The Blog

What David Cameron Doesn't Know About Turkey

Turkey is sponsoring the jihadists, not guarding against them.

3:10 PM, Jul 29, 2010 • By MICHAEL WEISS
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Today, IHH is a high-profile affiliate of the umbrella organization, the Union of Good, which was founded by Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi to establish Hamas fundraising fronts. In 2008, the Union was outlawed by the U.S. Treasury Department for “strengthen[ing] Hamas' political and military position in the West Bank and Gaza, including by: (i) diverting charitable donations to support Hamas members and the families of terrorist operatives; and (ii) dispensing social welfare and other charitable services on behalf of Hamas.” IHH’s financial dealings in the United States were consequently ended. After the flotilla incident, 87 U.S. senators wrote to the president urging him to go a step further and add IFF to the State Department’s list of known terrorist entities. The Europeans have been far more energetic and effective in this regard. Germany just shuttered IHH’s Berlin headquarters and this week it was announced that Italy’s Chamber of Deputies was lobbying the EU to categorize it as a terrorist financier.  If successful, Turkey’s candidacy to the EU, which Cameron so pines for, would be even more imperiled since the charity’s warm relationship with Ankara is now an internationally discussed issue.

One need only consider why AKP instructed its ministers not to sail with the Mavi Marmara in Istanbul: Why do that if there was not a felt enthusiasm within party circles to enjoin with a hardcore activist campaign with a taste for “martyrdom?”  As the New York Times reported recently, at least four of IHH’s 21-strong board of trustees are members of AKP, including Ali Yandir, the senior manager at the Istanbul City Municipality Transportation Corporation, a subsidiary of which originally sold IHH the Mavi Marmara for close to $2 million.  Another trustee and AKP member, Ahmet Faruk Unsal, is a former MP who did in fact board the ship bound for Gaza in May. 

Plausible deniability of a working relationship between AKP and IHH actually became risible last January, during another botched aid convoy to Gaza that similarly led to violence—this time with Egypt. This particular attempt to deliver money and wares to Hamas had been co-organized by IIHH and Viva Palestina, a British charity founded by former MP George Galloway.  It ended in two riots—one led by Hamas at the Egyptian-patrolled Rafah crossing into Gaza, the other led by the convoy participants themselves at the Egyptian port city of Al Arish. Interestingly, Erdogan himself publicly endorsed the convoy’s objective and even dispatched his foreign minister to intercede with Cairo on its behalf.  Also, AKP wasn’t so shy as to prevent its politicians from getting their hands dirty this time: Five of its parliamentarians traveled to Al Arish to stand in solidarity with IHH and its British partner.  Among them was Hasan Murat Mercan, the head of the Turkish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Commission, not an oblivious or inconsequential posting.

Ankara’s efforts to facilitate the transfer of cash and automobiles to an internationally proscribed regime did not go unnoticed by the beneficiaries. Erodgan was praised by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in very fulsome language, which is accessible at IHH’s website: “Mr. Erdogan has become our voice and won hearts of all Palestinians. We began naming our children after Tayyip Erdoğan. The name of Erdogan has been immortalized in Palestine.”  Not an endorsement a NATO ally typically takes to Brussels, is it?

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers