Monday, June 21, 2010

Listen Carefully

Here's from Claire Berlinski's Visit Inside Turkey's Islamist IHH:-

...this debate misses the point, which is that whether or not the group has ties to known terrorists or known eye surgeons—I’ve seen no evidence of either first-hand—it is an important new species of a non-governmental political actor. Its rise to international prominence represents a regional tactical development on the order of the PLO’s pioneering and inventive use of terrorism. To call them terrorists is to muddy the water; if you focus on looking for evidence of this you might fail to recognize what’s truly worrying about them. Although clearly they are Islamists, their chief weapon is not terror, but blackmail. They are indeed a charity, but their charitable works serve as financial and moral cover for a political goal, and that goal is repeatedly to force Israel into a hideous checkmate wherein it must choose between endangering itself and killing the IHH’s human shields.

It’s an old game, but this group isn’t Hamas: It’s more sophisticated, there’s clearly a lot of money behind it, and it’s working with Westerners who are not merely enthusiastic spectators to their campaign, but full, active participants. In a sense it is an analogue to Turkey’s AK party: It represents a sui generis version of political Islam that many in the West find reassuring. After all, it doesn’t look medieval and savage, and it seems to be operating, more or less, in the context of Turkish democracy. But the IHH is determined to keep taking on the Israeli military with ships full of human shields, at the very real risk of provoking an Apocalyptic regional war that the vast majority of Turkish citizens, from what I can tell, did not vote for and do not want. No one in the West should be the least reassured. Even Iran is not this reckless.

The IHH is now one of the more important players in the Middle East, and certainly one of the most influential in Turkey. It is not an elected body, nor an officially appointed foreign policy arm of any elected government, but it has managed nonetheless to rupture the Turkish-Israeli relationship, probably for at least a long while. The crisis it deliberately precipitated has sent Turkey flying into a gibbering, anti-Semitic rage. It has influenced the upcoming Turkish elections in a way that will likely change the course of Turkish history and that of the region. It has dictated foreign policy to the United States and Europe. It looks as if it will succeed in forcing Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza. What happens after that? Peace will shine its light upon the Holy Land, I’m sure. But just in case I’m wrong, the residents of southern Israel might consider moving out of rocket range...

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