Arab Media Reports on Flotilla Participants: Writing Wills, Preparing for Martyrdom, Determined to Reach Gaza or Die
Following is information from the Arab media about some of the flotilla participants. It should be noted that many of these were from the Muslim Brotherhood across the Muslim world:
In Friday sermons, Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Muhammad Badi' expressed support for Hamas, frequently reiterating harsh statements in favor of jihad and of the armed struggle in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan (For more on this subject, see also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2986, "MEMRI TV Clips on the Gaza Flotilla: Activists On Board Chant Songs of Martyrdom at Departure,"http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4249.htm.
The Egyptian flotilla delegation included two members of the Muslim Brotherhood bloc in the Egyptian parliament: Muhammad Al-Baltaji and Hazem Farouq.
Al-Baltaji, who is deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc in Egypt, said at a March 2010 conference, "A nation that excels at dying will be blessed by Allah with a life of dignity and with eternal paradise." He also said that his movement "will never recognize Israel and will never abandon the resistance," and that "resistance is the only road map that can save Jerusalem, restore the Arab honor, and prevent Palestine from becoming a second Andalusia.
The Lebanese flotilla delegation, with six members, was headed by attorney Dr. Hani Suleiman, who also participated in a February 2009 Gaza flotilla. He was pro-bono attorney to Japanese terrorist Kozo Okamoto. In 2006, he signed a communique supporting armed resistance in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq.
Three other members of the Lebanese delegation are Al-Jazeera TV correspondents. One, 'Abbas Nasser, worked for Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV from 1997 through 2003; he has said that he enjoyed working there because he felt like part of a family, and because the channel "embraced his religious and political orientation.
Another delegation member, Hussein Shaker, is known as "Abu Al-Shuhada" ("Father of the Martyrs"). He has reportedly expressed a desire to meet "his martyrs" (i.e. relatives killed during the 2006 Lebanon war), and has called his participation in the flotilla revenge for their deaths.
The Jordanian flotilla delegation included Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan activists such as delegation head Wael Al-Saka, a veteran Muslim Brotherhood member, and Salam Al-Falahat, who was general guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan from 2006 to 2008. In an interview last year, Al-Falahat said: "We in the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan see Palestine as part of the Islamic and Arab land that must not be relinquished - on the contrary, defending it is a national and jurisprudential obligation..
Also in the delegation was Jordanian publicist and journalist Muhammad Abu Ghanima, a former head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan's information bureau and a member of the movement's political bureau. Abu Ghanima writes frequent articles praising Hamas and condemning the Palestinian Authority. In one, he vehemently attacked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, calling on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to topple his regime even at the cost of thousands of martyrs.
Journalist Saud Salam Abu Mahfouz, member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan's political party, the Islamic Action Front, is also director-general of the Jordanian Al-Sabil newspaper, which is identified with the Muslim Brotherhood. His son, Jordanian correspondent for Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV, was arrested in Egypt in 2008.
The only Syrian citizen of the flotilla's 700 participants was Shadha Barakat. She was sent as a representative of the Civil Association for Resisting Zionism and Aid for Palestine, which supports armed resistance in Palestine and in Iraq. Her husband Ayman said that she had written a play on assassinated Hamas founder and leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, and had told him that when she reaches Gaza she "plans to visit [Yassin's] home and inhale the scent of the place where he lived."
Prominent activists in the Yemeni flotilla delegation were three MPs from the Al-Islah party, an Islamist party that is close to the Muslim Brotherhood. One, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hazmi, was photographed on the deck of the Mavi Marmara brandishing his large curved dagger.
Another Yemeni MP in the flotilla, Hazza' Al-Maswari, also from the Al-Islah party, previously expressed vehement anti-American sentiment. In 2004, he objected to a Yemeni program for dialogue with prisoners from Al-Qaeda aimed at tempering their views, declaring recently at Friday prayers: "We cannot tell militants 'don't terrorize Americans' or 'don't attack their interests.' Those who plant hatred will harvest hatred."
Among the prominent flotilla activists from Kuwait were Salafist MP Walid Al-Tabtabai, who is known to support armed resistance in Palestine and in Iraq. He said: "We think that the armed resistance in Iraq is legitimate resistance. Every resistance directed against anyone who occupies it is legitimate..
Another prominent Kuwaiti activist in the flotilla was Dr. Osama Al-Kandari, a Hadith lecturer at the College of Basic Education. In February 2009, he signed a communique expressing support for Hamas and for jihad in Palestine against the "Jewish enemies."
Sheikh Jalal Al-Sharqi, head of the Association of Islamic Scholars in the GCC Countries, was also on board. Previously, Al-Sharqi signed a clerics' petition calling to acknowledge Hamas's legitimacy, as recognized by shari'a, and not to prevent it from obtaining weapons. The petition justified the stance of the "fighters in Gaza" who cling to jihad "against the Jews" and to martyrdom.
The Monitoring Committee of the Israeli Arabs sent four of its members to the flotilla, including Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. He made statements in support of Hamas and against the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority. Previously, Salah said at the Conference of the Palestinians in Europe: "We are very joyful over the Freedom Flotilla... that in another few days will break the siege on free Gaza, noble Gaza, heroic Gaza. At the same time, we emphasize to all the world that the Freedom Flotilla heralds another flotilla to come - do you know what that is? It is the flotilla returning the Palestinian refugees to our country, to our plains, to our sea and our land, to our fields and our groves."
Bishop Hilarion Capucci
Another passenger on the Mavi Marmara was Bishop Hilarion Capucci, who in the 1970s was convicted and imprisoned in Israel for smuggling weapons from Lebanon to the PLO, but afterwards was freed at the request of the Vatican. According to Algerian flotilla participants, Hilarion said that he was "waiting for the day when he could return to Palestine and hear the church bells and the muezzins' calls of 'Allah Akbar,' under the skies of a free Palestine."
Anticipating Conflict, Willing to Die
In their statements, flotilla participants raised the possibility that Israel would use force to prevent the ship from reaching the Gaza coast, and declared that this would not stop them. Many noted that they would break the siege even if it cost them their lives.
Muhammad Al-Baltaji, of the Muslim Brotherhood faction in the Egyptian parliament, said: "The flotilla participants have two aims: to reach Gaza and break the siege, and to denounce Israel if it prevents the flotilla from entering Gaza, even at the cost of martyrdom or imprisonment.
Algerian delegation head Dr. Abd Al Razzaq Maqri, who is the deputy head of the Algerian group Movement of Society for Peace, Algeria's major Islamist party, said, "The Algerians on board will hear only the orders of their leaders, who seek to break the siege. [The options are] martyrdom, imprisonment, or breaking [the siege]."
The website of the group titled its collection of photos from the flotilla "Photos of Algerian Mujahideen."
Algerian delegation coordinator Ahmad Brahimi said about his delegation: "Algeria has been known for its support of the Palestinian cause since the days of Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi. Our fathers gave their blood and lives to defend Palestine... and we are the sons of those fathers." He added that the delegation's only purpose was to reach Gaza, and that Israel could not prevent it from doing so.
Another participant, Attorney Fathi Nassar of Jordan, said: "The Freedom Flotilla members are filled with determination to reach Gaza or die."
Rami Abdou, representative of the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, said that most of the participants were willing to lay down their lives to reach Gaza. He stressed that they would not allow the occupation forces to tow the ship to Ashdod.
Shadha Barakat's husband Ayman said that his wife was likely to be harmed during the venture, adding that "she will make no truce with Zionism" and that "since she was a child, she has dreamed of attacking an Israeli."
Participants Write Their Wills
At a press conference in Antalya, Turkey, the flotilla organizers asked all the participants to "write their wills." Following the press conference, Kuwaiti Salafist MP Walid Al-Tabtabai reportedly "did not hesitate to write his will, in defiance of the Israeli threats."
The father of Kuwaiti activist Abd Al-Rahman Al-Filkawi told the Kuwaiti Al-Watandaily that his son had told him that the flotilla participants' morale was high, and that they "would sacrifice themselves for the sake of Allah. He added that his son had "told them before embarking that he would be a martyr for the sake of Allah." Likewise, on the various Internet forums, it was reported that the mother of one of the Turkish participants had said that her son had bade her farewell and told her that he was going to lay down his life.