How the UN Whitewashed An Israeli Bloodbath

by Norman G. Finkelstein

In this exclusive excerpt from his new book, 'Method and Madness: The hidden story of Israel’s assaults on Gaza' (OR Books, 2014), Norman Finkelstein dissects and debunks the UN’s 2011 Panel of Inquiry into the Israeli assault on the Gaza freedom flotilla.

First published: 19 December, 2014 | Category: International, Law

In May 2010, international peace activists set sail for Gaza in an effort to deliver humanitarian supplies to an increasingly desperate population while publicising Israel’s illegal siege of the territory. What happened next is now well known. In the dead of night, Israeli commandoes violently boarded the flotilla’s flagship, the Mavi Marmara, and killed nine passengers. In August 2010, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon appointed a Panel of Inquiry into these events. The report it produced vindicated Israel’s contention that the naval blockade of Gaza is legal. 

In the following exclusive excerpt from his new book, Method and Madness: The hidden story of Israel’s assaults on Gaza (OR Books, 2014), Norman Finkelstein dissects and debunks the UN Panel report, which he finds to be ‘probably the most mendacious and debased document ever issued under the aegis of the United Nations’.

Read our review of Finkelstein’s book here

NLP readers can obtain a 20% discount off the cover price by ordering with the coupon code: NLP4EVA.

 


 

The argument contrived by the UN Panel to justify Israel’s naval blockade consists of a sequence of interrelated propositions: 

  1. The Israeli naval blockade of Gaza was unrelated to the Israeli land blockade; 

  2. Israel confronted a significant security threat from Gaza’s coastal waters; 

  3. Israel imposed the naval blockade in response to this security threat; 

  4. The naval blockade was the only means Israel had at its disposal to meet the threat posed by the flotillas; 

  5. The Israeli naval blockade achieved its security objective without causing disproportionate harm to Gaza’s civilian population. 

To pronounce the naval blockade legal, the UN Panel had to sustain each and every one of these propositions. If even one were false, its defence of the blockade collapsed.  The astonishing thing is that they are all false. Each will  be addressed in turn. 

THE ISRAELI NAVAL BLOCKADE OF GAZA WAS UNRELATED TO THE ISRAELI LAND BLOCKADE. The critical first premise of the UN Panel is that the Israeli naval blockade was both conceptually and practically “distinct from” the land blockade.[1] In fact, however, in design as well as implementation, the Israeli land and naval blockades constituted complementary halves of a unified whole: both served identical functions, while the success of each was essential to the success of the other. The Israeli government itself acknowledged these points. 

Since the inception of its occupation in 1967, Israel has regulated passage of goods and persons along Gaza’s land and coastal borders. After Hamas gained full control of Gaza in 2007, Israel imposed a yet more stringent blockade on it.[2] The blockade was conceived to perform a twofold function: (a) a security objective of preventing weapons from reaching Gaza, and (b) a political objective of “bringing Gaza’s economy to the brink of collapse”—as Israeli officials repeatedly put it in private—in order to punish Gazans for electing Hamas and to turn them against it. The list of items Israel barred from entering Gaza—such as chocolate, chips, and baby chicks—pointed up the irreducibly political dimension of the blockade.[3]

Even the Turkel Commission, a quasi-official Israeli inquiry that unsurprisingly vindicated Israel on all key points regarding the flotilla assault,[4] did not contest the dual security-political purpose of the naval blockade. For example, its final report cited testimony by Tzipi Livni, who was Israel’s foreign minister when the naval blockade was imposed, as well as a document delineating the purposes behind the blockade submitted by Major-General (res.) Amos Gilad, head of the Political, Military and Policy Affairs Bureau at Israel’s Ministry of Defence: 

Tzipi Livni said . . . that the imposition of the naval blockade . . . was done in a wider context, as part of Israel’s comprehensive strategy (which she referred to as a ‘dual strategy’) of delegitimizing Hamas on the one hand and strengthening the status of the Palestinian Authority vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip on the other. . . . According to her approach, . . . the attempts to transfer [humanitarian] goods to the Gaza Strip by sea . . . give legitimacy to the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip. . . . Livni also stated that it would be a mistake to examine the circumstances of imposing the naval blockade from a narrow security perspective only

. . . 

The document [by Gilad] contains two considerations [regarding the blockade]: one . . . is to prevent any military strengthening of the Hamas; the other . . . is to ‘isolate and weaken Hamas’. In this context, Major-General (res.) Gilad stated that the significance of opening a maritime route to the Gaza Strip was that the Hamas’s status would be strengthened significantly from economic and political viewpoints. He further stated that opening a maritime route to the Gaza Strip, particularly while it is under Hamas control, . . . would be tantamount of [sic] a ‘very significant achievement for Hamas’. . . . Major-General (res.) Gilad concluded: ‘In summary, the need to impose a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip arises from security and military considerations . . . and also to prevent any legitimisation and economic and political strengthening of Hamas and strengthening it in the internal Palestinian arena [vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank]’. 

‘It would therefore appear’, the Commission concluded, ‘that even though the purpose of the naval blockade was fundamentally a security one in response to military needs, its imposition was also regarded by the decision makers as legitimate within the concept of Israel’s comprehensive ‘dual strategy’ against the Hamas in the Gaza Strip’.[5]

The Israeli Turkel Report also did not contest that the naval blockade was integral to the strategy of achieving the twin goals. Indeed, it explicitly maintained that the land and sea blockade must be treated as a seamless whole: 

Both the naval blockade and the land crossings policy were imposed and implemented because of the prolonged international armed conflict between Israel and the Hamas. . . . [O]n the strategic level . . . the naval blockade is regarded by the Government as part of Israel’s wider effort not to give legitimacy to the Hamas’s rule over the Gaza Strip, to isolate it in the international arena, and to strengthen the Palestinian Authority. 

The report further pointed out that ‘the naval blockade is also connected to the land crossings policy on a tactical level’: if and when cargo aboard vessels headed for Gaza was rerouted through the land crossings, it was subject to the land restrictions blocking passage of critical goods, such as ‘iron and cement’.[6] ‘Therefore’, the report concluded, ‘it is possible that the enforcement of the naval blockade in addition to the implementation of the land crossings policy has a humanitarian impact on the population, at least in principle’; ‘The approach of the Israeli Government . . . created, in this sense, a connection regarding the humanitarian effect on the Gaza Strip between the naval blockade and the land crossings policy’. [7]

Because the Israeli Turkel Report held that the land and naval blockades were ‘in principle’ inextricably intertwined, it could defend the legality of the Israeli naval blockade only by simultaneously upholding the propriety of the land blockade and treating each ‘in conjunction’[8] with the other. The UN Panel was consequently confronted with a dilemma. If it retraced the Israeli Turkel Report’s line of argumentation, it would have to pass judgment on Israel’s blockade policy as a whole. But if it rendered such a comprehensive judgment, the UN Panel could vindicate Israel only by blatantly contradicting the near-unanimous authoritative opinion that declared such a blockade illegal.[9] The UN Panel accordingly resolved on an altogether novel strategy. It artificially pried the land blockade from the naval blockade, relegated the land blockade to a secondary and side issue, and proceeded to focus in its legal analysis exclusively on the naval blockade as if it were a thing apart.[10]

To justify this radical surgical procedure, the UN Panel points to the facts that, chronologically, imposition of the land blockade (in 2007) preceded imposition of the naval blockade (in 2009); that the “intensity” of the land blockade ‘fluctuated’ over time whereas the naval blockade ‘has not been altered since its imposition’; and that the naval blockade ‘was imposed primarily to enable . . . Israel to exert control over ships attempting to reach Gaza with weapons and related goods’.[11] This series of affirmations confuses and conflates the broad purposes behind Israel’s blockade policy with the practical modalities of its enforcement. Since 2007, Israel has imposed a suffocating blockade on all of Gaza’s borders. This comprehensive blockade has been designed to achieve the dual goals of preventing weapons from reaching Gaza and politically isolating Hamas. Although Israel periodically adjusted its blockade policies to accommodate new political contingencies, the dual security-political goals stayed constant. It is disingenuous to pretend that, as against the security and political dimensions of the Israeli land blockade, the purpose of the coastal blockade was ‘primarily’—in fact, in its legal analysis the UN Panel effectively argues that it was exclusively—to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza. The ultimate irony is that, senso stricto, the naval blockade did serve only one of the two purposes, but it was not the military one; its purpose was narrowly political. The UN Panel is thus doubly wrong: the naval blockade was not ‘distinct from’ the land blockade, and the purpose of the naval blockade was not ‘primarily’ security. 

ISRAEL CONFRONTED A SIGNIFICANT SECURITY THREAT FROM GAZA’S COASTAL WATERS. ‘The fundamental principle of the freedom of navigation on the high seas’, the UN Panel observes, ‘is subject to only certain limited exceptions under international law’.[12] A State party attempting to restrict navigation hence bears a heavy legal burden. It inexorably flows from these tenets that the greater the impediment a state places on freedom of navigation, the heavier its legal burden. If a fundamental freedom is at stake, then infringements on it must be graduated: an extreme restriction would not be justified if a lesser restriction would meet the perceived threat. In the case at hand, if the ‘visit and search’ of a vessel (where there are ‘reasonable grounds’ for suspicion) is an effective means of preventing contraband[13] from reaching Gaza, then it cannot be justified to impose the more restrictive measure of a naval blockade that, by indiscriminately barring passage of all goods, military and nonmilitary, obstructs commercial traffic and potentially inflicts grave harm on the civilian population. [14]

The UN Panel purports that Israel confronted a significant security threat from Gaza’s coastal waters that could be met only by a naval blockade. However, the evidence it brings to bear in support of this contention underwhelms. It cites, on the basis of the Israeli Turkel Report, three alleged instances of attempted weapons smuggling into Gaza by sea, the last of which, in 2003, had occurred six years before Israel’s imposition of the naval blockade.[15] It further alleges, citing the Turkel Report, that after its 2005 ‘disengagement’, Israel had to find a new legal basis for preventing weapons from reaching Gaza. Even if true, it still would not explain why the visit and search method apparently proved effective after the 2005 ‘disengagement’ until sometime in mid-2008, when it abruptly presented what the UN Panel, following the Turkel Report, calls ‘practical difficulties’.[16] The UN Panel, citing the Turkel Report, also alleges that only a naval blockade provided a legal basis for preventing Hamas from smuggling weapons out of Gaza to launch attacks from the sea.[17] But it cites no instances—none apparently exists—of Hamas attempting such a manoeuvre. 

ISRAEL IMPOSED THE NAVAL BLOCKADE IN RESPONSE TO THIS SECURITY THREAT. The UN Panel alleges, on the basis of the Israeli Turkel Report, that Israel imposed the naval blockade “in order to prevent weapons, terrorists and money from entering or exiting the Gaza Strip by sea’.[18] But, although Israel formally gestured to this threat as its rationale for imposing the naval blockade, the UN Panel does not present a persuasive case for crediting this official Israeli testimony. In its legal analysis of the naval blockade, the UN Panel’s methodology amounts to, If Israel says so, it must be true.[19]

In fact, Israel imposed the naval blockade not Because it faced a security threat from the sea but, on the contrary, because it did not face one. As the Israeli Turkel Report observed, Israel couldn’t rely on visit and search to block flotillas from Gaza, because those powers can be used only against vessels suspected of carrying weapons. Israel’s quandary was that the Gaza flotillas did not carry weapons and that it therefore lacked a legal basis for stopping them. Israel initially let a succession of vessels pass, not even bothering to search them, in the hope that the flotilla phenomenon would go away.[20] When the ships kept coming, Israel responded with escalating violence—but still they kept coming. It was ‘in these circumstances, on January 3, 2009’, the Turkel Report recalled, that ‘the Minister of Defence ordered a naval blockade. . . . The significance of imposing a naval blockade according to the rules of international law is that it allows a party to an armed conflict to prevent entry into the prohibited area of any vessel that attempts to breach the blockade (even without it being established that the vessel is assisting terrorist activity)’.[21] That is, the blockade was imposed in order to provide Israel with a legal basis for preventing passage of vessels transporting not weapons but humanitarian cargo to Gaza. 

THE NAVAL BLOCKADE WAS THE ONLY MEANS ISRAEL HAD AT ITS DISPOSAL TO MEET THE THREAT POSED BY THE FLOTILLAS. Even if, for argument’s sake, the claim were credited that, as a practical matter and setting aside the law, no country at war would permit a convoy of ships—even a declared humanitarian convoy that had been carefully searched—to pass freely into enemy territory, Israel still had another ready option. The UN Panel itself alludes, if only in passing and in another context, to this alternative. It reports that ‘at a briefing immediately after the 31 May 2010 incident, a senior United Nations official noted that the loss of life could have been avoided if Israel had responded to repeated calls to end its closure of Gaza’.[22] Thus, if Israel wanted to stop the humanitarian convoys headed for Gaza, all it needed do was lift the illegal economic blockade that was causing a humanitarian crisis. Revealingly, this obvious option did not figure in the UN Panel’s analysis of the naval blockade’s legality. Was it because, in the face of this option, Israel’s only conceivable justification for the naval blockade crumbled and, consequently, the UN Panel could vindicate Israel only by defending the patently indefensible policy of a comprehensive siege that amounted to collective punishment? 

THE ISRAELI NAVAL BLOCKADE ACHIEVED ITS SECURITY OBJECTIVE WITHOUT CAUSING DISPROPORTIONATE HARM TO GAZA’S CIVILIAN POPULATION. The UN Panel contends that, given the ‘absence of significant port facilities in Gaza’, the harm caused by the naval blockade to Gaza’s civilian population was ‘slight’, and therefore—according to the proportionality test of international humanitarian law—not disproportionate to the military gain.[23] But if, as the evidence unambiguously shows, the Israeli naval blockade did not serve the purpose of self-defence but instead was imposed with a political objective in mind, then the proportionality test is wholly irrelevant. As the UN Panel observes, ‘The imposition of a blockade must have a lawful military objective’.[24] Put otherwise, even if the humanitarian value of the maritime point of entry were limited, the naval blockade would still cause proportionally greater harm because its military value was nil—or, at any rate, whatever military objective it met could also have been met by a visit and search procedure that did not hinder the passage of humanitarian goods. 

Furthermore, even if the naval blockade did serve a military objective, it would still be hasty to conclude that it did not cause disproportionate collateral damage. The Israeli Turkel Report itself cautioned against being too dismissive of Gaza’s potential for maritime traffic: if goods could just barely enter Gaza by sea, then it must follow that weapons, too, could just barely enter—which in turn would render a naval blockade redundant and any justification for it unsustainable.[25] The furthest the Turkel Report would go was, ‘in the absence of information and records, it is difficult to determine the effect of the naval blockade alone on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip’.[26] It cannot but perplex how the UN Panel knew the potential harm of the naval blockade was ‘slight’ when even the egregiously apologetic Israeli Turkel Report pleaded agnosticism. 

 


 

Once having proven that the Israeli naval blockade was legal, the UN Panel proceeds to reprimand the flotilla passengers for having committed a ‘dangerous and reckless act’ by attempting to breach it.[27] The UN Panel also repeatedly exhorts states to proactively prevent such irresponsible undertakings in the future.[28] The welfare of Gaza and its people, the UN Panel suggests, would be better served by and should be the exclusive preserve of states, not ordinary citizens. Consider what would have transpired had this advice been heeded. 

In 2007, Israel imposed a stringent blockade on Gaza that constituted a form of collective punishment and consequently a flagrant violation of international law. The international community did not lift a finger. Journeying to Gaza around this time, former High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson declared that Gaza’s ‘whole civilisation has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating’. The international community still did not lift a finger. In November 2008, Israel turned the blockade’s screws yet tighter, bringing Gaza’s infrastructure ‘to the brink of collapse’. The international community still did not lift a finger. ‘The breakdown of an entire society is happening in front of us’, Harvard political economist Sara Roy wrote in the London Review of Books, ‘but there is little international response’.[29]

In late December 2008, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead and, in the course of what Amnesty called ‘22 days of death and destruction’, it massacred the Gazan civilian population and laid waste the civilian infrastructure. In January 2009, the UN Security Council finally reacted to popular international outrage at Israel’s crimes by passing a resolution (1860) that expressed ‘grave concern . . . at the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza’, and called for ‘the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment’. Israel nonetheless persisted in its strangulating blockade, and the international community still did not lift a finger. It was only after the martyrdom of the Mavi Marmara passengers, as the UN Panel itself effectively concedes,[30] that the world’s leaders suddenly awakened to the realisation that the Israeli blockade was ‘unsustainable’, and some (albeit grossly insufficient) relief was granted to Gaza’s desperate civilian population. But if the UN Panel had had its way, and the Freedom Flotilla had not taken the initiative to commit a ‘dangerous and reckless act’ that—God forbid!—infringed on the sacred prerogatives of states, Israel would have been left undisturbed and the people of Gaza left to languish and expire. 

Although the UN Panel deemed Israel’s killing of the nine passengers ‘unacceptable’,[31] it strove hard to ‘balance’ this assessment by also casting doubt on the passengers’ character. Here again it confronted a dilemma. The Israeli Turkel Report alleged that the organisers of the flagship Mavi Marmara were jihadis hell-bent on killing Israelis. It had some difficulty sustaining this charge, however, because the most lethal weapons ‘smuggled’ on board by these would-be jihadis, according to the Turkel Report itself, were slingshots and glass marbles, while it was hard to explain why these young, burly fanatics did not manage to kill a single Israeli commando, not even the three who were being held captive by them.[32]

Just as the UN Panel adopted a novel strategy to prove the legality of the blockade, so it also conjured a creative proof that the Israeli Turkel Report’s condemnation of these alleged jihadis was on the mark. The UN Panel ‘seriously questions the true nature and objectives of the flotilla organisers’. Why? Because it discovered that they intended not only to deliver humanitarian relief, but also ‘to generate publicity about the situation in Gaza’. To clinch its indictment, the UN Panel reproduces with a great flourish this incriminating document ‘prepared by’ the organisers: 

Purpose: Purposes of this journey are to create an awareness amongst world public and international organisations on the inhumane and unjust embargo on Palestine and to contribute to end this embargo which clearly violates human rights and delivering humanitarian relief to the Palestinians.[33]

The UN Panel goes on to adduce yet more evidence of this sinister and nefarious plot: ‘The number of journalists embarked on the ships gives further power to the conclusion that the flotilla’s primary purpose was to generate publicity’.[34] Not even the wretched Israeli Turkel Report dared impugn the passengers’ motive of publicising the blockade’s dire impact.[35] It must be a first, and surely marks a nadir, in the annals of the United Nations that a report bearing its imprimatur vilifies the victims of a murderous assault because they sought to cast light on a crime against humanity.[36]

 

Norman G. Finkelstein is the author, most recently, of Method and Madness: The hidden story of Israel's assaults on Gaza (OR Books, 2014). Enter the coupon code 'NLP4EVA' to receive a 20% discount.

Top image: 'Mavi Marmara' (22 May 2010), by Free Gaza Movement, via Wikimedia Commons.

 


 

References

[1] Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident (September 2011), UN Panel, p. 39, para. 70. Hereafter: UN Panel.

[2] Originally imposed in 1991, Israel’s closure policy in Gaza was incrementally tightened as time elapsed, entering its most egregious phase in 2007. See Gisha (Legal Center for Freedom of Movement), A Guide to the Gaza Closure: In Israel’s own words (Tel Aviv: September 2011).

[3] The UN Panel, citing the Israeli Turkel Report (see following endnote), concedes that Israel’s blockade policies were ‘designed to weaken the economy’ of Gaza—but then qualifies—‘in order to undermine Hamas’s ability to attack Israel’ (p. 69, para. 153). One can only tremble at the potency of Hamas’s military arsenal if Israel had allowed bonbons to enter Gaza.

[4] Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of 31 May 2010, The Turkel Commission Report, Part One (January 2011). Hereafter: Israeli Turkel Report. For detailed analysis of this report, see Finkelstein, This Time We Went Too Far: Truth and consequences of the Gaza invasion (OR Books, 2011), Appendix 2.

[5] Israeli Turkel Report, pp. 56–58, my emphases.

[6] Ibid., pp. 66–67. It continues: ‘In other words, as long as the land crossings are subject to Israeli control, there is prima facie a possibility that the opening of an additional route to the Gaza Strip, such as a maritime route that is not controlled by the State of Israel, will affect the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip’.

[7] Ibid., pp. 67–68, my emphases.

[8] Ibid., p. 108.

[9] For a recent restatement of this consensus opinion, see ‘Flotillas and the Gaza Blockade’, Diakonia (July 2011).

[10] The UN Panel’s legal strategy recalls the approach of the Israel High Court in the Wall case. In July 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered an advisory opinion that found Israel’s construction of a wall inside occupied Palestinian territory illegal. When the Israel High Court subsequently heard the case, it sought to avoid a ruling that frontally contradicted the ICJ. Taking issue with the ICJ’s comprehensive finding, the High Court instead proposed that the legality of the Wall should be assessed on a segment-by-segment basis. The High Court also alleged that it possessed data mitigating Israeli culpability that was unavailable to the ICJ. Likewise, the UN Panel alleged (p. 44, para. 81) that it possessed ‘additional material’ unavailable to the UN Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission, which had found the Israeli blockade illegal. For a juxtaposition of the ICJ advisory opinion and Israel High Court rulings, see Norman G. Finkelstein, Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish romance with Israel is coming to an end(New York: 2012), Appendix.

[11] UN Panel, p. 39, para. 70, p. 43, para. 77.

[12] Ibid., p. 45, para. 82.

[13] Contraband denotes ‘goods which are ultimately destined for territory under the control of the enemy and which may be susceptible for use in armed conflict’ (UK Ministry of Defence, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict (Oxford: 2005), p. 350).

[14] The Israeli Turkel Report was at pains to argue that the visit and search procedure did not meet the challenge Israel confronted and was replaced by a naval blockade ‘only’ as a last resort. Still, the report alleged (p. 58)—without authoritative citation and against common sense—that ‘during an armed conflict, it is lawful to impose a naval blockade, without considering alternatives’.

[15] UN Panel, p. 40, para. 72, citing the Israeli Turkel Report, p. 33. The three named attempts occurred in, respectively, 2001 (Santorini), 2002 (Karine A), and 2003 (Abu Hassan). The 2002 attempt has been disputed. The Turkel Report (p. 37) also alleged a fourth attempt in 2009 (Tali), but the UN Panel does not cite it, and not even the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs alleged that this vessel was carrying weapons (http://tinyurl.com/aqdb7h). The UN Panel also notes that, ‘Most recently, Israel intercepted . . . a vessel on its way from Syria to Egypt, which carried 25 tons of weapons and ammunition suspected to be destined for Gaza’ (p. 40n258). Would the UN Panel also uphold the legality of an Israeli naval blockade imposed on Egypt?

[16] UN Panel, pp. 40–41, para. 72, p. 42, para. 74, citing the Israeli Turkel Report, pp. 54–56. The Israeli Turkel Report (p. 58) alleged that visit and search was impracticable because of the ‘virtual certainty that consent for search would not be granted by the Masters of the ships bent on reaching Gaza’, and ‘it was not certain that the consent of the flag State would actually be obtained’. The report provided no basis—because none existed—for its ‘virtual certainty’, while in fact Israel’s real problem—more on which presently—was the ‘virtual certainty’ that it would not find any weapons after such a search and consequently had to let the ships pass. In another desperate iteration, the Israeli Turkel Report alleged (p. 60) that ‘a key requirement is that such a right [of visit and search] cannot be arbitrarily exercised. The challenge that confronted the Israeli authorities was to obtain sufficient information regarding the cargo and/or personnel on board the vessels in order to find a ground for suspicion that the vessel is engaged in transporting contraband, enemy combatants’. But the report provided no example or illustration of how such a requirement in practice proved a hindrance. Other states have exercised the right of visit and search on the basis of reasonable suspicion in wartime; why did it work elsewhere? Additionally, the Israeli Turkel Report alleged (p. 59) that Israel could not resort to the lesser measure of declaring Gaza’s coastal waters an ‘exclusion zone’ because ‘there is a lack of clarity in the law as to whether such a zone provides an authority to only search for contraband’ (my emphasis). In other words, the problem was that declaring an ‘exclusion zone’ did not explicitly allow Israel to turn back vessels not carrying contraband.

[17] UN Panel, p. 40, para. 72, citing the Israeli Turkel Report, pp. 53–54 (see also Turkel Report, pp. 60, 91).

[18] UN Panel, p. 27, para. 46, citing the Israeli Turkel Report, pp. 53–58, 111 (see also Turkel Report, pp. 91–92).

[19] UN Panel, p. 40, para. 72, p. 42, para. 77. The UN Panel also appears to allege, copying from the Israeli Turkel Report, that the recent decrease in Hamas rocket and mortar attacks on Israel has somehow been related to the naval blockade (pp. 40–41, para. 72, citing the Israeli Turkel Report, pp. 92–93). The basis for this claim is, to put it charitably, on the thin side, not least because the UN Panel adduces no evidence that weapons ever even reached Gaza by sea.

[20] Between August and December 2008, Israel let six vessels pass into Gaza (Israeli Turkel Report, pp. 35, 59).

[21] Ibid., p. 36; my emphasis.

[22] UN Panel, p. 68, para. 151.

[23] Ibid., p. 43, para. 78 (see also ibid., p. 41, para. 72). The UN Panel delineates the proportionality test in this context as ‘whether any damage to the civilian population in Gaza caused by the naval blockade was excessive when weighed against the concrete and direct military advantage brought by its imposition’.

[24] Ibid., p. 87, para. 33. See also International Committee of the Red Cross, Customary International Humanitarian Law, Volume I, Rules (Cambridge: 2005), p. 189.

[25] Israeli Turkel Report, p. 66:

The absence of a commercial port is not a decisive factor, since it is clear that it is possible to find other ways of transporting goods arriving by sea, such as by means of unloading the goods with the help of fishing boats. Moreover, the assumption that goods cannot be transported into the Gaza Strip in the absence of a commercial port inherently contradicts the main purpose of the blockade, i.e., preventing the passage of weapons to the Gaza Strip, since, according to the same logic, it would not be at all possible to transport weapons to the Gaza Strip by sea.

[26] Ibid.

[27] UN Panel, p. 48, para. 92.

[28] Ibid., p. 49, para. 96, p. 67, para. 148, pp. 67–68, para. 149, p. 71, para. 159.

[29] See Chapter 1 above.

[30] UN Panel, p. 68, para. 151, p. 69, para. 154.

[31] Ibid., p. 4 (viii), p. 61, para. 134, p. 68, para. 151.

[32] Israeli Turkel Report, pp. 222–25.

[33] UN Panel, p. 46, paras. 86–87.

[34] Ibid., p. 47, para. 89.

[35] The Israeli Turkel Report flatly says (p. 66): ‘The goal of the Flotilla was obviously not just to break the blockade, but also to bring international pressure to bear in a bid to end the land based restrictions’.

[36] Compounding obscenity by imbecility, the UN Panel (p. 47, para. 88, p. 48, para. 93) also condemns this clique of publicity-plotters for not sufficiently warning the other passengers of the dangers that lurked in the event that they attempted to breach the blockade. As if the other activists who joined the flotilla hadn’t a clue that Israel was capable of inflicting violence.

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