Netanyahu’s War on Gaza – by Stephen Lendman
Governing lawlessly by any standard, Netanyahu waged war on Gaza since becoming Israel’s prime minister for the second time on March 31, 2009.
Under his leadership, May 31 marked the anniversary of Israel’s barbaric slaughter of nine Freedom Flotilla activists in international waters, injuring dozens more trying to deliver thousands of tons of vital aid to besieged Gazans, suffocating illegally since June 2007.
At the time, Defense Minister Ehud Barak blamed Flotilla organizers for inciting the attack, while his deputy, Danny Alalon, said they were connected to international terrorist organizations, trying to smuggle in arms. In fact, none were on board nor on other aid ships trying to breach Israel’s lawless blockade.
Caught red-handed in a bald-faced lie, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy said:
“The Israeli propaganda machine has reached new highs (distributing) false information. It embarrassed itself by entering a futile public relations battle….There is nothing to explain, certainly not to a world that will never buy (its) web of explanations, lies and tactics.”
Video footage on board the Mavi Marmara mother ship showed Israeli commandos opened fire during the assault, activists saying it began when they stormed on board.
Al Zazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, aboard the ship, said “a white surrender flag was raised (and) there was no live fire coming from the passengers.”
What happened was clear. IDF commandos planned and executed a premeditated attack against unarmed, nonviolent activists, trying to break Israel’s illegal blockade to deliver essential aid. Cold-blooded murder resulted.
An independent UN Human Rights Council (HRC) fact-finding mission held Israel entirely culpable, calling its assault brutal and disproportionate. Based on eye witness testimonies, forensic evidence, video footage, and other photographic material, it:
“concluded 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….The preponderance of evidence from impeccable sources is far too overwhelming to come to a contrary opinion.”
Israel’s justification on “security grounds” was called entirely baseless. Moreover, prosecuting Israeli criminals is warranted and essential under Fourth Geneva’s Article 147, covering:
— willful killing;
— torture or inhuman treatment; and
— deliberately causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.
In emergency session ahead of its investigation, the HRC criticized Israel’s “outrageous attack on aid ships attempting to breach a blockade on the Gaza Strip,” calling it “piracy, (an) act of aggression, (a) brutal massacre, (an) act of terrorism, (a) war crime, (a) crime against humanity – unprovoked, unwarranted, atrocious, (and) brutal.”
It described activists onboard as “peaceful, innocent, noble, unarmed, (and) defenseless,” setting the record straight on what happened.
Following its own investigation, Turkey also held Israel responsible, accurately explaining the facts, not Israel’s web of lies and coverup, its speciality.
High Seas Barbarism and Piracy
Israel violated the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas and 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
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 was lawless, punishable under international law. Claiming it was self-defense was spurious, reprehensible and laughable on its face.
Law Professor and international law expert Francis Boyle said Israel also “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,” what Israel stands guilty of repeatedly, yet remains free from accountability, ready to do it again.
It’s Coming: Freedom Flotilla Two (FF 2)
On May 31, 2011, Haaretz writer Amos Harel headlined, “Israel prepping to block next Gaza flotilla,” saying:
On the massacre anniversary date, “Netanyahu said Israel prefers (diplomacy, but will) exercise force against anyone (trying) to disobey the navy’s orders….” to thwart an expected late June arrival.
Called “Freedom Flotilla Two (FF 2),” 15 ships with over 1,500 activists from about 100 countries are sailing on June 20 from various Mediterranean ports, calling on UN member states to support their humanitarian mission to deliver medical equipment, educational supplies, construction materials, (including 700 tons of cement), and other vital aid to besieged Gazans awaiting them.
In readiness, Israel held drills, involving ships and mobilized reserve combatants, including surveillance, “based mainly on open communications and Internet sites.” Focusing on riot-control measures, brute force will be used “as a last resort.”
In fact, it’s Israel’s method of choice, showing contempt for rule of law standards. Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, in fact, admitted that activists resisting interdiction will be shot, knowing after action whitewashes will absolve Israel’s worst crimes, calling them self-defense, the last refuge of lawless scoundrels.
Knowing the risks, 1,500 courageous activists are still coming, determined to breach Gaza’s blockade no matter what Israel intends. From what’s known, expect force, including “surprises” from the same commando unit that murdered activists last May.
They’re preparing, undergoing “extensive training in hand-to-hand combat taught by experts from Israel’s Shin Bet security service.” More still involving “mock raids aboard a vessel that simulates events aboard the Mavi Marmara.”
Israel calls cold-blooded murder self-defense and international water interdiction “legal.” Others call them barbarism and piracy.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.