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Israeli Naval Action on the High Seas

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To be sure, it may be too early to make a final judgment but it appears that the Israeli Navy seems to have committed an illegal act at sea by boarding boats (clearly not military and operating 70 miles off the coast and in international waters) heading for Gaza.

According to this late report, "The Israeli Navy raided a flotilla a convoy of cargo and passenger ships- carrying thousands of tons of supplies for Gaza on Monday morning, killing at least 10 people according to the Israeli military and activists traveling with the flotilla."[1]

A spokesman for the Israeli Navy said, "Naval personnel boarding the six ships in the convoy met with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs."[2]

A spokeswoman for "the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement speaking from Cyprus said it was inconceivable that the civilian passengers on board would have been waiting up to fire on the Israeli military, with all its might. We never thought there would be any violence.[3]

Israel has conducted a blockade of Gaza for the past three years (which it considers legal) and according to them is "aimed at preventing the infiltration of terror and terrorists into Gaza."[4]

During a press conference Monday morning "in Jerusalem, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said the flotilla's intent was not to transfer humanitarian things to Gaza but to break the Israeli blockade."[5]

There is any number of troubling aspects to this incident but clearly Israel is the more culpable actor in this matter.

For one, intercepting ships on the high seas in international waters and boarding them has no legal standing in international maritime law.

These were passenger and cargo ships, clearly not military in nature. Where do they constitute a threat to Israel?

The legality of the Israeli blockade of Gaza is in itself highly questionable; for even if this flotilla's intention was to test the blockade, Israel has no standing to act in international waters.

For too long, Israeli apologists, particularly in the U.S. have excused Israeli acts of brutality in their occupation of the West Bank (and formally in Gaza), its invasion of the latter in late December of 2008 (which ended [conveniently?] prior to Barack Obama coming into office on January 20, 2009) which resulted in the massive destruction of Gaza as well as the unnecessary killing of many innocents caught in the maelstrom, trapped as they were without any means for escape (this according to a U.N. sponsored commission's findings investigating the Israeli invasion of Gaza, and to which Israel disagrees with those findings).

The U.S. can no longer just look the other way when Israel is clearly in the wrong. The members of Congress in the U.S. are especially fearful of being accused of anti-Semitism and condemned by the right wing Israeli Lobby if any member is seen as criticizing Israeli policy in any manner.

This must not continue. If international law is to have any meaning at all, it must include Israel which should not be given special dispensation by the U.S. when official findings clearly have them in the wrong.

It is hoped when this latest incident is investigated ("the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs, called for a full inquiry into the incident"[6]) the U.S. (and the Congress) will stand with and agree to its findings (and not be the usual sycophantic handmaiden to Israel if it happens to be found in the wrong in this matter).

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