Wed, Jan 26, 2011 | The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
The Turkel Commission Report and Initial Reactions
On January 23 the Turkel Commission issued the first part of its report. The commission investigated the issue of the Israeli takeover of the flotilla, during which IDF forces were attacked by operatives belonging to the Turkish IHH. The commission considered the blockade of the Gaza Strip and determined that it was in accordance the rules of international law. With all issues relating to the flotilla the commission determined that the takeover of the ship was carried out in accordance with international law. That was because if the vessel’s intention was to violate the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, it was permissible to take control of it even if it were in international waters. The commission determined that the IDF had not taken into consideration a scenario of an organized force armed with deadly weapons which would actively oppose an attempt to board the ship.
The report places responsibility for the violent events aboard the Mavi Marmara on the members of the Turkish organization IHH and claims that the organization’s operatives did not act in self defense but rather “the opposition to the [Israeli] soldiers boarding the boat was premeditated and violent in the extreme, and not characteristic of civil disobedience.” By acting in that fashion, the report claims, the operatives lost their special status as civilians during the time they resisted. The commission quoted testimony taken from IDF soldiers who participated in the takeover of the ship. One of the, the first who descended from the helicopter to the upper deck of the Mavi Marmara, said that a mob attacked him and tried to lynch him. He said that the IHH operatives choked him and tried to gouge out his eyes, and that he feared for his life (Haaretz, January 24; Ynet, January 23, 2011).
Turkey’s response: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, said that he was “amazed and disappointed.” He rejected the credibility of the Turkel Commission Report and called it “worthless.” Other senior Turkish figures did not express an opinion about the report claiming not to have yet seen it, but said that the prime minister’s reaction was representative of Turkish public opinion and that the government of Turkey accepted the conclusions of the Turkish report, which claimed that Israel had violated international law and used excessive force (Haaretz and Al-Manar TV, January 24, 2011). The Turkish inquiry commission responded that it was “surprised, shocked and anxious” because of the reports conclusions, which “clear” Israel’s name.
IHH’s response: IHH leader Bülent Yildirim rejected the Turkel Commission’s conclusion and called its members “stupid.” He claimed that according to international law the Israelis were criminals. He said a large majority of Turks think IHH’s struggle against is just. He claimed that even the Turkish Jewish community thought the Turkel report contained “nonsense” (Al-Jazeera TV, January 24, 2011).
Hamas’ response: Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that Hamas totally opposed any commission of enquiry which would investigate the events aboard the Mavi Marmara. He called the commission a “fake” and said that it was not “logical” that a criminal not be tried. He said Hamas supported the Turkish government and its “adherence to its positions” regarding Israel, and called for an international legal system to intervene and try the “perpetrators of the crime” (Al-Risala, January 23, 2011).
You can download the full report of the Turkel Commission for Examining the Maritime Incident of May 31, 2010 – Part One here.
 Read also the Jan 25, 2011 article “Testimonies from IDF Naval Commandos Who Participated in the Raid on the Mavi Marmara” here.