Daily archives: June 3, 2010

Rachel Corrie To Put In

The Free Gaza movement has just announced that they are sending their ship, the Rachel Corrie, to a port to have a check up in view of apparent Israeli sabotage of some other freedom flotilla ships even ahead of the murderous attacks.

So we are going to make sure the Rachel Corrie is well protected and that Israel is put on notice that anything that happens to her, the passengers and the crew will rest with Israel. As a result of these threats, we’re going to pull Rachel Corrie into a port, add more high-profile people on board, and insist that journalists from around the world also come with us.


I do hope that by well protected they mean physically. Boarding a moving ship from boat or helicopter is not easy, and can be made almost impossible with imaginative deployment of purely defensive measures like razor wire around the rails and razor wire interspersed with sharp metal spikes on open decks.

Interestingly the Free Gaza website is still referring to the Mavi Marmar as Turkish fflagged.

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Why Was the Mavi Marmara Reflagged Just Before Sailing?

Contrary to virtually all media reports to date, it appears the Mavi Marmara was reflagged from Turkey to the Comoros Islands around 20 May, shortly before heading the peace flotilla.

This is very important. While the Israeli attack remains illegal, it means that the injured party – and the party with legal jurisdiction over the event – is the incapable Comoros Islands rather than the highly capable Turkey. It also greatly reduces the NATO angle, unless other attacked ships were flying the Turkish flag.

But the question must be why on earth was the flag changed just before sailing, and who instigated it?

Flags of convenience are normally adopted for purely commercial reasons to escape regulations of s “serious” flag state like the UK or US, in particular on issues like rates of pay, union recognition, working conditions and hours etc. The Turkish owned merchant fleet uses flags of convenience much less than other advance nations – possibly from national pride, possibly because Turkish regulations are not too onerous anyway.

But it would seem remarkable if the owners of the ship decided for commercial reasons to switch flags just before sailing in the “Peace flotilla”. It is on the face of it a remarkably foolish decision. Did the Turkish governrnent influence it to lessen the political responsibility of Turkey in any incident? Did Israel manage to influence the owners in any way? Is the vessel leased? Who are the owners, and just why did they do this?

None of this masks the illegality of Israel attacking a ship under any foregin flag in international waters. But bluntly, it was a stupid decision in practice by the protestors to set sail in a Comoros flagged ship.

Fortunately the MV Rachel Corrie is Irish registered, and the flag state (Ireland) has already shown it takes its duty seriously by telling the Israeli government it expects the Rachel Corrie to pass unhindered.

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Why San Remo Does Not Apply

Every comments thread on every internet site on the world which has discussed the Israeli naval murders, has been inundated by organised ZIonist commenters stating that the Israeli action was legal under the San Remo Manual of International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.

They ignore those parts of San Remo that specifically state that it is illegal to enforce a general blockade on an entire population. But even apart from that, San Remo simply does not apply.

The manual relates specifically to legal practice in time of war. With whom is Israel at war?

There is no war.

Israeli apologists have gone on to say they are in a state of armed conflict with Gaza.

Really? In that case, why do we continually hear Israeli complaints about rockets fired from Gaza into Israel? If it is the formal Israeli position that it is in a state of armed conflict with Gaza, then Gaza has every right to attack Israel with rockets.

But in fact, plainly to the whole world, the nature and frequency of Israeli complaints about rocket attacks gives evidence that Israel does not in fact believe that a situation of armed conflict exists.

Secondly, if Israel wishes to claim it is in a state of armed conflict with Gaza, then it must treat all of its Gazan prisoners as prisoners of war entitled to the protections of the Geneva Convention. If you are in a formal state of armed conflict, you cannot categorise your opponents as terrorists.

But again, it is plain for the world to see from its treatment and description of Gazan prisoners that it does not consider itself to be in a formal position of armed conflict.

Israel is seeking to pick and choose which bits of law applicable to armed conflict it applies, by accepting or not accepting it is in armed conflcit depending on the expediency of the moment.

I have consistently denounced Hamas rocket attacks into Israel. I have categorised them as terrorism. If Israel wishes now to declare it is in armed conflcit with Gaza, I withdraw my opposition and indeed would urge Hamas to step up such attacks to the maximum.

Does Israel really wish to justify its latest action by declaring it is at war with Gaza? That is what the invocation of San Remo amounts to.

Craig Murray is a former British Ambassador. He is also a former Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He negotiated the UK’s current maritime boundaries with Ireland, Denmark (Faeroes), Belgium and France, and boundaries of the Channel Islands, Turks and Caicos and British Virgin Islands. He was alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the UN Preparatory Commission on the Law of the Sea. He was Head of the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre, enforcing sanctions on Iraq, and directly responsible for clearance of Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf.

Reviews of Craig Murray’s War on Terror Memoir, “Murder in Samarkand” – published in the US as “Dirty Diplomacy”:

“It really is a magnificent achievement” – Noam Chomsky

“A fearless book by a fearless man. Craig Murray tells the truth whether the “authorities” like it or not. I salute a man of integrity” – Harold Pinter

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