Why San Remo Does Not Apply 105

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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105 thoughts on “Why San Remo Does Not Apply

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  • Ron

    I sent an email to my MP the other day asking quite politely about the Israeli actions and he responded without mentioning the legality of Israel’s actions and without mentioning the Palestinian people. I thought that was rather poor, although typically Tory. Message thread below for your edification!


    Thanks for your e-mail.

    The big issue here seems to me to be the smuggling of weapons and missiles into the Gaza Strip from Syria and Iran. I believe the West should help both Israel and Egypt counter this flow of weaponry and then the blockade could be lifted to allow the normal flow of goods and aid.

    Best wishes,


    Philip Hollobone MP

    Member of Parliament for the Kettering Constituency

    House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

    Tels: 01536 414715 / 020 7219 8373 / 07979 850126

    E-mail: [email protected]

    —–Original Message—–

    From: Ron xxxx

    Sent: 31 May 2010 23:43

    To: Philip Hollobone

    Subject: Gaza flotilla and Israel’s actions

    Dear Philip

    Congratulations on your re-election.

    I have been following the story regarding the actions of the Israeli forces since early this morning. To listen to the BBC one might imagine the poor Israeli commandos were attacked. Then I remembered that the BBC cowers in fear of the government…

    Israel has acted with impunity with regard to its treatment the Palestinian people and after three years of an illegal blockade of Gaza it now feels it can board a foreign vessel in international waters. A simple act of war.

    Clearly the time has come to make Israel pay for its repeated breaches of international law, first by lifting the Gaza blackade, as called for by William Hague, although that should just be a start.

    I would like to know what you will be doing as an MP to hold the government to account for its policy towards the entire region.

    Please let me know.



  • craig

    Wow. He sounds like a serious idiot. Maybe we should have a competition for worst MPs response (and best?).

  • Craig

    Ron –

    again, if as Israel claims it is in armed conflict and San Remo applies, then there can be no objection to Gaza attempting to obtain weapons from Iran or anywhere else.

  • cid

    Hi Craig…that massacre in cumbria seems to have knocked the Isreali attack on the aid ship off the headlines. Good timing I would say. Mossad or MI5

  • Ed Davies

    “If you are in a formal state of armed conflict, you cannot categorise your opponents as terrorists.”

    Members of armed forces are supposed to wear uniforms, at least when they’re attacking.

  • lwtc247


    Your knickers have sure been getting is some really strange twists recently.

    If you have denounced “the rockets” as terrorism, then, even in a state of war, your statement: “Gaza has every right to attack Israel with rockets.” is wrong.

    These rockets should NOT be launched period. First but not foremost, it hands Israyhell a propaganda coup which people like yourself and the BBC have to include as a token (or worse) of “balance” Secondly, as far as I know, these rockets are NOT aimed or hostile political targets. It is simply wrong to use them – although I can totally understand their desperation and anger at them being used.

    To re-emphasise, as acts of resistance they are NOT legitimate – they do not discriminate against some civilian walking about. One of these rockets is pretty much as bad as a predator drone murdering families and attendees of wedding parties etc.

    It is even illegitimate to launch them in the kleptomaniacs towards say Serdot because of the possibility (as much as there is a possibility of killing any person) they may kill the child of a Zionist, and that child is not guilty of the sins of their parents – until that child eventually gains power and responsibility over their own acts.

    May the filthy Zionist state crumble (by legitimate means!).

  • Monty

    @Ron – You’re lucky. I’ve got the odious James Arbuthnot as my MP. As well as claiming expenses for his swimming pool, he’s chairman of the parliamentary group of the Conservative Friends of Israel.

    I recommend everyone read the (expectedly one-sided) briefing on the Conservative Friends of Israel website, where, amongst other things they flatly assert that Craig is wrong about the legality and other technical aspects of the flotilla attack and the Gaza blockade.

    e.g. quote: “it is unfair that Israel alone is blamed for imposing a siege on Gaza.”


    It makes my blood boil and I will be writing again to voice my outrage at their position.

  • ingo

    Still no response from My MP, Richard Bacon.

    I see that Israel is lamenting that it should hold the iquiery into itself and then sit in its own judgement, a true sign of utter insecurity and lack of argument, next thing will be the flight forward into some other calamity.

    Turkey as the victim of this heinous crime at sea should and will hold an inquiery, in absentia if necessarry, looking at the Turkish comments, this sad attack will be remembered.

    Egypt has shown how wobbly its support for the Israeli blockade is, it is Egypt that should now be made to understand that its position is akin that of Italy under Mussolini, giving Germans support, knowing full well that attrocities have been committed and are happening on a daily basis.

    If, after this global loud scream, the MV Rachel Corrie does not get a military naval escort, plus some media attention, we will give Israel carte Blanche to do this all over again.

    It is our MP’s and MEP’s that are as guilty as everyone else who’s watching what will happen next, many comparrissons can be drawn from history.

    What does the law say about people who could act, but decided to become an ‘innocent bystander’ to human rights abuse and murder?

  • Harry W.

    I was a little startled to have this piece forwarded to me. To the best of my amateurish knowledge combatants of any description who fight out of uniform are classified as ‘francs tireur’. In fact Israel would be entitled to shoot them, rather than treat them as criminals.

    I merely mention this by way of a technical point. Perhaps you have a better grasp of these matters given your practical experience.

  • ingo

    lwtc247, thats the nature of all rockets not just Katuyshas and Grads, the unsophisticated type.

    From Hitlers V”‘s to todays modern systems, not much advantage is gained from targetting systems and giroscopes, they still are indiscriminate as to whom they hit.

    You will remember the bombing of Baghdad from great hight and long distance, Fallujah, Kosovo, cruise missiles and apparently state of the art smart bombs.

    remember that bunker which was hit killing woman and children, they called a hidden communications bunker, the civilians were dead, indiscriminately dead.

    I understand what Craig means. If Israel is pretending it is at war, it might as wellm be that way. I would wait, because Ithink any forthcoming war will be initiated by Israel itself, no need to react to bullying.

  • Matt Keefe

    No response from my MP, either. It’s Nick Clegg, so I suppose he’s effectively responded publicly already, but an individual reply of at least some kind, I think would, be the norm.

  • Leo

    People focusing on the “soldiers out of uniform” issue seem to be missing the point.

    If anything it just reinforces the fact that Israel is not at war with Gaza.

    As Craig says, there is no war and San Remo does not apply.

    Craig then went on to say that *if* there was a war then different rules would apply on a lot of different things, including treatment of POWs and classification of the Hamas rocket attacks. ** But there is no war. **

    There’s no need to argue against things which were put forth for purely hypothetical reasons and which were predicated on a condition which was stated in advance to be false.

    The second half of Craig’s post is saying that if there was a war — which there is not — then there would be other consequences/conditions in addition to San Remo’s supposed applicability. The fact those other conditions are not met shows that there is no war. It’s basic proof by contradiction.

  • lwtc247

    I got Craig’s point, but he used something wrong, silly, proably illegal and actually a bit shameful, to get it accros.

    His seemingly ‘anything goes or all’s fair {in war}’ expressions were quite worrying also!

    ANY act of aggression be it resistance or act of war simply MUST have a legitimate target; Significant effort has to be spent in attempting to make it hit the correct and legitimate military(accidentally erased in my last post) or political target. People not bearing arms or people not directing and assisting armed forcess must NOT be targetted.

    But far better than ALL of that is to have War Criminalised in the first place. Only that will stop manipulations to go to war – See the latest ever excellent John Pilger article, “The Back Art Of ‘Master Illusions'”

    As for the armchair peace activists, far better than writing to your Zio friendly (or disempowered anti-Zionist MP – teetering on the brink of extinction) is to boycott Isreali products and companies with ties to this Zionist perversion of Israel.

    Info here: http://www.inminds.co.uk/

    as well as


  • ingo

    this is my second letter addressed to Richard Bacon, my Conservative MP, more over to Johnathan Wharam, his PA, asking him to forward the message to Mr. Hague as well.

    Dear Johnathan

    Thanks for your response to my letter.

    I am very concerned that our position with regards to the flouting of international law is a tad inadequate and designed to smoothen out facts with news management. Please confer to the Right honorable William Hague MP, that an attack and murder on the high seas, subsequent kidnap of 600 people, including some 30-40 British citizens, a clear flagration against a flagged ship of a NATO country cannot be overridden by spin or news management.

    NATO is in sitting over this issue for some time now and it is hard pressed not to act in some way.

    I also would like to steer the attention to the Irish vessel MV Rachel Corrie, planning to land aid in Gaza within the next few days and urge to lobby and argue for instant EU naval assistance to safeguard its voyage. It is not tenable to watch another ship being taken over by an armed force when one can avert it.

    The situation in Gaza after 4 years of blockade is untenable. The US and Russia are talking to Hamas, the Arab League is almost fully behind their administration, and despite the arranged stop to unification talks between Hamas and Fatah, the proximity talks must be started up again, with a unified and agreed council for both sections, but most important of all, the blockade must be lifted and if incoming wares are screened by EU peace keepers, so be it, but its must be lifted, we cannot subject 1.5 million people to more hardship and harassment by a heavily armed neighbor.

    The San Remo treaty also says a lot about illegal blockades and how it does not apply to states not at war, so please, do not argue for treaties people know don’t apply.

    Should Israel declare war on hamas, it’s the Geneva conventions that apply and that includes inspections of prisoners and rights for individuals as you might well know.

    Please forward this to Richard and William Hague MP,please.

    It is a matter of utmost urgency. Britain cannot be seen to appease those who flout international law and commit an act of war against a fellow NATO member.

  • Leo


    “People not bearing arms or people not directing and assisting armed forcess must NOT be targetted.”

    I agree completely.

    Although there are plenty of examples where those rules were broken, e.g. Hiroshima and Dresden in WW2.

    And if Israel are arguing that aid into a besieged city is “support for terrorists” and a valid target for deadly force using wartime rules then it’s hard to see how that’s different to attacking random people who are part of the community on the other side. Not that I would defend either action. We must not bring ourselves down to their level.

  • amk


    Would I be correct in thinking that in order for the Gaza “conflict” to be a war, Israel would have to:

    1. Recognise Gaza (or Palestine) as a state

    2. Recognise Hamas as the government of Gaza (or Palestine)

    Aren’t wars (using the legal term rather than as in “war on drugs”) between states? Can a state ever be legally at war with a non state entity?

  • Rachel Corrie

    Total waste of time writing to MPs.

    This Hollobone by name hollobone by nature buffoon was a prominent member of the racist Monday Club whilst at university:


    Don’t expect any sympathy for Palestinians from a Monday Club racist.

    You’d have better luck with an MP who merely took bribe money from Israel, if you could pay him more.

    “Hollobone has condemned Hamas which he has described as “in its entirety… a terrorist organisation proscribed by the European Union”.

    In February 2010, Hollobone caused controversy by describing the wearing of burqas as like “going round wearing a paper bag over your head” and by expressing his “huge sympathy” with those calling for a ban on the garments.”

  • glenn

    lwtc247 – There’s nothing shameful in what Craig wrote. He’s illustrating the point that an official war has not been declared. As a matter of fact, war had not been declared against Iraq either, which made that action all the more thoroughly illegal.

    Instead of being so outraged at Hamas bottle-rockets, why is more attention not being paid to unmanned drones, dropping Hellfire missiles on “suspects”, with the “collateral” deaths of innocents who happen to be nearby dismissed as a regrettable price. In the West, we hear very little about the protests against drones in Pakistan, pleading for us to desist.


    The BBC is now all-gun-nutter, all-of-the-time. Who was he? What was he like? More important – The Victims.

    Who were the victims? What where they like? Who did they know? What did the relatives of victims feel like when they found out? How did they find out? What were they doing at the time?

    Now we’re onto speculation as to what form counseling might take. Might there be nightmares or flashbacks?

    And so it goes. The horrendous crimes of Israel are consigned to a footnote at best.

  • lwtc247


    There is something shameful in what he wrote. Did you actually read what I wrote?

    1) He tried to equalize the horrors of Zion vis-a-vis the rockets.

    2) He gave support to firing more indiscriminate rockets in a state of war! He showed no thought for innocents.

  • Hatari

    Thanks Craig, for explaining the Legality of this Attack under Maritime Law. The Israelis did not use the San Remo Manual of International Law as an excuse when they attacked the USS Liberty which killed 34 crew members and wounded 171. At the time, the ship was in international waters.

    The Lame excuse both the Israeli and U.S. governments concocted into the incident, and issued reports, which concluded that the attack was a mistake, due to Israeli confusion about the identity of the USS Liberty. Which Body is authorised to should conduct the inquiry other wise we can expect a similar fairy tale cover-up from an Israeli Inquiry.

  • Anonymous

    of course there is a war!

    Israel are an occupying force, are your memories that shallow…..

  • Jon

    I would question urging Hamas to step up its campaign, if the campaign continues to risk civilian lives. I accept that there is doubt that Hamas target civilians specifically on the basis that their rockets are wildly inaccurate, and they are in fact targetting +anything+. Hamas may legitimately hit Israeli military personnel and buildings if there is an agreement that they are in a state of war. But presumably in those conditions, not taking care to avoid hitting civilians would be a war crime, under international law?

    I agree with the basic direction of the post though – Israel may not pick and choose which parts of international law it likes. And Israeli apologists do not get to specify whether Israel is in a state of war or not – it would be sensible only to allow the Israeli government to do that.

  • Anonymous

    Im not sure what everyone is missing here….

    Israel invaded Palestine (1967), nothing has changed QED they are both at a state of war…..

  • Craig


    I am not urging Hamas to step up its rocket campaign. It is a heavily conditional statement. The aim is plainly to ask Israeli supporters to consider the logical consequences of wishing to be regarded as in a state of armed conflict.

  • Parky


    the bbc and other so-called “news organisations” have to make it appear that they are actually useful to the folk who pay for them, hence the current media feeding frenzy. Already they are talking about tighter gun laws but surely the point was the guy had gone a bit loopy while legally owning guns. The laws are already some of the toughest in the world. The only way to stop all gun crime is to remove all guns from the country including police and army and that ain’t gonna happen. The politicians too have also to appear to be doing something and so they join in the frenzy. Sadly to the 24hour news squad dead bodies in Cumbria are more news worthy than those off the shores of Gaza.

  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Craig – thank-you for the comment footer.

    I have re-posted your comment in it’s entirety on a Washington Post thread that describes President Obama’s warning to Israel urging caution and restraint.

    Your courage is breath-taking and your comment I believe drops an important curtain.

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