We’ve had some interesting debates here on One Utah about Israel and Gaza, for example whether the December 2008-January 2009 IDF assault on civilians amounted to terrorism. Now the question is whether Israel has engaged in piracy.
While many details remain unknown or unverified, some facts are thus far undisputed:
1) The so-called “Freedom Flotilla” of six civilian ships loaded with humanitarian aid and carrying around 700 protesters from various pro-Palestinian groups set out with the intention of running the three-year Israeli blockade of Gaza. They were shadowed by three Israeli warships.
2) At about 4:30 a.m., Israeli commandos dropped from a helicopter onto the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, and took control of it. The other smaller ships were also seized. The boarding of the ships took place in international waters more than 70 nautical miles outside Israeli territorial waters.
3) The Israeli commandos shot and killed 10-20 passengers and wounded 50-60 wounded. There were 7 Israelis wounded to varying degrees. Some of the activists seem to have been armed with slingshots(!) and improvised weapons. Those on the ships emphatically state that the Israelis came on board shooting.
4) The aid ships are now at the port of Ashdod, and most of the surviving passengers are being detained in Israel pending deportation proceedings. At least 34 wounded have been hospitalized.
Glenn Greenwald (his whole post is worth reading):
It hardly seemed possible for Israel — after its brutal devastation of Gaza and its ongoing blockade — to engage in more heinous and repugnant crimes. But by attacking a flotilla in international waters carrying humanitarian aid, and slaughtering at least 10 people, Israel has managed to do exactly that. If Israel’s goal were to provoke as much disgust and contempt for it as possible, it’s hard to imagine how it could be doing a better job.
It’s clear that flotillas such as this one are designed to embarrass the Israeli government and call attention to their ongoing war on the people of Gaza (yes, a blockade is an act of war – look it up). By over-reacting, Israel seems to have guaranteed worldwide headlines, harsh criticism in Europe, and might even have caused some re-thinking in Washington. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has canceled a planned meeting Tuesday with President Obama.
UPDATE: One of the ships attacked by Israel belonged to a Turkish aid organization, and it’s been reported that among the dead are at least two Turks. Turkey today “warned that further supply vessels will be sent to Gaza, escorted by the Turkish Navy.” Among other things, Turkey is a NATO member with increasing tensions with Israel. Its Prime Minister today condemned the Israeli action as “state terrorism.”
UPDATE: The government of Egypt has opened its border with the Gaza Strip to allow passage of food and medical supplies “for an unlimited time.” However, badly-needed construction materials to rebuild from the ruins left by Israel’s 2008-2009 offensive are still prohibited.
UPDATE: FDL: Right Wingers Reflexively Defend Israel, Bash Obama
UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald offer links to some surprisingly candid statements of U.S. politicians willing to put the interests of the Israeli government ahead of our own interests. Not to mention the truth.
UPDATE: Alan Dershowitz makes the claim that Israel’s actions were entirely lawful. Any resemblance to the Somali pirates is coincidental.
UPDATE: Israelis Opened Fire Before Boarding Gaza Flotilla, say Released Activists. First eyewitness accounts of raid contradict version put out by Israeli officials.
UPDATE: Via FDL: Glenn Greenwald vs. Eliot Spitzer on MSNBC yesterday.
UPDATE: Here’s a legal analysis of the Israeli action by maritime law expert Craig Murray, who says that it was not piracy but a war crime:
Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.
Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorized Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.
In brief, if Israel and Turkey are not at war, then it is Turkish law which is applicable to what happened on the ship. It is for Turkey, not Israel, to carry out any inquiry or investigation into events and to initiate any prosecutions. Israel is obliged to hand over indicted personnel for prosecution.
UPDATE: More eyewitness accounts, backed up by video, indicate that the IDF opened fire before trying to board the vessels. After a passenger was killed, a white flag was raised but the Israelis kept shooting according to a journalist on board the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara.
UPDATE: Cenk Uygur on HuffPo:
I can speak Turkish, so having watched all the tapes, I can tell you that over the loud speaker the people in charge of the ship are saying, “We have surrendered, the white flag is up, people are lying on the ground and they are still firing.” And you still hear the gunfire as they are saying this on tape.
The American citizen was identified by the Anatolia news agency as Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old student. His body had four bullet wounds to the head and one to the chest, the news agency reported.
Related One Utah posts:
Goldstone Report on Gaza War Crimes May Go to The Hague (February 7, 2010)
Gaza One Year Later (December 28, 2009)
Gaza War Crimes Report Referred to U.N. Security Council (October 16, 2009)
Gaza War Crimes: A Reminder (April 23, 2009)
Gaza 2009: We Will Never Forget (February 1, 2009)
NYT Columnist Tom Friedman Accuses Israel of Terrorism (January 14, 2009)
Israel: No Cease Fire For You! (January 10, 2009)
Why Are We (Israel) Fighting Now? (January 7, 2009)
All We Need to Know About Israel’s Gaza Operation (January 5, 2009)