In the early morning hours on May 31, 2010 Members of Israel’s elite Navy Special Forces, Shayetet 13 commenced Operation Sea Breeze. The six ships making up the “Freedom Flotilla” that were intent on breaking Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip were boarded by Israeli commandos after disregarding numerous orders to divert to the port of Ashdod. Five ships were taken over without incident however the boarding and seizure of the Flagship, the MV Mavi Mamra turned into an international fiasco. Instead of being met by peace activists, Israeli Forces were greeted by violent and organized resistance which resulted in 9 deaths and scores of injured on both sides. Sweeping international condemnation followed almost immediately, a United Nations Security Council Presidential Statement condemned “the acts” that led to the violence, the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of state terrorism, and the United States refused to stand firmly behind Israel stating they wanted to know the facts.
Well the facts started coming out later that day and throughout the week. Video showed Israeli Soldiers rappelling down to the ship’s deck and being beaten by clubs and metal rods, stabbed, and thrown overboard by the “peace activists”. CCTV footage aboard the ship showed the “activists” preparing to fight the Israeli Forces hours before they were boarded. They are showed donning gas masks, preparing slingshots, and handing out various weapons. However the International community appears to be blind to all the glaring and unmistakable evidence. Israel is being accused of breaking international law, piracy on the high Seas, and an illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip. Those making these accusations obviously lack simple knowledge of history, maritime law, and basic common sense.
Let’s first take a look at Article 42 of the United Nations Charter “Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate, it may take such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security. Such action may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.” In the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea it clearly states that a blockade is a legal method of warfare at sea and that the blockading nation can intercept a ship in international waters as soon as it is established that the vessel is attempting to break the blockade. Part III, Section V, 67. states “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”. In September of 2007 Israel declared Gaza a Hostile Entity and has been is in a perpetual state of war with the Hamas Regime which calls for the destruction of the Jewish State. Israel has full legal authority to institute and enforce a naval blockade whose purpose is to weaken that regime and ensure Israel’s security. Israel repeatedly warned the ships that they were approaching waters that were closed to maritime traffic their intentions were made clear by their reply “negative, negative our destination is Gaza”.
The U.N. itself conducted a naval blockade of Yugoslavia from 1993 to 1996 to enforce economic sanctions and an arms embargo against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and rival groups in Croatia and Bosnia. There were no accusations of Piracy, or State Terrorism when naval forces boarded and searched almost 6,000 ships at sea. On March 26, 2010 A North Korean submarine torpedoed a South Korean Ship in the Yellow Sea resulting in the sinking of the ship and the loss of 46 Sailors. Where was the swift and scathing international condemnation or the accusations of State Terrorism? Gilad Shalit has been held in captivity and denied visits by the International Red Cross for 4 years in clear violation of 3 articles in the Third Geneva Convention which states that a prisoner has the right to humane treatment, the right to have knowledge of a POW’s location, and the right to unfettered access to the Red Cross. Where is the international outcry or protest from the UN Security council? The blatant hypocrisy is undeniable and palpable.
Israel’s blockade of Gaza is vital in preventing the smuggling of advanced weaponry from Iran to Hamas. Let’s not forget the thousands of rockets that have rained down on the civilian population of southern Israel. On November 4, 2009 Israeli Forces intercepted the MV Francop cargo ship in the Mediterranean Sea 100 miles off the coast of Israel. On board was 320 tons of Iranian Weapons. That was 7 months ago. Those who call for an end to the Gaza Blockade must suffer from severe short term memory loss.
What happened that morning was a tragedy. 9 people were killed, 7 Israeli Soldiers were wounded, 2 seriously. However Israel did not breach international law, commit piracy, or engage in State terrorism. Israel was simply executing its right of self defense which every sovereign nation has a right and obligation to do.
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.
(Mordachai Siegel – YWN)