Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Flotilla Fadicha - Expanded

Now that the international and digital world is on fire about the 'Gaza Freedom Flotilla', it is worth distilling and discussing the main points of the crisis/uproar/etc. In my opinion they are:
1. is the Israel naval blockade of Gaza illegal?
2. is attempting to subvert or bypass the blockade illegal?
3. is stopping those who attempt to subvert or bypass the blockade illegal?
4. is attacking those who are stopping those who attempt to subvert or bypass the blockade illegal
5. is defending against activists attacking troops stopping the attempt to subvert or bypass the blockade illegal?

If you haven't already heard about the flotilla, start here.

The crux of this issue really lies in the fact that the Israeli navy is enforcing a maritime blockage of the waters around the Gaza strip. I understand that even amongst law experts, there is much disagreement about the legality of this blockade, based on whether or not the territory is Israeli and a few other details.

As some history, When Hamas violently wrested power from the PA in Gaza a few years ago, Israel began the blockade with the reasoning that Hamas is a terrorist organization that has dedicated itself to destroying Israel and that it would attempt to smuggle weapons via the Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians have indeed done this before, and with the rise of Iran's role in providing weapons and tactics, this is of increased strategic importance. For a legal perspective on the blockade, click


The second question is obviously tied to the first. If this blockade is in accordance with international law, then it is totally illegal and violates the territorial sovereignty of Israel to subvert it, but in the same way that drug smugglers from Mexico to the US are subverting US territorial sovereignty. If this blockade is illegal, then subverting it is not.

Next, the Israelis have consistently warned that any attempt to subvert the blockade would be met by the Israeli Navy, who would force the ships to turn around or board the ships, tow them to Israeli territory, detain, and deport the passengers. This is perfectly within their rights if the blockade is legal, as well as if the blockade is illegal, so long as they have evidence that the ships attempting to subvert the blockade are carrying weapons or other contraband. Additionally, the flotilla claimed to have been a humanitarian mission focused around providing aid to needy people in Gaza. Both Israel and Egypt offered to deliver the aid to Gaza directly, just as they have done with all previous aid shipments. The flotilla organizers rejected this, wanting specifically to challenge the Israeli blockade. Israel has subsequently transfered all of the aid from the flotilla to Gaza.

Now, do those passengers aboard the ships have the right to self defense? Sure, if there were clear evidence they were being threatened. However, from the accounts, it appears as though all of the other ships were taken without incident, and only on the flagship did violence break out. From the videos, the activists aboard the 'mother ship' were clearly violent. You can see in the video posted yesterday, that the Israeli commandos boarded the ships with paintball guns in their hands. Could those have been perceived as threatening, sure. Were they? No.

Finally, from video, it is clearly apparent that the commandos were attacked by a mob wielding some type of rods or sticks, there are videos of knife attacks, and one of Israeli soldiers being fired upon by guns. Under these circumstances, did the Israeli soldiers have the right to defend themselves with deadly force? I believe the answer to be yes. By calling this a massacre, and demonizing these commandos for responding with live fire (even though this appears to have been a last resort), we take what was clearly a tragedy, and distort it for propaganda purposes.

For the timeline of events, click here
To view some of the weapons used by the activists, click here
To read some opinion from my least favorite news source, click here
For a view from an Israeli soldier, click here
For the STL JCRC's experience, click here

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