The Free Gaza Flotilla De-Mythed

5 June 2010

The only criticism I have against Israel is that it held the activists in jails, had it been up to me, I would have held them in a park or a school in Shderot, the town that have suffered the brunt of the Hamas rockets for years  — Let them see and feel why the blockade on the Hamas is necessary — Oh well, it is too late for that now, they have been release.

As if on cue, the Israel Hate Brigade’s hysterics erupted as soon as it was known that the Israeli Navy Commando fighters were onboard the flagship of the so-called “Friendship Flotilla”, the “Mavi Maramara”,  long before any real facts had had came out, but hey, since when the Israel Hate Brigade needs facts? To the contrary, pesky facts achieve nothing but spoil a good sob story.

Firstly here are some the footage taken by the IDF and the Mavi Marmara’s CCTV:

Watch the full version of this clip here.

(You have to give it to them, to the activists; after the IDF uploaded some of the ship’s and activists own footage onto YouTube,  the activists  approached YouTube  and asked for “their” footage to be removed on a ground of …. copyrights – and I thought that ‘chutzpa’ is a Jewish trait).

The initial  catch phrase of the propaganda machine was “international waters”; according to them, Israel has broken International Law, by boarding a merchant ship outside its territorial waters — a powerful argument as it may be, it is simply wrong and misleading.

Indeed there is an International Law governing the circumstances under which a merchant ship may be stopped, inspected and forced into another port if necessary but as I explain here, you will see that Israel fully complied with International Law.

Before I explain, a few words about my credentials in maritime law;  those of my readers who know a bit  about me are aware of my professional background in shipping, both onboard ships and ashore. Although I am not a legal man per-se, my maritime career always required of me an in-depth knowledge of maritime law to be able to perform my duties  effectively, amongst those duties I served as a Maritime Arbitrator in disputes concerning maritime law on various occasions .

It is true that the United Nations Convention on the Law Of the Sea (UNCLOS), guarantees the freedom of navigation on the high seas. The “high seas” is the legal term that is usually (wrongly) referred to as “international waters”, that is, the area of the sea which is outside the territorial waters of any one country.

Had the Israeli Navy boarded a merchant ship on the high seas, or even inside Israeli territorial water,s without a proper cause, with a few exceptions, it would be deemed as act of piracy, and rightly so, but this is not so in the case of the Mavi Marmara incident.

One of such relevant exceptions, in this case, is  Maritime Blockade. A maritime blockade exists when a country declares a specific area of the sea closed to ALL SHIPPING.

The Allied blockades on Germany and Japan in WWII, JFK blockade of Cuba during the missiles crisis (but not afterward),  the UN blockade on (Saadam Hussein’s) Iraq, the US blockade on North Vietnam are all examples of recent histoeryy legal maritime blockades.

What is A Maritime Blockade?

Firstly, the rules that govern maritime (and aerial) blockades are separate from these that govern other military blockades,  albeit there are some legal relations between them.

The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994 defines the conditions which must be met for a maritime blockade to be legal under International Law:

Rule 93. A blockade shall be declared and notified to all belligerents and neutral States

In simple words; the blockade must be made known to everybody, including states that are not part of the conflict that led to the blockade. There are established procedures to issue such notices but I shall spare you the technicalities.

Rule 94. The declaration shall specify the commencement, duration, location, and extent of the blockade and the period within which vessels of neutral States may leave the blockaded coastline.

The blockade must specific as to the area under blockade (normally by coordinates), the timings of start and end of the blockade (“until further notice” is a valid timing) and a period within which, ships of nations that are not part of the conflict (neutral nations) can freely leave the blockaded area.

Rule 95. A blockade must be effective. The question whether a blockade is effective is a question of fact.

[My emphasis]

That means that the blockade must  be enforced, a blockade that is not strictly enforced automatically lapses. This also means that Israel, in this case, cannot allow some ships through the blockaded area but not others – it is “all or none” situation.

In fact the rule is even more specific;

Rule 100. A blockade must be applied impartially to the vessels of all States.

[my emphasis]

“All states” means just that, the ban must be total and applied equally to ships of all flags.

If, say, the USA, which Israel (still) fully trusts, requests permission to deliver aid to Gaza by an American ship, granting such request would be in breach of Rule 100, and would jeopardise the very legality of the Israeli blockade on Gaza.

And indeed there was an America ship (actually more a yacht than a ship), “Challenger I”, in the “flotilla”, she too was stopped and brought to Ashdod, thankfully without incident. Turkey can jump and yell all it likes but it has no legal leg to stand on.

As a matter of interest, the “Mavi Marmara”, the ship that was attacked, does not fly a Turkish flag, she is registered under a flag of convenience (FOC) in Comoros, a pacific island nation, thus under the law, she is not even a “Turkish ship”.

The other ships/crafts that were detained by Israel, without incidents, fly the flags of: Greece (2), Turkey (1), Sweden (1) and Kiribati (1). Neither the USA, nor any of these other countries protested because it was their ships who breached  International Law by attempting to run a blockade knowingly.

Although it is outside the our topic, the futility knowingly and deliberately of running a blockade is exemplified by the fact that it is also in a breach of the vessel’s insurance policy thus any damage, whether direct or consequential, would not be covered by the underwrites. If Israel impund the ship, there could be no claim agaist the insurer of the ship.

Can A Ship Be Stopped And Boarded On The High Seas?

We heard the “International waters” argument ad-nauseam, partly through ignorance but mostly as a pure propaganda.

A Navy ship is permitted to stop a merchant ship that intends to break a blockade, by force if necessary, anywhere, including on the high seas, in or out the blockaded area, inside its own territorial waters, inside a territorial nations of other nations who are part of the conflic  but not in a neutral state’s territorial waters.

Rule 10. Subject to other applicable rules of the law of armed conflict at sea contained in this document or elsewhere, hostile actions by naval forces may be conducted in, on or over:


(b) the high seas; and

[my emphasis]

Can A Merchant Ship be stopped By Force?

As a rule, a neutral merchant ships (not part of the conflict) may not be stopped, let alone attacked, not even in territorial waters, without a proper cause. In other words, Israel, or any country for that matter, cannot stop a merchant ship even within its territorial waters without a proper cause.

One of such causes is attempt to break a blockade;

Rule 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.

[my emphasis]

Clearly, the “Mavi Marmara” fell under this rule; there was no question that the ship intended to breach the blockade on Gaza and, as it transpired, the ship intentionally and clearly resisted visit, search and capture.

A mere attempt to breach a blockade is not a proper cause for an attack, but;

Rule 98. Merchant vessels believed on reasonable grounds to be breaching a blockade may be captured. Merchant vessels which, after prior warning, clearly resist capture may be attacked.

[My emphasis]

In simple words, if a ship does not resists boarding, she cannot be attacked; this was the precise situation with the other five ships in the flotilla. The procedure is simple; the Israeli Navy advise (not ask permission, just advise), that they are coming onboard, if there is no resistance there is cause for an attack.

The Legality Of The Blockade Itself

“Aha”, say the Israel Hate Brigade, “you are conveniently evading the rules that makes the blockade illegal altogether”. No, I am not, let us examine that rule;

102. The declaration or establishment of a blockade is prohibited if:

(a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or

(b) the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade.

[my emphasis]

The purpose of the blockade on Gaza has never aimed at the people of Gaza, If there is a sole purpose for the blockade on Gaza, and particularly the maritime blockade, it is intended to disrupt and prevent, as much as possible, Hamas ability to obtain weapon that are used against Israeli population.

As to the damage to civilian been excessive, no it is not! And certainly not the sea blockade, the sea blockade on Gaza cause little or no damage to its civilian population.

The Gaza Strip has never received its essential supplies by sea, NEVER!!!

All of Gaza essential supplies such as foods medicinal supplies, fuel, water, electricity, and what not have always transfered by land. The Gaza port is not a deep water port, in fact it is not a cargo port at all, it can only accommodate fishing boats and small craft; anything larger than that, say a cargo ship, has to be discharge on anchor on the open sea, and and brought ashore by barges.

Even as an open sea port, Gaza has extremely limited in its port facilities to and its ability handle cargo, I know, I was in the shipping business for forty years.

Gaza  would not survive a single day if it had to rely on its “port” for its essential supplies, The port of Gaza simply cannot handle Gaza total ,or even just its essential needs, much less when the Hamas, no doubt, would give priority to rockets and other military supplies from Iran and Syria, over foodstuff.

There is an alternative way, in fact the only way, to supply Gaza and that is by land, either through Israel or Egypt, as it has been for years. The question of whether the land blockade is too severe, is a different matter which I shall address later.

The calls to lift the sea blockade on Gaza are not about “starving children”, “oppressive occupation” and so on, it is about preventing Israel from defending itself.

Frankly, I am sick and tired of the Israel Hate Brigade’s lips service in countless instances saying something like “I don’t agree with Hamas launching rockets on Israel, but …..”;

Well, sir or madam, if you really disagree with what the Hamas is doing, what do you propose to do about it? I can be excused for disbelieving you, no you do not disagree with the Hamas, this is just a PC talk, it is empty of meaning, it intended to sounds good for the consumption of all the useful idiots out there.

The Israel Hate Brigade’s shrieks is not about helping the Palestinians, it is about weakening Israel ability to defend itself.

I leave you with a small quiz.

More information about what goes into Gaza here. Incidentally, the Israeli land blockade on the Hams is mirrored by Egypt but you wouldn’t know it, not from the corrupt bias main stream media anyhow.

Please Help to free Gaza! (from the Hamas)

© Copyright Jacob Klamer 2010, all rights reserved

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