Monday, June 7, 2010

The Gaza Flotilla Raid

The Gaza flotilla raid was carried out by Israeli naval forces on one of the six ships of the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” in May 2010. The ships, carrying 663 pro-Palestinian activists from 37 countries, attempted to transport supplies to Gaza and to thereby break the Israeli-Egyptian Gaza blockade. The ship was boarded in international waters because the ship refused to redirect its course. The boarding of five of the ships passed without serious incident, but the boarding of the MV Mavi Marmara turned violent when activists aboard attacked the Israeli soldiers. Nine activists were killed, and ten Israeli soldiers were injured (Wikipedia, 2010).

The Raid Was Legal

Some Israeli lawyers claimed that the raid on the flotilla violated international law (Izenberg, 2010). However, according to most experts, the boarding in international waters was legal (Wikipedia, 2010).

When Israel ended the occupation of Gaza, the terrorism organization Hamas seized control and functions as a de facto government, which means that they have the primary responsibility for the welfare of the Palestinian people. But Hamas have engaged in warfare against Israel – nearly 10,000 anti-personnel rockets have been launched against civilian targets, which all constitute war crimes - and both Isreal and Egypt responded by declaring a blockade, the purpose of which was to assure that no material that can be used for making war was permitted into Gaza. Israel allowed humanitarian aid through its checkpoints. This blockade is legal according to several experts (Wikipedia, 2010). Ed Morgan, professor of international law at the University of Toronto, explains:

A blockade of an enemy’s coast is an established military tactic. It is recognized as a means at the Security Council’s disposal under Article 42 of the UN Charter where collective action is authorized...

A naval blockade is defined in Article 7.71 of the U.S. Naval Handbook as “a belligerent operation to prevent vessels and/or aircraft of all nations, enemy as well as neutral, from entering or exiting specified ports, airfields, or coastal areas belonging to, occupied by, or under the control of an enemy nation.” It is designed to stop ships from crossing a cordon separating the enemy’s coast from the high seas. It is therefore often enforced in what would otherwise be international waters approaching, but not necessarily inside, the territorial sea of the blockaded party.

The San Remo conference set the specific rules for implementing a blockade. It must be publicly declared and notification sent to all states whose vessels are likely to be nearby. Further, the blockade must be effective. International law permits no fictitious blockade designed to frighten away third-party ships...A maritime blockade is for security purposes only, and must allow humanitarian assistance to the civilian population.

Since the blockade is legal, and the ship intended to break it, then Israel has a right to inspect the ships to uncover whether they carry things that is in violation of the rules of the blockade, such as weapons (Haslien, 2010). The blockade may be enforced before the offending ships cross the line into domestic waters. Several other western countries have frequently boarded ships at high sea in order to assure their security (Dershowitz, 2010).

The rule of proportionate force applies to a naval blockade. Blockading navies are obliged to arrest a ship rather than simply fire on it, and once its soldiers are on board an arrested ship their actions must be proportionate to the threat that they meet (Morgan, 2010). The act of breaking a military siege is itself a military act, and those knowingly participating in such action put in doubt their status as non-combatants. And the moment these activists picked up a weapon and began to attack Israeli soldiers, they lost their status as innocent civilians. Even under ordinary civilian rules of self defense, everybody has a right to protect themselves and others from attack by knife and pipe wielding assailants (Dershowitz, 2010).

There Was No Humanitarian Crisis or Aid

A humanitarian crisis can be defined as an event or series of events which represents a critical threat to the health, safety, security or wellbeing of a community or other large group of people. Armed conflicts, epidemics, famine, natural disasters, etc. may involve or lead to such crisis.

Gaza receives more aid per person, per square mile, than anywhere else in the world, and suffers no lack of humanitarian aid (Geller, 2010). Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live a middle class (and in some cases an upper class) lifestyle (Gross, 2010). Tuesday, 18. May, there was an opening of an Olympic size swimming pool in Gaza (Ma’an News Agency, 2010). Daily life, while troubled, often has the quality of the very ordinary (Bronner, 2010). Of course, there is poverty and unemployment. But it is false that the majority is starving in Gaza, and that it is all Israel’s fault. Reporter Steffen Jensen visited Gaza 01. June, 2010:

This time, I had expected to see real suffering...No food. Long queues in front of UN food stocks. Hungry children with food bowls. However, it was not the picture that greeted me...When I yesterday morning drove through Gaza City, I was immediately surprised that there are almost as many traffic jams as there always has been. Is there not a shortage of fuel? Apparently not...I went to Shati refugee camp, also known as Beach Camp...Here is one of Gaza's many vegetable markets that sell much more than just fruits and vegetables. I will not say whether, in better times has been a larger product range than there were yesterday. But there was certainly no shortage of vegetables, fruits or any other ordinary, basic foods. Tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, watermelons, potatoes - all in the mountains at the many stalls. I must admit I was a little surprised. I must admit. Because when I call down here to my Palestinian friends, so they tell me about all the problems and deficiencies, so I expected that the crisis was a little more clear.

The biggest problem is the lack of jobs and a sustainable domestic economy. This means that many people have no income, but must live on charity from their relatives. They cannot afford to buy the goods that are actually available (Jensen, 2010).

There are many problems indeed. There is a shortage of building materials. But it is not lack of food. And this economic development must come from within. All this means that the Hamas must soften its total refusal to negotiate with Israel, and recognize its right to exist. But Hamas announced that they will not even accept the humanitarian aid from the Gaza flotilla! (Jensen, 2010)

So, when the activists portrayed themselves as humanitarians, that was just deception. There was no humanitarian aid on the Mavi Marmara! Four ships had equipment (the Gaza, the Sofia, the Defney and the Rachel Corrie), the rest had only passengers (Ronen, 2010). Flotilla spokeswoman Greta Berlin announced last week that: "This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege." (Mowbray, 2010).

Passengers were Jihadists

The flotilla was sponsored by, amongst others, IHH, an associate of Hamas and a member of the Union of the Good. This Union is headed by Yousef Al Qaradawi, one of the world’s most notorious Islamic terrorists (banned in England and America) and leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. IHH is a jihadist group cloaked in a humanitarian outfit. It has played a role in terrorist operations and it has been involved in weapons trafficking. Israel tried speaking to the group before they left the dock and then again while at sea. In an attempt to avoid confrontation, they hoped to persuade the IHH Flotilla to dock at the Israeli port of Ashdod for inspection before delivering the goods to Gaza. Israel had nothing to gain from a confrontation – but the IHH did. These “humanitarians” were jihadists (Gabriel, 2010).

The Jihadists were Hateful, Agressive, and Violent

Participants chanted about killing Jews:

When modern-day jihadists invoke Khaybar, they are recalling an aggressive, surprise raid by Muhammad which resulted in the final eradication of the once considerable Jewish presence in Arabia. Khaybar was an oasis inhabited by Jews which was violently attacked by Islam’s founder Muhammad and his Muslim force. The attack was not a response to any provocation. According to Muslim biographers of Muhammad, he personally killed several Jewish men. Jewish leader, Kinana bin al-Rabi was brought before Muhammad because he was supposed to know where the groups treasure was. Kinana denied knowing where it was, and Muhammad threatened to kill him. Some of the treasure was found. To find the rest, Muhammad gave orders to torture Kinana. One of the Muslims built a fire on Kinana's chest, but Kinana did not give up his secret. When he was at the point of death, one of the Muslims beheaded him. Kinana's wife was taken as a war prize; Muhammad claimed her for himself. Muhammad agreed to let the people of Khaybar to go into exile, allowing them to keep as much of their property as they could carry (Spencer, 2010).

These hateful activists attacked the Israeli soldiers immediately - even before they could reach the deck – with knives and bats, and other things they used as weapons. They grabbed soldiers and stripped them of their helmets and equipment. The force threw several stun grenades, but the violent attacks continued. The soldiers had been instructed to refrain from using their sidearms unless their lives were at risk. Soldiers feared for their lives, asked permission to open fire. Two soldiers were wounded, and some of the activists succeeded in stealing one of their guns. Shots were fired, and one of the soldiers fell to the ground. Fearing for their lives, the soldiers asked and received permission to open fire.

The Violent Jihadists are Responsible

No country would allow a ship to break their blockade. Thus, stopping the flotilla was a must. The activists knew this, but would not agree to a peaceful compromise. Fair warnings were given by the Israeli force before boarding. In the beginning they did not use deadly force.

Was there a way for the Israeli force to achieve its goal without killing passengers? Probably. They could, for example, have used water cannons to clear the deck before boarding the ship. The soldiers were clearly unprepared and therefore miscalculated. The commandos didn’t seem to know they were going to face an angry mob armed with bats and knives. The soldiers were surprised by the jihadists; they saw their friends being lynched; they acted as any soldier would have and should have acted. To save their fellow soldiers, they opened fire (Rosner, 2010).

The boarding was a fiasco according to several Israeli media. No other nation wears a target on its back the way Israel does. Israeli officials know their every action will be scrutinized and dissected under the media microscope, which makes their failure to plan for angry mobs greeting their soldiers as they boarded the flotilla mystifying. Most Israelis think the situation should have been handled differently (Mowbray, 2010). But the soldiers can hardly be blamed for defending themselves and each other. The violent jihadists must bear the responsibility for both provoking the situation and then forcing the soldiers to use their firearms.


The biased media coverage of this incident was staggering. Even before anyone knew what really happened on Mavi Marmara, several media and top politicians had begun condemning the "unlawful" raid by IDF on the "humanitarian" flotilla and its "peace-loving" passengers. As we have seen, the opposite is true. The raid was lawful; there was no humanitarian aid on Mavi Marmara; and their intentions were anything but peace-loving.


Bronner, E. (2010, 11. June). Gaza, Through Fresh Eyes. New York Times.

Dershowitz, A. (2010, 01. June). Israel's Actions Were Entirely Lawful Though Probably Unwise.

Gabriel, B. (2010, 03. June). Jihad in humanitarian clothing.

Geller, P. (2010, 01. June). Another Two Warships in Anti-Humanitarian Flotilla Make their Way to the Jewish State.

Gross, T. (2010, 25. May). Fancy restaurants and Olympic-size pools: What the media won’t report about Gaza.

Haslien, R. (2010, 04. June). Engasjerende og opplysende debatt i NRK.

Izenberg, D. (2010, 31. May). Isreali lawyers: Raid violates int'l law.

Jensen, S. (2010, 02. June). Situationen i Gaza: Problemet mere mangel på arbejde end på mad.

Ma’an News Agency (2010, 18. May). Gaza opens first Olympic-size swimming pool.

Morgan, E. (2010). Israel’s naval blockade pitches and rolls with the Law of the Sea.

Mowbray, J. (2010, 02. June). Freedom Flotilla flotsam.

Ronen, G. (2010, 10. June). It's Official: There was No Humanitarian Aid on Mavi Marmara.

Rosner, S. (2010, 01. June). What's To Investigate?

Spencer, R. (2010, 31. May). Gaza jihad flotilla participants chanted Islamic battle cry invoking Muhammad's massacre of Jews.

Wikipedia – Gaza Flotilla Raid

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