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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  • Suhayl Saadi

    AbeBird, tweet, tweet. More Uber-Zionist garbage from a selection of posters on this, and related threads, by people who never post here normally – my, my, they are on overtime this week, aren’t they? And angry, too, gosh how their anger fizzles and sparks like little hydrogen sulphide balloons.

    The Uber-Zionists are like mini-Santa Clauses, except with blood and plutonium dust on their hands. Bye-bye, guys, your big lies and long passages won’t work any more – no-one believes the Big Lie any more. You guys are like big Oliver Hardy – a mass of fat and slapstick!

    Fatuous ideas, supporting imperium and facilitating the killing of those whom they see as “wogs” and “cockroaches”.

    No more.

  • anno

    Why do you say that if a country is at war, it cannot treat its prisoners as terrorists, when Professor Sandys mentioned in evidence to the JCHR that George Bush had done precisely that? Bush counted all opponents in the war on terror as terrorists in order to claim that they had no rights under the Geneva Convention.

  • Joe

    do you even read what you are writing ?

    “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. ”

    hamas fired attacked israel fore more then 8 years, he attack not 1 but 5 different cities, think what your government will do in such position ?

  • Anais

    let’s say for a second there is a state of war: Hamas fighters should wear uniforms, treat GILEAD SHALIT as a prisoner of war- reminder- he’s not been allowed but one vieo, for which Israel has “paid” 20 terrorists, and HAMAS IS FORBIDDEN TO HURL ITS MISSILES ON CIVILIAN POPULATIONS, AS THEY HAVE BEEN DOING FOR 8 YEARS. The Israelis let in all humanitarian aid.

  • Craig


    As you know very well, the Palestinians have killed 10 civilians in the last six years, the Israelis about 2,800.

    Yes, if there was a state of war those things you say should indeed happen. But there isn’t a state of war. Gilead Shalit should be released, of course.

  • AbeBird

    Suhayl Saadi; Have you something of value to say?

    Anais; Do the Israelis have to apology because they can better defend themselves and that the terrorists dreams do not meet their ability to murder Jews? Why do you think that the Muslims want to open Gaza free? They need it free for bigger rockets and missiles. It’s their natural wish of course. But Israel natural wish is to keep the Hamas arsenal as dull as possible. A Legitimate purpose.

    Just last week the Israelis killed 5 “innocent” Palestinians: 2 that succeeded to cross over the border fence from Gaza with rifles, bombs and ammunition, and 3 others “people of peace” that prepared a Kassam launcher to be delivered at Israeli civilians. The Israel missile hit the 3 seconds before the Kassam were to be launched. So, do you wish to blame the Jews that they have killed 5 Arabs while they were protecting themselves quite better? Do the Israelis should sacrifice some of them in order to meet your demands and satisfaction and to equal the dots? What kind of logic you are using?

  • Jon

    Hi Suhayl – I expect AbeBird might be an Israeli, and his/her perspective is highly likely to be modified by the anti-Palestinian status quo in Israel, the highly militarised nature of Israel, and the financial/social/power incentives to be one-sided in favour of Israel.

    But don’t let these people annoy you, even if they have been called to post via their Megaphone system. For the new posters, I would be inclined to ask a simple question, such as whether they support peace and justice for both the Israelis and the Palestinians. Troublemakers can usually be weeded out quite early, as the often have a problem with the last bit, and offer provisos and qualifications.

    @AbeBird – I’d love to hear where you’re from, so we can assess your perspective. I take the view that terror or murder from either side is counterproductive – would you agree? I am not persuaded by the idea that the disproportionate death toll is evidence that Israel can defend itself better – it is better armed, to be sure, thanks to US aid and a blind eye to UN resolutions – but is it not possible from your perspective that Israel is too aggressive, and is discrediting itself?

    Would you support a two-state solution back to the 1967 borders? It would require the repatriation of all settlers back to Israel, on the basis that Israel should not have expanded in the first place. But your settlers would not move, and it would be a rare Israeli politician that would try it (it has been tried in small blocs, with violent resistance). Hamas would accept this in a deal, I believe, but Israel has been backed into a corner and does not want to offer it. It appears to want endless war, but that does both sides no good at all. What should Israel be prepared to do to secure a lasting peace?

    Incidentally, I support peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians. Do you?

  • AbeBird

    Jon; I expect you to be a Muslim as Suhayl and that you’re modified by Anti -Israelism (or by Helen Thomas’s kind of Anti-Semitism) status quo in your Millie.

    I am a Belgian, where are you from? Are you Craig? Terror is not counterproductive as we see in the Palestinian case. The Arabs of Palestine succeeded to build a fabricated Arab people to challenge the Jewish existence in the land of Israel. Much of this success is due to their terrorizing behave and policy. Terror is a legitimate tool in the eyes of the western Lefties, that holding that ideology more than a century now (Bolshevik Revolution, Red power, People terror groups such as Baader Meinhoff, Che Guevara, executing hard and violent policies against opposers etc.).

    How can a “people” can call himself and its own “native” and “historical” land and nationhood with a letter [“P”] which is not exist in their language at all? There is no “P” in Arabic so that’s why Arabs turned the “P” to “F”. If that land was genuinely Arab’s and if there were some really historical separate and special Arab people of Palestine, they would have called themselves naturally with their own name describing their entity. But It didn’t happen. This phenomenon is just one of many that contradict the new imaginary architected history of the existing of some unique Arab Palestinian people through history. We didn’t meet that “people” until Arabs started to blow themselves in order to kill Jews. As a part of the Arabs war of Jihad they are producing temporary means and tools, from historical point of view, to meet their general cause. The Israelis stand alone in front of waves of Islamic attacks, protecting themselves and much of the Western society. Weakening Israel is a significant act against the West and Democracies.

    UN resolutions equal nothing. All the votes there are against Israel and it shows that the UN is a bunch of 57 Islamic states enforced by 80 3rd world Arab oil-dependent states. It is not a court of justice but a public court of mobs led by political infidels and immoral corrupted societies.

    I don’t care what is the political solution that both sides should achieve and accept at the end through political means only. It’s their problem. But I can observe and raising up some facts that should make you think again on that matter.

  • CapodituttiCapi

    now you can shut down this stupid blog…

    trying to equate Hamas to a civilized ppl is asinine!

    That why I love America, albeit the current POTUS/CIC…

    here you go idiots!


    Neutral merchant vessels

    67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:

    (a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;

  • Bob


    Wow, is English not your first language? Because either you have terrible reading comprehension, or you are simply deliberately lying about my position.

    The question (which I note you didn’t answer) is about testing a theory. That’s how you figure out whether a theory is false. You make a prediction based on the theory and you see if that holds up.

    The anti-semites (check your mirror) have a theory that Israel wanted to kill as many people as they could. That theory predicts a casualty count of the number of people a soldier can kill in a day, times the number of soldiers, times the number of days.

    The number of soldiers was at least 10k, the number of days was more than 20, the only missing number is how many kills can a soldier make per day.

    If the answer is 1, then the anti-semites’ theory predicts 200k dead. Does the prediction match the facts? Nope. So the theory is false and the people who believe it are anti-Semites or idiots.

    If Israel wanted to kill 1500 people in Gaza in 3 weeks, 50 soldiers would have been plenty. Just 1.66 people per day per soldier (with Saturday off).

    BTW, none of this is an attempt to justify anything, just a demonstration that people who think Israel went in to slaughter people are morons.

    Oh, and the number of civilians killed was about 400, not “thousands”.

  • Steven Shamrak

    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 (governing entity – Hamas – Which stated so many time by word and deeds, that is intention to destroy Israel!).”

    Israel fulfilled all obligations in relationship to Naval Blockade of Gaza in accordance to 1994 by the San Remo Institute of International Law:

    Israel had no obligation to take the ships’ crew at their word as to the nature of the cargo or make the Turkish Jahadists of IHH execption to the rule!

    Being attacked with metal rods and knives IDF commandos could not use paint-ball guns they had in hands in order to protect their own lives, could they?

  • McDuff

    It’s always quite funny to see people arguing about the rules of war, and who can throw rockets or bullets at whom and still be “legal”. The answer is always quite simple – the winners.

    If you don’t believe me, and you think there’s some merit to “international law”, I’d invite you to go and visit Dresden and Nagasaki. Or, frankly, Baghdad. The level of “discrimination” between civilian and military targets is not quite as precise as the US Dept of Defense would like us to believe. Bottle rockets or not, the attacks from Gaza would be perfectly within the normal range of civilised European warfare, as far as civilian casualties go.

    Of course, if we want to decide that only populations capable of arming their militaries with the latest in modern technology and training can decide the standard for what is “indiscriminate” or not, then I think we reveal our own biases – and indeed, it could be no other way. The whole “war crimes” thing is always an oxymoronic attempt to cover the sins of the winning side, which is why the arguments always trend towards the hilariously discombobulated and incoherent when the winners find themselves on the back foot.

    It will be interesting to see the international fallout on this, certainly, but rather more so to see the internal fallout within Israel. Will the trend towards hard-right authoritarianism and short-term lunacy continue with every provocation by the nutters in the Palestinian elite? Or will the populations on both sides begin to realise that neither the Israeli Hard Right nor the Hamas power bloc gives much of a shit what happens the populations they are ostensibly elected to represent, as long as they secure and expand their own feifdoms within the kingdom. The optimist in me would like to believe that the latter will happen, but he has unfortunately been taken out back and summarily executed by the cynic in me.

    What is for certain is that the international response will have bugger-all to do with the so-called “laws” as written and everything to do with the political games played from here out.

  • McDuff

    Oh, and I do not agree that in the event of a formal declaration of war that Hamas should bomb more Israeli targets. But, I just don’t see how one could make the argument that they should not, unless one also believes that World War II was won by criminal means.

    Of course, this extends to Israel too, and as a nuclear power run by a group of people which appears to fervently believe its own propaganda that every single person in Palestine is a subhuman Hitler just waiting to wipe the nation off the face of the planet, I’ve struggled for years with what the hell the strategic benefit of anything other than a full-scale genocide actually is. If I were to specifically design a military strategy that would ensure the continuation of a low-scale military conflict and occasional unnecessary death among the Israeli population, I do not think I could do better than they have done. While the Right Wingers do benefit from it, though, I think this is just an interesting example of the evolution of policies once a mentality of war and righteous nationalism takes hold: you end up with this metastable clusterfuck that no sensible person could ever think was a good idea but too many entrenched interests benefit from in their own tiny ways. The only way out of such a scenario is by raising the crisis stakes considerably, changing the rules of the game, and since both sides are benefiting from the continuing low-intensity conflict, and the resultant misery, nobody will wish to risk losing what they have by going all-in at this stage.

  • Charles

    If Israel is not at war with Hamas would someone please tell Hamas?

    Heck, I think it is even in their charter.

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