Israel’s New Initiative: Barbarism and Piracy at Sea

This follows from my recent article.

On May 31, under cover of darkness, Israeli commandos conducted a premeditated act of state terrorism against civilian aid activists trying to deliver thousands of tons of essential-to-life aid to besieged Gazans. Israeli radio reported that 19 were slaughtered, dozens more injured, and according to Earth 

“About 480 foreign activists who were stopped by Israel on the high seas while sailing to Gaza were transferred overnight to a prison in the southern city of Beersheba, Israeli Radio reported (June 1).” About 48 others were deported. Other reports had over 600 arrested and an Israeli-imposed news blackout.

Those held now face grueling interrogations, followed either by deportation or detainment ahead of prosecution, Israel’s customary practice — blaming  victims, absolving state terrorism, repeatedly committed, claiming it’s to safeguard national security. 

Or by Israeli logic, its attack was self-defense. Linked to “global Jihad, Al Qaeda and Hamas,” humanitarian activists were an “armada of hate and violence (engaging in a) premeditated and outrageous provocation,” according to Israel’s deputy defense minister, Danny Ayalon. 

Not according to Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Canceling scheduled military exercises with Israel and recalling his ambassador, Oguz Celikkol, he said:

It is no longer possible to cover up or ignore Israel’s lawlessness….This action, totally contrary to the principles of international law, is inhumane state terrorism. Nobody should think we will keep quiet in the face of this.

Nor should anyone let Israel get away with a crime this grave, its latest example of lawlessness, this time in international waters in violation of the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas and 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Relevant International Law 

Under UNCLOS’ Article 101, maritime piracy includes “any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation….against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State (and) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating (such) an act.”

Usually it refers to robbery or criminal violence committed by private parties. Broadly interpreted, it can apply to states committing lawless acts. UNCLOS lets them interdict at sea to prevent illegal arms and drug smuggling, the slave trade or terrorist activities — not applicable to Flotilla activists despite Israel’s accusations.

Its mission was humanitarian. Inspected before departure, its cargo included food, medicines, educational, construction, and other materials, not weapons, munitions or anything threatening Israel. Under UNCLOS, its commandos had no right to interdict  or attack activists on board, especially in international waters.

Under customary maritime law, ships have “innocent passage” rights through all international and coastal area waters, subject to certain restrictions. 

UNCLOS defines “innocent passage” as expeditious, continuous passage through waters in ways not “prejudicial to the peace, good order or the security” of a coastal state.

America’s Defense Department defines it as:

The right of all ships to engage in continuous and expeditious surface passage through the territorial sea and archipelagic water of foreign coastal states in a manner not prejudicial to its peace, good order, or security. Passage includes stopping and anchoring, but only if incidental to ordinary navigation or necessary for force majeure (a natural or unavoidable catastrophe) or distress, or for the purpose of rendering assistance to persons, ships, or aircraft in danger of distress.

Israel’s brazen slaughter constituted a crime of war and against humanity, punishable under international law. Claiming it an act self-defense is bogus, reprehensible and laughable on its face.

The Legitimate Right of Self-Defense

As reported on Ma’, Mahmoud Abu Rahma, the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights in Gaza, explained that:

“In international waters, the crew of a ship has the right to prevent others from boarding their ship without their permission, including by resorting to violence,” if, in fact, it was used by whatever means activists managed to employ.

Further, states may only act within its 12 nautical mile limit, not in international waters for any reasons other than what UNCLOS permits, with verifiable evidence to prove it.

Abu Rahma also raised other considerations, including “whether Gaza is occupied or not. If not, then Israel has absolutely no right to act inside or outside its nautical jurisdiction,” but in either case, the right of self-defense applies.

As for Israel claiming it, the UN Charter’s Article 51 is clear. It’s allowed against an attack or an impending one “until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security.” In other words, justifiable self-defense is permissible. Charter Articles 2(3), 2(4), and 33 absolutely prohibit any unilateral threat or use of force not specifically allowed under Article 51 or authorized by the Security Council.

Three General Assembly resolutions concur, absolutely prohibiting “non-consensual military intervention,” precisely what Israel used.

Abu Rahma also said that “Military or police forces may not use force except to the extent necessary to deal with a certain situation, (but) given the very high number of casualties and injuries,” clearly extreme lethal measures was used.

A final issue pertains to the rights and sovereignty of states “under whose flags the ships were sailing when they were attacked,” particularly since the incident was in international waters.

Global Condemnation Following Israel’s Premeditated, Unconscionable Slaughter

Haaretz writer, Gideon Levy, called the attack a “Mini Cast Lead. Like its larger, losing predecessor, this operation had it all: the usual false claim that is was they who had started it….” They committed “the first act of violence,” not heavily armed commandos facing unarmed civilians. We acted in “self defense….they lynched us,” but all the dead are theirs. “Yesterday there was no one on the planet, not a newsman or analyst, except for its conscripted chorus, who could say a good word about the lethal takeover.”

As usual in America, the “chorus” had its regular participants, the major media’s paid liars.

Haaretz writers offer both sides, Bradley Burston, for example, headlining, “A Special Place in Hell/The Second Gaza War: Israel lost at sea,” saying:

“We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the (indefensible) siege, which is itself becoming Israel’s Vietnam,” another protracted illegal war.

Displaying a brave face, US media reports covered the attack, the subsequent international outrage, and disturbing unanswered questions while largely supporting Israel. On May 31, New York Times writer Isabel Kershner headlined, “Deadly Israeli Raid Draws Condemnation,” citing global protests, then stating:

“Israel said the violence was instigated by pro-Palestinian activists who presented themselves as humanitarians but had come ready for a fight,” mindless of an accusation so bogus it begs the question why a legitimate journalist would even suggest it. Nor quote vice admiral Eliezer Marom saying his forces “had to open fire in order to defend themselves. Their lives were at risk.” Or deputy defense minister Danny Ayalon claiming the siege is “aimed at preventing the infiltration of terror and terrorists into Gaza,” when clearly it’s an illegal act of collective punishment against 1.5 million civilians, guilty only of being Palestinians – a high crime for Israeli authorities and in much of the US media.

In her article titled, “Israel Murders Human Rights Workers Delivering Humanitarian Aid,” Law Professor and former National Lawyers Guild President, Marjorie Cohn, denounced the attack as “a clear breach of international law,” called for an investigation, and said “Israel must end its illegal blockade of Gaza which constitutes unlawful aggression under General Assembly Resolution 3314 (1974),” including blockades in its definition.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) “strongly condemn(ed)” Israel’s crime by using “excessive and lethal force” against nonviolent, unarmed activists delivering humanitarian aid. Calling the attack “characteristic of a long series of war crimes and grave violations… against civilians,” PCHR said international community silence and failure to comply with international law provides “an open invitation for (Israeli forces to) continue to commit crimes against civilians” and inflict collective punishment against 1.5 million besieged Gazans.

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) “strongly condemn(ed) Israel’s barbarous early-morning raid, carried out in international waters, on a maritime humanitarian convoy,” calling it an “act of piracy” and murder.

Professor Francis Boyle is a distinguished international law expert. In his December 31, 2008 article, titled “An Israeli War Crimes Tribunal (ICTI) May be the Only Deterrent to a Global War,” he said:

The United Nations General Assembly must immediately establish an (ICTI) under UN Charter Article 22 (to) investigate and prosecute Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Peoples of Lebanon and Palestine (to) provide (them) some small degree of justice…

Earlier, Boyle called for “immediately” suspending Israel “throughout the entirely of the United Nations System, including the General Assembly and all UN subsidiary organs and bodies.” It’s justified legally as follows:

As a condition for its admission to the United Nations Organization, Israel formally agreed to accept General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) (1947) (partition/Jerusalem trusteeship) and General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) (1948) (Palestinian right of return), inter alia.

Thereafter, Israel repudiated its obligation under dozens of General Assembly and Security Council resolutions, condemning and censuring its actions, demanding they end, but stopping short of taking action. 

Key is America’s abstention as an “honest broker.” It “invariably side(s) with Israel against the Palestinians,” so what’s needed is “some type of international framework to sponsor (honest) negotiation(s) where (those representing) Palestinians will not be subjected to the continual bullying, threats, harassment, intimidation and outright lies perpetrated by the United States government” under Obama like his predecessors.

On June 1, Boyle reported that Israel’s Flotilla attack “violated the SUA (Suppression of Unlawful Acts) Convention, to which Israel, Turkey and the USA are all parties.” SUA followed “in reaction to the (1985) Achille Lauro Hijacking and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer.” It’s “one of the Conventions adopted by the UN and its affiliated organizations to deal with the phenomenon of international terrorism,” precisely what Israel committed this week and does all the time.

The US-Israeli Relationship 

On June 1, Haaretz writer, Natasha Mozgovaya, asked “Will the Gaza flotilla attack affect US-Israel ties,” noting hundreds of angry Americans in front of the White House “demanding (Washington) cut ties with Israel.” Earlier, Israel’s embassy was “besieged” by protesters, demanding its ambassador’s expulsion, cutting US aid, and stopping Israeli piracy funding. 

Suggesting a “deep rift” between them, however, overlooks realpolitik. Public displeasure masks rock-solid relations, the power of the Israeli Lobby cementing them, besides each side needing the other as allies, a longstanding relationship for decades.

UN Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting

On June 1, the Security Council called for an impartial investigation into the attack, stopping short of demanding an end to the siege, as well as accountability and criminal prosecutions for those responsible for cold-blooded murder. 

Expressing deep regret for “the loss of life and injuries,” the Council “condemn(ed)” the action, “request(ed) the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel… and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination.”

France, Russia and China called for the siege to be lifted. America hinted about an easing, but stopped short of requesting it, US deputy permanent representative, Alejandro Wolff, saying only that Washington was “deeply disturbed by recent violence and regrets tragic loss of life and injuries,” no matter its partnership and support in all Israeli initiatives.

On June 1, the Free Gaza Movement reported that Israel-licensed attorneys filed two habeas briefs. One  asked for the release of all passengers and ships, and their aid to be delivered to Gaza. The other requested information on all passengers and lifting of Israel’s news blackout.

Knesset Member Hanin Zoabi on board the Flotilla said: “It was clear from the size of (Israel’s assault) force (that) the purpose was not only to (abort the mission) but to cause the largest possible number of fatalities (and other casualties) in order to stop such initiatives in the future.”

Some Final Comments

Two remaining Flotilla ships are still heading to Gaza, including the MV Rachel Corrie with two internationally renown figures on board among others:

— Mairead Maguire, 1976 Nobel Peace laureate and co-founder of Northern Ireland’s Peace People; and

— Denis Halliday, former Iraq Humanitarian Program head, who resigned in protest saying he was asked to commit the equivalent of genocide, killing 5,000 children a month.

Israel announced both ships will be interdicted and taken to the port city of Ashdod.

On June 1, in the wake of world condemnation for its attack, the Palestinian News Network (PNN) reported that:

“Three Palestinian fighters were killed by Israeli shelling targeting the northern part of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday afternoon,” two others as well in a ground incursion. On the same day, Israeli tanks shelled residents’ homes in Khan Younis, then invaded Al Qarrara village, bulldozing lands near the borders according to residents.

These type attacks happen repeatedly, but go largely unreported in the US media. For them, only Israeli deaths and injuries matter, and once outrage over the Flotilla attacks subsides, the fate of the activists, ships and supplies will be ignored.

So too will Lebanon and Syria’s accusations of Israel’s  warmongering, following weeks of threatening its northern neighbors and conducting provocative military exercises requiring its citizens to flee to bunkers and safe rooms in response to a simulated missile attack.

Earlier this year, Israel deployed troops to its northern border, suggesting a planned military operation would follow, and in May, the Obama administration requested an additional $205 million in military aid to support its “Iron Dome” rocket shield system. 

Reports now say Israel will deploy three nuclear-armed submarines in the Persian Gulf near Iran (one already there), and won’t participate in a 2012 conference on establishing a nuclear-free Middle East, an idea first endorsed in the mid-1990s but never pursued.

All Israeli belligerent acts are joint IDF-Pentagon initiatives, including the Flotilla attack, unlikely to have been undertaken without approval, joint planning, funding, weapons and munitions from Washington, Israel’s paymaster/partner in crime.

Stephen Lendman wrote How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War. Contact him at: Also visit his blog site and listen to The Global Research News Hour on Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. Read other articles by Stephen.

9 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. hayate said on June 4th, 2010 at 12:37am #

    “All Israeli belligerent acts are joint IDF-Pentagon initiatives, including the Flotilla attack, unlikely to have been undertaken without approval, joint planning, funding, weapons and munitions from Washington, Israel’s paymaster/partner in crime.”

    Rogered-rahm-jet was probably coordinating between the israelis and americans in preparation for this war crime. Probably getting briefed on the american role in other israeli war crimes planned for the near future.

  2. hayate said on June 4th, 2010 at 3:18am #

    Detailed Compiled Eyewitness Accounts Confirm Cold-Blooded Murder and Executions by Israeli Military

    by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

    At the bottom of the piece, he also gathered up many links to survivor accounts of the israeli terrorist pirate attack. A couple dozen different accounts from interviews published around the world. What these people describe is pure barbarism on the part of the israelis. The freaks who ordered this sick act and those who carried it out really need to learn what a hangman’s noose is for.

  3. mary said on June 4th, 2010 at 6:18am #

    Just received

    Rachel Corrie on Her Way

    Written by Free Gaza Team | 04 June 2010
    Posted in Press releases
    [Cyprus, June 4, 2010] The Rachel Corrie is 150 miles away from Gaza in international waters and on her way. They will arrive on Saturday morning. The 1200 ton cargo ship is the last ship from the Freedom Flotilla and is loaded with construction materials, 20 tons of paper and many other supplies that Israel refuses to allow into the imprisoned people of Gaza.

    Some of the High-Profile people on board:

    Mairead Maguire from Belfast, Ireland, a Nobel Peace Laureate (l976) and Co-founder of Peace People, Northern Ireland. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace and a nonviolent solution to the Ethnic/political conflict in Northern Ireland. Mairead went on the maiden Voyage of Dignity in October 2008, the second successful voyage for the Free Gaza Movement. She was also on Board ‘Spirit’ when Israel hijacked the Boat in International Waters, taking all 2l humanitarian passengers to Israel, where they were arrested, detained for a week in an Israeli prison and then deported.

    Denis Halliday, from Ireland, a UN Assistant Secretary-General from 1994-98. Appointed by SG Boutros Ghali, he served as ASG UN Human Resources Management in New York and in mid 1997 to end 1998 as Head, Humanitarian Programme in Iraq to support the Iraqi people struggling under the genocidal impact of UN Sanctions. Since resigning from the UN in 1998, Halliday has delivered numerous parliamentary briefings, provided extensive media inputs and has given public/university lectures on Iraq, human rights, and the UN, in particular its reform.

    Matthias Chang Wen Chieh is a Malaysian of Chinese descent. He is a Barrister of 32 years standing and once served as the Political Secretary to the Fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. He is the author of three bestsellers, “Future Fast Forward”, “Brainwashed for War, Programmed to Kill”, and “The Shadow Money-Lenders and the Global Financial Tsunami”, published in the US and in Malaysia.

    Mohd Nizar bin Zakaria,Perak, Malaysia, MP Mohd Nizar bin Zakaria is a Member of the Malaysian Parliament.

    In addition, there is a three-member camera crew on board from Malaysia TV3 and journalis Shamsul Akmar bin Musa Kamal.

    The passengers on board the ship have stated, “Communication is difficult and sometimes impossible and there are many rumors out there started by Israeli authorities, but there is no way we are going to Ashdod. We are, for sure, on our way to Gaza.”

    Contact: Greta Berlin, 00 357 99 18 72 75

    Mary Hughes 00 357 6 38 38 09

    Greta Berlin, Co-Founder
    +357 99 18 72 75

  4. Hue Longer said on June 4th, 2010 at 6:47am #


    Notice how the media ignores who the people are on these boats? I know it shouldn’t matter but we all know it does.

  5. mary said on June 4th, 2010 at 7:02am #
    A new initiative to counter the flood of Israeli propaganda and to give the facts..

    About is a new media library project that plans to publish a series of both topic-specific and current event-focused archive websites, with the help of the pro-Palestinian community and beyond. Sites will be:

    1.created on an as-needed basis, sometimes in immediate reaction to Israel’s actions or breaking news;
    2.deployed in non-crisis periods to address obvious research gaps in line with activist priorities, resource availability, and—wherever possible—Palestinian need.
    The mini sites will cluster around, highlight, and deconstruct the very behaviors Israel believes it can explain away by simply investing in yet more public relations. Where delegitimization is concerned, nobody does it better than Israel does it to herself.

    The Gaza Flotilla archive
    The Gaza Flotilla archive—found at ( — is a freely-available research resource on the events that took place in international waters off the coast of Gaza on 31 May 2010.

    The Gaza Flotilla archive is the first website in the series, soft-launched on 31 May 2010 in the immediate and bloody wake of a morning’s violence against peace activists.

    We welcome your submissions and collaborations.

  6. mary said on June 4th, 2010 at 9:58am #

    Yes Hue I have noticed.

    These are the nine men who were killed. I counted that, between them, they had 28 children, now fatherless. The loss of their father and the story of the circumstances in which he died will live on in all of them.

  7. mary said on June 4th, 2010 at 9:59am #

    Forgot the link.

  8. Hue Longer said on June 4th, 2010 at 11:12am #

    Cheers Mary,

    My point was about the recognized established members of society or government sailing on the ships (naming them would hurt their crazy “activist” narrative) but yeah, they don’t name the dead either!

  9. hayate said on June 4th, 2010 at 8:49pm #

    The MV Rachel Corrie is approaching Gaza. Mondoweiss is hosting real time communications with the ship as it progresses. They are being shadowed by israeli ships right now. It must be early daybreak saturday there right now.

    Updates on the MV Rachel Corrie

    by Adam Horowitz on June 4, 2010

    The news on the MV Rachel Corrie’s attempt to break the siege has been difficult to follow, but it seems that twitter is the most accessible and reliable news source right now. I’ve embedded the Mondoweiss (@mondoweiss) twitter feed below where we’re posting information as it becomes available.

    Latest update is reporting MV Rachel Corrie has been captured by the israelis.