Gaza flotilla

Full Text of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Speech! (English)


Today I do not only want to speak to my dear people but to all of humanity.

I want to call to the conscience and hearts and minds of the whole of humanity, I would like to share courageously my feelings.

Yesterday, in the darkest moment of the night two bloody attacks occurred.

The first of them was the terrorist attack against our military troop at the Iskenderun Naval Base. In this malicious, vicious attack six of our soldiers died, and they have become martyrs. Seven of our soldiers have been injured.

The second, at dawn in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the heart of humanity has taken one of her heaviest wounds in history. The aid ships, from the humanitarian heart, these flowing aid ships have been hindered with guns, by violence, despotism.

They, who with mercy, compassion and humaneness, loaded onto these ships, they could not reach their place of destination, they were wreaked in carnage.

Yesterday, beginning in the morning hours, armed elements of the Israeli Army stopped humanitarian aid being brought to the Gazan people, from more than 32 countries, with 600 people inside carried by the Free Gaza Flotilla, in international waters, in an absolutely illegal way did they attack, spilling the blood of innocent humans.

At this violent attack, resulting in casualties and persons being wounded, the humanitarian aid ships were seized and sequestered. This inhuman attack against those women, young people, religious functionaries that the ship was carrying, I do one more time strongly, severely condemn.

I have declared in Chile. Here I do stress it one more time. The bloody massacre of Israel, brought against the ships bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza is a massacre deserving of any kind of curse and condemnation. This is openly an attack against international law, against the heart of humanity, against world peace, I say against the heart of humanity, for, on those ships were people from all nations, all religions. People alone and they only were bringing humanitarian aid to those under blockade, embargo, to the people in Gaza. The ships, before they left openly declared to the entire world their cargo, their intention, their mission. As witness to this openly humanitarian aid from the world and our country 60 journalists have entered the ships as well. In international waters, in open sea, this armed attack against 600 people and 6 ships which were carrying aid to oppressed people, poor people, to starved people, to people whose homes were destroyed – this was openly an attack against the basic philosophy of the United Nations.

The ships which set sail, be it from Turkey be it from other countries, were completely stocked to carry out the humanitarian purpose, having aid material. They were, according to international traffic rules, strictly controlled. At the same time on the ships were no other passengers than civilians and aid volunteers. The ships were flying white flags. Despite all those conditions the ships were subject to an armed attack.

As you know we were during that time on our Latin America program. Due to this abhorrent terrorist attack which occurred in Hatay and Israel’s illegal attack against aid ships, we had to cut our work sort in Chile and return to our country. From the very first moment we had been watching the events closely. We have taken the necessary steps, together with our friends in Turkey. Yesterday morning at 6:30, deputy Bülent Arınç, together with related ministers and administration representatives, organised an evaluation meeting in which we have considered the issue in all its dimensions. Our Foreign Ministry, our intelligence units, related establishments and armed forces have been monitoring the issue very closely.

Our Minister of Foreign Affairs and our Minister of Defense, talking on the phone with Israel’s Minister of Defense, forcefully put forth our reaction and sensitivities. And I, together with my ministers, evaluating the events during the entire night, have been continuously in contact with Turkey. On the other hand I have established contacts with the international community and for now this process continues. In this framework, I have put on the table everything necessary to do in all the dimensions of this situation. I urgently I did the steps necessary. The Republic of Turkey is using all possibilities, every chance made available by international law and diplomacy. And Turkey will keep using it. In this framework, Turkey’s ambassador to Tel Aviv has been called back. Three joint military operations which were on the agenda have been cancelled. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs went to New York and The UN Security Council has been called for an urgent meeting and it was ensured that there would be an urgent, extraordinary meeting. The UN Security Council has made a statement condemning Israel. It has been pointed out in the statement the need to open an investigation, to set free immediately the civilians and the injured. The matches of our youth football team have been cancelled. NATO’s Council has been called for an extraordinary meeting. Furthermore, the Organisation of Islamic Conference, the Arab League, European Union and all related establishments have been contacted, international institutions have been called to duty. The Organisation of Islamic Conference will hold a meeting on Monday.

Primarily, the safety and security of the convoy and our citizens in the convoy has to be ensured. Necessities to ensure the treatment of the injured are being taken care of. Israel has said: “Let us send the injured to you.” We have replied that we have the will and power to take our injured ourselves, and we have refused this offer. Two military ambulance aircrafts have taken off to bring our injured back. And now, they shall be taking our injured, and then returning to this destination. With civil aircraft the Ministry of Health is about to arrive there. To the Israeli Ambassador, who was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, a call was made to demand the immediate return of the citizens of the Turkish Republic, and setting the captured ships free.

Further, all efforts to attend to the treatment of the injured, bringing them to Turkey, have been made and in our country all measures have been taken. Israel, hindering the international community’s access to information from the first moment of the incident, now must inform the world public opinion in a truthful way, and must not refrain from international cooperation. Israel must understand the seriousness of the situation and must stop committing actions such as this that are wrong. Israel’s attitude at this stage is being watched by the world’s people, the public opinion is forming its views. Those who are affiliated with the effort are in touch and are coordinating with the countries whose citizens are in the flotilla.

The ships fly the flags of Turkey, Greece and the Comore Islands, there are people from 32 countries involved. I expect those countries, too, to show the necessary reaction and sensitivity. Thus I once again express that Israel must immediately lift the inhuman embargo against Gaza. [15 seconds applause]. Israel must not hinder that the humanitarian aid reaches its destination.

Dear comrades, as you know do we prosecute together with Spain the Alliance of Civilisations’ work. Our goal and mission is to reinforce the conviction that different religions, different civilisations and cultures can live in peace and tolerance together. It is a struggle so that instead of hatred and animosity, love will dominate.

Regrettably I must say, the incidents which occurred yesterday, in terms of humanity’s collective civilisation and culture have been a black mark. In terms of history of humanity this has been recorded as a major shame. Attacking humanitarian aid ships with arms, to massacre innocent people, treating civilians as terrorists is in terms of humanity a great defeat. A despicably cowardly and vicious act of presumption that is recklessness and dauntless. [20 seconds applause].

We know, war as well as peace has its laws. In war you do not attack children, in war you do not attack women, old people, in war you do not attack civilians or religious functionaries, in war you do not attack those who are hoisting the white flag, health and rescue personnel; not in wartime, but in peace time, those who do these things not only violate the law, at the same time they trample humanity under their feet, they abandon humanity.

Despots, gangsters even pirates have specific sensitiveness, follow some specific morals. Those who do not follow any morality or ethics, those who do not act with any sensitivity, to call them such names would even be a compliment to them. Israel has, by attacking a ship with volunteers from 32 countries, in fact defied the world. World peace has been deeply wounded. This brazen, irresponsible, reckless government that recognises no law and tramples on any kind of humanitarian virtue, this attack of the Israeli government by all means – but by all means, must be punished.

A government, having made lying its state policy and does not blush on account of the crime it commits, instead of expecting them to open an investigation, the international community must investigate this incident in all its dimensions and must give the legal response.

The State of Turkey won’t be satisfied only by watching this. Turkey is not an adolescent, rootless state. It is in no way a tribal State! No one should attempt to play around with this nation, to test the patience of Turkey. As precious as Turkey’s partnership is, so harsh will be her hostility.

Losing Turkey’s friendship and partnership is a price itself to pay. We have always been in a historical friendship and collaboration with the Israeli and Jewish people. I do so believe, those Israeli people who watched this bloody attack in tears, who strongly criticise it, do understand very well that this incident does not befit human dignity, is a great mistake, how a heavy hit strike it has been to the friendship of both countries.

The issue is not a matter between Turkey and Israel. The issue is Israel’s present lawlessness, and  recognising the present government’s inhuman practices, using violence, spilling blood, showing approaches that threaten peace.

Turkey has always been, in the Middle East, on the side of peace. She has contributed to regional stability and security.  In the recent past, for Israel’s relations with Palestine, Syria and Lebanon to be normalized, the country contributing was also Turkey. Israel now is showing attitudes, taking the most important peace defender in the region, and opposing her.  Israel from now on, must give up the carelessness it shows in explaingin the injustice being practised with their justifications about security, criticism that they call anti-semitism.

There is an understanding where violence is its policy, Israel sees that it is licit for itself to oppress, tyrannize, maltreat and she does not hesitate to shed blood. There is no longer any way for the illegal actions of Israel to be covered, to be misinterpreted intentionally, to be ignored. The time has come for the International community to say: STOP!

It is Israel who does not recognise over 100 UN Security Council resolutions against her. So, the United Nations cannot be content with the condemnation decision it has taken last night.

I just talked to the General Secretary of the United Nations. He is also coming to New York. And this evening at 8 o’clock Mr. Obama said he would, I will also talk to him. I declare here that I will share precisely these issues with them.

Israel’s aggressive manner doubtlessly takes its source from the power they get from elsewhere. At this point, as Turkey our precision is obvious. And I talked yesterday from Chile with one of United Nations Security Council permanent members, Mrs. Merkel. I spoke with others today. I talked to England’s new Prime Minister, he called as well, I am also going to talk to him, I called him earlier and we talked, today we will discuss this again. And with the others we will also talk.

We cannot  leave Israel with what they have done, alone. We cannot say to the Israeli government, all you do will go to your advantage. Everything has a price. And this government will have to pay for this.

For this kind of comprehension that does not show respect for human life, that they find it impossible to esteem any right and law, we cannot have a peaceful attitude, my comrades.

It is impossible to support a comprehension that does not esteem and respect the human and human rights.

A State considering the security of its own people cannot achieve this by obtaining the hate and hostility of the whole world with their actions.

An administration that does not esteem others as humans except its own people cannot have a concern called peace.

Israel has been destroying her defense shields one by one, losing one by one her alliance points, isolating herself. The Israeli administration, generating grudges and hatred in the Middle East, is setting dynamite off in regional peace, as an instability is spreading, Pandora’s Box comes out like iodine.

The international community must immediately take action.

I also want to call to the Israeli people from here. We have always been against anti-semitism. We have raised our voice against the injustice against the Jewish people. We have contributed so that the Israeli people can live in peace and security in the Middle East. Now, as the Israeli people it is your turn to show the same sensitive attitude, the same humane attitude, to say, “Stop these cruelties being done.”

The policy of violence shown by the coalition of the government, violating any kind of right and law, is totally putting Israel’s interests aside. Is clearly putting your peace and security at risk. Due to the aggressive attitude of your government, the State of Israel assumes a piracy position, engaging in banditry.

Those reckless administrators, thinking that they, with lies, deceit, shedding blood, aggressiveness, piracy, using state terrorism, the massacre of innocent people do govern a State. But those reckless politicians primarily do evil to Israel and the Israeli people.

Before all else you must say stop to this situation. By the way, I thank the Turkish Jewish Community, putting in words their right and sincere reaction to the event. Our Jewish citizens have, as members of the Turkish people, defended, and continue to defend the right position of Turkey to the utmost.

Looking with hatred upon our Jewish citizens or being in any other different manner by anyone is not acceptable, it cannot be and should never be.

Dear brothers, sisters, today is a new day. Today is a new beginnig, a birth. Nothing will be like before, this is clearly apparent. An aggressive State which openly murders, massacres, cannot explain itself to humanity without regretting, without being held to account for it, cannot stand in the face of the international community.

Those ships were all ships of mercy. And their cargo was the heart of humanity.

72 miles far from their own waters, entirely in open sea and international waters, Israel carried out an operation on a ship, a civil ship, not a military ship, one is not allowed even do this at all. To make an operation on a civil ship, even the capture of the passengers is itself a crime. Attacking innocent people with arms, to shed blood, and to massacre is clearly state terrorism. They deny, they say that they were shot at. We are sick of your lies, we are sick. Be honest, honest, be honest.

The captured ships, together with the staff and volunteers immediately must be released. With the volunteers (activists) and Members of the European Parliament, 60 journalists, with his mother on board, the one yeare old infant Kaan, who was released, on the ships, no one has the right to show those ships as if they had any other intention, purpose, mission than to deliver humanitarian aid. This attack has one more time clearly proved the inhuman oppression and cruelty Israel for years has been using regarding Palestine and Gaza.

I have said it once before. The Israeli administrators, whom we told into their face how well they know to murder, have one more time shown the world how good they indeed are in massacre. A comprehension, handcuffing even heavily wounded innocent people they have shot at. Hey! Can there be an explanation for his? Lying on the stretcher, wounded, you even handcuff him! Can that be explained with human rights, with universal values? It is no longer possible to tell the world how much those were shown humanity.

All people of the earth condemn this clear cruelty, I know this. But it is not enough anymore to only condemn, we have to obtain results.

All people on earth who want justice on earth, one day not power but justice will dominate, you should know that, I want this.

Turkey will use all opportunities that international law allows. At this course we will move together with the international community. I want all humanity to attract attention to this issue. With her blood-shedding policy Israel cannot legitimate this illegal, this bloody murder with any excuse, she cannot explain it.

Israel, with no excuse, no reason can wash the blood on her hands. The issue, case created by the bloody attack in the Mediterrenean Sea, is not the problem between two countries but the problem of the entire world. I believe that no country considering humane values and virtues, no international institution will just watch a murder of these dimensions.

From now on, whoever shuts their eyes to the bloody attacks of Israel, whoever ignores them, should know, they are accomplices of these murders. It has been understood that the matter is not a matter of defending against terrorism, that the matter is not struggle against terrorism, but that the matter is an effort of a massacre towards a city, towards all people of a city, in order to completely exterminate them, has one more time been proven with this last incident that occurred.

You throw bombs on these people, you try phosphorous bombs on these people, you bomb hospitals, you bomb mosques, you attack schools, you bomb playgrounds, you even aim at the UN Office, as if this illegality was not enough, you also cut off all kinds of needs of those people.

And after all of this, you won’t withhold the aid volunteers who try to deliver to these people medicine, food, construction materials, to feel your inhuman savagery.

Anyone, everyone can condone, tolerate this illegality. I opnely say, stressing it, insidiously can support it, but Israel should not make the mistake of comparing Turkey with others. Such a mistake will have a very high price.

Israel, who shot a bullet on innocence and mercy, has chosen with this murder in the open sea, solitariness against the whole world. Has chosen to be isolated.

I say it one more time. If everyone keeps silent, if all shut their eyes, if all turn their backs; we, as Turkey, we won’t turn our back to Palestine, to the Palestinian people, to Gaza. We won’t shut our eyes! We won’t cease crying for Palestine!!!

My dear brothers and sisters, our nation has to be firm. Our people must have dignity worthy of Turkey. We will take it into our hearts. The wounds of our wounded we will all together heal.

We are aware with satisfaction that all around in Turkey our people with a great sensitiveness are watching the issue closely, they are showing their democratic reactions lawfully.

To say it, this is appropriate for our people. I believe that all our citizens will keep their steadfastness, and move in dignity and common sense. Everyone should know and be sure, the love and friendship ships flowing down from the heart of humanity will pass one day all hindrance, barricades and reach their destination.To those who stand behind this inhuman, this inhuman and illegal operation;

As much as you stand behind illegality, we stand behind laws.

As much as you stand behind the bloody operation, aggressivenes, behind terror, as much do we stand behind justice.

As much as you stand against civilians, against the oppressed in Gaza, Palestine as much stand we next to, behind civilians, innocent people, the Palestinian people, the people in Gaza.

We have been honoured having this status through history, we are proud of it, and also from now on we will continue to act and move with the mission our history, civilisation and State tradition has given us.

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Israeli terror and the Gaza flotilla


Israel’s Kent State

Having worked on the issue of Israel and its myriad conflicts for many years, one gets used to tragedy and even to stunningly abhorrent behavior. And indeed, I have seen more than enough of both from all sides in this conflict.

But every once in a while, things take a turn, and that turn is punctuated by a singular, stunning event. The murderous raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla this day was one such event.

I waited to start writing this until there was some official statement from Israel. I did that because I want to start off with Israel’s explanation for this horror. Here’s what the IDF spokesperson said, in part:

During the intercept of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs. Additionally one of the weapons used was grabbed from an IDF soldier. The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose.

As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including live fire. Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that it seems as if part of the participants onboard the ships were planning to lynch the forces.

I am sure, as is always the case, there will be those who believe this version of events. But frankly, I can’t see how anyone can do so unless they are so desperate to justify Israel’s action here that they’ll believe anything. Let’s examine the IDF’s version of events.

We begin with the point that these were civilian ships and Israel boarded them with commandoes—soldiers who are disposed toward combat situations and are not meant to police unarmed civilians. They’re fighters, that’s their purpose. But the IDF claims that an assortment of international activists deliberately provoked a violent confrontation (using potentially deadly weapons, but which still leave them ridiculously overmatched) against heavily armed and trained soldiers in order to “lynch them.”

Does that seem remotely credible? It only seems so if you believe the activists on board these ships were willing to risk and actually sacrifice their lives in order to create a scandal for Israel. Of course, Israeli hasbara (propaganda) is well-practiced in casting all Arabs and Muslims as suicidal lunatics, aided by the suicide bombers who represent an infinitesimal percentage of those populations. But this collection of international activists, including many Jews, Americans and Europeans, apparently are also willing to give their lives, and rather cheaply, according to this story.

No, the IDF version of these events doesn’t begin to pass the laugh test.

When I first heard confirmed reports of this massacre, I thought of the Kent State shootings in 1970. That horrific tragedy, like this one, was the result of a government using ridiculously disproportionate force against civil disobedience.

But at Kent State, the shootings resulted from high tensions and one person losing control, causing others to follow his lead. Was that the case here? I suppose one must allow the possibility, but the quick response of the government certainly gives the appearance that it was not that simple.

Friends and colleagues can tell you, I have been very critical of the Free Gaza Movement’s politics. Before this incident, I had criticized them for refusing to carry a letter and package from Noam Shalit to his son, Gilad. I’m familiar with many of the core activists and know some of them personally. I know their agenda is more than humanitarian; it is more than breaking the siege on Gaza, and it is more radical than I am comfortable with.

But I also know they are non-violent, and quite serious about that. They’re also not stupid, which any group of civilians would have to be to intentionally get into a violent clash with a significant military force. And while I may not be on the same page with them politically, they are entitled to their political views. And the action itself of breaking the blockade, carrying goods to the besieged Strip and showing some support for the million and a half innocent people of Gaza who bear the burden of this policy that has only strengthened Hamas is brave and positive.

The bottom line is that Israel raided these ships with commandoes, and the end result was a great deal of needless bloodshed. And apparently, according to the IDF spokesperson, as reported by journalist Gregg Carlstrom, they couldn’t even wait to do it until the ships had passed out of international waters, which makes it, if no explanation is forthcoming, an act of piracy as well.

Israel crossed a line today, in a way not dissimilar (though certainly of a much smaller scope, thankfully) to the line they crossed in their massive attack on Gaza in 2008-09. Whatever Israel’s detractors have said over the years, this incident, like Operation Cast Lead, was far beyond anything Israel has done in the past.

This was a shocking massacre, and there’s no way to pretty that up. These were people engaged in direct action of civil disobedience. True, the siege on Gaza should simply be lifted, but being that it’s there, yes, Israel can be expected to take action to stop the flotilla. But this doesn’t just go above and beyond and justification, it zooms light years past it.

The IDF talks of gunfire, but apparently the guns in question were taken from soldiers during the confrontation, not precipitating it, according to the IDF spokesperson’s statement: “According to reports from sea, on board the flotilla that was seeking to break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, IDF forces apprehended two violent activists holding pistols. The violent activists took these pistols from IDF forces and apparently opened fire on the soldiers as evident by the empty pistol magazines. ” All of this begins with the Israeli tactics used to raid the ships.

Israel’s excuses are weak. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Ynet, “It was obvious to all that this was a media provocation, aimed at reaching a confrontation with Israel…We are not Shiite suicide attackers, and it is the soldiers’ duty to defend themselves.” If it wasn’t such a tragedy, I’d be rolling my eyes.

It is now up to the international community, and especially the United States, to take action. If the Obama Administration is to have any credibility left on this issue at all, it must forcefully denounce this action and call for an end to the siege of Gaza. The latter is not likely to happen, but the former is an absolute must. Without it, Obama will begin to be seen throughout not only the Arab and Muslim world, but also by Europe as little different from his predecessors on the Middle East issue.

No doubt as well the leaders of AIPAC, the ADL, AJC and similar groups will be quick to support the IDF’s absurd story here. The Jewish telegraphic Agency offers portent by simply parroting the IDF line and framing the incidents as “Protesters on ship bound for Gaza killed in rioting.”

We can do better, and we must. If there is to be any hope of stopping Israel from committing to this suicidal and murderous course it is on, and bringing its supporters around the world down with it, incidents like this must be denounced firmly, with calls for real accountability. This was a serious crime and it cannot be tolerated or excused away.

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