Updates: AIPAC urges members to support “Israel’s right to self defense” and contact lawmakers regarding the flotilla incident; maintains list on congressional statements; attempts to link activists to Qaeda
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) is facing a bruising battle this election year, and probably needs all the help he can get. According to Maplight.org, the Senate Majority Leader has received $179,640 in pro-Israel campaign contributions.
Update: The Hill reports: “AIPAC has also been urging people to contact their lawmakers and ask them to issue statements of support for Israel.”
Urge your members of Congress to issue statements in support of Israel’s right to self-defense. As Israel faces international criticism over its response to the flotilla seeking to break its blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, it is vital for lawmakers to show their support for the Jewish state. Israel has legitimate self-defense reasons to inspect the cargo going into Gaza, where the U.S.-designated terrorist group has smuggled in thousands of munitions and rockets for use in attacks against Israeli civilians.
Interestingly, one of the few congressional members quoted in the press as critical of Israel, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass), walks back some of his criticism, as quoted in AIPAC’s rapidly growing pdf (35 pages long at presstime).
“The article in todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Boston Herald is inaccurate in saying that I ‘had harsh words yesterday for the Israeli Navy,'” Frank stated. “The harsh words I spoke were specifically aimed at some non-governmental settlers in the West Bank who I believe have treated Arabs very badly, and, it should be noted, in contradiction to official Israeli government policy. But I had nothing critical to say about the Israeli Navy. Indeed, I noted that I was not familiar with the specifics of the incident, and I talked about the U.S. experience in Afghanistan as an example of the difficult problems that occur when military organizations are required to use force.”
A background memo linked on the page, titled “Who Was Behind the Gaza Flotilla?”, claims that the group is linked to al Qaeda.
The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) was responsible for dispatching the Gaza flotilla. IHH was founded in Istanbul in 1995. It has well documented ties to Hamas and has been linked to other Islamic terrorist organizations, including alÃ¢â‚¬ÂQaeda.
A French examination of IHHÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 1996 phone records showed repeated telephone calls to an alÃ¢â‚¬ÂQaeda guesthouse in Milan and to various Algerian terrorist operatives active throughout in Europe.
In a 1996 report, the CIA identified IHH as a radical Islamic humanitarian organization, according to The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ French counterÃ¢â‚¬Âterrorism magistrate JeanÃ¢â‚¬ÂLouis BruguiÃƒÂ¨re testified during the trial of failed Millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam that IHH had played an “important role” in the alÃ¢â‚¬ÂQaeda terrorist plot. He further stated that in relation to the MontrealÃ¢â‚¬Âbased alÃ¢â‚¬ÂQaeda cell:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The IHH is an NGO, but it was kind of a type of coverÃ¢â‚¬Âup in order to obtain forged documents and also to obtain different forms of infiltration for mujahedeen in combat. And also to go and gather these mujahedeen. And finally, one of the last responsibilities that they had was also to be implicated or involved in weapons trafficking.Ã¢â‚¬Â
However, a Turkish paper notes, “Despite its expressions of concern over the connections of a Turkish charity that helped organize a relief flotilla that suffered a deadly raid by Israeli commandos, Washington has conceded that it has no hard evidence to prove any ties between the Humanitarian Aid Foundation (Ã„Â°HH) and al-Qaeda.”
Speaking at a daily press briefing on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., US State Department spokesperson Philip J. Crowley was reminded of allegations that the Ã„Â°HH Ã¢â‚¬Å“supports terrorist organizationsÃ¢â‚¬Â and was urged to make a statement clarifying this issue.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We know that Ã„Â°HH representatives have met with senior Hamas officials in Turkey, Syria and Gaza over the past three years. That is obviously of great concern to us. That said, the Ã„Â°HH, which stands for the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, has not been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States,Ã¢â‚¬Â Crowley said in response.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We cannot validate that,Ã¢â‚¬Â he replied when posed the question, Ã¢â‚¬Å“So the US does not believe it has connections to al-Qaeda?Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Ã„Â°HH, which is not among some 45 groups listed as terrorist organizations by the US State DepartmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, vehemently denies ties to radical groups.
Following the lead of the Obama administration, and nearly all elected US politicians on both sides of the aisle, Reid is firmly defending Israel’s interception of a “freedom flotilla” headed for Gaza, which resulted in the death of at least nine activists, including a US citizen, based on the grounds that the country has a right to defend itself.
Despite widespread condemnation from the world, and even from elements of the US media, few Democrats are willing to go against Israel, more for the sake of donations from AIPAC than votes, as many liberal Jewish Americans side with the activists.
“Israel is one of our strongest and most important allies, and the United States stands firmly with Israel at this critical time,” Reid’s statement says.
The Senate Majority Leader notes, “I deeply regret the loss of life in the flotilla incident, including the death of an American citizen.”
Reports claim that Furkan Dogan was shot at close range, with four bullets in his head and one in his chest.
Reid then states that Israel acted to stop shipment of “weapons,” but nothing was found on the boat except for a few slingshots and knives that the IDF highlighted in a series of videos on YouTube. Without a word about the controversial Israel blockade of Gaza, Reid also mentions fears of “terrorists,” and then essentially blames activists for what happened for failing to accede to Israel’s instructions while they were in international waters.
Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens and therefore has a clear right under international law to prevent weapons from getting in the hands of terrorists determined to target them. Israel indicated it was willing to put in place a process to ensure that legitimate humanitarian relief reached Gaza. Unfortunately this offer was rejected.
“Israel has pledged to carry out a transparent and thorough investigation of this incident, and I look forward to its findings,” Reid’s statement concludes, without mentioning that Israel has rejected any international probes undertaken by independent bodies.
At the Washington Post’s Plumline, an outraged Greg Sargent wrote,
Notice that there’s only “regret,” no hint of condemnation, over the American citizen’s death. Notice that the statement comes close to blaming the flotilla activists for provoking the incident by rejecting the offer by Israel to transport the aid over land. And notice the blanket endorsement of Israel overseeing the probe of the incident, with no call for any international involvement.
Behold the mainstream of your Democratic Party. There’s no balance here whatsoever.
At Salon, Steve Kornacki writes, “Even when Israel gets itself in trouble, Democrats and Republicans in Washington sound identical. During Israel’s brutal destruction of Gaza in 2009, the Senate’s Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said simply that ‘the Israelis have every right to defend themselves against these acts of terrorism.’ The Democratic leader, Harry Reid, said the same thing.”