Posted on June 04, 2010 in Viewpoint with James Zogby

Air Date: June 3, 2010

Mark Perry, foreign affairs analyst and acclaimed author; Ufuk Ulutas, Middle East program coordinator atthe SETA-DC research foundation; Bill Corcoran, President and CEO of the American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA); Edward Peck, former Ambassador to Iraq and Mauritania, and passenger on the Gaza flotilla.

Mark Perry, foreign affairs analyst and acclaimed author, discussed the recent Gaza flotilla crisis and US reaction to theIsraeli raid. Perry addressed the heavy handed Israeli boarding tactics that resulted in the deaths of 9 civilians. Perry said that thiscase of excessive force on the Israeli side makes him wonder “whether the Israelis thinks every time they open the toolbox and see a hammer, that they have to use the hammer”. Perry responded to Israeli allegations that link flotilla activists to terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda. To this Perry remarked, “If they’re Al Qaeda, why go on with paintball guns?”, he then added; “And why then release them all?” Perry concluded the discussion with describing the US diplomatic position given this incident, and how this crisis may impact future US relations with Turkey and Israel. “The United States now has to choose between siding with a NATO member…or siding with an ally; this is very uncomfortable politically for the United States.”




Ufuk Ulutas, Middle East program coordinator at the SETA-DC research foundation, joined Dr. Zogby to discuss the Turkish perspective on the Gaza flotilla crisis. Ulutas explained that the Turkish customs office inspected the ships’ cargo to certify that they carried only humanitarian aid aboard. Thought the Turkish government was not a official sponsor of the flotilla, Ulutas explained that the Turks did warn the organizers of the “possible consequences they may face in Israel.” Ulutas then dismissed news reports that accuse the IHH, the Turkish charity sponsoring the ships, of potential ties to extremist organizations. Ulutas subsequently addressed the tense diplomatic situation between Israel, Turkey and the US: “This is definitely going to create complications for the US-Turkey relations… But at the end of the day, the US knows that turkey is a great asset, a better asset for the United States than Israel in the region.”



Bill Corcoran, President and CEOof the American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA),discussed the current humanitarian situation in Gaza. Having recently returned from his 7th trip to Gaza in the past three years, Corcoran explained that “the situation is deteriorating quickly…33% of homes are damaged or destroyed, 48% of children under the age of 5 are anemic, 86%of residents dependent on food aid, and 10,000 are without access to water networks.” Corcoran’s testimony comes as a response to reports, which refute any existence of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. contrary tonews reports that dispute the existence of a humanitarian crisis. To this Corcoran responded, “I don’t know where these talking heads are getting information, but it seems like it has an ideological basis to it, rather than a fact-based set of information.”



Edward Peck, former Ambassador, past Chief of Mission to Iraq and Mauritania, and passenger on the Gaza flotilla, discussed his experience with the flotilla aid convoy headed to Gaza. Peck, who was on one of the smaller ships, explained who he was with and detailed incarceration in Israel. “They [the Israelis] said, ‘we’ll get you out of here right away, you’re being deported’”, said Peck. Stated that he was told he was being deported for entering Israel illegally. “I said, Icame up with my hands up and a gun at my back having been hijacked by pirates in international waters.”