WASHINGTON (JTA) – Leaders of both parties in the U.S. Senate are urging President Obama to consider placing the Turkish charity involved in the Gaza flotilla incident on the terrorism list.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), its minority leader, circulated a letter last Friday among their colleagues that would press Obama to investigate the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation.
The charity, known as IHH, helped fund the ship Israel boarded on May 31, resulting in the deaths of nine Turks, including one Turkish American, and the injury of seven Israeli soldiers. The ship was one of six attempting to breach Israel’s embargo of the Gaza Strip, which is under the control of the Hamas terrorist group.
"Israeli forces were able to safely divert five of the six ships challenging the blockage," the letter says. "However, video footage shows that the Israeli commandos who arrived on the sixth ship, which was owned by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (the IHH), were brutally attacked with iron rods, knives, and broken glass. They were forced to respond to that attack and we regret the loss of life that resulted."
Competing accounts of the melee — backed by incomplete video footage — blame both the Israeli commandos and the passengers for starting the fight.
The letter alleges that IHH is affiliated with Hamas.
"We recommend that your administration consider whether the IHH should be put on the list of foreign terrorist organizations, after an examination by the intelligence community, the State Department, and the Treasury Department," it says. Placement on the list makes it a crime to fund-raise for the cited group.
The letter also encourages Obama to continue to support Israel "before international organizations such as the United Nations."
The Obama administration thus far has kept the U.N. Security Council from demanding an international inquiry into the raid, clearing the way for the Israeli government to launch its own probes. However, in a statement Sunday, the White House said it would reserve judgment on further steps until it could examine the results of Israel’s probes.
"We ask you to stand firm in the future at the United Nations Security Council and to use your veto power, if necessary, to prevent any similar biased or one-sided resolutions from passing," the letter says.