Last whimper from the Gaza flotilla?

Greece to the rescue.

The US and Canadian Boats to Gaza – M/V Audacity of Hope and M/V Tahrir, respectively – tried to make an unauthorized departure on 1 July from the Greek port they have been detained in.  The Greek coast guard promptly intercepted them (don’t miss Challah Hu Akbar’s coverage at the link).  This may be the final ride of the 2011 flotilla.  Its prospects are certainly dimming:  now that AOH and Tahrir have violated a directive from the Greek authorities, which had ordered them to remain in port pending the investigation of a complaint filed against them, the ships can be held there for as long as the Greeks see fit, and their crews might well be charged in court.

Positive as this outcome would be, it falls short of the leadership by which the Western nations should have shut down the flotilla in the first place.  As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, there was a point at which all of the ships participating in the 2011 flotilla were flagged by North American or European nations.  (A Jordanian ship has since been announced, although there has been little information about it.)

Of all the nations on earth, it ought to be the nations of North America and Europe that prevent ships under their flags from being used in such a cause.  If for no other reason (e.g., that Israel is a US ally and fellow Western democracy), our concern about order in the unforgiving environment of the seas should prompt us to exercise our prerogative as flag states.  There exists no “right” to attempt to break a blockade under the flag of any nation; rather, the authority of a flag state to prevent such an attempt is absolute.  The flag state may not always have the means to prevent such an action.  But the US, Canada, and the nations of Europe certainly do.  In our case, the only question is whether the authority will be used.

The nations of the 2011 flotilla have not used it.  Instead, Israel has had to mount a campaign of lawsuits and sabotage to prevent the flotilla from getting underway.  To date, Greece has been induced to hold at least six ships in port because of procedural complaints filed against them; two ships have been sabotaged (the second, the Irish ship M/V Saoirse, was reported on Wednesday); and the Israeli law center Shurat HaDin has filed a lawsuit in US federal court to prevent the M/V Audacity of Hope from participating in the flotilla.  (Texas Governor Rick Perry wrote on Thursday to urge the Obama administration to intercept and/or prosecute the American flotilla participants, citing Title 18 Section 962 of the US Code.)

These creative efforts get an A+ for ingenuity and determination, but they should not have been necessary.  Nor should the US or any of our allies be working through covert, undeclared pressure on Greece or Turkey to prevent the ships under our flags from departing their ports to mount the flotilla operation.  We should state our purpose overtly as a matter of policy.  Merely warning our citizens that this is a bad idea is insufficient; out governments should be denying them the ships.

We should do so especially because of the evidence of participation in the flotilla by Hamas and IHH.  Dutch media have reported this week that all the embarked Dutch journalists have pulled out of the flotilla (here and here), in large part because of the presence of a Hamas leader.  One of the chief organizers of the flotilla is Mohammed Sawalha, who has extensive Hamas connections.

But the participation of IHH members, widely reported in Turkish media, is in one way even more significant.  It was IHH participants who attacked Israeli soldiers during the 2010 flotilla incident, and their presence this year lends special credence to the Israeli report earlier this week that flotilla participants from the terror groups were planning another attack on the IDF.  In line with this purpose, one of the American flotilla planners has forthrightly announced that the flotilla is part of

… a larger strategy, to transform this conflict from one between Israel and the Palestinians, or Israel and the Arab world…to one between the rest of the world and Israel…

There can be no excuse for permitting Americans to involve the US flag in this.  There is no “order” in the maritime environment without the exercise of authority by someone functioning, in essence, as a territorial sheriff.  But the good news is that the enforcement of such order properly extends to preventing disorderly and escalatory acts by those operating under national flags.  Individual governments are the highest authority, and in maritime terms, the US is chief among them.  The Obama administration’s public passivity regarding the Americans in the flotilla and their US-flagged ship sends a significant and destructive signal about our posture on maritime order.  It says we don’t care about it.

That is a dangerous signal to send in 2011, with China conducting aggressive naval operations in the Japanese islands, Iran operating submarines beyond the Arabian Sea, and US leadership ineffective against the Somali piracy problem.  Maritime order doesn’t keep itself – but visibly enforcing it once can provide a lesson that lasts for decades.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

23 thoughts on “Last whimper from the Gaza flotilla?”

  1. Everybody, including these thugs, knows that their prime objective and goal is not the truth, but support for islamofascism, including palestinian. These people support also Iran and meet Akhmadinegad on regular basis, likely, to get money. They are capable for anything. In the past, they sacrificed lives of their own members, like Rachel Curry and others, to blame Israel and to get personal international attention, recognition and money. In previous flotilla journey, they included armed terrorists with goal to attack Israel forces with weapons (in coordination with Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Turkey PM Erdogan), and thereafter fabricated fake, false and fraudulent purport blaming Israel for deaths. Now, they on purpose damaged two of their boats so severe, that, if this were exposed in high sea, a boat could sink with mortal consequences. They again need to provoke outcry against Israel. These people are human trash, islamofascist whores.

  2. —-There exists no “right” to attempt to break a blockade under the flag of any nation; rather, the authority of a flag state to prevent such an attempt is absolute. —–

    does there exist a “duty” not to run the blockade or a reason why any nation must prevent its citizens from sailing the high seas? do nations have the authority to enforce freedom of passage from being contravened by other nations as well as the authority to tell their own citizens that they must not challenge a blockade?

    One can wish nothing but ill for Hamas and still think that the blockade is not something that one would want the government of one’s country to work to enforce.

    1. The private citizen’s “duty” not the run the blockade derives from his nation’s decision not to oppose it. Running a blockade (or attempting to) is an act of hostility, or belligerence. The decision whether to engage in such acts is reserved in our age for national governments.

      That, at least, is what the nations have codified in the body of international law assembled since the mid-19th century. You can argue against the idea in as many ways as you want, but the bottom line for everything is that if someone attempts to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, it’s a hostile act and Israel is justified in using force to repel it. Since that is inherently at issue, that fact is one of the two most important aspects of the question, which will — and should — influence the decision of other nations on what to do about it. Maritime operations are a unique situation in which flag states exercise a level of positive control in this regard.

      The other factor, of course, is whether and how badly the other nations think the blockade needs to be breached. If they think it should be, enough to go use force to do it, then the only thing that can stop them is force. If they don’t think the blockade should be broken, or if they don’t think it’s worth using force to do it, that too is their prerogative. Their citizens can disagree with that, but they are still subject to their nation’s laws, and the prerogatives of their nations as flag states, which are codified in UNCLOS.

      1. Yes Dyer,

        what does UNCLOS have to say about Israel’s right to enforce a blockade upon territory sans international armed conflict?

        nations have no great reason to insist that their citizens not run the blockade ( other than concern for the safety of the their citizenry) and no duty to respect it.

        when and if Israel decides to modify what they’re doing and enforce an inspection regime designed only to keep weapons out,,, that’s a different deal.

        1. “nations have no great reason to insist that their citizens not run the blockade ( other than concern for the safety of the their citizenry) and no duty to respect it.”

          Au contraire! Nations have serious and valid reasons to insist that
          their citizens respect International law, to suggest otherwise is to reveal either a profound naivete or an agenda that results in obtuseness.

          “when and if Israel decides to modify what they’re doing and enforce an inspection regime designed only to keep weapons
          out,,, that’s a different deal.”

          Israel allows much more than the basic necessities into Gaza, the issue isn’t unreasonable Israeli intransigence, the issue is an obsessive Palestinian desire to import weapons and sympathetic Palestinian supporters naivete.

          Your attitude reveals that you have “the cart before the horse” unless your premise and position is that Israel should cease to exist, any objective appraisal of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict reveals that it is the Palestinians who are, by far, the obstacle to peace in the conflict.

          Israel can be criticized for many mistakes and arguably, for misguided policies such as the settlements, but there is absolutely no doubt that ALL of Israel’s actions (misguided though they MAY be) are the result of facing a fanatical, ‘un’-sane enemy. When faced with inimical, unremitting and malevolent hostility, no one always makes the optimum choices.

          1. —-…..insist that
            their citizens respect International law;;;;

            Geoffrey, exactly what is the relation between a blockade that is, at best, of dubious legality under international law, and insisting upon respect for it?

            (I’m of mixed feelings about quite a bit of what people call international law and can’t generate much enthusiasm for something so ludicrously, cynically and haphazardly enforced.)

            1. The blockade is entirely legal and not of ‘dubious’ legality at all. Gaza is not a nation and therefore the blockade is not an act of war and because Israel does allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, viewed in perspective, the blockade is a modest act of clearly valid self-defense. Every other alternative action Israel might take in self-defense would lead to far more violence. To suggest that Israel drop the blockade is effectively to ‘vote’ to increase the violence or to propose; (by turning a blind eye to the resultant consequences), that Israel allow genocide against Israeli

              International law is indeed problematic, however probably the least problematic International law is that of which international Maritime law consists. Due to the relatively simple conditions that maritime consists of, it’s a fairly straightforward proposition.

              1. Geoffrey, if you would point to that part of international law that says that it’s perfectly legal to blockade land masses and populations that do not comprise sovereign nations, I would be appreciative,

  3. May God protect this USA from earthly evils, and may we as a Nation show these liberal morons that they cannot derail our great Country from its path. We will prevail, despite Devilbama and his unholy pack of wolves!

  4. American citizens have the right to fly their flag on their vessels. American citizens have a right to express themselves freely – particularly when that freedom of expression flies in the face of and discomforts the powerful and mendacious. Freedom of expression that is only allowed support the mighty and mendacious is no freedom at all.

    I cannot see any American government abusing its power to deprive US citizens of their right to protest and express their dissent to evil – particularly when that evil is being perpetrated by a foreign power. The ghettoization and seige of Gaza is both immoral and illegal. The US isn’t going to use its executive power to support ghettoization and illegality by anyone.

    The real story which is being highlighted by free media everywhere – particularly in Europe – is the ongoing (and failing) attempts by the Israelis to bully free governments into aiding and abetting in stifling free expression. The Israelis, desperate to prevent their viciousness being witnessed by the world at large, have threatened to ban any journalist who accompanies the flottila from Israel for 10 years. This immediately prompted more than one hundred European, Israeli, Canadian, and US journalists to declare their intention to travel on the flottila. The Israelis, in a panic, withdrew their threat.

    The Israeli foreign minister has recently made a round of Western governments to attempt to get them to ban their citizens from the flottila and to vote against Palestinian statehood in the UN. He has received a cool reception. Even the British and Germans have told him that unless their is real progress in the peace-talks they will not vote against the resolution.

    In the latest development, the Israeli ambassador has been carpeted by the Irish after Israeli terrorist-agents sabotaged the Irish-registered flottila vessel. This is the second time plucky Ireland (A nation that shares our values and concept of the rule of law) has carpeted the ambassador of Israel(a nation that doesn’t). Last year the Irish threw out diplomats from both Israel and Russia (another outfit that doesn’t share our values) because their agents had stolen and used Irish passports in their thuggish and nefrarious activities.

    In the meantime, the Gaza flottila, constantly kept to the forefront in the international media by the over-reaction of the panicing Israelis, is the number one story on Google UK. The brave flottila is succeeding beyond its wildest dreams in highlighting the illegal medieval seige of Gaza. In the meantime the September vote approaches when the Palestinians will be recognized as having the same rights as free people everywhere in spite of Israeli attempts to collectivly punish and delegitimize them.

  5. “Geoffrey, if you would point to that part of international law that says that it’s perfectly legal to blockade land masses and populations that do not comprise sovereign nations, I would be appreciative”

    One does not need to be a scholar of International Law to recognize common sense, logic and reason. Every nation has the right to self-defense. Literally thousands of rockets have been fired upon Israel from Gaza. Every defeat and resultant frustration arising from Palestinian ineffectiveness in attacking Israel merely further raises their animosity because that is the common reaction of fanatics to failure. Fanatics escalate aggression when frustrated yet perceive conciliation as weakness and an incentive to further aggression.

    That is why you cannot ‘negotiate’ with a Hitler, a Pol Pot, Hamas or any religious fanatic.

    That psychological dynamic ensures that the Palestinians will continue to seek ever greater levels of destructive aggression until either Israel or they are utterly destroyed. Few Americans fully appreciate the degree of psychological dysfunction of the Muslim cultures of the M.E. Due to the religious focus of the Palestinian struggle against the Jewish state which Islamic dogma compels, Palestinians may well be the most dysfunctional of all the Islamic cultures and, that by a considerable margin.

    All of this leads to an existential dilemma for Israel, in practical terms the Gaza blockade is merely a temporary, pragmatic measure which in no way addresses the deeper issue but does, tactically limit attacks against Israel from Gaza. When a nation is presented with an unarguably mortal threat, that threat legitimizes whatever measures of self-defense are prudent. Nor does that threat need be immediate, merely tactically undeniable, which the threat from Gaza eminently qualifies as.

    Despite attempts such as Pauline’s above to blatantly mis-characterize the issue, the degree of Israeli ‘repression’ of Gaza is directly related to unremitting Gazan aggression. Israel is conducting a purely defensive strategy, necessitated by fanatical, murderous aggression by Palestinian’s against Israel and her citizens.

    Every argument against Israel’s policies ultimately rests upon the premise that Israel should not exist, since that is the sole outcome acceptable to fanatical Islamic sensibilities. Once that premise is invalidated, which historical fact and logical examination easily accomplish, Islamic aggression is logically indefensible.

    1. Geoffrey, you do need facts or findings or something more than common sense when you’re refuting the idea that the blockade is on the dubious side of legal.
      Because the damned thing IS on the dubious side of legal.

      Israel has my entire sympathy in dealing harshly with Hamas. Should they tomorrow decide to kill or capture every Hamas member toting a gun or ordering rocket fire into Israel and succeed at the task, I’m right comfortable with it.

      The siege is something else entirely as long as they’re keeping out things that haven’t horsefeathers to do with weaponry.
      When wood and kids sneakers and macaroni get kept out (and yes they do now allow shoes and pasta) that’s got nothing to do with self-defense and everything to do with the Israelis shooting themselves in the foot and making themselves look as stupid and small as the vile bassetts that are running Gaza.

      It’s stupid and hopeless and has strengthened Hamas while it’s been in effect and while it’s been in effect, Hamas has been able to receive better rockets than they had. It’s another failed operation akin to the last war in Lebanon. The Israelis will again run out of time before the objective can be realized.

      1. Nations presented with a mortal threat haven’t the luxury of hinging their response upon whether the Hague would agree as to strict legality. Unanimous agreement as to legality is frequently absent, even by SCOTUS, working within an agreed upon Constitution.
        Fortunately, legal scholars do not fully determine policy decisions.

        Wood can be used for shoring in tunnels, a common practice. Self-defeating, counter productive actions like banning children’s shoes (if true) are yes, moronic and indefensible.

        But as I previously pointed out, when faced with an inimical enemy, a democracy made up of differing views will frequently make poor decisions.

        We are in agreement as to the likelihood that Israel will run out of time without reaching any resolution of the problem she faces. Tragically, it will end badly.

  6. G, I think that there’s no mortal threat to Israel coming from Gaza either now or when the blockade was started.

    Israel has faced mortal threats, and may again soon face them, but, at present, is screwing up.

    Exactly how dangerous did Hamas prove to be when Israel sent troops into Gaza? Was Hamas able to do more than cower?

  7. There is no such thing as a legal blockade, there are only lawful blockades. This is an important distinction in law, and particularly so in international law. A blockade serves as a good case in point.

    The Law of the Sea doesn’t tell nations what they can’t do in a blockade. It doesn’t limit what they “can” do. It says very little about what they MUST do. If they conform with the last category of criteria — what they MUST do — then their blockade is lawful.

    UNCLOSE does not say that a blockade can only be mounted against a recognized sovereign nation. If it did, there could have been no arms blockade of teh Former Republic of Yugoslavia (“Rump” Yugoslavia) or Bosnia in 1994-5. Yet there was a UN-imposed blockade being enforced by NATO.

    Blockades are rare in any case, and there is no tradition in international law that they CANNOT be imposed on territories that are not sovereign nations. There is nothing inherently specious about questioning whether they should be, but UNCLOS doesn’t prohibit them, and precedent doesn’t preclude them. The reality of history is that most modern blockades have been imposed on sovereign nations, but the US Civil War involved a recent and often invoked example of a blockade imposed on a non-sovereign territory (North on South).

    The news in May 2011 was that the UN panel that was put together to look at the Mavi Marmara incident found the blockade of Gaza lawful. The panel is headed by a Labour politician from New Zealand with no obvious reason to favor Israel.

    The Turks were angry about that judgment, which is why the panel has been deadlocked in putting out its report. But the bottom line is that trying to see a blockade in “legal” versus “illegal” terms is an invalid exercise. There is no such thing as a “legal” blockade to begin with.

    Regarding the national ensign, no, Americans do not have the right to fly it on a ship. Title 46 of the US Code prescribes the requirements for maintaining the privilege of doing so. Vessels below a certain size are not positively regulated, but the ferry Audacity of Hope met the size/type requirement for regulation, and could not dock in a foreign port without flag-state documentation, for which her owner had to apply to the US federal government. Under UNCLOS, a ship flying a flag for which it doesn’t have flag-state documentation can be confiscated on the spot by local maritime law enforcement.

  8. The defense of the blockade runners seems very Palestinian to me: Go ahead and commit a hostile act under the American flag — we won’t stop you.

    Just as the Palestinian government says, go ahead and launch rockets and mortar rounds into Israel under the Palestinian flag, We won’t stop you.

    A nation (or would-be nation) needs to take responsibility for controlling its citizens.

    Paulite finds free expression in running a blockade? If the United States was tolerant of the free expression of people trying to run its blockade of the South during the Civil War, Paulite might have a point.

    1. Actually, Vinnie, will stop people from launching into Gaza, when it suits them.
      Hamas follows the playbook of their Hezbollah big brothers and happily tries to claim to be the voice of the nation and yet claim not to have any duties to the conventions that are expected of nations.

      {The British ran our blockade back then and British citizens were free to express themselves, as were officers of their navy (of course, on leave).}

      1. So we agree on some things.

        And I am sure the North’s Civil War Navy felt free to express itself upon any blockade runners that were caught.

        Have a happy and blesssed Independence Day.

        1. thank you, cuz.

          I hope you and everybody, esp. our multiply optimistic hostess, enjoys and cherishes this Independence Day and future days.

    1. it’s certainly not becoming increasingly obvious that the flotilla never had peaceful intentions, Jill, unless you regard people crossing a picket line as intending to shatter the peace.

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