Covering the Gaza flotilla raid fallout

I have proved myself a useless blogger over past few days, which have been extrordinary.

The PKK cancelling their ceasefire in the south east after mounting an attack killing seven soldiers in the Mediterranean town of Iskerdun would be huge news here. Not to mention the murder yesterday of a Turkish bishop.

But it’s all been overshadowed by the developing international crisis instigated by Israel’s disastrous attack on a Turkish aid ship try to run the Gaza blockade.

Here are some links to my pieces in the Times over the past few days.

Turkey erupts in protest at Israeli commando raid on Gaza aid ship
Turkish charity that sent aid convoy to Gaza ‘has links to terrorism’
Returned British activists describe Israeli ‘massacre’
Mavi Marmara activists describe moment when ship was attacked

I yesterday attended the mass funeral of the eight Turks killed by Israeli gunfire with Alexandra Lort-Phillips, one of the Brits from the boat.

I will update later, but for now, these are my reflections on the attack on the Mavi Marmara, after speaking to some of the British activists who were on it, as I wrote them to a Turkish colleague this morning:

I got the strong impression that those on board were a group of people utterly focused and dedicated to the aim of breaking the siege on Gaza. Many of them were activists who had faced riot police, tear gas, water cannons in the past, and they have said themselves to me that they were expecting a fight. They certainly tried to prevent the boarding of the Israeli commandos using sticks and iron bars. They set up a medical bay in anticipation of the boarding. Whether this constitutes defence or attack all depends on your point of view. They were in international waters (it was this fact more than any other which they seemed to focus on when describing their incomprehension). It seems to me that what happened was the inevitable result of two things: the  determination of some of the activists to fight to defend their ship, and the Israeli military’s decision to send in soldiers armed with live ammunition.

Another thing, I go along with the idea that there were different factions on board. I think there was a sense among some of those on board that they were willing to achieve ‘martyrdom’. I don’t use this term with the sinister connotations ascribed to it in the West in the context of suicide bombers etc, but merely in the old fashioned sense of a willingness to fight for what one believes in, no matter the consequences. One activist told me she had quit her job to go on the boat as she knew ‘something might happen’ and I think they all shared a sense that they were heading for some momentous confrontation. Non-Muslims on the ship at least to some extent shared this intention.
What’s interesting is that the people actually at the helm, who were giving the official orders, were obviously not sharing this view. One odd thing was the fact that the boat altered its course away from Israeli waters when the IDF appeared. Why would they do this if they were as determined as they made out to break the blockade? Also, after the Israelis opened fire with live ammunition, the orders to capitulate came almost immediately.

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