Israeli Commandos Board Mavi Marmara Cruise Ship - Violation of International Law?

Yesterday, a criminal barrister in London @CrimeCounsel asked me on Twitter my opinion of the Israeli action against the pro Palestinian flotilla.

I responded immediately that it was in violation of international law and morally indefensible.

For those cruise fans who are not current on international news, two days ago Israeli commandos boarded a cruise ship in international waters.  The ship is the M/V Mavi Marmara passenger ship, formerly owned and operated by a Turkish ferry company and now owned by a Turkish Islamist charity, the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief.  The Mavi Mavi Marmara - Flotilla - Israel - Blockade - GazaMarmara, with around 700 Palestinian supporters, was sailing with food, toys and relief supplies for Palestinians in Gaza.  Israel boarded the ship to enforce an embargo of Gaza. 

Passengers on the cruise ship, called "activists" in many press accounts, attacked the commandos after they rappelled from a helicopter.  Watch the video below.   When the violence ended, Israeli forces had killed 9 passengers and injured 60 others. The passengers injured 10 Israeli soldiers, 2 critically.    

My opinion remains that this was a clear violation of international maritime law. The U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea entitles vessels "free passage" on the high seas.  It was also a morally indefensible attack on citizens in international waters.  I received a lot of flak for my opinions.  There are few people in the U.S. based cruise industry or courthouses in Miami  who have much sympathy for the Palestinian cause, particularly after 9-11.  The U.S. is preoccupied with fighting the war on terror and, in the process, every Arab relief agency is labeled as a tool for Al-Qaeda, Hamas, or Hezbollah.

But putting politics aside, this is a straight forward issue.  International law prohibits the boarding Mavi Marmara- Flotilla - Gaza Embargoof vessels in international waters.  Attacking a relief ship in this manner is as illegal as engaging in piracy off of the coast of Somalia.

Some argue that Israel has the right to enforce the embargo and make certain that humanitarian shipments into Gaza do not include weapons.  This may sound good, but it presupposes that the embargo is legal. The siege of Gaza is wrong and severely punishes Palestinians by depriving them of food, medical supplies and basic services.  The U.N. told Israel to end the embargo in the first place.

International law also requires that only "proportional" force may be used in the face of violent resistance.  Yes, the commandos were met with violence when they illegally boarded the vessel on the high seas.  You can see this clearly in the video.  But shooting protesters in the head with automatic weapons is not "proportional" or morally defensible, particularly when the commandos had no right to board the ship in the first place.

 June 2nd Update:

There remains considerable debate regarding the legality of Israel's conduct, much of it turning on the issue whether the embargo itself is legal.  99% of the countries in the U.N. believe that its illegal (count me in on that issue)  The U.S. and Israel disagree.  Here are some articles to consider:  

Huffington Post:  Israel's Actions on the High Seas:  Part Justified and Part Chutzpah

Media Monitors: From Klinghoffer to the Gaza Flotilla

Guardian: Gaza flotilla activists were shot in head at close range

Christian Science Monitor:  Was Israel's raid on Gaza Freedom Flotilla legal?

Huffington Post:  Justice for All? A Tale of Two Victims: Leon Klinghoffer and Furkan Dogan

Christian Science Monitor:  Britain calls Israel's Gaza flotilla raid unacceptable

The Atlantic:  If You Attack Aid Flotillas, the Terrorists Will Have Won

Dallas Morning New:  Israel's maritime attack raises big issues

The Guardian:  Was the Gaza flotilla raid legal?

U.K.'s Telegraph In cold blood: Why Israel's state thuggery must be stopped

 

Agree?  disagree?  Have a point to make?  Leave a comment below.

 

For additional coverage: "Israel Attacks Gaza Flotilla - Live Coverage"

Credits:

Photograph top     AP Photo / Israel Defense Force

Photograph bottom    Reuters

Video top        Hula

Video bottom      Al Jazeera

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Comments (33) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Kenneth Thomas - June 2, 2010 11:17 AM

Jim,

Israel is conducting a blockade of Gaza under the provisions of International Law. Those provisions certainly seem to authorize the act, though there is room for discussion. I would suggest you review the relevant law.

Yours,

Ken Thomas

Jim Walker - June 2, 2010 12:47 PM

Ken:

Thanks for your message, but I am familiar with the U.N. Convention, international treaties, and U.N. resolutions regarding this issue. As you may know, the U.N. voted overwhelmingly for Israel to end the embargo. If you have something specific to point me to, I'll be pleased to read it.

As a practical matter, I don't see how dropping soldiers from helicopters in international waters is going to solve any of the issues plaguing Gaza and Israel.

Jim Walker

Max Ramirez - June 2, 2010 1:09 PM

Greetings Jim,

While I am not an attorney and know next to nothing about maritime law I was wondering why your article didn't delve deeper into the Israeli viewpoint of its "legal blockade". Is such a thing even allowed under international or UN provisions? I get conflicting date on this subject depending (naturally) on which side of the argument you're on. Can a nation legally declare a blockade and if so, did Israel meet the conditions necessary to create this blockade? From what I've read, if a blockade is legally formed then any ship that is under suspicion of attempting to run the blockade can be boarded. Even before they reach the blockaded area. THAT seems kind of far-fetched to me.

Thanks for your input and information.

Michale - June 2, 2010 3:20 PM

Mr Walker,

With respect, sir..

))))If you have something specific to point me to, I'll be pleased to read it.(((

The question of whether or not the Israeli Navy had the authority to board the Mavi Marmara is rather clear cut.

But it can only be addressed by first addressing the question;

Is the blockade of Gaza by Israel legal?

The answer to that question, according to the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, is clearly, "YES"...

Once it is established that the blockade of Gaza is legal, then other portions of the San Remo Manual come into play.

Towhit, Israel is well within it's rights to board any vessel attempting or intending to run it's blockade in international waters anywhere in the world. Meaning that Israel could have legally boarded the Mavi Marmara as soon as they cleared Cyprus territorial waters as intent to blockade run was well established by that time.

This is what international law says....

You can read the San Remo Manual here:

http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/385ec082b509e76c41256739003e636d/7694fe2016f347e1c125641f002d49ce

Respectfully,

Michale
St Augustine, FL

Josie Hart - June 2, 2010 3:26 PM

Jim, I usually agree with everything you write. Your thoughts are coherent and on target. But I think you "missed the boat" on this one. Below I quote from just three of the many well-informed sources I've read opinions from:

From Alan Dershowitz, a lawyer whom I think knows his stuff:
Israel's actions were not illegal under international law. The blockade of Gaza, a terrorist enclave that has engaged in repeated acts of armed aggression against Israeli civilians, is supported by Egypt and other nations. Although the flotilla was boarded in international waters, the intent to enter Gaza was clear and undisputed. A sovereign nation need not wait until the line is unlawfully crossed when the intruders have made known their determination to cross the line. The United States and other Western countries have boarded ships in international waters over the years to enforce blockades and to protect security. When Israeli marines were attacked by lethal weapons, they had the absolute right to defend themselves and protect their fellow soldiers.

From Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations:
Israel had every right under international law to stop and board ships bound for the Gaza war zone. Under international law, blockades are quite legal. The U.S. and Britain were at war with Germany and Japan and blockaded them. I can't remember international lawyers saying those blockades were illegal - even though they took place on the high seas in international waters. Gazan leaders proclaim their goal is to destroy Israel, have tried for years to do so by missile attacks and terrorism, and Israel has every right to protect itself under international law, including by blockades in international waters.

From Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under international law. 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 U.S. 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.
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. Israel exercised its right under international law to enforce the blockade.

Josie Hart - June 2, 2010 3:33 PM

Jim,

You say, "The siege of Gaza is wrong and severely punishes Palestinians by depriving them of food, medical supplies and basic services."
Maybe you should stick to what you know best -- maritime law -- and stay away from politics and international issues on your blog.
If you took the time to research this, instead of just reading the typical press stories and propaganda, you'd find that:
Despite attacks by Hamas, Israel maintains an ongoing humanitarian corridor for the transfer of perishable and staple food items to Gaza. This conduit is used by internationally recognized organizations including the United Nations and the Red Cross.

Well over a million tons of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza from Israel over the last 18 months equaling nearly a ton of aid for every man, woman and child in Gaza. Millions of dollars worth of international food aid continually flows through the Israeli humanitarian apparatus, ensuring that there is no food shortage in Gaza.
Food and supplies are shipped from Israel to Gaza six days a week. These items were channeled through aid organizations or via Gaza's private sector.
Large quantities of essential food items like baby formula, wheat, meat, dairy products and other perishables are transferred daily and weekly to Gaza. Fertilizers that cannot be used to make explosives are shipped into the Strip regularly, as are potato seeds, eggs for reproduction, bees, and equipment for the flower industry.

In 2009 alone, more than 738,000 tons of food and supplies entered Gaza. Pictures in local newspapers show local markets aplenty with fruit, vegetables, cheese, spices, bread and meat to feed 1.4 million Gazans.
In a typical week the IDF coordinates the transfer of hundreds of trucks containing about 15,000 tons of supplies. During the week of May 18, 2010 there were more than 100 truckloads of animal food, 65 trucks of fruit and vegetables; 22 truckloads of sugar, some 27 truckloads of meat, poultry and fish; and 40 trucks of dairy products. At holiday times, Israel increases transfers. During the Muslim holy days of Ramadhan and Eid al-Adha, Israel shipped some 11,000 heads of cattle into the Strip.

Do you really want the truth, Jim? Then read the rest of the story here:
http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/HumanitarianAid/Palestinians/Israeli_humanitarian_lifeline_Gaza_25-May-2010.htm

Josie

Josie Hart - June 2, 2010 3:39 PM

Jim, you also said, "International law also requires that only "proportional" force may be used in the face of violent resistance. Yes, the commandos were met with violence when they illegally boarded the vessel on the high seas. You can see this clearly in the video. But shooting protesters in the head with automatic weapons is not "proportional" or morally defensible."
You're kidding, right?
I guess if you or your loved one would ever be attacked with metal poles, baseball bats and knives, you would do the proportionate thing and let these monsters beat you or your loved one to death.

The Israeli navy had worked hard to plan a peaceful interception of the six ships and the soldiers only used force when their lives were at risk.

Individuals aboard the vessels had clearly prepared for violence, chanting an Islamic battle cry recalling the killing of Jews and calling for martyrdom, according to an Al-Jazeera report.
While intercepting six ships attempting to break the naval blockade of Gaza after frequent warnings not to proceed, Israeli soldiers were attacked immediately upon boarding one of them.
The outnumbered soldiers were immediately and brutally attacked with crowbars, clubs and knives and shot at with guns stolen from soldiers, seven of whom were injured. One soldier was thrown to a lower deck 30 feet below and sustained a severe head injury.
Israeli soldiers reacted with the utmost restraint. Only when their lives were in danger did they seek and receive permission to open fire. Regrettably, nine flotilla participants were killed and others injured. Seven Israeli soldiers were injured.

Michale - June 2, 2010 3:45 PM

I had read the response to Ken and responded before I had finished reading the entire article of which there are some parts I would like to address..

)))International law prohibits the boarding of vessels in international waters.(((

This is not entirely accurate. There are many provisions that allow nations to board ships in international waters. When a ship is intending to run a legal blockade is but one of those reasons.

)))This may sound good, but it presupposes that the embargo is legal.(((

This is true. However, as the San Remo Manual clearly shows, the blockade of Gaza is completely legal and lawful. Therefore, any vessel found to be running the blockade or when intent to run blockade is established then said vessel can be legally boarded, seized and, if the blockading party deems it necessary, attacked and sunk.

This is the law.

)))) The siege of Gaza is wrong and severely punishes Palestinians by depriving them of food, medical supplies and basic services. ((((

Palestinians are not being deprived of needed food and medicines. Tens of thousands of tons of foodstuffs and medical supplies are transferred to Gaza from Israel every month.

There are established and acceptable procedures for getting humanitarian aid to Gaza if that is the intended goal. But the leaders of the IHH made it clear that this wasn't about aid to Gaza.

"This isn't about humanitarian aid. This is about ending the blockade"
-Greta Berlin, IHH Spokesperson

It's also interesting to note that the aid from the IHH Flotilla was attempted to be delivered by Israel. The delivery was refused by Hamas...

))))The U.N. told Israel to end the embargo in the first place.((((

You would be referring to Resolution 1860. This resolution also required that Hamas would release Cpl Schalit, being illegally held for 4 years in violation of the Geneva Conventions, that Hamas would refrain from launching missile attacks on Israel and would cede Israel's right to exist.

Since Hamas has failed to accomplish ANY of these, Res 1860 is not binding on Israel.

)))))But shooting protesters in the head with automatic weapons is not "proportional" or morally defensible(((((

The IDF boarding party was only armed with Paint Guns and had handguns as a back-up weapon. The IDF soldiers showed remarkable restraint, considering the savagery and ferocity of the attack by armed activists. It was only when one or more activists started shooting at the IDF soldiers did the soldiers return fire. It is unclear whether the activists had firearms on hand or whether they wrestled weapons from the IDF soldiers. But it IS clear that use of deadly force was a legitimate response.
There is no such thing as a "fair fight" in this regard. If someone comes at you with their fists, you use a baton. If someone comes at you with a knife or club, you use a gun. This is the law of survival and has been upheld by every military and police agency in the world.

))))particularly when the commandos had no right to board the ship in the first place.(((((

As it has been clearly established, the IDF had every legal right to board the Mavi Marmara.

The entire incident, nay the entire 4-6 years could have been avoided if Hamas would care more about taking care of their citizens than they do about killing Israelis...


With respect,
Michale
St Augustine, FL

Ted - June 2, 2010 5:15 PM

Jim,

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, and I agree with based on what I've seen and read,
"This wasn't the 'Love Boat' -- this was a flotilla of terror supporters."

- Ted

Jim Walker - June 2, 2010 6:01 PM

Thanks for everyone's comments. Some very good points, but:

Mr. Dershowitz and Prime Minister Netanyahu are patriots. Whereas I admire both for many reasons, neither have much concern for the rights of the Palestinian people. They seem to view everyone in Gaza as a terrorist. This is part of the problem.

U.N. officials and relief agencies on the ground report that only 1/4 of the needed aid is arriving in Gaza. This is inflicting harm on the people in Gaza, which is Israel's intent in the first place. The U.N. recognizes that the embargo is illegal. Boarding a ship with passengers in international waters is illegal. And then killing them under these circumstances is illegal.

Yes, this was no "Love Boat." And we can debate international maritime law forever. But it concerns me that not one person commenting above has expressed the slightest concern for the dead.

Jim Walker

Michale - June 2, 2010 6:40 PM

))))But it concerns me that not one person commenting above has expressed the slightest concern for the dead. ((((

It was clear from the outset that this flotilla had intended to confront Israel violently. The spokespeople for the IHH made this abundantly clear. Therefore, those on board knew what was going to happen and what COULD happen.

Any such sympathy for the dead must be tempered with the knowledge that this wasn't a group of wide-eyed idealistic peace-niks hopped up on flower-power.

The weapons displayed and the ferocity with which they were displayed and employed tells me that this was a hard-core band of thugs who got killed committing violence.

The Latin term, sans humanite' comes to mind...

As far as the legality of the blockade itself, that is at the core of this issue..

Because if the blockade is legal and lawful, then any and all actions that were taken by Israel in this incident are also legal and lawful.

Of course, conversely, if the blockade is an illegal blockade, then it becomes clear that Israel is legally in the wrong..

So, let's look at that one point. The legality or illegality of the blockade..

There is only one part of the San Remo Manual that could, repeat *COULD* make the Gaza blockade illegal..

PART IV, SECTION II, Paragraph 102:
The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if:
(a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or
(b) the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade.

Subsection (a) does not apply, because it is clear that sole purpose of the blockade is NOT the starvation of Gaza but rather to stop weapons from reaching Hamas.

Subsection (b) would be the only section that one could hang their hat on, as far as illegality goes..

According to the subsection, a blockade would be illegal if the damage to the civilian population is excessive in relation to the direct military advantage that said blockade would provide.

The damage to the civilian population is clear. However, it IS mitigated to a great extent by the humanitarian aid that flows into Gaza from Israel on a daily basis..

So, while there IS damage to the civilian population, it is not excessive by any stretch of the imagination.

Now, let's look at the direct military advantage that the blockade provides to Israel.

This is abundantly and crystal clear. The ability of Hamas to obtain weapons that would, in turn, be used against innocent Israeli civilians is severely curtailed.

Therefore, the damage to the civilian population of Gaza is not sufficiently excessive to out weigh the very real military advantage afforded Israel by way of keeping an excessive amount of weaponry out of Hamas' hands.

I am also constrained to point out that Hamas STILL can smuggle in weapons thru secret tunnels at the Gaza/Egyptian border. The fact that Hamas chooses to smuggle in weapons and explosives rather than foodstuffs and medicines makes it abundantly clear that Hamas is more interested in killing Israelis than they are in taking care of their own citizens.

Further, I must also point out that many countries in the region, INCLUDING Turkey and Egypt signed off on the blockade as perfectly legal. Up until yesterday, Egypt actually participated in the blockade, coordinating their efforts with Israel.

All of these facts support the opinion that the Israeli Blockade of Gaze is perfectly legal and in accordance with international law.

And, as I stated at the beginning. If the blockade is legal, then the IHH Flotilla incident that flowed from that blockade is also legal.

Finally, in the interests of full disclosure. I am a retired military officer who has over 2 decades of service in the USAF and the US Army. I have also been an LEO, an FSO and served in many postings around the world in the CT field.

And, while I am not a laywer, I DID stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. :D

Michale
St Augustine, FL

Josie Hart - June 3, 2010 10:10 AM

Jim,

You use Al Jazeera as your source? Are you kidding?

I'm curious as to why you didn't provide a link to your local paper, the Miami Herald, which has the following editorial:
Once again, Israel has been placed in the preposterous position of having to defend itself for defending itself. For that it should never have to apologize. The maritime blockade was imposed by Israel because it has repeatedly been attacked by Hamas from Gaza with rockets and other weapons smuggled in by sea. The blockade is supported by Egypt and has the de facto recognition of virtually every country in the world. It is a legitimate maneuver under international law and fully justified as an effective counter-measure to stop Hamas' aggression. (Miami Herald)

And you quote UN officials? The United Nations still has failed to condemn North Korea for sinking a South Korean ship. Yet when Israel does something legally, they and the majority of countries around the world jump down their throats -- even before the truth of what actually happened is revealed.
As Sean Hannity said, "Israel's hit with thousands of rockets. Israel decides to put up a blockade so they can't send reinforcing weapons to the people that are firing rockets at hospitals and pizza parlors and neighborhoods and schools. Israel has a right to self-defense. Israel warns this vessel not to go in. They've allowed humanitarian aid in. Israel protects itself, and Israel gets worldwide condemnation. I'm trying to sort out the logic here."

And from the National Catholic Reporter: "Imagine if the U.S. government knew that a group of sympathizers with al-Qaeda were delivering supplies to an al-Qaeda stronghold in Afghanistan. Any commander who permitted the supplies through would be court-martialed. Make no mistake about it, the difference between the Hamas thugs who rule in Gaza and the al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan is a difference of degree, not of kind. In their struggle against Hamas, Israel's cause is the cause of justice and human rights. (National Catholic Reporter)"

And if Gaza really needs the aid you speak about, how about this?
Hamas officials on Wednesday refused to allow into Gaza 21 truckloads of humanitarian aid that had been offloaded from the flotilla ships docked at Ashdod port. A senior official from the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories said Wednesday that the trucks were waiting to go into Gaza at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, pending approval from Hamas.
"Hamas has refused to allow those trucks to go in, and if the aid is so urgent, my question is, why are they not allowing it into Gaza?"
And since you use the Guardian as one of your links:
Israel Had No Choice over Gaza Flotilla - Seth Freedman (Guardian-UK)
Israel had given countless warnings to the activists not to proceed with their trip without first allowing the freight on their ships to be checked; Israel had repeatedly offered to allow the aid in as long as the activists handed it over to be inspected.
There is not a country on earth that would not take similar steps to protect its people.
Video footage clearly shows a premeditated attack on Israeli soldiers. There can be no doubt from the evidence that those attacking the Israeli forces were not the archetype of calm and measured peace activists.
There is not an army on earth that would not allow its soldiers to respond with force to neutralize a life-threatening attack on their fellow troops.

Jim Walker - June 3, 2010 10:52 AM

Josie (a/k/a Ted):

Aljazeera and the U.K. media have the most comprehensive coverage of the Midde East. The video is of a very objective maritime expert in London.

Do you discount everything from Arab based news agencies?

There are many newspapers in Israel which disagree with your point of view.

Do you support the embargo?

Do you believe that the people in Gaza have legitimate complaints?

If so, what is your solution to problms in Gaza?

Jim Walker

Josie Hart - June 3, 2010 11:18 AM

Jim,

You say, "Mr. Dershowitz and Prime Minister Netanyahu are patriots. Whereas I admire both for many reasons, neither have much concern for the rights of the Palestinian people. They seem to view everyone in Gaza as a terrorist. This is part of the problem."

The definition of patriot is one who loves, supports, and defends one's country. The last I checked, Mr. Dershowitz lives in America and is a U.S. citizen. Are you implying something else? Because it certainly sounds like that.

And he nor Netanyahu don't have much concern for the rights of the Palestinian people? Hogwash! The Israelis have done, and would do more, for the Palestinian people than their own so-called leadership has done, and much more than the rest of the entire Arab world. Open your eyes. Don't only read the articles and propaganda that fits your point of view. Hamas is a sworn enemy of Israel (they want to see Israel obliterated), they fired 10,000 rockets on an innocent civilian population, yet Israel still sends in hundreds of trucks and thousands of tons of aid to Gaza. What do the Palestinians do with aid money? They build a casino instead of a hospital or school. And have you read about the high-end restaurants and olympic-sized swimming pool the leaders in Gaza have built? What about taking care of their own people first?
Jim, you say, that Israel seems to view everyone in Gaza as a terrorist? Then why do they allow hundreds of Gazans into their hospitals to treat them when Hamas cannot do so?
And why have you never spoken out about Gilad Shalit? Oh, that's right. This is a cruise blog.
You seem very naive about this issue, Jim. Maybe you should stick to what you know best -- cruise law.
- Josie

Michale - June 3, 2010 11:30 AM

Mr Walker,

I realize the questions were not directed at me and I hope you will forgive me if I take a stab at them.

))))Do you discount everything from Arab based news agencies? ((((

I have 6 News Sites up on my workstation monitors at all times. Drudge, CNN, FNC, AlJazeera, Haaretz and UK Guardian. What can I say... I have no life. :D But it does give me a well-rounded view of what's happening in the world..

))))Do you support the embargo?((((

Absolutely. Israel has tried time and time again. They have pulled back and withheld retaliations time and time again..

And every time, Israel is rewarded with more missiles and more terrorism.. Hamas could live in peace next to Israel if they would just be content to live in peace next to Israel. Make no mistake. Hamas is the impediment to peace in the region. Not Israel.

"A line must be drawn here! This far!! No farther!!"
-Jean Luc Picard

))))Do you believe that the people in Gaza have legitimate complaints?(((((

Abso-tively and posi-loutly. The people of Gaza are suffering, there is no doubt about that. But, as the facts clearly show, it is Hamas who is the cause of most, if not all, of their suffering... If Hamas would obey Resolution 1860, then Gaza could become the Monte Carlo of the Middle East. Gaza has so much potential. But the brutal and inept leadership of Hamas is preventing that potential from being fully developed.

)))))If so, what is your solution to problems in Gaza?((((

Easy.. Get rid of Hamas. Hunt them down like the animals that they are and put them out of everyone's misery. Such an action would be doing Gaza, Israel and the world a huge favor.

Again, my apologies for butting in. But, as you can probably surmise, this is a hot button topic with me.

With respect,
Michale
St Augustine, FL

Jim Walker - June 3, 2010 3:47 PM

Josie (a/k/a Ted):

Thank you for your very interesting comments.

Jim Walker

Michale - June 3, 2010 3:57 PM

During the last Gaza conflict, it was clear that Israel and the IDF cared more for the safety of innocent Palestinian civilians than Hamas did.

There is an old "joke" amongst CT operators in the region. When an air raid siren sounds in Israel, the Israeli government rushes their citizens into shelters. When there is an air raid siren in Gaza, Hamas rushes their civilians to the target.

Unfortunately, this is the reality in Gaza. Which is why I said that the first step towards peace in Gaza is to eliminate Hamas.

With respect,
Michale
St Augustine, FL

Max Ramirez - June 3, 2010 5:11 PM

Weird....this conversation kind of strayed off maritime law didn't it?

But one point is still kind of out there: If a blockade is legal AND Israel did whatever is needed to do to "legally register" the blockade; AND the flotilla admittedly was there to attempt to run the blockade, then how is what they did illegal? Yes their is suffering and both sides are idiots, but forget the moral compass; is the blockade legal or not?

Jim Walker - June 3, 2010 5:26 PM

Max:

Great question. If the embargo is hypothetically legal, then the issue is whether boarding a vessel iin international waters intending to run the embargo is legal. I don't think it is, although I know that others disagree.

At a minimum, I would tell a client to wait to board when the flotilla reaches territorial waters. And I would instruct them to take steps to come along side, to disable the offending vessels, to tow them into custody - but not to drop soldiers with weapons onto a vessel with relief supplies in international waters.

I would do everything to defuse the situation and avoid killing ten people and injuring 60 others, whether Palestian, Hamas, Hezbollah, or Israeli.

Max Ramirez - June 4, 2010 4:25 PM

I completely agree. While it wouldn't stop the overall anger that protesters were killed, I just can't understand why you just wouldn't wait until they were in your "legal" waters. Regardless of whether it was allowable or not, it just looks like they were itching to pick a fight.

Thanks for the info Jim.

Michale - June 4, 2010 5:52 PM

Hi Mr Walker,

I realize this is a subject that's been beat to death, but I came across this bit of information and thought you might be interested.

Robert Margolis, an expert in international maritime law based out of Vancouver, Canada, said no boats, including civilian and enemy vessels, can enter a blockaded area when a maritime blockade is in effect.

"Israel is acting under the customary maritime law of blockade," Margolis told FoxNews.com. "You're allowed to do that; they declared a blockade over a port."

Margolis said Israel is acting "completely" within guidelines of blockades under international maritime law. Any vessel that violates a blockade, including the Rachel Corrie, may be captured, boarded or even attacked under international law.

"If [the Rachel Corrie] insisted on going all the way to Gaza, then the Israelis have the right to board it, not to sink it," said Margolis, citing guidelines regarding appropriate use of force. "Rather than sink it, Israeli commandoes would board the vessel."

Once a blockade is established, Margolis said they must be enforced.

"You can't have a blockade where you don't try and stop every vessel," he said. "Blockades fail from non-enforcement. The law of blockades require enforcement; there's no such thing as a paper blockade."

As I said, just thought you might be interested.

With respect,
Michale
St Augustine, FL

Michale - June 4, 2010 5:59 PM

Max,

)))))While it wouldn't stop the overall anger that protesters were killed, I just can't understand why you just wouldn't wait until they were in your "legal" waters.(((((

As a retired military officer, I can address that, using the wisdom of Sun Tzu.

You always want to attack at your convenience rather than defend at your enemy's convenience.

The San Remo Manual, which is the governing law in this case, states that the blockading party can adjust their blockade to fit military needs.

Territorial waters end at the 12 mile limit. Israel's exclusion zone starts at the 20-mile limit.

Are we really gonna quibble about 8 miles?? :D

Regardless, if the blockading party deems that an exclusion zone of 50 or 100 miles is militarily necessary, then the law allows such an exclusion zone to be created..

However, the blockading party better be able to back up that zone with some real and concrete military needs.

"Because we feel like it" won't cut it..

With respect,
Michale
St Augustine, FL

Jim Walker - June 4, 2010 6:18 PM

Michale:

Thanks for the info.

Sun Tzu? Point well taken!

Art of War is the best manual for war, or litigation, than any book ever written.

But Fox News? Arrrggghhh!

Jim Walker

Omri - June 6, 2010 5:09 PM

The right of free passage does not extend to areas under blockade. Read the San Remo manual. Read it carefully. The boarding was perfectly legal.

Jim Walker - June 6, 2010 7:33 PM

"Read the manual?" Perfect?

I didn't know there was a manual stating that you can board a ship in internationalwaters, to defend an illegal embargo, kill nine people, and get a perfect score . . .

Omri - June 8, 2010 4:14 PM

http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/560?OpenDocument

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

Google is your friend.

Kenneth Thomas - June 9, 2010 8:21 PM

Dear Jim,

I did not claim that Israel's action was a good idea nor that I agreed or disagreed with it-- only that there is a clear argument for this being a legal act under international law.

Others have now made that argument, which clarifies that your position is not a slam-dunk, and that even if you are right, there is not going to be any clear consensus in front of any court, legal body or of opinion, on this issue.

Yours,

Ken Thomas

RM Parker - June 11, 2010 5:38 PM

Jim:
I think you have skewed the facts to support your issue. What about the weapons hidden in the food shipments? Here's the video taken with Intl observors on hand.

http://www.flix.co.il/tapuz/showVideo.asp?m=3423928

I think I not only am supportive of Isreal's boarding and seizures but think they have acted extremely civil after reviewing the videos you don't see in the mainstream news.

mats birgersson - June 23, 2010 8:38 PM

R.M Parker
The film from flix,co you want Jim to look at is from
last year 04.11.09. That is way it is not in the mainstream news.
I think some one pointed out that i was only ligel to
stop a blokad breaker on international waters if there was no other possibilete. I think it was possible for Israel to stop the ship in there waters.

laggeri - June 29, 2010 11:12 AM

Michale, you lost all credibility at "Hunt them down like the animals that they are and put them out of everyone's misery."
You are referring to human beings, not vermin or the ebola virus. In a discussion about the legal parameters of the MidEast crisis, I find your comments particularly telling.

qwe - August 10, 2010 2:47 AM

The manual (San Remo Manual) is a legally recognized document, but is not binding.

Brian Beddowes - January 23, 2011 11:39 AM

It's murder, pure and simple.

Anyone who supports killing activists and the brutal inhumane blockade needs to have their heads checked.

The fact that Israel rejected an international inquiry and investigated it themselves is incredible!?! Also, that they confiscated all recording equipment and never released the footage. We don't exactly have to call Columbo here do we?

Just look at the simple humane facts. Forget whose waters the ship was in, it does not matter. Israel murdered nine activists.

dan - January 27, 2011 12:50 PM

Israel is conducting a blockade of Gaza and should have a right to defend itself especially when you can hide weapons aboard ship as iraq mas houses weapons to use against our troops. I support israels actions to defend itself by what ever means necessary

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