I wanted to follow up on Dustin’s post, I was traveling yesterday and wasn’t aware of Israel’s boarding of a "humanitarian" ship until I read it on my own blog.  From my point of view the issue boils down to where the Israeli commandoes boarded.  If this happened in Israeli waters then Israel has the right to board any ship in her waters, and the crew should have peacefully complied.  If they were then attacked with deadly weapons whether it was a knife or a handgun they have the right to use deadly force (much as our own police or Coast Guard would do).

I do want to dispute Dustin’s title that the crew was unarmed, perhaps they were poorly armed, but they were armed nonetheless:

The Israelis, who had declared they would not let the ships reach Gaza, said they only opened fire after being attacked by activists with sticks, knives and live fire from weapons seized from the Israeli commandos.

"On board the ship we found weapons prepared in advance and used against our forces," declared Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon.

"The organizers’ intent was violent, their method was violent and the results were unfortunately violent. Israel regrets any loss of life and did everything to avoid this outcome.

While I support Israel I don’t do so blindly.  I understand their need to defend themselves against terrorism and they have been embattled for many, many years and are in a situation few can understand.  However, that doesn’t give them carte blanche to do whatever they want, especially in international waters.  Their legal authority for doing so is questionable at best.  However, let’s not turn the ship’s crew into saints either.  They attacked first, and they were armed.  So we shouldn’t portray this as IDF attacking a bunch of peace loving hippies.

If you are outgunned, it is stupid to attack armed commandoes and not expect them to defend themselves.  Their claim of being a “humanitarian” ship somewhat suspect which the Israeli Defense Force Chief of General Staff, Lt. General Gabi Ashkenazi said in a Jerusalem Post article today:

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Monday that the violence aboard the Mavi Marmara, one of the ships of the Gaza-bound protest flotilla, was instigated by those aboard the ships and that soldiers who opened fire were defending themselves.

Ashkenazi noted that the Mavi Marmara, the only ship on which violence took place, was different than the other five ships of the flotilla. He said that five ships carried humanitarians and peace activists but the Mavi Marmara was sponsored by the extremist organization the IHH and those aboard acted in "extreme violence."

Legitimate humanitarian groups are not generally armed and would respond peacefully to being boarded whether it was justified or not.  Israel will have to face deserved international criticism and diplomatic pressure over this incident, but let’s not turn this ship’s crew into something they weren’t either.

Update: Casey corrected me.  It was legal for Israel to board that ship.

It is permissible to attack a neutral ship when the vessels are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture.”

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  1. It was perfectly legal for Israel to board that ship, Shane. Check out 67(a) of the San Remo Manual ( which says it is permissible to attack neutral vessels on the high seas when the vessels “are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture.”
    .-= Casey´s last blog ..Anthropic global warming theory = junk science =-.

      1. That citation is from a treaty that pertains to the law of armed conflict. No shooting war, no rules of armed conflict. It’s inapplicable here. Read Section I (1) of the treaty, for goodness sake.

      2. Sorry, but the law of armed conflict is a specifically-confined set of legal rules. It doesn’t apply based on the self-interested assertions of a single party, but rather upon the meeting of a set of factors which notably involve the deployment of regular, uniformed forces on both sides. This is why the US argues that its rules (most notably the Geneva Conventions) do not apply to the war on terror. The same is true here. And WTF does this have to do with Obama?

      3. “Specifically-confined set of legal rules.” Do you have a citation for this, or are these rules something you have come up with personally? Israel most certainly considers itself to be in a state of armed conflict with the Palestinians. Their ambassador used those precise words at the meeting of the Security Council on Monday.
        .-= Casey´s last blog ..Anthropic global warming theory = junk science =-.

      4. Here’s one example:

        If your argument is to be accepted and the law of armed conflict applies here, then the people on those ships are now subject to the Geneva Conventions. As in, they’re prisoners of war. There has been extensive debate on this very point in regards to the war on terror, with the US advancing the point that the law of armed conflict (in its broader sense – shown in that link, about 2/3 of the way down) does not apply, so as to give non-state terrorists fewer rights. Basically, if the war on terrorism is not armed conflict, how is this?

        The wiki overview on IHL/laws of war/law of armed conflict (essentially equivalent legally) is actually not bad and is usually enough for a non-lawyer:

        There aren’t a lot of publicly-available sources on the precise delineation of armed conflict. But one that gives hints is the professorial commentary on San Remo at the very site you quotes: Note the difference between the armed conflicts there (pre-existing, continuous shooting wars) and the one at issue here.

        I realize this is a difficult issue, but I’d bet my law degree on it, and don’t you think Israel would be citing this convention all over the place if it did apply? Doesn’t that make you wonder a bit?

    1. You are wrong. The Flotilla was sailing in the International Waters defined by the International Law. Israel does not have any right to board and attack except if entered its water. The Israeli Killing Machine are used to killing civilians all the time, and even allied ships such as the USS Liberty. There are few mouthpeice for Zioinst State of israel trying to justify the foolish act of piracy conducted by Israel.

  2. “While I support Israel I don’t do so blindly. I understand their need to defend themselves against terrorism and they have been embattled for many, many years and are in a situation few can understand. However, that doesn’t give them carte blanche to do whatever they want” -Shane

    Well put, I find myself in the same situation. As a general rule, when I read about a situation, I try to flip the names around and see if I still feel that the action was right or wrong. When I do this, the actions by the State of Israel are often actions that would be highly condemned if done by someone we didn’t like as much.

    1. Casey did make a good point on the legality of Israel’s actions – under maritime law they had authority to board.

      I’m backtracking a little – my statement that you quoted generally still stands, but in this case. 1. The ship was warned. 2. They resisted. 3. They were armed.

      Don’t like the outcome, but we do need to place some responsibility on the crew of the ship. Had they not attacked the Israelis no one would have died. It isn’t like they lined them up unarmed and shot them.

      1. I agree with you that legal doesn’t always mean justified or right.

        I guess it is easy for us to, from a distance, criticize their actions. We need to remember that the Palestinian Gov’t has done nothing to curb suicide bombers or rocket attacks. While you don’t want to see innocent people suffer, they have to do something in order to protect themselves. Reports indicated that the Israelis were quite willing to route humanitarian aid to Gaza.

        What I still need to see is if the ship was carrying contraband.

      2. I’m sure with a ship of that size something, anything could have been hidden, but it seams to have been a pretty ‘open’ situation. They appear to have been doing it to prove a point, not to smuggle in contraband. In the news reports of the last few days, before the attack, Israel said they thought the ships contained cement which they consider contraband. They don’t allow any building materials into Gaza for fear it would be used to build bunkers. If that is the case killing over possible cement, doesn’t pass my smell test.
        .-= Dustin Krutsinger´s last blog ..New Contributer: Dustin Krutsinger =-.

      3. They killed because they were attacked. Like I mentioned in my police example that if you are being attacked with deadly force, you respond with deadly force. Were they supposed to allow the crew members to stab them?

        They stopped and boarded the ship because of the cement. What happened afterwards… the crew is at fault as well.

  3. If I had a rogue faction within my own borders rocketing my people daily for years, I’d feel more than justified boarding a vessel trying to run my blockade that I suspect was carrying more than food and medicine. There is a history of weaponry arriving in the Gaza strip by ship.

    They obviously knew something was up with this particular vessel and they were proved right by the premeditated violence of the ship’s crew. When Palestinians and their supporters realize that acting defensively to protect the land they have now (without terrorism) may lead to statehood, they’ll then have the legitimacy and negotiating power to work out remaining border disputes with Israel. Until then, Israel is more than justified in squashing terrorists and their supporters with impunity. Killing civilians indiscriminately as a matter of “state” policy is unacceptable. Hamas and Palestinian Authority are shameless and barbaric in their tack on the situation.

    This all accepts the premise that Palestinians and the Arab community will ever be happy with an Israeli state to begin with. Another reason Israel is justified in taking extreme measures to defend itself.

    Israeli response has been far from perfect and they have their fair share of crazy in them too, but to pretend that Palestinian leaders aren’t almost completely responsible for the continued oppression of their people is asinine. They oppress themselves by vesting themselves in terrorism. A policy of murdering women and children at weddings, markets, and busses is, at best, despicable. Nothing Israel could ever do justifies that kind of action.

      1. It always amazes me when people make this kind of polar commentary. I’m going to stick with the issue of legality here because I would otherwise have to spend several hours refuting the various misinformed comments or generalities made (especially by Mr. Goranson). That being said, the raid or attack is, as a matter of international law, illegal. While the clause 67 (a) of the San Remo Manual on naval warfare does seem to imply that the attack was legally justified, you all seem to be assuming that the manual itself is a legal code which it is not. As quoted directly from the ICRC website (, “the Manual is not a binding document. In view of the extent of uncertainty in the law, the experts decided that it was premature to embark on diplomatic negotiations to draft a treaty on the subject. The work therefore concentrated on finding areas of agreement as to the present content of customary law, which were far more numerous than initially appeared possible.” As such, preconditions for lawful intervention and boarding were not met as the flotilla was still in international waters at the time of attack . Furthermore, even if the manual were codified and ratified by all the parties involved, the blockade which the flotilla aimed to breach is an illegal one according to both the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention and particularly the 1977 amendment to the Geneva Conventions protocols. As such, in a legal context, you cannot use it’s existence to justify any derivative action as legal.

      2. What exactly is it about the embargo that makes it illegal? The 1977 amendment applies to the protection of victims not to blockades.

        If Israel had boarded the ship in the territorial waters of a third party, it would have been illegal. It was legal precisely because it was in international waters. I think you missed the part in your own quote about the San Remo Manual “finding areas of agreement as to the present content of customary law.” There is a long history of embargo activities in international waters.
        .-= Casey´s last blog ..Anthropic global warming theory = junk science =-.

      3. I believe there is a UN resolution (I do not remember the number), that calls for the end of the blockade. Does that change the situation? After all a UN resolution was the pretext for the Iraq war, I guess it has some legal implications, right?
        By the way, it seems to me people take what Israelis say as correct with no critical thinking- that is wrong as they are not impartial in anyway.
        Did they give the ship ample and reasonable warning- I do not know?
        Did they provoke the people on the ship- I do not know.
        Just because an Israeli politician or leader says it is so means nothing in this situation.
        Saying that this is a massacre is just as wrong.
        There should be an INDEPENDENT investigation. Judging by past events neither Israelis, nor Arabs like independent commissions.
        My personal view is that Israelis have the siege mentality and are like the little kid on the block who had to defend himself for so long from bullies, that now when he is big he hits everyone who blinks and this sad situation is another example of that. They could have waited them for the ships to make port or just send ships in their territorial waters to block them… Plains stupid if you ask me.

      4. I beg to differ. In any case you should stick to the point- please expose your arguments, not your feelings.

  4. Nothing short of barbaric act of piracy. Since 1948, the Palestinian people have been suffering the inhumane treatment inflicted by the Israeli Killing Machine (IKM). The foolish act of piracy conducted by the IKM against civilian within the Intentional Waters is a testament of the Israeli hate for living in peace. No justice, No peace.
    My heart goes to the families of the love ones who lost their lives, no matter where they are from.

  5. I’ll be interested to know the full details of what happened once everything is sorted out – I’m not rushing to judgment, not at all. Thank you for covering this issue, but yeah, I’m waiting to see more details before saying anything. The whole situation is very peculiar.

    I do sympathize with Israel on a number of these issues, when they have come up previously; the left-wing blogosphere getting apoplectic is making me hesitant to say anything. I do not want to condone what could be a massive injustice. But I do want to know what exactly happened and why.
    .-= ashok´s last blog ..Abraham Lincoln, “Letter to Ephraim D. and Phoebe Ellsworth” =-.

  6. We seem to play this same old scenario every year and the Israeli Prime Minister will come to America to get more of our taxpayer’s money and you won’t hear the uproar as you did with health care, because it is in our best intrest to keep the Israeli’s safe so they can live in a country of their own kind and no outsiders. I use to Hate Adolph Hitler even though I was not alive when he was, however after looking at the middle-east I can see what he feared for his country and his people. where is Sara Palin, Hannity, Levine, The Tea baggers, O’rielly, and all of the others who want your country back. Start by saying no tax money for Israel. If you got any guts and if you don’t – then shut up about Obama.

    1. You’re right. Let’s throw all our support behind Palestine and justify the future use of terror and the indiscriminate murder of innocent civilians to get our way. Good thinkin’.

      Israel doesn’t have a policy of genocide. Palestinians factions have a policy of annihilating the Jewish state. Which side is more open to justice? How can a policy of annihilation lead to peace? Take a step back and make a token effort at objectivity. I have no problem with a Palestinian state. Israel has a policy of supporting a Palestinian state under certain negotiable conditions (there is legitimate issues on both sides over its borders). Rational people have a huge problem with Palestinian terrorism and a policy that doesn’t allow for a Jewish state. Until you and other Palestinian supporters recognize the asinine situation Palestinians have put themselves in by supporting a culture of racial hatred and murder, there will be no peace and no justice. Call for an end to terrorism in Israel and take the moral high road. You’ll then find much more sympathy for your ill will toward Israel.

  7. Everyone is basing their opinion on video furnished by Israel! They blocked all signals, confiscated all cameras, video, and even clothes. Do uyou believe for a minute Israel would release video of commandos shooting first? Even if there is no such video we will never know one way or another now! When people talk about this being legal, I believe this is only the case if you have declaire war(I’m not sure) If Israel would of in fact used restraint they would have waited until the ships got out of international waters! Also, they say because they were armed with paintball guns shows they didn’t want casualties but armed with paintball guns they could fire at will and probably did ON THE WAY DOWN! I do not back hammas at all but Israel cannot continue to do WHATEVER THEY WANT (INCLUDING TRYING TO SINK A UNITED STATES NAVY SHIP AND KILL ALL ABOARD KNOWING FULL WELL IT WAS A U.S. SHIP) WITHOUT CONSEQUENCES! If Israel doesn’t have to go by international law why should we expect anyone else to. Before you comment on this be ready to tell me and the rest of the world about Israels nuke weapons program and how many they have! (they refuse to, even when asked by the United States!)

  8. Everyone wonders why Israel attacked in international waters at night. the reason to me is obvious, if they had waited until they got in terriortial waters 1. it would have been daylight and 2. there would have been witnesses and cameras from all over the world covering it.

Comments are closed.

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