Did you know the US asked Lebanon, on 23 June, not to allow the planned Lebanese flotilla to head for Gaza? Probably not, unless you read foreign media or The Washington Times. The topic wasn’t briefed at the State Department daily briefing on 23, 24, or 25 June. Or on 22 June, for that matter. The daily briefings on both 22 and 23 June discussed the inquiry into the 31 May flotilla incident, as well as the status of the Gaza blockade, but no mention was made of the State Department’s communication urging Lebanon not to send the planned flotilla. CBS obediently left that information out of its 23 June summary update on the matter, the same day TWT reported it.
It’s certainly possible the CBS staff didn’t know about the US request, of course, but that’s another topic. Meanwhile, the Lebanese flotilla has reportedly joined the Iranian flotilla in standing down for the time being. The Israelis had already affirmed to the UN that they would stop the flotilla, and warned Lebanon that they would hold her government responsible for an incident provoked by a Lebanese-sponsored flotilla. The US communication came on top of that warning from Israel. The flotilla was supposed to depart around the 25th or 26th, but with the coincident announcement that Iran’s flotilla would be cancelled, Lebanon seems to have thought better of letting the Levantine flotilla proceed. Haaretz had reported as early as 20 June, right after the Israelis issued their warning, that Beirut was holding up the flotilla over its failure to secure bureaucratic permissions. An American activist who had gone to join the Lebanese flotilla reported two days ago that it looked very unlikely the planned flotilla would leave at all.
The subtitle of his report is “Controlling Civil Disobedience.” That’s worth reflecting on briefly, as civil disobedience is something that always occurs at the sufferance of the authorities. Of course it’s possible to shut down these flotillas – as long as they maintain their cover of being acts of civil disobedience. The Lebanese flotilla had just enough of that cover to knuckle under when it became clear the combined Lebanese, Israeli, and US authorities opposed it.
We should not forget, however, that what we’re talking about here is not Henry D. Thoreau leading a flotilla to Walden Pond. One of the flotilla’s chief sponsors was Syrian businessman Yassir Qashlaq, who had this to say about the flotilla’s purpose and the fate of Israel’s Jews. The clip is short; don’t skip it.
One of the two ships scheduled to participate in the Lebanese flotilla was a French ship originally named Julia, whose name was changed to Nagi al-Ali for the flotilla outing. Nagi al-Ali waited in Tripoli to pick up its passengers (mostly European activists and journalists); not surprising, but an additional sign that Libya – which hosted a hysterically anti-Israel Arab League conference in March – is back on Qadhafi’s old path of facilitating anti-Israel actions. Actually committing them is probably not far behind.
The third prong of the flotilla assault was to be from Turkey – and that effort is alive and well. That’s bad news, because Turkey remains the most formidable potential flotilla-wielding foe. The next Turkish flotilla will reportedly head for Gaza in late July. Although we are hearing little about it at the moment, there is good reason to credit the Turkish planners with serious intentions: their main foreign sponsor is still fully engaged, and is even holding an international conference, which will start 11 July, on breaking the Gaza blockade. That sponsor is the Perdana Global Peace Organization (PGPO), headed by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammed.
It’s worth visiting PGPO’s website just to take in its overwhelming obsession with the flotilla campaign. The homepage is basically “all flotilla, all the time,” and has been since the first flotilla began nearing Gaza in late May. PGPO, which is based in Malaysia, sponsored three of the ships in the last flotilla, including M/V Rachel Corrie. And as I outlined here, Mahathir Mohammed and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, received special thanks from Yusuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, at an “al-Qods” (Jerusalem) conference convened in Beirut in January. Qaradawi is the founder of the Union of Good, from which Turkey’s IHH organization – which has ties to Hamas and has been designated a terrorist group – receives its funding. (See here for Qaradawi on killing Jews, bringing down America, and other topics; h/t Jihad Watch.)
(Of note, PGPO is also the organization of which Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Ground Zero mosque imam who founded the Cordoba Initiative, is a prominent founder. This is not a superficial or accidental connection; Rauf’s father, an Egyptian Islamic scholar from Cairo’s al-Azhar University, founded the Islamic University of Malaysia and had a long association with Mahathir Mohammed. When Mahathir was hospitalized and required surgery in 2007, after the elder Rauf had passed away, the younger Rauf arrived from New York to lead interfaith prayers for him in Kuala Lumpur.)
PGPO’s Gaza blockade conference starts on 11 July. It will presumably be after the conference that the next IHH flotilla sets out from Turkey. As of now, the Lebanese and Iranian flotillas are in abeyance – a testament to the good it does to issue warnings (or at least look like you are doing so). Turkey’s susceptibility to warnings will be contingent on the attitude with which we issue them, if we do; and the other flotillas may not remain stood down without continuing encouragement. Meanwhile, Turkish flotilla advocates protested under this sign in June. The Turkish phrase means, roughly, “health to your hands,” and is an expression of thanks.
Cross-posted at Hot Air.