Archive | Gaza Ship Incident

Juan Cole, 2010, on the Mavi Marmara

For those of you who still take Juan Cole’s views on Israel seriously, a reminder:

“There are two possible reasons for the violence. One is that the Israeli troops boarding the vessels met some sort of resistance and over-reacted. Aid volunteers are unlikely, however, to have posed much real challenge to trained special forces operatives.” Or, more likely, “the deaths and woundings may have been a brutally frank warning to any future Gaza aid activists.”

Palmer Report: Israeli forces “faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they boarded the Mavi Marmara requiring them to use force for their own protection. Three soldiers were captured, mistreated, and placed at risk by those passengers. Several others were wounded.”

As I pointed out at the time, Israel relied on faulty intelligence, and should have recalled its forces and started from square one when it became clear that they weren’t facing peaceful “aid volunteers,” but organized, violent fanatics itching for a fight.

The Palmer Report suggests that Israelis forces may have used excessive force, and that wouldn’t be surprising–that’s the sort of thing that happens when a bunch of scared, heavily-armed but woefully ill-prepared nineteen-year-olds suddenly find themselves in close combat with armed militants who have captured their friends and are threatening their lives. That’s very different, however, from the completely unsubstantiated claim, pushed by Cole then and others still today, that the level of violence was premeditated on the part of the Israeli government.

And if you’re in a mood for a grim laugh, check out Roger Cohen’s new column, in which he writes that Israel, because of its actions, is “losing one of its best friends in the Muslim world, Turkey.” Cohen appears to be completely innocent of the obvious fact that Turkey’s Islamist government [...]

Continue Reading 141

“Plausibility” and Legal Claims about the Gaza Blockade

Kevin Jon Heller of University of Melbourne and Opinio Juris: “Insofar as Israel insists that it is not currently occupying Gaza, it cannot plausibly claim that it is involved in an IAC [International Armed Conflict] with Hamas” (and thus the blockade of Gaza is unlawful).

U.N.’s Palmer Committee Report on the Mavi Marmara incident (and note that the U.N. is not exactly the most sympathetic forum for Israel): “The Panel considers the [Hamas-Israel] conflict should be treated as an international one for the purposes of the law of blockade” (and thus the blockade is lawful).

Heller: “I have questioned the legality of the blockade before, leading two readers to claim that the Palmer Committee’s report contradicts my analysis of the situation. In fact, the opposite is true.”

Well, no. Because the Report concluded that the Hamas-Israel conflict was an IAC, it didn’t contradict Heller’s argument that if it’s not an IAC, the blockade is illegal under international law. But Heller also, as he acknowledges, “questioned the legality of the blockade” and said that it was not just wrong but that Israel’s claim to be in an IAC with Hamas is wholly implausible. While one Report cannot establish in everyone’s mind the lawfulness of the blockade, surely if an unsympathetic (or at the very least, non-sympathetic) forum like a U.N. commission adopts the Israeli position on IAC, that position cannot be deemed beyond the realm of even plausible argument, and Heller’s analysis is indeed “contradicted.”

UPDATE: Heller, responding to this post, writes: “I’m glad Bernstein believes that any legal conclusion reached by the UN regarding Israel’s actions is by definition plausible.” No, what I actually said is that a legal conclusion reached by the UN that is favorable to a position argued by Israel is a position “that position [...]

Continue Reading 75

“Free Gaza” Activists’ Version of the Ship Incident

A bunch of eyewitness accounts are collected here. Various left-wing blogs are trumpeting these accounts as contradicting the Israeli account, but there are actually more commonalities, or at least more important commonalities, than differences. The commonalities:

(1) Ship passengers armed themselves with makeshift weapons to prevent the Israeli navy from boarding. Israel claims that these passengers were well-organized with quasi-military discipline and had trained for this task. I don’t see anything in the eyewitness accounts to contradict that.

(2) When the first Israeli commandos landed, they were attacked by the armed passengers, beaten, and taken hostage. According to the eyewitnesses, some of the other passengers tried to protect the soldiers from being killed, and I haven’t seen Israeli accounts that say otherwise.

(3) All hell broke loose thereafter.

Note that the agreed-upon points contradict the initial claims of the Free Gaza spokespeople that their passengers would never, ever, intentionally engage the IDF with violence. Either they were lying, or didn’t realize they had passengers on board who were planning on a violent confrontation.

The differences:

(1) Passengers claim that Israel first sent noise bombs and perhaps tear gas on to the ship, and also tried to land from the sea with grappling hooks, before the commandos started to land via helicopter. This is not so much a contradiction as it is the claim that the videos Israel has released don’t start at the very beginning of the operation, but only when the commandos start to land from the air. But assuming that there were armed men on board obviously trying to prevent the navy from boarding, I’m not sure why using noise bombs and tear gas changes the substance of the story; if anything, it reinforces the view that Israel was trying to take the ship with non-lethal [...]

Continue Reading 159