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.