June 04, 2010
The difficult international situation facing Israel following its seizure of the “aid flotilla» to Gaza, demands that each and every one of us join forces in Israel’s Public Relations efforts, both domestic as well as international. The whole world has become alarmed and excited against Israel’s action, demonstrating in turbulent riots, making harsh denunciations against the state, what it stands for and any of its representatives abroad — and also by certain elements within our country itself — seems as though all logichas gone silent.
Clearly, in this difficult situation the state must make every effort to deter this onslaught, moreover, it must take all necessary steps to ward off another attempt to restage such a flotilla and thus once again place us in the same difficult situation, whose consequences can be easily imagined.
It seems that as things stand, we must recognize and mention the principles of international law, in order to first and foremost, fend off by all legal means the current wave of hatred and reproach aimed at us from every direction.
We ask therefore, whether International Law supports Israel’s actions under the latest circumstances and events. Well, friends, the answer to that ispo si ti ve! There are rules in existence — governing international guidelines for this kind of situation and these are in The Helsinki Principles on the Law of Maritime Neutrality. The relevant provisions in the said matter are as follows:
Helsinki Principles on the Law of Maritime Neutrality
5.1.2(3) Merchant ships flying the flag of a neutral State may be attacked if they 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, capture or diversion.
5.1.2(4) Merchant ships flying the flag of a neutral State may be attacked if they:
(a)engage in belligerent acts on behalf of the enemy;
(c)are incorporated into or assist the enemy’s intelligence system;
(e)otherwise make an effective contribution to the enemy’s military action, e.g., by carrying military materials and it is not feasible for the attacking forces to first place passengers and crew in a place of safety. Unless circumstances do not permit, they are to be given a warning, so that they can re- route, off-load, or take other precautions.
5.2.1 Visit and search
As an exception to Principle5. 1. 2 paragraph1 and in accordance with Principle1. 3 (2nd sentence),
belligerent warships have a right to visit and search vis-a-vis neutral commercial ships in order to ascertain the character and destination of their cargo. If a ship tries to evade this control or offers resistance, measures of coercion necessary to exercise this right are permissible. This includes the right
to divert a ship where visit and search at the place where the ship is encountered are not practical.
Blockade, i.e. the interdiction of all or certain maritime traffic coming from or going to a port or coast of a belligerent, is a legitimate method of naval warfare. In order to be valid, the blockade must be declared, notified to belligerent and neutral States, effective and applied impartially to ships of all States. A blockade
may not bar access to neutral ports or coasts. Neutral vessels believed on reasonable and probable grounds to be breaching a blockade may be stopped and captured. If they, after prior warning, clearly
resist capture, they may be attacked.
Now, having reviewed these international Principles — it is easy to understand that Israel act edexactly and completely in compliance with these rules:
These vessels sailed under the flags of countries not party to the state of alleged hostility between Israel and Gaza (I deliberately prefer not calling them «neutral»).
Their clearly stated goal was to sail all the vessels into the port of Gaza, while clearly and explicitly stating they intended to break the naval blockade.
The State of Israel has long declared the existence of the blockade on Gaza in light of the hostile acts by the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip; and has made it known to everyone that it enforces the
All of these vessels continued on their way to Gaza, despite early warnings given to them to desist.
All these vessels announced their opposition to board them in order to search for war materials.
The stated nature of the cargo was in line with the usual items usually carried by such vessels, the suspected nature of cargo was the actual identity of the people found on board the vessels, an arsenal weapons stocked up for this trip (as indeed was discovered after the fact) justified a visit, a search and arrest.
Resistance — and certainly the most violent kind — was revealed by all the passengers upon boarding the vessels in order to search them, completely justified Israel’s action, including taking them to the port of Ashdod and arresting the passengers and crews of these ships.
All hairsplitting linguistic subtleties: an attempt to claim that these were not merchant ships, was a predestined failure in logic, at least for the following reasons:
They expressly announced that they intended to bring in cargo to Gaza.
According to the aforementioned accords, it is possible for a merchant ship to carry passengers, our reference: above section 5.1.2 (4) subsection (e).
Last on the list but not least in its importance, the Helsinki Accords do not set any conditions of the visit, the search and / or attack by military force, only when the aforementioned vessel enters or sails within the territorial waters of the country enforcing the maritime blockade!
The least each of us can do is to spread this information to all your friends and your mailing list. First and foremost in order to mitigate to some extent the public sense of dejection resulting from the «Ahleyhum» (the traditional Muslim battle cry “charge”, literally meaning “on them”), resounding from every direction and directed at the Israeli Military and security forces. Not only from sources abroad but also from our own media & public.
Moreover, the distribution of this information your friends and family abroad (in translation into the appropriate language if required) would be an exemplary action under these circumstances. You can (should) also paste this message to blogs, sites and posts you visit, and remember — the more the better, and may you be blessed for doing so.
Remember: the next flotilla and the one after are already under way, and even if it is not imminent, it is definitely coming. We must all believe with conviction of our righteousness, or our full legitimacy, on both national and international fronts, so that we can better cope with the waves of accusations wielded at us from around the world.
Yossi Shelef, Adv.