Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Soccer Dad

Soccer Dad

More On The Legality Of Israel's Blockade Of Gaza

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 01:58 PM PDT

Earlier, I posted about The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994 which showed that Israel was within its right in confronting the Gaza Flotilla.

Dr. Aaron Lerner, director of IMRA asked Hebrew University international law expert Dr. Robbie Sabel about the legality of the IDF action in international waters:

Dr. Sabel explained that a state, in a time of conflict, can impose an embargo, and while it cannot carry out embargo activities in the territorial waters of a third party, it can carry out embargo activities in international waters.

Within this framework it is legal to detain a civilian vessel trying to break an embargo and if in the course of detaining the vessel, force is used against the forces carrying out the detention then that force has every right to act in self defense.

Dr. Sabel noted that there is a long history of embargo activities in international waters.

There is more information about that issue from the website of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

A maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza. It has been imposed, as Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas regime that controls Gaza.

1. A maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza. Such blockade has been imposed, as Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas regime that controls Gaza, which has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Israel with weapons that have been smuggled into Gaza via the sea.

2. Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under international law that may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at sea.

3. A blockade may be imposed at sea, including in international waters, so long as it does not bar access to the ports and coasts of neutral states.

4. The naval manuals of several western countries, including the US and England recognize the maritime blockade as an effective naval measure and set forth the various criteria that make a blockade valid, including the requirement of give due notice of the existence of the blockade.

5. In this vein, it should be noted that Israel publicized the existence of the blockade and the precise coordinates of such by means of the accepted international professional maritime channels. Israel also provided appropriate notification to the affected governments and to the organizers of the Gaza protest flotilla. Moreover, in real time, the ships participating in the protest flotilla were warned repeatedly that a maritime blockade is in effect.

6. Here, it should be noted that under customary law, knowledge of the blockade may be presumed once a blockade has been declared and appropriate notification has been granted, as above.

7. Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no boats can enter the blockaded area. That includes both civilian and enemy vessels.

8. A state may take action to enforce a blockade. Any vessel that violates or attempts to violate a maritime blockade may be captured or even attacked under international law. The US Commander's Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations sets forth that a vessel is considered to be in attempt to breach a blockade from the time the vessel leaves its port with the intention of evading the blockade.

9. Here we should note that the protesters indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade by means of written and oral statements. Moreover, the route of these vessels indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade in violation of international law.

10. Given the protesters explicit intention to violate the naval blockade, Israel exercised its right under international law to enforce the blockade. It should be noted that prior to undertaking enforcement measures, explicit warnings were relayed directly to the captains of the vessels, expressing Israel's intent to exercise its right to enforce the blockade.

11. Israel had attempted to take control of the vessels participating in the flotilla by peaceful means and in an orderly fashion in order to enforce the blockade. Given the large number of vessels participating in the flotilla, an operational decision was made to undertake measures to enforce the blockade a certain distance from the area of the blockade.

12. Israeli personnel attempting to enforce the blockade were met with violence by the protesters and acted in self defense to fend off such attacks.

Of course, this will not stop the apologists from blindly insisting that Israel had no right to stop the Gaza Flotilla while it was in international waters.

But those people are wrong.

by Daled Amos

Wapo: even though israel's right it's still wrong

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 05:48 AM PDT

It would appear that the editors of the Washington Post accept many of Israel's premises, but still argue that Israel is wrong in The Flotilla Fiasco.

We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla -- a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists. Israel says that some of the organizers have ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda. What's plain is that the group's nominal purpose, delivering "humanitarian" supplies to Gaza, was secondary to the aim of provoking a confrontation. The flotilla turned down an Israeli offer to unload the six boats and deliver the goods to Gaza by truck; it ignored repeated warnings that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza. Its spokesmen said they would insist on "breaking Israel's siege," as one of them put it.

It's not just Israel, of course, that ties the organizers with al Qaeda. (via Daled Amos).

But ...

Yet the threat to Israel was political rather than military. So far there's been no indication the boats carried missiles or other arms for Hamas. Mr. Netanyahu's aim should have been to prevent the militants from creating the incident they were hoping for. Allowing the boats to dock in Gaza, as Israel had done before, would have been better than sending military commandos to intercept them. The fact that the soldiers who roped down from helicopters to the lead Turkish ferry were unprepared to subdue its passengers without using lethal force only compounded the error.

This is wrong. The point of breaking the blockade is military. Once Israel gives in, Israel would have a much harder time turning back other boats carrying military payloads. Though it's interesting that the Post is condemning Israel for not using lethal force. (Noah Pollak made a similar point, via memeorandum)

So what should Israel do?

As for Mr. Netanyahu, the only road to recovery from this disaster lies in embracing, once and for all, credible steps to create conditions for a Palestinian state. A good start would be easing restrictions on both Gaza and the West Bank, once the reactions to Monday's events subside. Mr. Netanyahu also needs to broaden his government to include pro-peace parties; one of his main problems is cabinet hawks who have made Israeli diplomacy an oxymoron. The prime minister is in a deepening hole; his only way out is to move to the center.

Here the Post's editors can't break out of the intellectual shackles that bind them. The Israeli government is a centrist government. The only "pro-peace" party not in the government that has any real support is Kadimah.

But what's troubling is the double standard. Israel's blockade is an effort to isolate and weaken Hamas. Defeating Hamas is a prerequisite for peace. Hamas is far more extreme than any "cabinet hawks" in Israel's government now. So the message of the Washington Post is: give Hamas a break and you'll have peace. That is as absurd as it is offensive.

The security council condemns "acts"

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 03:46 AM PDT

No surprise. The United States tried for some ambiguity, but didn't really get it.

In a formal statement that seemed less forceful than what had been demanded by Palestinians, Arabs and Turkey the council also demanded an impartial investigation into the incident on Monday.

The statement also urged that aid ships seized in the raid be released along with civilians held by Israel.

"The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting form the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza," the statement said, adding that the 15-member body "in this context, condemns those acts which resulted in the loss" of lives.

The wording seemed designed to dilute demands for condemnation exclusively of Israel, which argues that its soldiers acted in self-defense in response to violent resistance to their interception of the vessels from passengers on board. After the incident, Israel seized hundreds of activists as well as the ships.

"The Security Council requests the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel," the United Nations statement said on Tuesday , calling for "a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards."

Read through the article and there are a few bits of conventional wisdom.

Israel used excessive force. For example the French ambassador in a display of hypocrisy is quoted:

Gerard Araud, the French ambassador, said the death toll indicated "there was disproportionate use of force and a level of violence which nothing justifies and which we condemn."

Barry Rubin writes:

Why were people killed in the sea off of Gaza? The Islamist-led forces there. Because--as was shown with five of the six ships--if they didn't fight nobody would be hurt but if they assaulted Israeli soldiers, the latter would defend themselves.

Another theme from the article is that Israel's blockade of Gaza is "unsustainable."

But he also described the situation in Gaza as "unsustainable" and called on Israel to undertake a credible investigation.

Barry Rubin again:

The blockade has definitely had a downward effect on living standards in the Gaza Strip. And of course there are two blockades since Egypt's government, which doesn't want Hamas's close associates, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood to seize power and execute is leaders, also maintains an embargo.

But there is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. That can be easily proven. Israel allows a great deal of supplies to cross over. That can be proven. Hamas destroyed the border economic zone's facilities thus denying Gazans jobs. That can be proven. And there is a lot of smuggling across the Egypt-Gaza border which makes up for a good part of the deficit. There is even a humorous angle to all of this, like the way Israel supplied electricity to the Gaza Strip for years even when the bills weren't paid and Hamas was firing rockets at it.

Repeatedly the article cites that Israel in violation of international law. Daled Amos quotes the relevant section of International law:

According to The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994


Neutral merchant vessels

67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:

(a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;

The article also persists in describing the mission as strictly humanitarian.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, whose country's once close relations with Israel have deteriorated markedly since Israel's invasion of Gaza in 2008, called the attack "tantamount to banditry and piracy; it is murder conducted by a state."

Noting that the ships were carrying items such as a playground, cancer medicine and milk powder, he said that given the history of the Jews the Israelis should be more conscious than others of "the dangers and inhumanity of ghettoes as the one we currently witness in occupied Gaza."

The IDF has an inventory and photographs of the arms seized on the ship, Mavi Marmara:

The activists on board had planned an assault on the soldiers boarding the ship, and a battle ensued. Soldiers reported that the passengers used knives, metal rods, firebombs, and other weapons to attack the forces as soon as they boarded the ship.

Finally the article makes a point of emphasizing claims that Israel's actions have harmed its relations with Turkey. But Turkey, under its current Islamist government and embrace of Israel's enemies has made a mockery of any friendship that existed between the two countries. Claudia Rosett writes (via Daled Amos):

But one of the main players appears to be Turkey. It was a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, which after a big sendoff from Turkey apparently took the lead in the flotilla, its passengers professing nonviolence while waiting with knives and metal cudgels to start a fight. And in Turkey, a lead player in this bloody exercise has been a Turkish foundation, the radical Islamist IHH, or Foundation for Human Rights, Liberties, and Humanitarian Relief. The IHH enjoys consultative status with the UN as a non-governmental organization, or NGO, has an office in Gaza, and has apparently been taking part in this Gaza stunt with the blessing of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. Far from serving as a seal of good housekeeping for the IHH, such ties ought to call into question the judgment of both the UN and Erdogan.

While the Times quotes Israel's ambassador towards the end, the bulk of the article amplifies phony charges made by Israel's enemies. Instead of illuminating the issue, it simply serves as a clearinghouse for condemnations of Israel.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Accounts of the attack

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 03:46 AM PDT

Instead of simply quoting Israel's enemies, the New York Post gives an Israeli soldier's account ot the assault on the Mavi Marmara.

"I saw a soldier on the ground with two people beating the hell out of him. I pushed them off of him, and they moved on to me and started to beat me up with the poles. This is how I broke my hand apparently," he said.

"At the time, I was not holding a weapon, just like everyone who came down from the rope barehanded and with our paintball guns on our backs."

"They came at me and assaulted me. I took them down to the ground. I took a few steps back and pulled out my paintball gun. They charged me while I fired at their legs," he said.

The Washington Post acknowledges the attack on the Israeli soldiers, but most of the Washington Post's account is filled with criticisms of Israel. For example:

Israel said it is allowed under international law to enforce a maritime blockade on international seas. "A state may take action to enforce a blockade. Any vessel that violates or attempts to violate a maritime blockade may be captured or even attacked under international law,'' the Israeli Foreign Ministry said.

In a statement to the United Nations, Turkey characterized Israel's action as a "clear violation of international law" and asked U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to "determine how this bloodshed took place and to ensure that those responsible would be held accountable."

Turkey is given the right of response, but it wasn't just Israel's claim that its attack on the flotilla was in accord with international law - that's what international law says! Turkey's response is pure propaganda, not balance! To add a qualification here, is to question Israel's claim, when the text of the law is quite clear.

Why can't more newspapers be like the New York Post?

Who strengthened hamas?

Posted: 01 Jun 2010 03:40 AM PDT

A month ago, Elder of Ziyon had strung together a number of reports from different sources (and different levels of credibility) that suggested that Hamas was losing its grip on Gaza.

The items listed by Elder of Ziyon, with Hamas's increased oppression of Gaza through executions, house demolitions and general thuggery, have lead to a decline in Hamas's popularity.

(Another indication that Hamas's popularity had been declining is that we've stopped seeing stories in the media claiming that the blockade was counterproductive because it was boosting Hamas's popularity.)

Given indications that Hamas is losing the support of its citizens, it's disappointing that it's apparently getting support elsewhere.

I know that Elder of Ziyon got to this first, but Khaled Abu Toameh quotes Moussa Abu Marzuk in the Jerusalem Post:

A number of Hamas leaders have hinted over the past few days that the US administration has begun talking to the Islamist movement through both official and non-official channels.

Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau, was quoted on Sunday as saying that Washington was talking to the movement despite its declared policy of boycotting it.

"Their official policy states that there are no contacts with Hamas," Abu Marzouk said during a visit to Algeria. "However, they are engaging Hamas for objective reasons."

He added: "There are several open channels [between Hamas and the US]. Some are official and some are unofficial. All those who are talking to us receive permission from the US State Department and the White House. The US administration tells them to talk to Hamas but without causing a big fuss."

Abu Marzouk claimed that the US administration had reached the conclusion that Hamas is a factor that can't be ignored.

So is it any surprise that Hamas felt it had nothing to lose with this effort to break the blockade? In the end Hamas is convinced that the United States recognizes its importance, and wouldn't pay a political price for challenging Israel. (Or having its stooges challenge Israel.)

This is the complete opposite of the Glenn Kessler's presentation, Israeli assault complicates efforts to improve relationship with U.S. in the Washington Post (via memeorandum):

The worldwide condemnation of the deadly Israeli assault on the Gaza aid flotilla will complicate the Obama administration's efforts to improve its tense relations with Jerusalem and likely will distract from the push to sanction Iran over its nuclear program.

This "analysis" is from the school of "I don't understand why Israel defends itself" thought, carefully taking only statements that reinforce the idea that Israel must not upset the Muslim world. Were the Israeli soldiers supposed to have courteously surrendered themselves to be beaten and thrown to the water?

And to suggest that Israel's actions alienate Turkey are absurd. Turkey organized this stunt. Turkey, that has recently publicly snubbed the Obama administration and declared its fealty to Iran and Syria, is the problem. But not a single one of Kessler's sources point this out. I guess for balance, he included a comment from Daniel Levy, who is Israeli, but not a single one of his sources could be considered pro-Israel.

By his choice of sources, Kessler demonstrated that this was a blatantly anti-Israel hit piece rather than any sort of objective analysis. If it belonged anyplace, it belonged as an op-ed, not in the news section.

The Obama administration, while seemingly criticized by Kessler for not being more forceful in its condemnation of Israel, could manage only to say that it is "working to understand" Israel's reasons for fighting back. It is this sort of equivocation along with its fruitless outreach to our enemies that emboldens them.

Crossposted on Yourish.

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