Gaza convoy raid may boost militancy, experts say

By William Maclean, Security Correspondent LONDON Wed Jun 2, 2010 12:44pm EDT

An Indonesian Muslim activist holds a toy gun during a demonstration to protest against Israeli marines' storming of a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza, in Jakarta June 2, 2010. REUTERS/Tarmizy Harva

An Indonesian Muslim activist holds a toy gun during a demonstration to protest against Israeli marines' storming of a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza, in Jakarta June 2, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Tarmizy Harva

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Whatever the detailed context and facts of the clash, it is the killing by Israeli forces of nine activists that dominates perceptions of the incident among Muslims, for whom the Palestinian cause is dear, analysts and Muslim commentators say.

Revulsion at the bloodshed on a Turkish vessel sailing to the Palestinian enclave could translate into increased fund-raising for transnational militant groups such as al Qaeda or like-minded allies, or foster tolerance or even sympathy for such groups among Muslims who are not otherwise ideological.

In some cases, it could push passive al Qaeda sympathizers into active participation against Israel or its Western allies, and undermine the international cooperation needed for tracking down illicit funding of militant groups, they said.

"For al Qaeda it doesn't get any better than this. It's really very dangerous," said Noman Benotman, a British-based Libyan analyst and a former associate of Osama bin Laden.

He noted al Qaeda's online propaganda experts were adept at recycling footage of Middle East violence to incite followers.

Peter Neumann, director of the Center for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College, London University, said the incident could prove to be a "tipping point" similar to the publication of U.S. abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, credited by analysts with deepening Arab and Muslim opposition to Western intervention in Iraq.

"I'd expect a significant impact from this on radicalisation," he told Reuters.

"Whatever the facts are, whoever is responsible for the violence, this will play on people's perceptions. Psychologists call it a tipping point that can push someone from passive mode into active mode."

VULNERABLE TO VIOLENCE

Attacks on London's transport system in 2005 by four young suicide bombers highlighted the danger of radicalisation among alienated young men from disadvantaged immigrant districts in Britain. Europe's deadliest Islamist militant attack occurred in Madrid in 2004 when bombs on commuter trains killed 191.

While radicalisation of young Muslim citizens has been a concern in Europe for years, a Pakistani-American's failed bid to set off a car bomb in New York's Times Square on May 1 has raised fears that the United States is just as vulnerable to violence from immigrants as other Western countries.

In London, a British security source said the event would not necessarily produce any immediate result but it would play into al Qaeda's wider narrative and might contribute over time to an ongoing radicalisation message.

U.S.-based terrorism consultant Evan Kohlmann said terrorism financing networks were best countered using accepted legal sanctions and transnational cooperation between regional allies.

Incidents such as the deadly Gaza flotilla raid risked weakening a "shared international resolve to punish those who manipulate humanitarian relief as a cover to fund terrorism."

In Germany, Guido Steinberg, an expert on Islamist militancy, said the Turkish government's tough criticism of Israel could influence Germany's large Turkish community.

"Gaza is a mobilizing factor for jihadists, but it has been so for a while. What I'm worried about at the moment is the harsh reaction of Turkey. That might affect some people ... Support for Gaza and Hamas mixes with Turkish national pride here," he said.

In Britain, Muslim activists reported fury at the incident.

"My streets are in danger, and I say 'streets' meaning not just Bradford but the whole UK. This makes trouble for us peacemakers," said Owais Rajput, a researcher at Bradford University in West Yorkshire, the home area of three of the four men who killed 52 people in the London attacks of 2005.

Abu Muaz of Call2Islam, a radical British-based Muslim group that seeks uncompromising opposition to Israel, said in the past two days there had been "a lot of anger among the youth."

"They ask what's the point of just demonstrating? In the mosques, the imams don't have a solution."

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Comments (33)
Gotthardbahn wrote:
Wearing a balaclave and totin’ a toy gun. Real stand-up guy.

Jun 02, 2010 9:39am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Benny_Acosta wrote:
What is sad is that extremists will use the ignorance of those that suffer because of extremism, and channel that anger against those that actually want peace, and want to heal the broken ties that divide everyone.

Instead of accepting Israel and healing the relationships between the people of the land, extremists are being motivated to continue the bloodshed by Israel’s Muslim neighbors.

When will the people of the region recognize the need to reconcile and stop the fighting? When will they see those so called “spiritual leaders” that advocate violence for what they are?

They are liars and murderers of the spirit. How can one claim to obey the creator while at the same time condoning the spilling of the blood of their brothers and sisters?

Where are the truly spiritually awake? And when will they speak? The voice of violence is getting old. When will people tier of bloodshed?

Jun 02, 2010 9:59am EDT  --  Report as abuse
skepticalnews wrote:
Never mind that the ‘peace’ flotilla was apparently commandeered by Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi, listed by the CIA as an al Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorist organization with bases in Turkey, Bosnia and Bulgaria. As the Turkish government helps finance this organization, it seems that they, not the Israelis have some explaining to do… No wonder that Israel may prosecute some of the activists for collaborating with international terrorists.

Jun 02, 2010 10:04am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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