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memri
June 7, 2010 No.
3004

Narrative of Struggle and Jihad in Statements By Islamist Participants in Gaza Flotilla

The following are further excerpts from reports in the Arab press about the participants in the Gaza Flotilla, and statements by participants and their acquaintances.

For earlier reports, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2990, "Arab Media Reports on Flotilla Participants: Writing Wills, Preparing for Martyrdom, Determined to Reach Gaza or Die," June 1, 2010, Arab Media Reports on Flotilla Participants: Writing Wills, Preparing for Martyrdom, Determined to Reach Gaza or Die.

· To view the MEMRI page for Flotilla, visit http://www.memri.org/subject/en/833.htm.

· To view the MEMRI TV page for Flotilla, visit http://www.memritv.org/subject/en/834.htm.

· To view the MEMRI Guide to the Middle East's page about the Flotilla, visit http://www.memri.org/flotilla/.

Report on Hamas Website: 'Abdallah 'Azzam's Son-in-Law and Grandson Participated in the Flotilla

The website www.albian.ps, which is affiliated with Hamas, reports that among the flotilla participants were 19-year-old Muhammad, grandson of 'Abdallah 'Azzam (a global jihad activist killed in Afghanistan in 1989),[1] and his father 'Abdallah Anas (husband of 'Abdallah 'Azzam's daughter Sumayya). The report states that Sumayya, who left Afghanistan a few years after her father's death and settled in Britain, had asked the flotilla organizers to include another son of hers, 17-year-old Ahmad, in the next flotilla even before discovering how her relatives had fared in this one. The website quotes her as saying: "If [my son] Muhammad has been martyred [on board the ship], [I] praise Allah, if he has been wounded, [I] praise Allah, and if he and his father are alive and well, [I] praise Allah." The website also stated that Sumayya was willing "to sacrifice herself and her five sons – Muhammad, Ahmad, Salam (11), 'Omar (10) and 'Azzam (1) – as martyrs for the sake of Allah." She explained that her father had instructed her and her siblings "to raise their children by the light of the Islamic faith, [upon principles of] steadfastness, and upon the sound of [bomber] planes, so they would serve Islam and the [Palestinian] cause."[2]


'Abdallah 'Azzam

Flotilla Participants: The Turks Captured Three Soldiers; We Agreed in Advance to Prevent a Takeover

Flotilla participants reported that Turkish activists had attacked several of the soldiers who boarded the ship and tried to take them hostage. Turkish delegation head Bülent Yildirim said: "The Turks captured several of the Zionist soldiers after beating them vigorously."[3] Similar accounts appeared in the Turkish daily Hurriyet.

Members of the Kuwaiti delegation also told of the Turks' assault on the soldiers. Salah Al-Jarallah said: "[The Turks] beat the three commando soldiers vigorously with clubs, and the Israeli forces responded by sending in troops who shot bursts of [live] fire at the Turks and killed them."[4] Flotilla participant Sinan Al-Ahmad likewise reported upon her return to Kuwait that "at the beginning of the attack, the Turks attacked three Israeli soldiers and beat them."[5]

Kuwaiti parliament member Walid Al-Tabtabai, who was on board the ship, told the Kuwaiti channel Al-Rai TV: "There were violent clashes between the activists and the army, and our friends managed to capture three Israeli soldiers. One of the Turks grabbed a soldier and brought him to us, saying: 'Here is a new [Gilad] Shalit." Al-Tabtabai noted that "the Turks had no weapons but used pipes and sticks they found on the ship." In answer to a question about whether the activists "had made any preparations before the arrival of the soldiers," he replied: "We agreed not to let them take the ship... We agreed to fend off any Israeli soldier who came near. Our goal was to prevent a takeover."

Al-Tabtabai also reported that Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was "the star of the trip and gave rousing speeches."

Asked whether he would participate in another Gaza flotilla, Al-Tababai said: "If I have to, I will not hesitate. When they asked me, I agreed in principle."[6]

Turkish flotilla participant Mahir Tan took photos of the captive Israeli soldiers that were published June 6, 2010 in the Turkish daily Hurriyet, and also described their capture in an interview with the paper.

Friends and Relatives of Turkish Activists Who Were Killed: They Wanted to Become Martyrs

In interviews with the Turkish press, friends and relatives of some of the activists who were killed said that they had expressed a wish to become martyrs. Yusuf Bilgen, son of activist Ibrahim Bilgen who was killed, said that his father had always wanted to become a shahid and that he was proud of him for being one.[7]

The wife of Ali Haydar Bengi told the Turkish paper Vatan that he had always beseeched Allah to grant him martyrdom.[8] His friend Sabir Ceylan told the Milliyet daily: "Before setting out on this journey he told us he wanted to become a martyr. He wanted very much to die as a martyr."[9]

Mehmet Faruk Cevher, a friend of Ali Ekber Yaratilmis, head of the IHH in the city of Iskenderun, likewise told the paper Sabah that his friend "had always wanted to be a martyr."[10]

At a solidarity rally in Aqaba, the former general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, Salem Al-Falahat, recounted that Turkish delegation head Bülent Yildirim had told the Turks on the ship: "Smile. Those of you who die will become shahids." He had also said: "Either we [act] like the men [who fought in the battles] of Badr and Uhud,[11] or we [act] like the men of Al-Hudaibiyya [who accepted humiliating terms of surrender[12]]."[13]

Members of the Jordanian Delegation: We Hoped to Return in Shrouds

During the reception in Amman for the Jordanian delegation, the head of the delegation Wael Al-Saka, said: "We had hoped to return to you in shrouds, like our Turkish brothers who gave their lives." He called the latter "Turkish shahids who demonstrated the noblest form of jihad and resistance."[14]

Jordanian delegation member Raed Al-Bustanji said: "The Turks kept us away from the dangerous areas. They took the lead and [spearheaded] the resistance against the Zionist soldiers, using the simplest means... We hoped to return in shrouds and to give our lives for the sake of Allah." He referred to the Jews as "the brothers of snakes and the descendents of apes and pigs."[15]

Kuwaiti Delegation Members: We Wrote Our Wills

Members of the Kuwaiti delegation, including MP Al-Tabtabai,[16] said that they wrote wills before setting out with the flotilla. In an Al-Rai TV interview with 11 delegation members, Salah Jarallah said: "[Before setting out] I made a verbal will and wrote out its [main] points. All the delegation members agreed that it was necessary to write a will before setting out."[17]

Attorney Mubarak Al-Mutawa' said: "I wrote a will and purchased a one-way plane ticket because [I knew that] all options existed. It was not just me. The Turks did the same before us."[18]

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Kharraz said: "I wrote my will before joining the flotilla... We reminded each other of the [principle] of self-sacrifice. That was our approach [even] before we boarded the ship: victory or self-sacrifice."[19]

Raed Salah: When the Activists Learned About the Fatalities, One of the Turks Handed Out Sweets

In an interview with the Iqra TV channel, Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, recounted that when the wife of one of the activists heard of the death of her husband, she said: "I will not cry over him. I regard him as a martyr for the sake of Palestine." Also, when the activists on the ship learned that there were many fatalities, one of the Turks said to Sheikh Salah: "Congratulations, my Sheikh! Blessings to those who gave up their souls for the sake of Allah." Salah also reported that, at this point, "one of the Turks began to hand out sweets, namely raisins, to [the other activists]."[20]

Egyptian MP from Muslim Brotherhood Bloc: The Journey of the Freedom Flotilla Was a Journey of Jihad

Deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood bloc in the Egyptian parliament Muhammad Al-Baltaji, a flotilla participant, told the Muslim Brotherhood website upon his return: "Everybody was ready for anything that might happen, because all the options were open and we did not rule anything out, especially since the basic goal of the participants was to reach Gaza or else die for the sake of Allah... For all the participants, who came from 40 different countries, the journey was a journey of faith or jihad, call it what you will..."


Muhammad Al-Baltaji

Asked whether he would join future flotillas, Al-Baltaji said: "Without a doubt. Moreover, I'm sure that all those who participated in the flotilla will repeat the experience, because our goal of reaching Gaza was not achieved... I am sure that in the coming days we will see flotilla upon flotilla... even if the participants have to sacrifice their lives, for this is a religious obligation and duty..."[21]

Flotilla Participants: Foreign Activists Converted to Islam En Route to Gaza and Cried "There Is No God but Allah"

Flotilla participants reported that some of the foreign activists on board converted to Islam during the trip. In an interview with Iqra TV, Sheikh Raed Salah said that he had befriended several non-Arab activists from Europe and the U.S., and that some activists had converted to Islam after befriending their Muslim fellows. He said that one had approached him in tears, saying, "I converted to Islam when I witnessed your brave Muslim conduct."[22]

Numerous newspapers and websites reported that British activist Peter Venner (63) had converted while aboard the Mavi Marmara, after boarding the ship in Antalya. Venner was said to have many Muslim friends in England whom he occasionally accompanied to Friday prayers at mosque. It was also said that Venner had visited the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, where he resolved to convert to Islam.[23]

The Hamas website cited Turkish activist Ayub Gukhan as saying that "some of the foreign non-Muslim activists resisted [the Israeli soldiers] and shouted 'there is no God but Allah' after witnessing the Zionists' attack and the activists' resistance [against it]."[24]


Peter Venner

Hamas Member: Those Killed Will Celebrate Their Marriage to the Virgins of Paradise

In article in the Hamas bi-weekly Al-Risala, Palestinian Legislative Council Member from Hamas Dr. Salam Salama wrote: "The pure Muslim Turkish Ottoman blood mixed with the Palestinian soil when the shahids and the wounded arrived in our holy, occupied land [after] the savage, barbaric, rapacious Nazi attack on the blockade-breaking flotilla... The Jews, those 21st-century Nazis, did not realize that they were putting the train back on the tracks from which it had been derailed when the Zionists stole Palestine in 1948.

"Behold, the pure Islamic blood mixed once again with the soil of Al-Israa wal Mi'raj [Muhammad's ascent to heaven from Jerusalem], in a communal wedding [a reference to martyrdom], an unprecedented international festival, so that 20 grooms could celebrate their marriage to the black-eyed [virgins of Paradise] last Monday, [May 31, 2010]... These valiant shahids who left their homes and families and came to help their enfeebled brothers in the blessed and holy land knew that the sons of Zion would try to stop them [from reaching Gaza]. But they were determined to proceed even if it meant giving their lives. This spirit of self-sacrifice and enthusiasm was a clear expression of their love for the holy land and its inhabitants."[25]

Turkish Islamist Leader Fethullah Gülen: The Activists Should Have Obtained Israel's Permission

Fethullah Gülen, the most influential Turkish religious leader, who resides in the U.S., criticized the flotilla for operating without Israel's consent. In his first-ever interview with a U.S. news channel, he said that by refusing to obtain Israel's permission for their activity, the flotilla participants had "defied authority," which would not lead to any positive outcome. Mr. Gülen recounted that when a charity organization linked with his movement wanted to help the Gazans, he insisted that they coordinate with Israel. He added that the task of assigning blame in the affair was best left to the United Nations.[26]

Endnotes:

[1] 'Azzam, a Palestinian cleric who studied at Al-Azhar, was a major figure in the late-20th century jihadist movement. It was he who first encouraged hundreds of Arabs to take part in the Afghan jihad against the Soviets in the 1980s. Among these volunteers, known as the Afghan Arabs, was Osama Bin Laden, upon whom 'Azzam was an important early influence. His assassination in 1989 remains an unsolved mystery.

[2] www.albian.ps, June 3, 2010.

[3] www.palestine-info.info, June 3, 2010.

[4] Al-Rai (Kuwait), June 3, 2010.

[5] Al-Rai (Kuwait), June 3, 2010.

[6] Al-Rai (Kuwait), June 3, 2010.

[7] www.haberler.com, June 6, 2010.

[8] Vatan (Turkey), June 1, 2010.

[9] Milliyet (Turkey), June 2, 2010.

[10] Sabah (Turkey), June 2, 2010. Ali Ekber Yaratilmis was initially thought to be among those killed, but has since been discovered to be alive.

[11] In the Battle of Badr (624 A.D.), the Prophet Muhammad's men defeated the Meccans, who outnumbered them three to one. The Battle of Uhud (625 A.D.) is frequently mentioned in connection with martyrdom, because it is associated with the Koranic verse: "Think not of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord (Koran 3:169)."

[12] In the Hudaibiyya Treaty (628 A.D.), the Prophet Muhammad accepted humiliating terms dictated by his Meccan enemies, because he realized that his military power was inferior to theirs and that he could not defeat them at that time.

[13] www.albosata.com, June 5, 2010.

[14] Al-Dustour (Jordan), June 3, 2010.

[15] www.albosata.com, June 5, 2010.

[16] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 3002, "Eyewitness Reports about the Flotilla Clash: There Was Resistance and Israeli Soldiers Were Captured; IHH Official: Our Goal Was to Reach Gaza or Die Trying," June 6, 2010, Eyewitness Reports about the Flotilla Clash: There Was Resistance and Israeli Soldiers Were Captured; IHH Official: Our Goal Was to Reach Gaza or Die Trying.

[17] Al-Rai (Kuwait), June 5, 2010.

[18] Al-Rai (Kuwait), June 5, 2010.

[19] Al-Rai (Kuwait), June 5, 2010.

[20] Iqra (Saudi Arabia), June 4, 2010.

[21] www.ikhwanonline.com, June 3, 2010.

[22] Iqra (Saudi Arabia), June 4, 2010.

[23] Kul Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 31, 2010. Al-Wiam (Saudi Arabia), June 3, 2010.

[24] www.palestine-info.info, June 3, 2010.

[25] Al-Risala (Gaza), June 6, 2010.

[26] Wall Street Journal (U.S.), June 4, 2010.