In the Arena

No Angels

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The Israeli response to the so-called Peace Flotilla was stupid and over-aggressive, but the Turkish “humanitarian” ¬†group that helped organize the flotilla has a long history of supporting organizations that aren’t very humane. Here’s some background from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

Among the groups that organized the aid flotilla to Gaza is a charity headquartered in Turkey called the Humanitarian Relief Fund (“Insani Yardim Vakfi” in Turkish, or IHH). IHH was established in 1992 and officially registered in Istanbul in 1995. A French intelligence report concluded that in the mid-1990s, IHH president Bulent Yildrim was directly involved in “recruit[ing] veteran soldiers in anticipation of the coming holy war [jihad]. In particular, some men were sent into war zones in Muslim countries in order to acquire combat experience.” Foreshadowing IHH’s role in this weekend’s aid flotilla to Gaza, the French report noted that IHH provided financial support “as well as caches of firearms, knives, and pre-fabricated explosives” in an effort to obtain “political support from these countries.” IHH phone records in Istanbul reportedly included repeated telephone calls in 1996 to an al-Qaeda guesthouse in Italy and to North African terrorists active in Europe.

In addition, a 1996 CIA report on terrorist abuse of charities, declassified after the September 11 attacks, documented IHH as a charity with ties to “Iran and Algerian groups.” According to the report, the director of the IHH office in Sarajevo “has been linked to Iranian operatives.” The report described “the terrorist-related activities and linkages” of fifteen selected “Islamic NGOs,” noting that “individuals connected to some of these NGOs have plotted to kidnap or kill U.S. personnel.” And according to French court documents, IHH was the subject of a Turkish criminal investigation in late 1997 when sources revealed that leaders of the group were purchasing automatic weapons from other regional Islamist militant groups. Based on an analysis of seized IHH documents, Turkish authorities concluded that “detained members of IHH were going to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.”

IHH is a member of the “Union of Good” (Itelaf al-Khair, also known as the “Charity Coalition”). According to Palestinian intelligence, this organization “is considered — with regard to material support — one of the biggest Hamas supporters.” Israel outlawed the Union of Good in February 2002, and the United States named it a specially designated global terrorist entity in November 2008. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the Union of Good was created by the Hamas leadership “in order to facilitate the transfer of funds to Hamas.” Intelligence underpinning the U.S. designation noted that the group “facilitates the transfer of tens of millions of dollars a year to Hamas-managed associations.” It also “acts as a broker for Hamas by facilitating financial transfers between a web of charitable organizations…and Hamas-controlled organizations in the West Bank and Gaza.”