Illegal Blockades 106


A new Gaza freedom convoy is preparing to sail, this time including a US flagged vessel. My friends Ann Wright and Ray McGovern are going to be on it. Ray tells me the ship, which is registered in Delaware, has been renamed “The Audacity of Hope”. I am not quite sure if he is joking. I hope it is true as the irony is delicious.

The boarding of a US flagged ship on the High Seas is something which, in any other circumstances, the US would never tolerate, and I am hoping that it will give Clinton a headache now – which is why that possible ship name would be so great. What is for certain, is that a US court would have jurisdiction over any incidents that happen on board, and I cannot imagine any US judge would renounce that jurisdiction. So if the Israelis shoot Ann, Ray or any of their fellow passengers, the implications could be profound.

At Ray and Ann’s request, I have added my weight to the legal assessment of their actions:

Ambassador Craig Murray is a former Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the United Nations Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. He was deputy head of the teams which negotiated the UK’s maritime boundaries with France, Germany, Denmark (Faeroe Islands) and Ireland.

As Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he was responsible for giving real time political and legal clearance to Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in enforcement of the UN authorised blockade against Iraqi weapons shipments.

Ambassador Craig Murray is therefore an internationally recognised authority on maritime jurisdiction and naval boarding issues.

“The legal position is plain. A vessel outwith the territorial waters (12 mile limit) of a coastal state is on the high seas under the sole jurisdiction of the flag state of the vessel. The ship has a positive right of passage on the high seas. The coastal state can regulate economic activity exploiting the resources of the seas and continental shelf up to 200 miles, the extent of the continental shelf, or the agreed boundary, but there is no indication of fishing, oil drilling or analagous economic activity in this case. The vessel is entitled to free passage.”

“This right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, to which the United States is a full party. Any incident which takes place upon a US flagged ship on the High Seas is subject to United States legal jurisdiction. A ship is entitled to look to its flag state for protection from attack on the High Seas.”

“Israel has declared a blockade on Gaza and justified previous fatal attacks on neutral civilian vessels on the High Seas in terms of enforcing that embargo, under the legal cover given by the San Remo Manual of International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.”

“There are however fundamental flaws in this line of argument. It falls completely on one fact alone. San Remo only applies to blockade in times of armed conflict. Israel is not currently engaged in an armed conflict, and presumably does not wish to be. San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population.”

“It should not be denied that Israel suffers from sporadic terrorist attacks emanating from Gaza. However this does not come close to reaching the bar of armed conflict that would trigger the right to impose a limited naval blockade in terms of San Remo. To make a comparison, in the 1970’s and 1980’s the United Kingdom suffered continued terrorist attack from the Irish Republican Army, with much more murderous impact causing many more deaths than anything Israel has suffered in recent years from Gaza. However nobody would seek to argue that the UK would have had the right to mount a general naval blockade of the Republic of Ireland in the 1970’s and 1980’s, even though the Republic was undoubtedly the base for much IRA supply and operations. Justifications of Israeli naval action against neutral civilian ships by San Remo is based on special pleading and an impossibly strained definition of the term “armed conflict”. ”

Craig Murray

They already have a more thorough and academic piece here, which I cannot fault.

All the boats and volunteers from various countries have my most earnest good wishes, and admiration for their courage as they brave the attentions of the murderous thugs of the Israeli state.


106 thoughts on “Illegal Blockades

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  • KingofWelshNoir

    Angry:
    .
    ‘I seem to remember that he believed in the JFK conspiracy…’

    I don’t think so. I seem to remember him concluding that the case for Lee Harvey Oswald being the lone gunman was ‘a slam dunk’.
    .
    Slam dunk!
    .
    Makes you wonder why there are so many books about it, really.

  • Mark

    ‘‘I seem to remember that he believed in the JFK conspiracy…’
    I don’t think so. I seem to remember him concluding that the case for Lee Harvey Oswald being the lone gunman was ‘a slam dunk’.’

    That’s right- Aaro admitted that his mother, around the time of the assassination, believed there was a conspiracy, but in Voodoo Histories & elsewhere he himself takes the Lone Nut line pretty consistently.

    ‘Makes you wonder why there are so many books about it, really.’- it also makes me wonder why the CIA devoted significant resources, at the height of the Vietnam War protests and inner city racial unrest, to rubbishing criticism of the Warren Commission !

  • Lou Stouch

    OK, great. So Israel cannot touch the boat while it is on the high seas. But once it gets within that 12 mile coastal limit, all your little legal games are thrown out the window, because it is then within territorial waters.

    Who started this whole mess, anyways? I seem to recall that it was the Arabs that invaded Israel………….on the very day it was founded. How is it that you people forget this very inmportant fact? Then they invaded them again in 56.

    What, are you just idiots? Israel is the bad guy here? I guess you just cant fix stupid.

    • Jon

      Hi Lou – unlike many blogs, there’s a consensus around here of welcoming sharply differing views. However, if you want to convert people to your way of thinking, then – as with any topic – insulting people probably isn’t the way to go 🙂
      .
      The question of “who started this mess” is complex. Was it when Israel was founded, in the country of another people? I guess there are many answers, depending on how far you wish to go!
      .
      I have a theory also that the awful crime of the Holocaust has given the Israeli political machine a bunker mentality, much analogous to how slavery has affected black communities in the United States, and intensified the nature of black/white racism. The resultant political arrangements in Israel have become far-right, aggressive and extremely militarist as a result – precisely the opposite tendencies that are required for peace! (Of course, one could construct a similar case for sections of the Palestinian authorities, too – racist and militarist is not a good combination there either.)
      .
      So, we are where we are. One solution would be: establish a Truth & Reconciliation commission to establish the crimes carried out on both sides, and lets ordinary people say how they have been affected by the violence. Israel retreats back to the 1967 borders, and Hamas renounces violence and recognises Israel. Minor border tweaks are made so that both parties have to give and take.
      .
      Alternatively, merge the territories into one state, and call it by a new name. Agree that Palestinians may live anywhere within the territory, and allow the settlers to stay where they are. Establish a commission to ensure that Palestinians are able to integrate into existing Israeli state systems, and vice versa. This has the advantage that the 1967 borders issue is avoided – since Israel would find it hard to get domestic support for that anyway. The downside is that merging the two states will change the electoral game entirely, and ordinary Israelis would be outnumbered.
      .
      What would you propose for peace?

  • ingo

    Jon, well said, make that an International peace and reconcilliation commission. Further such a meeting c/should also look at the integration of ‘new’ states into the international community, that they both agree to adher and act on UN rules and regs, etc.

    We have to expect some wild and wonderfull views on here, after all the re writing of history has had its desired effect on many, some have been told all sorts over the partition of Palestine, a great name for that single future country with no walls, btw.
    One country would also mean one law for all, no superior religious dispositions or laws, equallity amongst a diverse country of largely immigrants and Arabs.
    Israel has many options to change its stance, its could unilaterally take down the wall, disengage its illegal actions off the Ghaza coast and stop all building of bases in the west bank, some people call them settlements. They are unsustainable and largely build on stolen land, discontinuing of activities there can get positive responses from both Fatah and Hamas.
    Then there is East Jerusalem, a declaration as to its Palestinian nature from Israel is another good start to get back to the table.

    Fatah and Hamas should also pucker up and get themselves sorted into one single Palestinian assembly. Israel returning the tax records and giving back tax authorities to a unified Palestinian assembly marks another good point of re enrty into the peace process, unless off course, you do not want peace and assist a newly formed Palestinian Government by giving back its property.
    Thousands in prison could be released, a simple measure which woul

    Syria’s current internal problems could be defused to a certain extent, by starting negotiations over the return of Syria’s Gholan territories, rather than shooting civilians through the fence, another open invitation to dialogue, off course one has to want to talk.
    Interfering with vessels on the high seas carrying letters and goodwill wishes, attacking them with military state force, is untennable to the international community, now is the time to grow up.

  • angrysoba

    King, it seems we have got our wires crossed. I took it that you meant Aaronovitch was trying to be even-handed by admitting that he had ONCE believed in certain conspiracies and those are the ones I mentioned. Yes, of course he no longer believes in a conspiracy theory regarding the death of JFK because he later found that there was an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to LHO’s guilt and not much in the way of a conspiracy.
    .
    Anyway, interesting to hear that you read Voodoo Histories. Did you find it of any use at all or did it read exactly as you would expect an apologist for power and shady secretive organizations to do?

  • Lou Stouch

    Jon – OK, I’ll be nice since you were.

    Peace? Boy thats a tough one. One the one hand, we have a younger generation in the Mideast that is not so tied to the Islamist agenda. Thats certainly a plus for the process. But then I saw a poll in Egypt recently where the majority still has a real problem with Israel, sorry I forget the exact context.

    Frankly, I dont have any answers. Yes, the Israelis have definitely developed a bunker mentality. Dont know that I can say I blame them. The culture of hate is now awfully deep. Someone needs to think outside the box. Is provacation ie these flotillas, the answer?

  • Adam

    Really? Israel’s not involved in an armed conflict? Despite that Hamas does not recognize its right to exist, is dedicated to the destruction of the “Zionist entity” in its charter, and rains rockets down on Israeli civilians by the thousands? But, for you naive activists, I guess it is better to TRY to flag your ship US, because too many people recognized the absurdity last time of flying the Turkish flag in the name of human rights, and to have a Nobel Peace Prize winner aboard a ship flying the flag of a nation that has butchered hundreds of thousands of people with out a peep of outcry from the Islamic world. The timing of the flotilla is impeccable, too – worrying about Israeli abuses during an armed conflict as you willingly ignore the massacre of thousands of their OWN people by the neighboring Syrians.

    • Jon

      Hi Adam, I’m sure I’ll get a chance to answer more fully tomorrow. But for now, the issue as to whether Israel is involved in “armed conflict” is actually a legal one, under international law. My understanding of it – I believe derived from things Craig has written in the past – is that the Israeli administration itself has insisted that they are *not* involved in an armed conflict. It is possible they take this line because it would make them responsible for the protection of foreign civilians, and it is my view (sadly) that they are “deliberately careless” with the lives of Palestinians as part of their shock-and-awe policy against Hamas.
      .
      I agree that Hamas are also guilty of putting civilians’ lives at risk, and for the record I condemn that too. Being part of this discussion board has helped me – I believe – develop a balanced perspective that tries to address Israeli security concerns whilst simultaneously condemning them, as the predominant power, for their breaches of international law.
      .
      I wonder whether the other reason that Israel may choose to maintain that they are not in armed conflict is that military and governmental sites in Israel would then become legitimate targets, again according to the rules of conflict. I am however no expert on this, and would be happy to be corrected by someone who is! Perhaps Craig will chip in on that.

  • mary

    Israel Proves that Flotillas Work

    Israel’s announcement of authorization for construction materials for 1,200 homes and 18 schools in Gaza is the latest achievement by the Freedom Flotilla, scheduled to sail next week.
    .
    In the weeks leading up to the flotilla, Israel has taken a number of steps to try to address the concerns raised in the public eye by the Freedom Flotilla 2 – Stay Human initiative. However organizers say that these steps are symbolic at best, fall far short of Israel’s obligations under international law, are insufficient to meet the needs of Palestinians in Gaza, and are fundamentally designed to maintain the occupation and system of control that Israel exerts over Palestinian lives. Ultimately, these measures fall short of the greatest test – that of freedom for Palestinians.
    .
    In addition to the authorization of a limited amount of construction materials, Israel has also recently permitted 19 trucks of medicine to be delivered by Palestinian sources from the West Bank to Gaza. This was in response to an emergency announcement from health authorities in Gaza that crucial medicines had run out due to Israel’s illegal blockade. Prior to that, Israel increased the number of aid trucks entering Gaza to between 210 and 220 per day. However, this still falls 35% short of what is required by Gaza Strip residents.
    .
    The pattern developing shows that as the sailing date of the Flotilla nears, Israel is increasing efforts to allow humanitarian goods into Gaza, including previously banned reconstruction materials. This proves three important things: (1) the Flotilla is effective in generating changes, even if they are insufficient, on the ground; (2) the ‘normal channels’ for delivering aid exist, but are useless without pressure on Israel to allow them to function; and (3) Israel’s standard excuse for preventing reconstruction material into Gaza is rendered baseless, given the approval to allow 1,200 homes and 18 schools to be constructed.
    .
    Even as the Freedom Flotilla welcomes this latest achievement and proof of the necessity and effectiveness of the Flotilla tactic, we also reiterate that our effort is not simply about delivering humanitarian aid. The goal of the Flotilla is not aid; it is freedom for Palestinians in Gaza and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. As such, there are no ‘established channels’ for freedom – there is only one – an end to the Israeli occupation.
    .
    Flotilla preparations continue apace, buoyed by the support of people around the world. Next week Freedom Flotilla 2: Stay Human sails for Gaza; our destination is freedom.
    .
    Our message of peace is a call to action, for other ordinary people like ourselves, not to hand over your lives to whatever puppeteer is in charge this time round, but to take responsibility for the revolution. First, the inner revolution — to give love, to give empathy; It is this that will change the world. — Vittorio Arrigoni
    .
    The real heart deep down doesn’t only stand up for what’s right but also helps others to learn to stand up for what’s right. — Mary Alfar (age 11)
    .
    https://lists.riseup.net/www/arc/gazafriends/2011-06/msg00004.html

  • mary

    Now we have Ma Clinton applying pressure and intimidation on the US participants in the Flotilla.
    .
    US advises its citizens against sailing to Gaza
    [ 23/06/2011 – 08:06 AM ]
    .
    WASHINGTON, (PIC)– The US state department has warned its citizens against joining the humanitarian Freedom Flotilla 2 carrying relief material to the Gaza Strip after 36 Americans announced intention to take part in the fleet.
    .
    The announcement pointed out that Israel would impose a 10-year travel ban to its territories on anyone participating in that flotilla.
    .
    The warning on the state department’s website read:
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    “The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel. […] On May 31, 2010, nine people were killed, including one U.S. citizen, in such an attempt.”
    .
    Organizers of the flotilla plan to set sail from European ports by the end of June and to arrive in the Strip in the first week of July. The Israeli navy has been preparing for intercepting the fleet for the past few weeks.
    .
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/5uq8fsh

  • KingofWelshNoir

    Angry

    Obviously this is not the place to go into detail, but in essence I found Voodoo Histories surprisingly naive. Here is the explanation of why it was a slam dunk that LHO was the lone gunman:
    .
    If one reads the Warren Report, the circumstantial evidence that Oswald was the lone gunman seems overwhelming. He worked at the Texas School Book Depository, where, on the sixth floor, after the shooting, his rifle was discovered inside an improvised sniper’s nest. People had seen a man at the sixth-floor window, had seen the rifle barrel, had heard the shots. Oswald was the only employee unaccounted for after the shooting, and he was picked up shortly afterward in a cinema, having just shot a policeman looking for someone of his description. The words ‘slam dunk’ come to mind.
    .
    Every single one of those facts is equally consistent with the alternative hypothesis that LHO was a patsy.

  • angrysoba

    Hi King, yes, that may be true but you have to add in a few extra and rather important details. LHO was photographed holding the rifle used to shoot JFK and also appearing with the pistol that was used to shoot Officer Tippit. The picture has been authenticated numerous times including most recently by a researcher called Hany Farid. And if that seems still unlikely to you then it should be pointed out that that picture was one of three (or four, I can’t quite remember) and that LHO’s wife has asserted on numerous occasions that she took the pictures.
    .
    When the evidence is added together it does look rather slam dunk to me. The “evidence” such as it is that disputes this point away in various different directions. Given the fact that we’ll probably never know everything we should really go with the most compelling evidence and that is that LHO killed Kennedy and did it alone.

  • KingofWelshNoir

    Well Angry, we’re never going to agree on the JFK issue, but I think we can both agree that the following sentence constitutes pretty lame ‘evidence’ that it must have been LHO:
    .

    ‘People had seen a man at the sixth-floor window, had seen the rifle barrel, had heard the shots….’
    .

  • Suhayl Saadi

    How strange. I always thought that Britain, France and Israel invaded Egypt in 1956. Anthony Eden and the British Army certainly thought they were invading Egypt. Clearly, Lou Stouch knows better than Eden and history. Poor little Israel, eh? Hmn. It’s certainly not straightfoward – not a tale of ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ – the treatment of Jews in Iraq during the 1940s, people who’d been there for thousands of years, was heinous, for example. But all one gets from too many self-appointed ‘defenders of Israel’, esp. those in the USA, is just more of the same arrogant denial. In their eyes, Israel can do no wrong and in their view everything Israel does is justifiable and must be justified. They are just as preposterous as those idiots who state, at every turn: “It’s the Jews!”. I would argue that the comforting state of denial indulged in by these people is actually counter-productive to Israel’s long-term security interests.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    Even the term such people tend to use, “The Arabs” somehow reeks of a disparaging attitude. They won’t call them Palestinians, you see. The Palestinians “don’t exist”, to acknowledge their existence would lend credibility to their land claims and to their dipossession. To refer to them as “Arab people”, for example, would acknowledge their common humanity, yes, Arabs are actually human beings you know; an acknowledgment of this is not something that comes so easily to those with a suprmeacist mindset. And so, we have this C19th image of “teeming Arabs” running up to the door of poor, beleaguered General Gordon of Khartoum, oh sorry, I mean poor, beleagured General Netanyahu of Tel Aviv-Jaffa with his hundreds of nukes and his sterling ‘First World’ conventional military forces. And these people turn round and tell the Egyptian people that they have an attitide problem! How amusing.

  • Jon

    @Lou – It depends on why the flotillas might be seen as provocative, I guess. Personally, I accept that the activists will be unarmed and committed to peaceful methods – which doesn’t sound at all threatening to me. One could make a case for respecting Israeli waters, but then equally there is a case for allowing Gaza control of its own water space, which of course Israel (as the occupying power) presently disallows.
    .
    I sympathise with the activists in this case, since discouraging them from making the trip rather sounds like a call (a) to do nothing, (b) not to highlight Israel’s part in denying the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza and (c) not to highlight the fact that Gaza is in a humanitarian crisis. If they shouldn’t sail, what should those activists do to encourage the international community to pressure Israel to permit aid to reach the Palestinians who need it?

  • lwtc247

    International law

    There is no legal basis for Israel to intercept ships and prevent them from delivering humanitarian supplies, say experts in international law.

    “Israel only has jurisdiction over its territorial waters of 12 nautical miles, and neither the waters off Gaza nor international waters are under its authority,” said Juan Soroeta, professor of international law at the University of the Basque Country.

    “No UN resolution authorises the Gaza blockade,” said Soroeta. “On the contrary, it is an illegal, unilateral measure imposed by force by Israel in the context of an equally illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.”

    UN Security Council Resolution 1860, adopted on January 8, 2009, calls for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment”.

    But reports from the international humanitarian organisations working on the ground there confirm that this point is not being fulfilled.

    “We have repeatedly urged our governments and international bodies to use observers to inspect the ships and the humanitarian cargo and passengers they are carrying, both at port and at sea, but no one has yet responded to this proposal,” Tapial said.

  • angrysoba

    King: “Well Angry, we’re never going to agree on the JFK issue, but I think we can both agree that the following sentence constitutes pretty lame ‘evidence’ that it must have been LHO:
    .

    ‘People had seen a man at the sixth-floor window, had seen the rifle barrel, had heard the shots….’”
    .
    Yes, I can agree to that but I find that a trivial point of agreement given that both of us know you have taken that sentence out of context. The point is that on top of the fact that LHO worked in the Book Depository and that his gun was found there there are witnesses who saw a man fire that gun three times and the gunshots were heard coming from there. This is important because some of the theories of a conspiracy are that the shots came from elsewhere rather than the very place Oswald worked and had fled from.
    .
    There will never be enough evidence to satisfy everyone and the more evidence that comes to light confirming or at least pointing to Oswald’s guilt the more we will hear alternative versions cropping up like fungus that will push incoherent alternatives. In fact, as with creationists who create “God of the gaps” arguments against evolution by natural selection, the JFK conspiracy theories seem to emerge proportionate to the amount of evidence that supports “the official theory”.
    .
    I think we’d also both agree that not all the conspiracy theories can be correct. Some of them are mutually incompatible.

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