Turkish authorities put four Israeli military commanders on trial in absentia this week in connection with the May 2010 clash between Israeli troops and "peaceful" Turkish humanitarian aid volunteers aboard the Mavi Marmara. The vessel tried to run Israel's blockade of Gaza, instituted in order to prevent weapons shipments to the ruling Palestinian terror group Hamas.
On Tuesday, protesters chanting "Murderer Israel!" marched outside the Istanbul courthouse where the trial began. A Turkish court approved a 144-page indictment in May including charges of "inciting murder for cruelty or torture" against former Israel Defense Force (IDF) Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi; former Navy Commander Eliezer Marom; former Air Force Commander Amos Yadlin and former Air Force intelligence chief Avishay Levi.
The indictment follows considerable Israel-baiting from Turkey's Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who last year accused the Jewish State of manipulating the Holocaust to encourage international guilt while staging attacks that killed "hundreds of thousands" of Palestinians.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry labeled the proceedings "a Show Trial, an act which has nothing to do with either law or justice."
On a board erected nearby by the International Humanitarian Relief Foundation(IHH), the radical Islamist group behind the flotilla, protesters scribbled slogans including: "Israel, your end is near," "Down with Israel," and "The revenge of our martyrs will be bitter."
The Mavi Marmara tragedy was no premeditated attack by Israel. Rather, it was the product of Hamas terror and provocation by its supporters.
Prior to instituting the blockade (which contained an exception for food and humanitarian supplies) Israel unilaterally withdrew its military from Gaza and forcibly uprooted its civilians from their homes. Hamas responded with more terrorist activity targeting civilians. A United Nations investigation concluded the blockade was legal in the face of "a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza."
On May 31, 2010, a six-ship flotilla spearheaded by the IHH tried to bring supplies to Gaza in violation of the embargo. Five of the six ships were taken without incident by Israeli commandos and taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
But passengers on board the Mavi Marmara attacked soldiers with clubs, poles and metal rods. One soldier was thrown over the side, and rioters grabbed pistols from the Israelis and opened fire. At least nine of the passengers were killed in the violence and seven of the commandos were injured.
"We have respect for Turkey and its citizens," said Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He added that Jerusalem would do "everything we can to defend the Israeli officials and all of our brave soldiers from 'Lawfare,' the new combat used against them."