Western press accounts have enumerated the many left-wing human rights activists who were among the Gaza-bound flotilla’s passengers earlier this week. But there were other, more conspicuous passengers aboard the ships. The Muslim Brotherhood, in particular, was well-represented.
In fact, the more one looks into the details of the flotilla the more it becomes clear that the Brotherhood used the humanitarian mission for its own purpose, namely, to assist its Palestinian branch -- Hamas. The Brotherhood used the flotilla as a propaganda operation with the intention of increasing international pressure on Israel to the point that the Jewish state lifts its blockade on Gaza and therefore Hamas. Simply put, the Brotherhood saw the flotilla as a public relations weapon that could be used to assist their fellow Ikhwan (Muslim Brothers).
Before getting into the various substantial links between the Brotherhood and the flotilla, a clarifying note is necessary because there is a profound intellectual confusion in the West when it comes to the Brotherhood’s designs for the world. Some have convinced themselves, against overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the Brotherhood is a “moderate” organization we can deal with. That is not true.
The Brotherhood claims, on occasion, that it has disavowed terrorism. But even a cursory look reveals that it openly espouses jihad, and has since its beginning. The Brotherhood also encourages suicide attacks against American forces in Iraq, as well as Israelis. While they have their disagreements from time to time, the truth is that the Brotherhood’s long-term goals are the same as al Qaeda’s. They both want to reestablish the caliphate (as fanciful as that may seem to Western ears) and implement Sharia law throughout the Islamist-controlled world. The Brotherhood only disagrees with al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden’s ilk on tactics.
That said, many of al Qaeda’s master terrorists (Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – to name a few) were once members of the Brotherhood. It is a short step from the Brotherhood to al Qaeda, but not a long one. And that is because they share much in common, including deep ideological roots. To give but one example: Sayyid Qutb, a prominent member of the Brotherhood in the mid-20th century, is one of the chief ideological forefathers of al Qaeda.
Thus, it is a big deal that the Brotherhood manipulated the flotilla for its own purposes, or was even behind it from the first. And it is a big deal that most of the press has missed this obvious angle to the story.
Consider these facts:
As my colleague Jonathan Schanzer wrote earlier this week, the flotilla was organized in large part by a radical Turkish Islamist organization named IHH (Islan Haklary Ve Hurriyetleri Vakfi). The IHH, in turn, is part of a Saudi-based umbrella group called the Union of Good, which was created by Hamas. The U.S. Treasury Department designated the Union of Good a terrorist organization in 2008. Of course, Hamas itself was designated a terrorist organization many years ago.
The Union of Good’s leaders include Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, a top Muslim Brotherhood cleric, and Sheikh Abd al Majid al Zindani, who heads Yemen’s Islah party. Zindani and the Islah party have deep Brotherhood roots.
In other words, the IHH is an offshoot of the Union of Good, which is in turn an offshoot of the Brotherhood -- as is Hamas. It is a matter of basic logic, then, that if the IHH was one of the prime movers behind the flotilla then that means the Brotherhood itself was.
It is as simple as that. But there is much more.
The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report (GMBDR) noted earlier this week that one of the flotilla’s more prominent individual organizers, Amin Abou Rashed, has been identified as “a member of the Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas support network in the Netherlands.” A previous GMBDR account explained that the Brotherhood was “heavily represented” in the Gaza flotilla. Indeed, as we shall see below, the organization was. And the Brotherhood had a sympathetic former member of its organization on board the Turkish ship in the flotilla, and he covered the events that transpired as a journalist for al Jazeera.
If that is not enough, let us look more carefully at some of the passengers on board the flotilla’s ships.
Two of the passengers, as revealed by the indispensable MEMRI organization, are members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s bloc in the Egyptian parliament. One of the two, Muhammad al Baltaji, is the deputy secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary contingent.
MEMRI quotes al Baltaji as saying recently, “A nation that excels at dying will be blessed by Allah with a life of dignity and with eternal paradise.” Al Baltaji also said that the Muslim Brotherhood “will never recognize Israel and will never abandon the resistance,” and that “resistance is the only road map that can save Jerusalem, restore the Arab honor, and prevent Palestine from becoming a second Andalusia.” (Andalusia is of course Spain. The Brotherhood intends to include the once conquered territory in its restored caliphate.)
Al Baltaji also explained the flotilla’s purpose this way: “The flotilla participants have two aims: to reach Gaza and break the siege, and to denounce Israel if it prevents the flotilla from entering Gaza, even at the cost of martyrdom or imprisonment.”
Therefore, al Baltaji, like some of the other passengers, considered the flotilla to be a possible martyrdom operation.
Three of the flotilla’s passengers were members of the Yemeni Islah party, which is led by the aforementioned Zindani. Sheikh Zindani is a globally designated terrorist and a longtime benefactor of Osama bin Laden. The Yemeni government and press objected to Israel's detention of three Islah party members for questioning. But a picture reproduced on MEMRI’s web site shows one of the three, Sheikh Muhammad al Hazmi, brandishing a Yemeni dagger on the deck of the Mavi Marmara.
And the Yemen Observer reports that a “Palestinian source” witnessed al Hazmi on an Israeli television channel “fighting with an Israeli soldier and vowing ‘Allahu Aakbar’ before he was arrested.”
The Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood was represented too. Again, we turn to MEMRI to learn that at least four Jordanian Brotherhood members, including high-ranking officials, were among the flotilla’s passengers.
MEMRI quotes one of them, Salam al Falahat, the “general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan from 2006 to 2008” as saying last year:
We in the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan see Palestine as part of the Islamic and Arab land that must not be relinquished – on the contrary, defending it is a national and jurisprudential obligation... We see Hamas movement in Palestine as standing at the head of the project of the Arab and Islamic liberation for which the Muslim Brotherhood calls... The Muslim Brotherhood supports Hamas and every Arab resistance movement in the region that works for liberation.
Another one of the flotilla’s passengers was Sheikh Raed Salah, who is the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel (or “1948 land” as it is called on the Brotherhood’s web site). Salah’s organization is devoted to promoting Islamist beliefs among Israel’s Arabs. Salah has long conspired with Hamas and the Brotherhood in general, which is why the Brotherhood’s web site quotes a member of Salah’s group as saying that the Israelis are “trying to fabricate ‘heavyweight charges’ against” the Sheikh. Salah is currently under house arrest.
More facts will emerge concerning the Brotherhood’s involvement in this international imbroglio.
The press would be well-served to note that it was a propaganda event staged by the Brotherhood all along. After all, the Brotherhood used the flotilla to play the press, and unfortunately human rights activists, like a fiddle.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.