enshrined the military as the ultimate arbiter in Turkish politics. Upwards of 650,000 people were arrested during the period of military rule, many of whom were tortured and killed. Kurds had it the worst: In Diyarbakir Prison, then run by the military, detainees were sodomized with batons, forced to eat their own excrement, left in rat-infested cells, and given water mixed with detergent to drink.”

There is some truth here but again since there is no examination of pre-1980 conditions, most are mispresented. The military did suspend liberties, but returned all and then some more within three years. The fact here is that it was a badly written constitution. Yet it did not make the military the ultimate arbiter, especially as time progressed and many clauses were changed by the parliament. If the military had been the arbiter, then Ozal would not have been allowed to win as the military backed the party that lost in the 1983 elections. Moreover, the 1987 referendum to allow the banned politicians to run for office again did pass, once again against the wishes of Kenan Evren, the general who was elected the president after the coup, and although the military was against it.

11. “The 1990s were marginally better for the average Turk — but not for Kurds. More than a dozen Kurdish journalists, at least 62 officials from the Kurdish political party, and hundreds of Kurdish activists were mysteriously murdered from 1990 to 1995. The culprits, in many cases, are credibly alleged to be members of the security forces or allied groups. Thousands of court cases were filed against journalists who wrote about the Kurdish issue, the military’s brutal tactics against suspected rebel sympathizers, or human right abuses in general.”

The Kurdish situation deteriorated in the 1990’s. However, she does not mention the PKK increasing terrorist activity in SE Turkey. !990’s were not good days for the Turkish people as she claims, with 100+% inflation and the worst corruption the nation had seen. The deep state did grow big with mobs infiltrating the state thanks to inept and corrupt politicians. And has the AKP gone after the deep state of the 1990’s? No, not at all.

12. “The mainstream Turkish media were generally compliant, if not outwardly supportive, of the repression. During my trial, one well-known Turkish columnist, Oktay Eksi, complained that the government should never have allowed the trial to go ahead because it made me famous. Others wrote about my possible hidden agenda or simply claimed I must have been tricked by Kurdish activists. Still, I was lucky: I was acquitted, though forced to leave the country. Turkish and Kurdish reporters fared much worse.”

I do not know about her particular case. But Turkish politicians have always loved to keep the journalists in check, Politicians loved it much more than the military. Turkey was horribly governed in the 1990’s. Proof? The Islamist party winning 21.5% of the vote in 1995 for the first time ever.

13. “Take the so-called mass trial under way in Turkey against 152 Kurdish politicians accused of working for the PKK rebels, as well as the Ergenekon trial. Supposedly, such mass trials are “becoming the norm” — yet another sign of creeping authoritarianism in Turkey.”

The two are not comparable. The Kurdish politicians are accused because of laws – as faulty as they might be – that have been on the books for a long time and which the AKP did not bother to change despite having sufficient majority to do so. Ergenekon, on the contrary, is case that appears to be built on unprovable imaginary grounds – tens of thousands of pages, the first 5000 of which Gareth Jenkins has read and wrote about – based upon which no one has yet been convicted in the two and a half years it has been going on, but hundreds have been imprisoned, some without even an indictment.

14. “One case against members of the leftist Dev-Yol group opened in 1982 with 700 defendants. Eighteen years later, the trial is still continuing. Two other Dev-Yol trials, since concluded, each had about 900 defendants. The trial against the DISK trade union had more than 1,400 defendants. The fact that Turkish law allows mass trials — and schedules hearings so that cases drag on for years — has nothing to do with Erdogan and everything to do with the deliberately imperfect system the former military junta bequeathed to Turkey’s current leadership.”

Again incomparable. Dev-Yol and DISK had committed serious violent acts in the 1970’s, threatening and bullying people with guns to join the leftist union. My own parents’ small factory was raided by DISK, and my parents were threatened at gunpoint to make their workers join the union. When I was a freshman in college in the USA in 1979, my dad had to fly to see me because he was on the death roll of the leftists. Bombs and machine gun fires were going off all over the place in the days leading to the 1980 coup. Those cases had to do with what went on in Turkey in the late 1970’s and were clean-up following the coup. Whether one agrees with them or not is debatable, but they were undertaken under exceptional circumstances that can hardly be described as normal. There was a civil war going on. You can interview many ordinary Turkish citizens who had to endure those days and get the truth. No one talks about the responsibility of the politicians in letting the situation get out of hand. Plus those were the cold war days. The Ergenekon case entails no such circumstances. Period.

15. “The military, after all, has made a habit of staging and planning coups — it seized power in 1960, 1971, and 1980, and engineered a “soft coup” in 1997, when it forced the resignation of Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan.”

1971 was not a coup. They asked the Demirel gov’t to resign via a warning, and Demirel did. The military did not take over.

Following the 1960 coup, the military held elections in 1961, and following 1980 (again the PM brought down was Demirel), in 1983.

In 1997, the military gave the Erbakan gov’t a warning on Feb.28th, and Erbakan resigned in June. According to Demirel, who was the president at the time, he or the generals did not ask Erbakan to resign. But no one ever bothers to ask him anything about coups in Turkey, even though he was brought down twice as the PM and was also the president in 1997. He was also around n 1960. He should be interviewed for sure. He is the only guy who can tell anyone what coups are all about in Turkey. He experienced every single one of them. Yet, shockingly, not a single foreign journalist has bothered to interview him with regard to military coups in Turkey.

16. “There are good reasons why some still find Turkey’s judiciary and policymaking bodies wanting. Erdogan has not fully upended the faulty and easy-to-abuse judicial, civil, and political systems he inherited. And Turkey is not a Western, liberal democracy just yet. But it is moving in the right direction. Over the past eight years, Turkey has improved its civil rights protections, strengthened its free market economy, and moved closer to fulfilling the demands for EU membership. Erdogan has also pushed Turkey’s military out of the political decision-making process and pressed the judiciary to investigate military officers implicated in extrajudicial executions of Kurds in the 1990s. These are positive changes, though you’d never know that by reading the new wave of anti-AKP commentators, many of whom seem to think that another military coup is needed to put Turkey back on the right track.”

This paragraph is just plain fantasy. Almost none of it is true. Even the free market economy part. Turkey’s military wanting to be in the political decision-making process, on the other had, is just an ignorant assumption. The rest is simply untrue.

17. “Of course, the situation in Turkey could change. Reforms could stall. Erdogan could become too power-happy. But one thing is for sure: The only real fiction here is that Turkey was a freer and more democratic place before Erdogan’s AKP party took office.”

You cannot say it was freer before the AKP. But neither can you say it is freer now. However, despite all its problems, one can argue that it was more democratic prior to AKP’s eight years in power.

Last but not the least, what is more shocking to me than Marcus’ seriously flawed piece is the fact that a magazine like Foreign Policy would overlook its mediocrity and jeopardize its own credibility by publishing it.

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So what do the Turkish people think?

We’re a little tired of hearing what the Turkish people think from politicians and pundits, especially pundits who clearly have never spoken to a Turk in their lives. We decided we’d ask the Turkish people directly. It’s strange how few journalists do that. Here’s a preview of some of the footage we shot.  More to come.

Talking to the Turkish People, Part 1

Talking to the Turkish People, Part 2

Talking to the Turkish People, Part 3

Talking to the Turkish People, Part 4

Talking to the Turkish People, Part 5

Talking to the Turkish People, Part 6

Talking to the Turkish People, Part 7

Talking to the Turkish People, Part 8

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Germany bans group accused of financing Hamas; donations collected by Milli Gorus…

By Verena Schmitt-Roschmann (CP)

BERLIN — Germany has banned an organization it accuses of financing the Islamic militant group Hamas, the interior ministry said Monday.

The Frankfurt-based International Humanitarian Relief Organization (IHH) is believed to have collected money in mosques and to have sent about €6.6 million ($8.3 million) to relief organizations belonging to or supporting Hamas, which Germany considers a terrorist organization, the ministry said.

“Under the cover of humanitarian aid, the IHH has been supporting for a long time and with considerable financial resources so-called social groups which have to be seen as connected to Hamas,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said.

“It exploits trusting donors’ willingness to help by using money that was given for a good purpose for supporting what is, in the final analysis, a terrorist organization,” de Maiziere said.

Hamas, which runs Gaza, doesn’t recognize Israel. Organizations that work directly or indirectly against Israel’s right to exist lose the right to be active in Germany, de Maiziere said.

The International Humanitarian Relief Organization could not be reached for comment, and its web pages were shut down in the course of the day.

The organization was founded in 1992 in Freiburg, Germany, the ministry said. In 1997 the group split in two, IHH Germany and IHH Turkey, which are now two separate entities, it said.

IHH Turkey was recently involved in organizing a pro-Palestinian flotilla meant to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The flotilla was stopped by Israeli military May 31. Eight Turks and one Turkish American were killed in the raid.

German authorities have been investigating the International Humanitarian Relief Organization in Frankfurt for a year, the ministry said. On Monday, authorities raided 29 places throughout the country and confiscated files, data, and real estate belonging to the organization.

The main figures in IHH Germany are also active in the Islamic group Milli Gorus, which has been under observation by German authorities, the ministry said.

The money the International Humanitarian Relief Organization sent to six groups connected to Hamas was collected in Milli Gorus mosques with donors not necessarily knowing where their contributions went, it said.

According to a 2004 German high court decision it is irrelevant whether the money was used for charity or otherwise because Hamas works as an entity and giving money to any branch will bolster the group’s terrorist activities, the ministry said.

While IHH has been active in Germany for a long time, authorities started investigating it only after being tipped off by a bank that it suspected money laundering.

Though the organization is now illegal in Germany, its staff face no immediate criminal charges unless they continue the group’s activities or regroup, the ministry said.

The European Jewish Congress applauded Germany’s ban on the IHH and called on the EU and other European governments to follow suit.

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Video on PJTV

Roger Simon interviews me about the IHH and Murky in Turkey here, on PJTV.

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PLEASE SHARE THIS

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Nuns?

For what it’s worth, Israeli intelligence is predicting that one ship on the scheduled Lebanese flotilla will carry “a number of nuns.”

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An Additional Observation…

I briefly want to draw attention to some basic operational aspects of the IHH, which I believe provides valuable information as to how such organizations involved in charitable activities end up serving the interests of entities that are much greater than the organization itself.

Mr. Dağ explains that as the IHH, they are involved in 120 nations and regions in the world, including Chechnya and Afghanistan and those that were oppressed by Serbia and Israel.”

He then goes on to say “we’re not dealing with them as partners in Palestine. We don’t deal with them. Our partner institutions are in Gaza and the West Bank. We always locate a partner in the places we go it. We work with legally operating NGOs in those areas. If indirectly we get accused because of their ties to Hamas, there’s nothing we can do,” clearly sounding nonchalant about the possibility of working with groups connected to illegal or terrorist activities. Moreover, these partnerships apparently exist in each of the 120 nations and regions in which they are active.

As Claire suggests in her piece, “this group is not endeavoring to cow or alienate the West through terrorist spectaculars. Their strategy is subtler and much smarter. It is attempting instead to stage powerful publicity events that appeal to the traditions of the Western conscience (while bypassing the traditions of Western logic). Unlike al Qaeda or Hamas, it is highly sophisticated in its public relations. Its European collaborators are chiefly those on the Left still enamored with the idea of “direct action,” if not so crazy about the idea of “elections.” The group appears to be the exact opposite of a terrorist group, yet not in terms of its objective of gradually forcing others into behaving as it wants, this time via direct action instead of through violence and obviously with the support of those on the Western Left.

She also points out, “the IHH has appropriated the language of the Western civil rights movements and deploys it fluently,” knowing how to cater to liberal sentiments and to manipulate bleeding hearts particularly. As a consequence, it is able to increase the number of supporters it finds around the world, continually extending its reach and effectiveness by way of collaboration.

“They have close, friendly, personal relationships with members of the AKP government, they say, and, as they put it, get their money from the same place and derive their support from the same political base. The AKP, by the way, is in fact orchestrating the recent ‘spontaneous’ public protests here against Israel. They have sent text message after text message to their constituents inviting them to join.” This fact translates into the ability not only for the two to work together toward mutual goals despite the presence of an organic tie between the IHH and the AKP, but also to use all the powers and legitimacy of a national government when necessary.

Claire concludes: “The IHH, I would guess, has been advised by Western media strategists—this look and feel does not happen spontaneously in Turkey—but if pressed they will admit they haven’t much use for the Western political perspective. When I remark to Dağ that the IHH is believed to be a front organization for the Islamist financing of terrorist groups, he does not precisely say what you might expect your standard Western humanitarian aid organization to say (nor does he deny the claim). “If you’re looking through the glasses of the West,” he says blithely, “and you think those people who struggle for independence against Serbia, in Afghanistan during the Russian invasion, in Iraq against the American invasion, Palestinians against Israel, then you can look at it that way, but we don’t consider them terrorist groups.”

In light of all these findings and the resulting vast international reach of the group, it would be certainly difficult to come to the conclusion that the IHH is just a local or even a regional force. They may well be only one of the many players in a huge network of such organizations which seem to be directed by able strategists.

–Okan Altiparmak

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So what does all this video footage mean?

For those of you who don’t have time to watch three hours of unedited footage from the IHH headquarters, here are my conclusions about what they represent. You don’t have to take my word for it. You have access below to every minute of the interviews upon which I’ve based my judgment.

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Summary

Many thanks to Flotilla Facts for providing a handy summary of the information we’ve posted below.

Following the extensive debate whether the IHH is a humanitarian or a terrorist organisation, Claire Berlinski, an American journalist based in Istanbul, decided to visit the IHH headquarters in Istanbul.  The entire visit was filmed. In part one of the interview she meets with Neturei Karta Rabbis who declared that  they support the dismantlement of the state of Israel because Zionism is the opposite of Judaism.

In part two, she interviews Ahmet Amin Dag, Middle East special representative and Free Gaza campaign coordinator Ahmet Amin. Amin admits that the activists on board the Mavi Marmara   knew they would be met by force.

In part three Claire and her partner Okan Altiparmak, a documentry film maker,  join several IHH members for lunch. There they meet Izzat Shahin, who was detained in the west bank on suspicion of providing cash to Hamas disguised as humanitarian aid.

In part four of the interview Claire and Okan meet two European passengers from the flotilla. Dror Feiler an Israeli who immigrated to Sweden and Dimitris, a Greek citizen who was on board the Mavi Marmara.

For the whole interview and the footage go to - The Claire and Okan ORIENT EXPRESS

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