Friday, June 4, 2010

PIRACY OR SELF-DEFENSE? (Israel’s attacks on ships in international waters)

By Siesta- friendly

Israel once occupied Gaza (among other territories).  They have since left Gaza BUT they have continued to control its borders: land, sea and air. Israel’s oppression and domination of Gaza has left the Palestinians miserable, desperate and in dire need of even basic necessities such as food and medicine.   Even the International Red Cross has reported on the situation in “Gaza: 1.5 million people trapped in despair”.

While most world leaders have conveniently ignored the Palestinians’ plight, citizens all over the world have been quite active: from internet blogging to street demonstrations and to occasional attempts to break Israel’s blockade.  The latest was the Freedom flotilla which was hijacked by Israel commandos.  The hijacking caused the deaths of at least 10 activists of the 600 hundred on board the flotilla.  The passengers of the different ships included a former UN Assistant Secretary-General, 3 German Members of Parliament, an Irish Senator, professors, authors, filmmakers, journalists and other peace advocates.

Israel (of course) claims self-defense.  They claim military arms may come in the guise of humanitarian aid and so they have to block ingress and egress to Gaza and occasionally board ships bearing humanitarian aid.  (Of course, no one will have ill intentions toward any group of people if the latter were not land-grabbers.)

There is no contention about where the boarding and killings occurred.  The flotilla was still in international waters and miles away from Israel territory. 

Israel claims another act of self-defense in their shooting of peace activists.  But reports are slowly coming out (as witnesses have started to be released) and it seems it is the people on board the Mavi Marmara (the crime scene) who were trying to defend themselves from the Israeli commandos who forcibly boarded their ship. Videos (though edited) clearly show commando operations.

How can you block ingress and egress to and from an entire community (especially one beyond your jurisdiction) and claim self-defense if this community and its neighbors try to break through your barriers?

And how can you board a ship with military commandos and fully expect submission, then claim self-defense when you are attacked?  How different is it from a thief who is attacked by a property owner, kills the property owner and claims self-defense?  (The activists who have been released have said that Israel forcibly opened their personal belongings, took possession of their belongings and that they were sent them home only with their clothes on their backs.)

Here’s what international law says - 

Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation (March 10, 1988)[1]

1.      Any person commits an offence if that person unlawfully and intentionally:

(a)    seizes or exercises control over a ship by force or threat thereof or any other form of intimidation; or
(b)    performs an act of violence against a person on board a ship if that act is likely to endanger the safe navigation of that ship; or
(c)    destroys a ship or causes damage to a ship or to its cargo which is likely to endanger the safe navigation of that ship; or
(d)   places or causes to be placed on a ship, by any means whatsoever, a device or substance which is likely to destroy that ship, or cause damage to that ship or its cargo which endangers or is likely to endanger the safe navigation of that ship; or
(e)    destroys or seriously damages maritime navigational facilities or seriously interferes with their operation, if any such act is likely to endanger the safe navigation of a ship; or
(f)     communicates information which he knows to be false, thereby endangering the safe navigation of a ship; or
(g)    injures or kills any person, in connection with the commission or the attempted commission of any of the offences set forth in subparagraphs (a) to (f).  (Article [emphasis supplied]

2.      Any person also commits an offence if that person:

(a)    attempts to commit any of the offences set forth in paragraph 1; or
(b)   abets the commission of any of the offences set forth in paragraph 1 perpetrated by any person or is otherwise an accomplice of a person who commits such an offence; or
(c)    threatens, with or without a condition, as is provided for under national law, aimed at compelling a physical or juridical person to do or refrain from doing any act, to commit any of the offences set forth in paragraph 1, subparagraphs (b), (c) and (e), if that threat is likely to endanger the safe navigation of the ship in question. (Article 3)

Israel is a signatory to this treaty.

No wonder Israel forces are being called Pirates of the Mediterranean (here's one and another article)

[1]  Convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of maritime navigation. Concluded at 10 march 1988. (n.d.). Retrieved from


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