Turkey investigating at least five local Jews it claims aided IDF in Mavi Marmara affair

Representative of Turkish immigrants accuses Ankara of using Jewish community as leverage against Israel

The Mavi Marmara is tugged out of Haifa harbor long after the raid (photo credit: Herzl Shapira/Flash 90)
The Mavi Marmara is tugged out of Haifa harbor long after the raid (photo credit: Herzl Shapira/Flash 90)

Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has launched an investigation of at least five Turkish citizens it believes collaborated with Israel in the 2010 takeover of the Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara, according to Turkish media reports.

MIT believes the suspects either assisted the Israeli troops who boarded the vessel or later took part in the interrogation of the ship’s activists in Israel, the Turkish daily Yeni Şafak reported on Friday.

A representative of Turkish Jews in Israel expressed concern that the government in Ankara was targeting the country’s Jewish community.

According to the report, the investigation was launched after flotilla participants testified that they heard some Israeli soldiers speaking Turkish during and after the raid.

Israeli naval commandos commandeered the Mavi Marmara in May 2010 to enforce a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The troops killed nine Turks after they were attacked by violent activists in clashes on board.

Uğur Yıldırım, an attorney with the Istanbul-based Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), which organized the flotilla, was quoted in another Turkish daily, Zaman, as saying that during the interrogation of passengers on the boat after it had been brought to port in Israel, several Turkish citizens, wearing IDF uniforms, confirmed that they had been brought in to act as interpreters.

Another IHH lawyer, Gülden Sönmez, said the organization has pictures and videos linking certain Turkish citizens to the raid. “We have delivered all these to the prosecutor’s office,” she told Zaman.

While the report did not specify that the MIT was targeting the Jewish community, it did state that the investigation centered on Istanbul and Izmir, two cities with significant Jewish populations.

Hüseyin Ersöz, whom Maariv identified as the Deputy Chairman of the IHH, told a Turkish television station on Saturday night that once the names were published “everyone will know who the Turkish Jews are that served in the Israeli army and killed Turkish civilians on the Mavi Marmara.”

Rafael Sadi, spokesperson for the Association of Turkish Immigrants in Israel, told Maariv that the Turkish authorities “are trying to intimidate the Jews” as well as to send Israel the message that if Turkish demands are not met, the Turkish Jewish community is liable to suffer the consequences.

The investigation probed all Turkish citizens who traveled between Turkey and Israel at least two weeks before and after the Mavi Marmara incident on May 31, 2010. MIT officials were quoted as saying they expected to uncover additional suspects.

Turkey has demanded a formal apology for the incident, as well as compensation for victims and the families of the dead, and for the Gaza blockade to be lifted.

Israel has said its solders were attacked by violent thugs aboard the vessel, and insists its blockade against terror group Hamas-run Gaza is legal. Israel’s government has said it “regretted” the loss of life and has offered to pay into what it called a “humanitarian fund” through which casualties and relatives could be compensated, but has refused to issue an official apology.

A UN report into the Mavi Marmara incident released in 2011 concluded that Israel had used unreasonable force in stopping the Mavi Marmara, but that the blockade on Gaza was legal.

In November, four of the most senior Israeli military commanders at the time of the incident were put on trial on trial in absentia by Turkey. That trial is still ongoing.

Turkey’s state prosecutor seeks prison sentences of more than 18,000 years each for former chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Navy commander Eliezer Marom, former Air Force commander Amos Yadlin and former Air Force intelligence chief Avishay Levi.

Israel dismissed the proceedings as a “show trial” and “political theater.”

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