“They have more room to operate in Turkey now,” says Soli Ozel, a political analyst and columnist for the Haberturk newspaper. “The more room comes from the fact that we do have a party in government that doesn’t see them as alien creatures.”
So far from seeing the IHH, which had been targeted by the government in 1997, as alien, Turkish authorities helped make the flotilla possible by selling the Mavi Mamara, a decommissioned 1,000-passenger cruise ship formerly owned by the Istanbul municipality, for a mere $800,000.
The blessing Ankara gave IHH's lead role in the Gaza aid convoy also reflects a potentially troubling move of groups from Turkey’s Islamist far right into the mainstream, particularly regarding the volatile Israeli-Palestinian issue, says anthropologist Jenny White of Boston University.
“What it says to me is that the far-right Islamists have captured the political issue of Gaza and the government is using this for their purposes,” says Professor White, who is currently working on a book about Islam and Turkish nationalism. “It doesn’t mean that society is becoming more radicalized but the radical segment of society has captured the issue of Gaza and the anti-Israel sentiment, which has a lot of political capital behind it.”