On May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos willfully and maliciously interdicted Freedom Flotilla vessels in international waters, bringing humanitarian aid to besieged Gazans.
In the process, they slaughtered nine Turkish nationals aboard the mother Mavi Marmara ship, wounding dozens more, and arresting everyone on board.
A same day article described what happened as known at the time, accessed through the following link:
It was a well planned premeditated attack against unarmed, nonviolent humanitarian activists, trying to break Israel's illegal blockade to deliver essential aid. Cold-blooded murder resulted.
Under international and US law, blockades are acts of war, variously defined as:
-- surrounding a nation or objective with hostile forces;
-- measures to isolate an enemy;
-- encirclement and besieging;
-- preventing the passage in or out of supplies, military forces, or aid in time of or as an act of war; and
-- an act of naval warfare to block access to an enemy's coastline and deny entry to all vessels and aircraft.
Law Professor Francis Boyle calls blockades:
"belligerent measures taken by a nation (to) prevent passage of vessels or aircraft to and from another country. Customary international law recognizes blockades as an act of war because of the belligerent use of force even against third party nations in enforcing the blockade. Blockades as acts of war have been recognized as such in the Declaration of Paris of 1856 and the Declaration of London of 1909 that delineate the international rules of warfare."
America approved these Declarations, so they're binding US law as well "as part of general international law and customary international law." Past US presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower and Jack Kennedy, called blockades acts of war. So has the US Supreme Court.
Occupied Palestine poses no threat to Israel. In the past, Israel admitted it. As a result, imposing a blockade violates the UN Charter and other international and US laws. It's also an illegal act of aggression that under the Nuremberg Charter constitutes the "supreme international crime against peace."
Last September, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), issued damning findings, "conclud(ing) that a series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla and during the detention of passengers in Israel prior to deportation."
By imposing an illegal blockade, Israel willfully and maliciously caused a grave humanitarian crisis, affecting nearly 1.7 million Gazans, mostly civilians. Aid is vitally needed. Blocking it is a crime against humanity. Moreover, Israel's international waters interdiction was piracy.
A "vessel on the high seas (posing no threat) is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of its flag State."
Under the laws of armed conflict, a blockade is also illegal if:
(a) its sole purpose is starving the civilian population or denying it other essentials for life; or
(b) the damage to civilians is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete or direct military advantage anticipated.
In other words, no blockade is permitted it it disproportionately harms civilians. Israel has done it maliciously for over four years, collectively punishing Gazans illegally, despite admitting no security threat exists.
HRC said Israel's interdiction was lawless "since there was no legal basis for the Israeli forces to conduct an assault and interception in international waters."
Moreover, in doing so, Israel was "obligated" to respect international law and its own "international human rights obligations."
HRC thus concluded that force used "was unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive, inappropriate and resulted in the wholly avoidable killing and maiming of a large number of civilian passengers."
In addition, Israel made "a deliberate attempt....to suppress or destroy evidence," besides fabricating its own version of events, including fake videos and other falsified materials.
Despite indisputable crimes against humanity and piracy, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon shamelessly named his own, largely pro-Israeli commission, mocking justice and his own credibility in the process.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer chaired it along with former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as vice-chairman. His appalling record in office and contempt for human rights should have automatically disqualified him.
Notably, he was tainted by corruption and scandal, with close links to his country's drug cartels and paramilitary death squads. As a result, he bore direct responsibility for murdering thousands of trade unionists, campesinos, human rights workers, journalists, and others opposing Colombia's narco-state terrorism and ties to US imperialism.
Nonetheless, he was shamelessly appointed to decide whether or not Israeli commandos committed high crimes because as Colombia's president, and now, he staunchly supports the worst of US and Israeli crimes.
He, Palmer and Joseph Siechanover, former head of Israel's Defense Mission to the US and Canada, proved their loyalty in contrast to the commission's fourth member, former Turkish official Ozdem Sanberk, who likely wanted conclusions other than those reached.
They were mixed, largely absolving Israel of cold-blooded murder and condemning its illegal siege.
The full report can be accessed through the following link:
The New York Times obtained it a day ahead of its expected September 2 release. Writers Neil MacFarquhar and Ethan Bronner headlined, "Report Finds Naval Blockade by Israel Legal but Faults Raid," saying:
The UN report "found that when Israeli commandos boarded the main (Mavi Marmara) ship they faced 'organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers' and were therefore required to use force for their own protection."
However, it determined that its use was "excessive and unreasonable," calling deaths and injuries caused as well as Israel's treatment of passengers abusive.
Haaretz writer Barak Ravid also covered the story, saying:
"The report harshly criticizes the flotilla organizers, stating 'they acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade,' " adding that "there exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly IHH (a Turkish charity)."
Also emphasized was that Turkey could have done more to persuade its nationals not to participate. Nonetheless:
"Forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel."
The report was ready for publication months ago, but was delayed to give Turkey more time to press Israel for an apology not forthcoming. In fact, Israel never says it's sorry, even when caught red-handed.
As explained in part above:
(1) Gaza's siege is illegal. Saying otherwise doesn't wash. Neither Hamas, other Palestinian resistance groups, or the PA threaten Israel, except in self-defense retaliation against premeditated Israeli attacks as international law allows.
(2) All Flotilla participants were unarmed, nonviolent human rights activists. Nonetheless, they were maliciously attacked in international waters. Moreover, Israeli commandos had photos of Turkish nationals marked for assassination. They identified and shot them in cold blood multiple times at point blank range.
(3) The UN Human Rights Commission (HRC) examined the same evidence, holding Israel culpable for high crimes.
Turkey's Response to the Palmer Commission Report
On September 1,Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Palmer Report's release constituted Israel's last chance for a formal apology. Without it, he warned of possible sanctions and other consequences.
Israel never apologized. Moreover, Netanyahu told US officials that decision's unchanged. As a result, Turkey may scale back its diplomatic representation, including expelling Israel's ambassador (Gabby Levy) and his deputy (Ella Afek).
Turkey also is expected to initiate a diplomatic and legal campaign against Israel through the UN, and will help loved ones of those killed sue Israel in world courts.
In addition, legal action may be taken against responsible Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, then Israeli Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and Navy Commander Adm. Eliezer Marom.
Moreover, billions of dollars of trade between the two country are at risk.
Turkey also was angry that the commission mostly adopted Israeli friendly conclusions. At the same time, Israel was pleased.
Absolution is unacceptable. Nonetheless, Israel again got largely off the hook, free to commit more crimes of war and against humanity, besides ongoing daily ones in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
At issue is stopping them, ending Gaza's siege, Israel's occupation, and granting Palestine statehood and full UN membership later this month when the UN General Assembly meets.
Even then, Israeli lawlessness won't end. Perhaps it'll only be slowed, but any committed will be against a sovereign state able to sue through the World Court for redress, and be able to get a temporary restraining order to stop it.
In other words, sovereign Palestine will have statehood rights Israel fears. What better way to slap it down, using the power of the law to do it, not retaliation.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.