Why Gaza?

What urged citizens of 36 countries to join the Gaza Flotilla is the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. According to reports by the Amnesty International, Oxfam, Care International UK, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations, 1.1 out of 1.5 million Gaza residents are in need food aid. The unemployment rate in Gaza is over 50 percent. During the 22-day long Israeli offensive that started in December 2008, 1,383 Palestinians, 313 of them children and infants, were killed, the already problematic Gaza infrastructure collapsed, sewer networks broke down, power generation was cut down to a near halt, hospitals and factories were destroyed, and health service opportunities per capita was reduced drastically. Most hospitals in Gaza cannot even provide basic treatment services. Fourteen percent of all buildings in Gaza were destroyed in Israel’s Cast Lead Operation into the region, and the destroyed buildings have not been rebuilt since the entry of construction materials into Gaza is not allowed under the embargo. Many items, including tea, shoes, paper, were not allowed into Gaza until Israel “eased” the embargo in the wake of the 31 May Mavi Marmara raid. Gaza was not getting aid materials it needed because of the Israeli embargo. The humanitarian tragedy in Gaza is ongoing due to the embargo. The Israeli blockade on Gaza has been declared “illegal” by states, the UN Humanitarian Aid Commission, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and many other nongovernmental organizations.

The tragedy in the whole Palestine and naturally in the Gaza Strip is not a three-year-old crisis. The problem has been closely concerning the Middle East and Europe for the past six decades, and has made history as “the biggest international problem” that has yet to be resolved. The Palestinian question is in direct responsibility of European countries because of its colonial past. This question has been the problem of Europe as well since 1947.

The Gaza Flotilla that was symbolized with the Mavi Marmara boat is a peace movement that glorifies universal values. The flotilla that included participants from 36 countries launched the most humanitarian mission possible to a region where numerous human rights violations take place, where even the basic rights such as right to life are breached, and where there is high risk of famine, and it sought to take aid to 1.5 million inhabitants in the area.

A lot of aid campaigns similar to Gaza Flotilla have been carried out in history by international initiatives. During the Spanish Civil War, humanitarian aid shipments sent from New Zealand and Australia as well as other parts of the world were delivered to the Spanish people despite all impediments of the fascists. In 1941 when Greece was suffering from food shortages under the German occupation, tens of cargo ships loaded with humanitarian supplies were delivered to Greece by Turkey. The blockade imposed on West Berlin by the Soviet Union between 1948 and 1949 was broken by the United States and Britain with an air corridor and aid supplies were airdropped to West Berlin for about two years. Muslim doctors sent from India to Turkey during the Battle of Gallipoli provided medical treatment to the wounded day and night under bombardment. During the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1995, aid agencies managed to reach Sarajevo and other besieged cities.

Aid efforts were not impeded by any state even during the World War II. Dozens of international conventions have declared intervention in organizations involved in aid efforts unlawful.
“Why Gaza?” question loses all its meaning and significance in the light of these facts. What matters is to stand by those in need of help anywhere in the world regardless of their nationality, opinion, faith and philosophy.

Why flotilla?

In the wake of the Gaza attacks that lasted between December 2008 and January 2009 Israeli officials stated they were not allowing humanitarian materials into Gaza. Based on this, the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation applied to Israeli authorities to let the foundation take humanitarian aid to Gaza by land and sea in January 2009. However, the authorities did not respond to the application although it was renewed several times in the same year. Upon deterioration of humanitarian situation in Gaza, the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, which has been active in Palestine for years, launched “Set out for Palestine” initiative in January 2010 to break the embargo and bring aid to the people of Gaza. The objective after the accomplishment of the land convoy that included hundreds of vehicles was to break the Gaza blockade from sea with an aid flotilla of nine ships.

The partners of “Palestine Our Destination Humanitarian Aid Our Load” flotilla, whose Turkey leg was coordinated by the IHH, were nongovernmental organizations campaigning for Gaza in different parts of the world such as The Greek Ship to Gaza Campaign, The Swedish Ship to Gaza, The Free Gaza Movement, The International Committee to End the Siege on Gaza, The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG).

The humanitarian aid flotilla aimed to open a new aid corridor to Gaza, which has been under embargo for the past three years and was devastated by the 22-day long Israeli offensive, and its 1.5 million inhabitants, who do not have access to even the most basic necessities. In this way, the movement sought to ease the suffering of the Gaza people living under harsh conditions.

The humanitarian aid flotilla that was carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies, most of them construction materials, aimed to put Gaza, which had long been absent from the international agenda, back on the top of agenda of the international decision-makers and states, and in this way form a strong initiative for the removal of the embargo. The humanitarian supplies brought with the flotilla were going to be used to meet basic needs of Gaza inhabitants, treat patients, and rebuild the schools, hospitals and health centers that had been destroyed in Israeli attacks. Houses were going to be built for the homeless, rehabilitation centers for Gaza residents, and playgrounds for children. To this end, hundreds of humanitarian aid volunteers with different languages, religions, and ethnicities from 36 countries in Latin America, Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Middle East and Far East came together in this flotilla to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.

“Palestine Our Destination Humanitarian Aid Our Load” flotilla was seen as an important opportunity to avoid new Gaza-like crises in the whole world, particularly in the Middle East, and establish regional and global peace. The international peace ships were hoped to help the Middle East overcome chaos and war atmosphere, bring about rapprochement between regional actors, and give a new impulse to settlement of problems. The movement that included more than 700 activists from 36 countries aimed to give hope to the people of Gaza and eventually lift the embargo, and to contribute to regional peace in particular and world peace in general. However, the humanitarian aid flotilla fell victim to a raid by Israeli government while sailing in international waters in the Mediterranean.

NGO's that organized the Flotilla

Free Gaza Movement: www.freegaza.org ,
European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza: www.savegaza.eu
IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation: www.ihh.org.tr
Ship to Gaza Greece: www.shiptogaza.gr
Ship to Gaza Sweden: www.shiptogaza.se
The International Committee to Lift the Siege on Gaza

List of ships in the Flotilla

Name

Country

Number of Passengers

Type

Mavi Marmara

Comoros

577

Passenger boat

Defne

Turkey

20

Cargo ship

Gazze I

Turkey

18

Cargo ship

Eleftheri Mesogios

Greece

30

Cargo ship

Sfendoni

Togo

43

Passenger boat

Challenger 1

USA

20

Passenger boat

Challenger 2

USA

20

Passenger boat (Passengers were transferred to Mavi Marmara due to break-down.)

Rachel Corrie

Cambodia

20

Cargo ship (Set out a day late due to break-down.)

List of cargo of the Flotilla

Basic Needs

Food items


Textile products (clothes, towels, mattresses, shoes, cloth, carpets, kitchen clothing, quilts, blankets, furniture and beds)



Medical Equipment

Medical vehicles - Ultrasound scanners, X-Ray machines, electrical patient beds, dentistry units, Doppler electrocardiography devices, electric wheelchairs, electric vehicles for the disabled, gurneys, walkers, autoclaves, mammography machines, microscopes, blood circulation machines, hemodialysis machines, radiology machines, crutches, ENT units, tomography machines, operating tables, gynecological examination chairs, and various medical equipment.


Medications


Construction Materials

Iron - 750 tons


Prefabricated houses - 100 units


Construction materials: tiles, timber, wallboard, scaffold, plumbing tools, power tools, plastic window frames, glass, steel wire, measuring tools, wheelbarrows, mounting tools, bathroom fittings, paints, power distribution units, ladders, and insulating materials.


Cement – 3,500 tons


Ceramic tile adhesive - 50 tons


Children playgrounds - 16 units


2 containers timber


Technical Equipment

2 power generators


Hardware tools (power tools, machinery, ovens)


Power units (5 units 85 KWS – 2 units 145 KWS - six 150 KWS – three 165 KWS – one 100 KWS and one unit 35 KWS)


Power units (80 units 1-2-5 KWS)


ETC


2 salt refinement units


20 tons paper


What actually happened on Aid Flotilla?

Conscience of Humanity


The ships representing collective conscience of peoples of the world set out in May with prayers and blessings of people with different religions to attract attention of the world public to the three-year long unlawful Israeli embargo on Gaza and to deliver humanitarian aid to inhabitants of Gaza. The single goal of the ships that cleared all international inspections and that were documented to be carrying nothing but humanitarian supplies was to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza inhabitants, who were deprived of even the most basic necessities, and to contribute to the lifting of the embargo.


Destination Gaza


The flotilla was stopped with an attack in international waters by Israeli commandos on the 31 May morning. All the passengers were forcefully taken to Israel, and cargo and personal property of the passengers were confiscated.


The six-ship humanitarian aid flotilla had more than 700 activists from 36 countries onboard. The participating ships convened in Southern Cyprus on 30 May. The ships set sail for the South at 16:30 the same day and were sailing parallel to the coast by keeping 70-80 miles distance at all times. They were planning to reach 75 miles off Gaza coastline by 10:00 the following morning and dock at Gaza Port during the day.


Raid in international waters


On 30 May around 22:30, Israel began sending warning and threatening messages to the captain of the Mavi Marmara boat and Israeli warships appeared in the radar for the first time. To each message sent by Israelis the Mavi Marmara captain responded “We are sailing southward in open sea with about 600 passengers and will deliver humanitarian supplies in the flotilla to Gaza.” However, Israel carried on sending warning and threatening messages to the ship sailing in international waters.


Broadcast interrupted


The broadcast from the ship to media and world public over Türksat frequencies as well as satellite telephone communication was interrupted by Israel and Israeli boats began following the flotilla from a close distance. Flotilla officials ordered the passengers to wear lifejackets in case of an intervention by approaching Israeli warships.


In all satellite broadcasts made from the ship, flotilla organizers, participants and members of media stated repeatedly that the ships were on a peaceful mission and were only trying to deliver humanitarian aid supplies needed in Gaza.


War declared on Humanitarian Aid Flotilla


The warships carried on following the flotilla without intervention until 03:00 a.m. Soon about 30 zodiac boats and four warships began approaching the flotilla, surrounding it from all sides. Israeli submarines emerged to the surfaces and helicopters began flying over the flotilla in circles.


They fired before boarding the boat


Around 04:30 assault boats carrying masked, armed soldiers approached the boat. Each boat was carrying at least 10 Israeli soldiers. The soldiers started firing at the boat as they were trying to board it. Meanwhile, helicopters began landing soldiers onto the boat. The soldiers who boarded the boat were firing at random. Several of the passengers were shot death by Israeli soldiers from close distance and many were injured.


They came to kill


Realizing that the Israeli soldiers who landed on the upper deck of the boat were firing real bullet, the passengers attempted to protect themselves and defenseless infants, women and elderly people in the lower deck with water bottles, chairs, sticks, etc they found onboard. Three Israeli soldiers were neutralized and their arms were thrown into the sea, while the soldiers injured in the fighting were treated by doctors onboard. The ship managed to broadcast through a satellite frequency that Israel had forgotten to jam and thereby airing the massacre of civilian activists by Israeli soldiers.


The activists raised white flag to make Israeli commandos cease fire as the number of casualties increased. However, the soldiers ignored the plea and carried on firing for a while.


Physician activists treated injured Israeli soldiers


Israeli soldiers were delivered repeated announcements in English and Arabic to cease fire and let the injured activists be taken to hospital. However, the soldiers ignored the announcements and continued to fire on the activists from the windows of the halls they had besieged. A woman among the passengers put her hands up and walked over to the soldiers to tell them to stop firing. With the help from Hebrew speaking lawmaker Haneen Zuabi, the activists managed to talk to the soldiers and asked them to stop the fire, saying the injured Israeli soldiers would be handed over to be taken to hospital. The doctors and a few activists handed over the injured Israeli soldiers. After receiving the injured soldiers, Israeli commandos fired on the activists who handed over the injured and shot one of the doctors in the arm. Some of the injured activists were held in the boat between 5:00 in the morning till 19:00 in the evening despite bleeding. The physicians were not allowed to treat the injured. Some of the injured were particularly mistreated, kicked, hit with rifles; some of the injured were even shot at.


Torture started on ship


Reinforcements were sent to the boat in assault boats and helicopters. Specially trained K9 dogs were brought to the ship. After a long wait, soldiers directed everybody to the exit door. They were frisked, handcuffed and gathered on the upper deck. Women were made to sit on benches, while men were made to kneel down on the wet, dirty floor. They were not even allowed to meet their basic needs. Giant helicopters flying overhead continued to pour water on the activists throughout the journey. Circulation of wind formed by the helicopters was enough torture. After being subjected to extreme wind and soaked in sea water, the activists were gathered in two halls with no ventilation. Extreme temperature and stuffiness was unbearable. Speaking, moving, standing, looking at the soldiers in the eye were enough reasons to trigger intervention. The intervention came in words and action. The boat moved after a long waiting period. Nobody knew where they were taken to. The arduous journey lasted from 09:00 till 19:00.


Pirates took the boat to Ashdod


Hundreds of Israelis gathered at Ashdod Port hurled swears at the activists as the Mavi Marmara boat reached the port in the evening. All the passengers were disembarked after waiting for hours. They were frisked and handcuffed again before getting off. Each activist was escorted to interrogation area by two police officers. Picture of every activist was taken. The volunteers underwent detailed, inhuman body search before being taken into interrogation tent. Here they were asked to fill in deportation forms prepared by Israeli officials. The humanitarian aid flotilla had come under attack in international waters and the passengers were brought to Ashdod against their wishes. Therefore, the passengers did not sign the deportation documents. Their fingerprint samples and pictures were taken and they underwent health control. Their files were then transferred to Israeli internal security service, Shabak. The secret service particularly focused on certain activists and interrogated them repeatedly.


During the interrogation process Israeli officials told the activists they would be allowed to go to airport for departure if they signed certain documents, otherwise they would have to be held in jail for two months. Most of the activists refused to sign the documents. They were then taken to prison in buses and prison vehicles. The hour-long drive ended around 03:00 at Bersheva Prison.


Freedom shackled!


Nobody could get any news from each other and nobody was allowed to make phone calls. They were put into cells in groups of two and four. The activists were denied permission to get in touch with consulates of their countries.


The activists were made to do all kinds of errands in the cells such as carrying and distributing stuff, cleaning after eating, etc. The prison officials deliberately made noise not to let the activists who had not slept for two nights get a rest. They would hit metal cell doors every two hours to make everybody stand up. Then they would be asked their names and where and why they came.


Starting at 01:00 on 2 June, officials began taking activists out of the prison in groups. This lasted until noon. Some groups reached the airport at 03:00, while some could only get to the airport in the afternoon. The volunteers were packed into transfer vehicles on the way to the airport. Some were made to travel two hours in 2.5 square-meter prison vehicles in groups of six. During passport formalities at the airport all the volunteers were forced to sign deportation documents. Following long talks the activists were allowed to note on the papers that they had been brought to Israel against their wishes. Israeli soldiers repeatedly harassed the activists with words during the wait for passport processing. The soldiers would congratulate each other and receive admiration from their seniors after each fight with the activists.


We will not leave anyone behind


Those who completed passport formalities were boarded the aircrafts brought from Turkey. But they had to wait for 12 hours for the all activists complete passport formalities. Some of the activists refused to board the planes until IHH President Bülent Yıldırım, journalist Adem Özköse and another two activists came out of interrogation and boarded the plane. Israelis were told the planes would not take off until these persons came. Israeli officials, however, insisted that no one was left behind. The activists were not convinced and refused to board until the activists held in interrogation room were released. Finally, an official removed the remaining four activists from the room and had their passport formalities done. The activists boarded planes along with consulate officials and MPs coming from Turkey. Following last controls the planes took off for Turkey with the dead volunteers and the injured ones, leaving behind only five seriously injured volunteers in Israeli hospitals.


Israeli officials responded to questions regarding personal property of the passengers that they would be sent with another aircraft; however, only empty suitcases, smashed phones, cameras, etc subsequently arrived. Many electronic devices were confiscated by Israeli authorities. This meant a substantial material loss for the flotilla participants. To make matters worse, the activists later found out that their credit cards and cell phones that were confiscated on the boat had been used in Israel, and the computers and phones on the boat had been stolen and sold by Israeli soldiers. Some of the laptop computers belonging to the activists were stolen from the boat and sold in markets by Israeli soldiers.

Flotilla Facts

  • “Palestine Our Destination Humanitarian Aid Our Load” is a humanitarian aid flotilla co-organized by six international nongovernmental organizations. The flotilla is a movement formed to take humanitarian aid to Gaza and to put the ongoing unlawful embargo imposed on the Gaza people on the top of the agenda of the international community.
  • The flotilla organization is an entirely civilian initiative with no link to any political movement or party in any country.
  • The flotilla was organized by the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, Free Gaza Movement, the International Committee to Lift the Siege on Gaza, Ship to Gaza Greece, Ship to Gaza Sweden and the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, and included more than 700 volunteers from 36 countries. 
  • The flotilla was aiming to reach Gaza port sailing in international waters, over which Israel has no legal jurisdiction.
  • The flotilla consisted of six ships, three of them cargo ships and three of them passenger boats, including the Mavi Marmara. (The US-flagged Challenger II transferred its passengers to Mavi Marmara and turned back after suffering from technical problems. The Rachel Corrie boat had to depart Ireland one day late due to an unspecified failure and was taken to Ashdod Port after it was seized by Israeli forces.)
  • The flotilla cargo included humanitarian supplies for Gaza such as health, construction and educational materials, foodstuffs, clothes, playgrounds for children, and gift packs prepared for orphans.
  • The participant list of the flotilla included lawmakers from Germany, Kuwait, Israel, Ireland, Sweden, Greece, South Cyprus, Morocco, Yemen, Egypt and Algeria; 89-year old former al-Quds archbishop Helarion Capycci; activists, artists, intellectuals and civil society representatives from the Middle East, Europe, America, Far East and Africa. Members of media and press organizations such as TRT, Press TV, Al-Hiwar, TV NET, Doğan News Agency, English Al-Jazeera, Kuwait News Agency, Telesur & Venezuela TV, Suara Hidayatullah, The Brunei Times, Al-Aqsa TV, Al-Jazeera Internet, Al-Kuds TV, Al-Fakhura, AJ-TV, Gulf News Agency, Radio 786 (South Africa), Sabah, Star, Zaman, Taraf, Vakit, and Yeni Şafak were also in the flotilla.
  • The ships and passengers in the flotilla underwent all required international inspections. The Mavi Marmara boat cleared all customs, passport controls conducted in Turkey in Antalya Port, Gazze and Defne ships in İskenderun Port. Similar formalities were met by other ships in the flotilla in the countries they departed from. 
  • The six ships forming the flotilla convened off South Cyprus coast in the Mediterranean on 29 May 2010.
  • On 30 May around 22:30, the Israel Defense Forces began sending harassing and warning messages to the Mavi Marmara and other flotilla ships that were sailing in international waters. 
  • To each message sent by Israelis the Mavi Marmara captain responded “We are sailing southward in open sea with about 600 passengers and will deliver humanitarian supplies in the flotilla to Gaza.”
  • At the same time Israel tried to interrupt the broadcast from the ship to media and world public over Türksat frequencies as well as satellite telephone communication.
  • The warships carried on following the flotilla without intervention until 03:00 a.m. Soon about 30 assault boats and four warships began approaching the flotilla, surrounding it from all sides. Israeli submarines emerged to the surfaces and helicopters began flying over the flotilla in circles.
  • When the flotilla came under attack it was sailing in open sea 70-80 miles off and in parallel to the coast.
  • Israel first stormed the Mavi Marmara boat that was carrying civilians.
  • Combat helicopters fired on Mavi Marmara and its civilian passengers. Helicopters began landing soldiers onto the boat. The soldiers carried on firing around while landing.
  • Around 04:30 assault boats carrying masked and armed soldiers approached the boat and attacked. 
  • Realizing that the Israeli soldiers who landed on the upper deck of the boat were firing live ammunition, the passengers attempted to protect themselves and defenseless infants, women and elderly people in the lower deck with water bottles, chairs, sticks, etc they found onboard.
  • The passengers called on Israeli soldiers for a ceasefire by wireless, megaphone and by raising white flag from the upper deck after they realized a number of passengers had been killed and injured.
  • The soldiers ignored the announcements and continued to fire on the activists from the windows of the halls they had besieged.
  • The Israeli commandos who were slightly wounded while landing on the boat were handed over to their units after first medical intervention by medics onboard. But one of the intervening doctors was shot in the arm by Israeli soldiers receiving their wounded friends.
  • As the passengers were waiting in the hall for an end to the raid, dozens of soldiers and trained K9 dogs were sent onboard from helicopters and boats.
  • Tear gas, smoke bombs, gas bombs and real bullets were used in the attack that claimed the lives of nine activists. More than 50 were injured. One of the injured is still under intensive care (as of September 2010).
  • The massacre of the activists was broadcast to the whole world via a frequency that Israel could not notice in the beginning.
  • The doctors were not allowed to treat the injured even after the firing ceased.
  • The injured were mistreated, kicked, hit with rifles; some of the injured were even shot at.
  • Humanitarian aid flotilla passengers were handcuffed and taken to the upper deck. They were soaked with water poured from helicopters and were not allowed to meet even basic needs.
  • The other boats in the flotilla were also seized by Israeli forces and the passengers and crew members were detained.
  • All the ships in the flotilla were captured in international waters and were towed to Ashdod Port. The activists were frisked repeatedly in the port; their fingerprint samples and pictures were taken and they were interrogated.
  • The passengers were pressured into signing documents claiming they had entered Israel through illegal ways.
  • The files of the crew and passengers were handed to Israel internal security service Shabak.
  • All the passengers were held for 36 hours at Bersheva Prison.

Eye witnesses accounts

  • Tauqir Sharif – Activist, Britain

“I’ve seen things – I've seen dead bodies and very badly injured people. I'm not sure what effect it's had on me, it's all still sinking in and I get flashbacks. But I do know that it has made me more determined and I want to go back to Gaza as soon as possible. I don't want to stop there, I want to train as a paramedic and go to places like the Sudan and Haiti.”
http://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/8208678.CHINGFORD__Flotilla_survivor_returns_home/?ref=mc
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  • Sundus Al-Abduljader - Activist, Kuwait

“They kept us confined inside the ship for 24 hours, handcuffed and with a number of the dead bodies with us. Five of the groups were made to stay on top of the ship under the sun for hours.”
http://www.kuwaittimes.net/read_news.php?newsid=NDg0MzQ1OTYy
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  • Abdul Rahman Failakawee - Activist, Kuwait

“They used weapons: rubber bullets, live ammunition, sound bombs and tear gas bombs. They also used batons as they landed to beat those on board to control the ship.”
http://www.kuwaittimes.net/read_news.php?newsid=NDg0MzQ1OTYy
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  • Paul McGeough - Journalist, Australia

“Four assault boats full of soldiers were chasing us and I knew they would board. I knew I just had to shoot as much as I could. With satellite communication jammed there was no way to transmit the images so I used gaffer tape to hide the micro SD cards on my body and in my clothes. Most of the Israeli boats sped away but a Zodiac stopped beside our boat and the commandos boarded. I was knocked to the ground, perhaps by a stun gun. I got up and a soldier lunged towards me and snatched my camera. Despite numerous searches, including a strip search, I saved three cards. The Israelis found three in my clothing, but I hung on to the others - two on my body and one in some personal gear.”
http://www.smh.com.au/world/the-photos-they-didnt-want-seen-20100603-x7ex.html
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  • Haneen Zoabi - Knesset Member, Israel

“There were no plans for resistance, this came as a natural response in self-defense, and this is something that could have happened at any time or place…for when somebody finds themselves under attack they find themselves in a natural manner trying to defend their lives by all available means. We were expecting an intercept and inspection mission, with the ship then being escorted to the Port of Ashdod, but we did not expect this to take place with such military intensity, and utilizing such weapons.”
http://www.aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=1&id=21163
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  • Norman Paech - Former MP, Germany

“This was an attack in international waters on a peaceful mission... This was a clear act of piracy.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10208027
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  • Inge Hoeger – MP, Germany

“We wanted to transport aid to Gaza, No-one had a weapon.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10208027
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  • Bayram Kalyon - Crew of the Gazze cargo ship, Turkey

"The captain... told us 'They are firing randomly, they are breaking the windows and entering inside. So you should get out of here as soon as possible'. That was our last conversation with him."
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10208027
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  • Abbas Al Lawati - Reporter of GulfNews, UAE

“As the Israeli commandos started advancing, we had to move a floor down. The floor there was covered in dark red footprints of different sizes. Bleeding men had been placed in the centre of the floor being looked after by on board doctors and a couple of volunteers each, one of whom was constantly wiping the blood around them. I asked a passerby if any had lost their lives, and was told, "Three so far". There, in front of the cafeteria window, lay three corpses with their faces uncovered.  I just stared with an emotionless face as weeping friends paid their last respects. Most of the others too, were in a state of shock.  ”
http://gulfnews.com/news/region/palestinian-territories/abbas-on-freedom-flotilla-attack-i-filmed-the-injured-in-horror-1.636747
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  • Nilufer Cetin - Wife of Ekrem Çetin, Chief Engineer of Mavi Marmara, Turkey

 “I am one of the first passengers to be sent home, just because I have baby. When we arrived at the Israeli port of Ashdod we were met by the Israeli interior and foreign ministry officials and police; there were no soldiers. They asked me only a few questions. But they took everything - cameras, laptops, cellphones, personal belongings including our clothes.”
http://www.sott.net/articles/show/209629-Eyewitness-accounts-demolish-Israeli-lies-Commandos-opened-fire-before-boarding-Gaza-flotilla-then-shot-and-tortured-people-at-will
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  • Kutlu Tiryaki -  Captain of Gazze cargo ship, Turkey

“The attack on the Mavi Marmara came in an instant: they attacked it with 12 or 13 attack boats and also with commandos from helicopters. We heard the gunshots over our portable radio handsets, which we used to communicate with the Mavi Marmara, because our ship communication system was disrupted. There were three or four helicopters also used in the attack. We were told by Mavi Marmara their crew and civilians were being shot at and windows and doors were being broken by Israelis.”
http://www.sott.net/articles/show/209629-Eyewitness-accounts-demolish-Israeli-lies-Commandos-opened-fire-before-boarding-Gaza-flotilla-then-shot-and-tortured-people-at-will
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  •  Osama Qashoo – Free Gaza Movement, Britain

“By the time I got to the corner of the room, there was a hot material in my hand – I didn’t realise it was the man’s brain. Everyone was panicking, running in different directions.  I saw one of the soldiers’ pistols had fallen to the ground. The soldiers got very excited when they saw it. They took their camera and filmed their own pistol, saying they’d found a weapon – it was completely staged.”
http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=21505
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  •  Jamal Elshayyal – Reporter of Al-Jazeera, Qatar

“At least three critically injured people died who could have been saved. They were killed twice – the second time by the failure to come to their aid. I checked and filmed every centimetre and there was not one weapon on that ship. I saw one of the Turkish passengers shot in the top of his head from a helicopter. There was not one soldier on the ship when he was killed. After I’d seen two killed, the main organiser took off his white top to use as a white flag. Live fire was still used after that. There was an announcement in English and Hebrew saying the ship had been surrendered. There was still live fire after that as well.
I asked for a lawyer – I was refused. The British consulate – refused. A phone call – refused. That was one of the most difficult times. You don’t know what the world knows about you.”
http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/art.php?id=21505
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  • Ismael Patel – Friends of Al-Aqsa Campaign, Britain

“There were some hose pipes which were used to repel the soldiers as they landed and after 10-15 minutes they moved away. Then a helicopter arrived and started firing rubber bullets down on us. I was on the second deck at the back, so I had a view of the top deck and the sides as well. Two soldiers appeared, moved away, then a second helicopter came overhead and they started firing live bullets onto the deck. I personally witnessed four deaths in front of me, one was shot in the back of his head as he was running away. He fell two feet away from me so I had to drag him away from the firing, it was very traumatising and yes, I feared for my life. After a few minutes I took over the tannoy system and I said 'we surrender, please don't fire' and told people to put their hands on their knees to show they had no weapons. As I was doing that people were bringing the injured onto the floor in front of me. It felt like it carried on for a lifetime. At the end of the raid we counted 28 people had been shot and some were bleeding profusely.”
http://www.inminds.com/article.php?id=10400
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  • Paveen Yaqub – Activist, Britain

“They were kicking my legs to make me fall and mocking me in Hebrew. They were trying to take trophy pictures with me and they liked laughing in my face. They took pleasure in humiliating us."
http://www.inminds.com/article.php?id=10400
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  • Farooq Burney – Al-Fakhoora, Qatar

“He just passed out in front of us and we couldn't see where he was hit so we opened up his lifejacket and we could clearly see that he was hit in the chest, he was losing a lot of blood.”
http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LDE6520SR.htm
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  • Ed Peck - Retired Diplomat, USA

“I asked [the Israeli official processing his deportation], 'What law have I violated?' He said, 'You have illegally entered Israel.' I said, 'Well, now, wait. Our ship was taken over by armed commandos. I was brought here at gunpoint against my will, and you call that illegally entering Israel?” 
http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2010-06-01/article/35522?headline=More-Gaza-Flotilla-Detainees-Released-Larudee-Badly-Beaten-But-Now-Headed-to-Greece
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  • Joe Meadors - Navy, USS Liberty veteran, USA

"From the perspective of the flotilla, [the Israeli commandos] really seemed like they didn't know what they were doing. Once they got aboard our ship, they just stumbled around and argued with each other -- didn't really know specifically what was going on."
http://rawstory.com/rs/2010/0723/uss-liberty-survivor-death-gaza-flotilla/
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  • Sarah Colborne - Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Britain

“When I was on the upper deck I saw an injured person being brought to the back of the deck being tended to by a doctor and someone who is trained in first aid. He was shot in the head. It was clear it was not some paint ball. It was a bullet. As I walked up, the dinghies the Israelis used were bristling with arms. I couldn't even count how many ships there were in the water. It was just literally bristling with ships, helicopters, gunfire. The whole thing was just horrific. All I know is that there was gunfire everywhere around.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/7799706/Gaza-flotilla-attack-British-activists-tell-of-abuse-by-Israelis.html
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  • Shane Dillion - Crew of the Challenger 1, Ireland

“Any of the weapons I have seen demonstrated by the Israeli defence forces were typical equipment that you would have on a ship. There was a knife for a galley. They also showed a sledgehammer, which would be on a merchant vessel for anchor cables etc. There was nothing on display to show there were any weapons.”
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/0602/breaking65.html?via=mr
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  • Rifat Audeh – Activist, Canada

“They confiscated everything and then they took us to jail after that. They cut us off from the outside world. We couldn't call a lawyer, our families, we couldn't call anybody. Nobody knew whether we were dead or alive until we were finally released.”
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/817854--canadian-detained-on-gaza-aid-flotilla-says-he-was-beaten?bn=1
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  • Mattias Gardell – Historian, Sweden

“This was a military attack on a humanitarian aid operation far out in international waters ... It was a very surprising and aggressive overreaction by Israel. If you are attacked by commando troops you of course must have the right to defend yourself ... Many people on this ship thought they were going to kill everyone. They were very frightened ... It's strange if people think one should not defend oneself. Should you just sit there and say: 'Kill me'?"
http://www.swedishwire.com/politics/4842-swedes-accuse-israel-of-premeditated-murder
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  • Victoria Strand - Senior physician, Sweden

"The Israelis did all they could to humiliate us... They wanted to scare us into obedience. Then I replied that "you detained us 79 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza and you do not have any right to a military zone there'”
http://www.swedishwire.com/politics/4842-swedes-accuse-israel-of-premeditated-murder
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  • Dr. Paul LaRudee – Human rights advocate, Free Gaza Movement, USA

“I was treated pretty rough. Basically any part of my body that could be hit was hit; any joint of my body that could be twisted was twisted.”
http://www.ktvu.com/news/23776714/detail.html
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  • Demetrios Gelalis – Activist, Greece

“If anyone dared to get up, the Israelis jumped on them. We would raise our hands like children to get permission after some time to go to the toilet.”                                                                                                                                                                                                   
http://www.cyprus-mail.com/cyprus/greeks-return-home-after-israeli-detention/20100602
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  • Michalis Grigoropoulos - Activist, Greece

“We were in international waters. The Israelis acted like pirates, completely out of the normal way that they conduct nautical exercises, and seized our ship. They took us hostage, pointing guns at our heads; they descended from helicopters and fired tear gas and bullets. There was absolutely nothing we could do… Those who tried to resist forming a human ring on the bridge were given electric shocks.”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/01/gaza-flotilla-eyewitness-accounts-gunfire
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  • Anne De Jong – Antropolog, Netherlands

“People fell to the floor when they started shooting. It is a huge lie that people attacked the soldiers or provoked them. What we went through while we were jailed brought Guantanamo to our minds.”
http://flotillamassacrepassengers.wordpress.com/
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  • Kevin Neish – Activist, Canada

“I saw them carrying this one IDF guy down. He looked terrified, like he thought he was going to be killed. But when a big Turkish guy, who had seen seriously injured passengers who had been shot by the IDF, charged over and tried to hit the commando, the Turkish aid workers pushed him off and pinned him to the wall. They protected this Israeli soldier.”
http://flotillamassacrepassengers.wordpress.com/

PR Machine of Israel

Hasbara and humanitarian aid flotilla
Seven ships from Ireland, Turkey and Greece set sail for Gaza in May. As soon as the ships that were aiming to reach Gaza by sea and break the embargo that had been in place since 2007 through a civilian initiative set out, Israeli propaganda machine was set in motion to make up its own story and spread it in visual media and printed press, social networking sites, and blogs.  
The July 2006 Qana Massacre during the Second Lebanon War, Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, and 2009 UN Goldstone Report that proves Israel committed war crimes had shaken “peaceful democracy” image that Israel had built at international level through lobby groups and effective media networks. The raid on the Gaza Flotilla that came at a time when the legitimacy of official Israeli policies on the Palestinian people and the Middle East were questioned, and louder criticisms were raised from various political and academic circles after every development pushed the Tel Aviv government to conduct an “effective” hasbara (image building) policy.     
Hasbara and delegitimization
During the meetings held at Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli Foreign Ministry days before the Humanitarian Aid Flotilla set out, decisions were made regarding strategies how to damage the image of flotilla participants and sabotage public support behind flotilla. 
To this end, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accused the flotilla of being a movement that was aiming to provoke Israel into using violence, and the Israeli government claimed at every opportunity that the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, a Turkish aid agency that is active in five continents 120 countries and has consultative status with the UN ECOSOC, is a radical Islamist group with link to Hamas.  
Gilad Shalit tragedy
The issue of Gilad Shalit was frequently brought up in the Israeli media in an attempt to prove that the flotilla was not for a humanitarian purpose. Israeli Haaretz and Yediot Ahronot newspapers were trying to draw attention to the “tragedy” of Gilad Shalit and his family from the start of the flotilla organization, disregarding the situation of 11,000 jailed Palestinians who have not been allowed to meet their parents as not newsworthy. By placing the return of Shalit, one of the Israeli troops who took part in the death of tens of Palestinians in Gaza when Israeli tanks invaded the area, to forefront, Israeli media aimed to push the flotilla mission into the background. Even an allegation was circulated in the media that the family of Shalit had requested to send a letter to their son through organizers of the flotilla but had been turned down. The attempt to question how a movement that refuses to take a letter to Gilad Shalit from his family would take humanitarian aid to Gaza and the goodwill of the flotilla organizers was thwarted when Free Gaza and European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza announced that no one had contacted them with such a request.         
“Situation in Gaza is not so bad!”
Moreover, the Israeli government was trying to prove that Gaza, where unemployment rate has reached 80 percent and 55 percent of households has no stable income, was “not in such a bad situation.” General Moshe Levy made statements claiming “the humanitarian situation in Gaza was stable,” while reporters who were invited to Kerem Shalom Border Crossing were proudly shown trailers full of materials that are “not on the banned items list.” The foreign ministry attempted with photographs, statistics, and figures to prove that Gaza was “in fact” “not under a total siege.” A statement released by the Government Press Office put the focus on “luxury restaurants” that journalists should visit in Gaza, where majority of trading goes through tunnels under the Egyptian border. Defense Minister Ehud Barak claimed there was only one person in need of humanitarian aid among 1.5 million Gaza residents and said “This person is Gilad Shalit.” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said “under usual conditions” each week 15,000 tons of supplies were allowed into Gaza, and tens of trailers carrying meat, fish, fruit, vegetable, powdered milk, infant formula and wheat were crossing into Gaza on a daily basis. However, daily 700 trailers of foodstuffs and other basic necessities used to enter Gaza before the blockade. According to these numbers, current shipments cannot even meet a third of needs in Gaza.      
Obscuring and disinformation
The first thing Israeli commandos did after storming the Humanitarian Aid Flotilla on Monday 31 May early in the morning was jamming live broadcast over satellite (It took Israeli soldiers 3-4 hours to notice live broadcast had been established over a second satellite). The first images and video footage serviced to press and internet was presented by Israeli government spokespersons as “a group of al-Qaeda sympathizers armed with kitchen knives, sticks and chairs” carrying out a “planned lynch attempt” against professional commandos conducting an “entirely legal and peaceful” operation.     
The attitude of international groups and media sources with highest ratings was quite instrumental in perceiving of the flotilla incident the way Israeli authorities presented it. Flotilla passengers were arrested while sailing in international waters, taken to Israel, and imprisoned after being illegally interrogated. All personal property, including computers as well as cameras and video cameras that captured the whole incident, was confiscated. However, these “details” were ignored by many media companies and the “Israeli fabricated version” of the events was provided to public.      
The Israeli initiative to obscure information regarding the attack that claimed several deaths and caused injury of tens and also climbed to the top of agenda at international level went on for two days. No official statement was made for two days concerning the casualties and which hospitals the injured activists were being treated in. No news could be reported about the activists in hospitals and those who were arrested and imprisoned. The activists were not allowed to get in touch with their families, lawyers, and consulates officials for one and a half days.    
In the two-day period when the flotilla participants were isolated from the rest of the world, the Israeli government, media, and think-tanks disregarded different stances of the flotilla participants, and labeled independent journalists, members of parliament, and writers from 36 countries as “pro-Palestinian” and “adventurist activists.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu repeatedly claimed in press conferences and in meetings with world leaders that “there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” the flotilla had set out on a “provocative” mission, and there were “individuals with ties to international terror networks” among the participants. The Israeli government spokespersons stated in press conferences that “they suspected the flotilla participants had ties with Hamas and other international terrorist groups,” though “there was no clear evidence.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry shared with media pictures of kitchen knives, pipe wrenches, and “guns” that clamed to have been captured onboard through Flickr image hosting site. However, the United States had to confirm that there was not enough evidence to prove that the IHH, one of the organizers of the flotilla, had links to terrorist organizations, while the IDF was forced to confess there was no gun on the boats before the raid.

The IDF was hoping for a total obscuring of information regarding the raid by jamming satellite connections on the Mavi Marmara boat, but the attack was aired live to the whole world through an additional satellite. Furthermore, following the release of the flotilla participants thanks to growing public pressure, eye witnesses’ accounts and recovered images and footage emerged on internet and in media, drawing in 48 hours a quite different picture than the earlier accounts.

It is obvious that Netenyahu-led hasbara teams are proud of the flotilla raid and the following PR job. However, more will be needed to save the image of Israel as a democratic oasis in the Middle East as new facts are brought to the daylight every day. The focus of the Tel Aviv government, which sees unconditional legitimacy as an existential sine qua non, and its mouthpiece media as spearheaded by Maariv, Haaretz, Yediot Ahronot, Jerusalem Post on public relations victory rather than questioning the legitimacy of what happened is a good though not new departure point to question moral qualities of the regime.

Was the Gaza flotilla raid legal?

Richard Falk: The Shock Resulting from Flotilla Attack has Reinforced the Campaign to de-Legitimize Israel
Richard Falk  the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. In 2001 Falk served on a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Inquiry Commission for the Palestinian territories with John Dugard. He is also an American Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University with a long and distinguished career in academics, politics and law. He recently gave this exclusive and revealing interview to Intifada Palestine’s Elias F. Harb.
Navi Pillay, the UN Human Rights Chief described the Israeli blockade on Gaza as “illegal and must be lifted” and accused Israel of Violating International Humanitarian Law, Also the head of UNRWA operation in Gaza, John Ging, had called upon the UN itself to begin defying the blockade and deliver humanitarian assistance since the blockade is a flagrant direct violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits collective punishment. The state of Israel has stated that the blockade of Gaza is for security purposes; although it is imposing Collective Punishment on 1.5 million, which is a breach of international law and a war crime – Editor Elias Harb
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW – With Prof. Richard Falk
by Elias Harb – Editor Intifada Palestine
EH: Professor Falk, what is the legality of the Israeli blockade in Gaza in accordance with the San Remo Manual on International Law applicable to armed conflicts at Sea?
RF: The San Remo Manual was drafted by a series of experts and former diplomats over a period between 1987 and 1994 to provide guidance as to the use of force on the oceans and other international waters. The Manual is not a legal document, but represents an informed opinion of specialists as to the agreed content of customary international law applicable to combat situations. The announced intention of the Manual was to be partly declaratory of existing international law and to a degree expressive of desirable developments to deal reasonably with belligerent activities on the seas not addressed in law by past international practice. Because there is no treaty law on the subject the San Remo Manual has been quite influential in filling the gap, a kind of soft law that if accepted by states becomes customary international law over time.
Although it is always possible for partisan legal experts to provide an opinion favouring one side or the other, an impartial reading of the Manual makes it clear in this instance that the Israeli naval attack on the Freedom Flotilla was unlawful beyond a reasonable doubt. For instance, Article 47 (c)(3)(ii) of the Manual exempts vessels from attack if “engaged in humanitarian missions, including vessels carrying supplies indispensable for the survival of the civilian population.” In more general terms, the San Remo Manual, Articles 36-42 underscores the obligation of any attack at sea to be aimed solely at strictly military targets, and to take precautions to ensure that civilians are not harmed. In the instance of the May 31st naval attack it was widely known that these ships were on a humanitarian mission, that the civilian population of Gaza had long been deprived of food, medicine, and building materials necessary for their normal life.
The Manual somewhat controversially does authorize the establishment of a blockade under certain wartime conditions. It is controversial as the UN Charter prohibits all uses of force that cannot be justified as self-defence against a prior armed attack (Article 2(4), 51), and a blockade of Gaza is obviously unlawful for this reason alone. Even if the Charter is not considered, given Articles 93-101 of the Manual, this blockade would be unlawful under Article 102(b), which prohibits a blockade if “the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade.” This blockade, established as of June 2007, has been designed mainly to keep food, medical supplies, and fuel from the civilian Gazan population, with severe adverse health consequences. The alleged military objective of preventing the importation of weaponry was adequately addressed by Israel border control. It was widely acknowledged by Israeli leaders over the period that the purpose of the blockade was punitive, either to punish the population for giving support to Hamas in the 2006 elections or to cause the collapse of Hamas because the civilian population would rather have the blockade ended than suffer the hardships imposed as a result of and retaliation for Hamas governance. Neither justification provides a valid legal basis for establishing the blockade.
There are also a series of technical problems that confirm this conclusion of illegality. Gaza according to the international community is occupied territory subjecting Israel to the duty to uphold the protection of the civilian population. Israel claims that it is engaged in an armed conflict with Gaza so long as it is controlled by Hamas, but this contention assumes that the Israeli disengagement of 2005 ended the occupation and its duties under international humanitarian law, a claim that is generally rejected. Even if the Israeli position on occupation is accepted, the blockade is still unlawful. A blockade can only be validly declared, if at all, only in relation to an enemy state, and Gaza is not a state. This means that Gaza cannot be lawfully blockaded in relation to the navigational activities of other states or of the United Nations.
Finally, even if the blockade were to be considered lawful from the perspective of armed conflict, it would be unlawful, even a crime against humanity, under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which unconditionally prohibits collective punishment. In short, Israel has no legal basis for claiming a right to establish a blockade of the Gaza Strip, and thus any attempt on its part to enforce compliance is itself an act of aggression against the state whose flag is properly flying on the ship attacked. Here the criminality of the Israeli behavior was intensified by the use of excessive and disproportionate force, by the coldblooded execution of several peace activists who were captured, by the terroristic nature of the boarding at night, by firing live ammunition at peace activists when other methods of apprehension were available, and by coercively and abusively removing activists from the ships and holding them in detention, and confiscating their personal goods including especially video and audio records of the attacks.
EH: Do passengers have the legal right to sue the State of Israel for the Attack on the Flotilla?
RF: A civil suit by the passengers against the perpetrators or the responsible Israeli political and military officials associated with the attack or its authorization could certainly be initiated in several sovereign states, which establish such an option. The United States has an old law that has been recently relied upon, the Tort Claims Act. This legislation allows victims to sue for damages; it has been used to hold accountable a security officer alleged to have engaged in torture carried out in Paraguay in the famous Filartiga case of 1980. Other countries have similar laws, and it is necessary to examine what is possible in each place.
EH:  Israel says that the blockade is for Security reasons, how do you   respond to that?
RF: Israel as the occupying power can act to uphold it security in Gaza, but this must be done in a manner that protects the occupied population. Israel was exercising effective control over activities bearing on its security. The contention that these boats in the Flotilla were carrying weaponry was clearly known by the Israeli government to be false as the ships had been credibly inspected before departing from their various ports of embarkation. As indicated above, Israel cannot establish a blockade in circumstances where there is no proper international conflict and where civilian population is enduring hardships on a catastrophic scale. Also, there were virtually no lethal incidents of violence emanating from Gaza in the months preceding the attack rendering alleged Israeli anxieties about security of no legal relevance.
EH: In terms of the people on board the Flotilla, Israel is saying that those on board the ships were violent activists not humanitarians and that they were armed with weapons and was not peaceful people? How would you respond to that?
RF: Israel’s narration of the facts seems flawed, an exercise in disinformation. Furthermore, an attack at night launched from the air is bound to give rise to terrorized passengers, including impulses among some passengers to do whatever was possible to protect themselves. If, as I believe, the attack was unlawful, then the passengers had a right of self-defence, and certainly not Israel. The claim that the peace activists broke their own pledge to one another not to resist in the event of an Israeli attack is of no legal relevance.
EH: In accordance with International Law could the Israeli attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla be considered an act of War?
RF: It is certainly an act of aggression under the UN Charter, and an act of war by reference to customary international law. Whenever force is used in situations other than in situation where a proper claim of self-defence is made, the undertaking is unlawful, and if as here, it is an instance of flagrant non-defensive force, the attacker is engaged in criminal conduct and both the offending state and the perpetrators acting on behalf of the should be held responsible, and to the extent international crimes took place, held accountable.
EH: Why hasn’t the UN moved using the framework of International law and Geneva?
RF: International law has the mechanisms to enforce international law against Israel, the law is on its side in this situation, but the UN lacks the political will to implement international law in accordance with its institutional framework. The United States, has long protected Israel and its leadership from accountability in relation to international law, and continues to do so. It manages to do this effectively despite mounting pressures from governments and public opinion to end this regime of Israeli impunity. The UN can do no more or less than what its most powerful member states are prepared to do. The main challenge to Israeli unlawful behavior associated with the occupation of Palestinian Territories now comes from civil society. Israel has itself disclosed its worries about ‘the delegitimation project,’ which is taking various forms, perhaps most prominently, in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Campaign. Such pressures from below resulting from the May 31st attacks have led even governments friendly to Israel and many political leaders around the world to complain bitterly, and sometimes for the first time, about the Israeli blockade of Gaza, leading Israel to relent in response, partially lifting restrictions on humanitarian goods being sent to Gaza. Whether Israel is merely mollifying world public opinion in the angry aftermath of the attacks of the Freedom Flotilla, or is prepared to recast its policy to comply with international humanitarian law, only the future will tell. Based on past experience, vigilance is urged as Israel is quite capable of appearing to give in to international demands, while merely suspending its harsh policies for implementation until the pressures weaken.
EH: It seems that the U.N. Security Council remains politically impotent and refuses to   penalize Israel for the killings of nine pro-Palestinian civilians on a ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, what is the next course of action? How do you respond to that?
RF: The initial response is the same as to the prior question. Turkey has already made public its grievances, including to the UNSC of which it is a term member. It would be desirable, in the event that the UN cannot take action, that citizens around the world organize their own tribunal, document the facts on the basis of evidence, interpret the law in an impartial spirit, and urge governments, the UN, and all sectors of civil society to act in compliance with the guidelines of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign, as well as offer emergency protection to the peoples of Gaza. If international norms were applied without double standards the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine should lead the international community to protect the Palestinians against severe abuse under prolonged occupation, not only in Gaza, but also with respect to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
EH: Has Israel Violated Article 3 of the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation of 1988?
RF: It depends on whether SUA (Suppression of Unlawful Acts) is interpreted to extend to ‘state terrorism’ of the sort illustrated by the May 31st attacks. This treaty was negotiated and widely ratified as a response to the Achille Lauro incident a Palestinian violent attack on an Italian merchant ship in 1985. The language of Article 3 certainly would seem to describe the unlawful conduct of the Israeli attackers except for the technical difficulty arising from their status as agents of the state of Israel. Article 3(1)(b) seems substantively relevant to establish criminality as it declares that “any person commits an offense if that person unlawfully and intentionally performs an act of violence against a person on board a ship is that act is likely to endanger the safe navigation of that ship.” Also Article 3(1)(g) and Article 3(2) reinforce this impression of unlawful conduct by the May 31st attackers. There is no good reason of law or policy as to why the SUA Convention, to which Israel is a party, should not also apply to state terrorism, and if it does, it reinforces the judgment that the Israeli naval attack on the Freedom Flotilla was unlawful.
EH: Israel states that Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under International law and may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at Sea, what are your thoughts?
RF: For reasons given above, this blockade is neither legitimate nor legal. Its principal overriding purpose was to harm a civilian population living under difficult conditions in any event. Whatever security concerns were present did not require a blockade to address, and the blockade is not an acceptable means, in any event, of achieving security, especially under conditions of occupation.
EH: According to Israeli sources, Israel will conduct an investigation on the Gaza flotilla incident and it is not necessary for an International Inquiry. How do you respond to that?
RF: Such an investigation lacks credibility for several reasons. Past Israeli investigations, for instance, of criminal allegations arising from the Israeli attacks of Dec 27 2008 to Jan 18 2009 produced an official investigation that was a complete whitewash, and failed to address analysis and conclusions of the international inspection as contained in the Goldstone Report. Here the prospects of impartiality and credibility are no better. The Israeli leadership has already pronounced its insistence on the legality of the attacks, and has tasked the inquiry commission appointed by the Israeli government to validate those claims; furthermore, according to the Israeli mandate, the commission is not allowed to obtain by questioning the soldiers involved in the attacks, making it impossible to develop a convincing account of the events. Finally, the vicious personal attacks launched against Richard Goldstone, a lifelong Zionist, after his report in 2009 confirmed condemnation of Israeli practices during the Gaza War would certainly intimidate anyone living in Israel who in this Flotilla instance reached conclusions critical of Israel on legal, moral, and political grounds. An Israeli would be under even greater pressure than Richard Goldstone, a citizen of South Africa, to reach conclusions supportive of the Israeli government’s position.
EH: Do you believe in a global civil society campaign to de-legitimize Israel? 
RF: Yes, I think the global shock resulting from the May 31st attacks have strengthened the campaign to de-legitimize Israel. The aftermath of these attacks demonstrates the effectiveness of the tactics of delivery of humanitarian goods by sea of the Freedom Flotilla, and before it of the Free Gaza Movement. All along the organizers declared their main intention was to breach the blockade symbolically, and by so doing call world attention to the criminality of the blockade and the suffering it was causing the people of Gaza. Since May 31st as a result of the outpouring of censure and grassroots anger, pressures are leading Israel to take steps to abandon the blockade, or at least to modify it so that humanitarian goods can enter Gaza unimpeded, although we must await the future to assess whether Israel really does live up to this commitment. In effect, by challenging the blockade civil society achieved what governments and the UN was unable or unwilling to do. The global Palestine solidarity movement is now seriously threatening Israel’s legitimacy, especially in relation to the occupation, in a manner that has not existed ever since the occupation started in 1967.
EH: Many believe that the US has lost its influence as an honest broker in the Middle East Peace process. How do you respond to that?
RF: It was always a sign of Palestinian weakness to accept the US as the intermediary. It could never serve as ‘an honest broker,’ as it was openly aligned with Israel. The USG has never made a secret of its unconditional support for Israel, and Israel, even without the backing of Washington, has in any event the bargaining advantages that derive from their policies of ‘creeping annexation’ (settlements, residence requirements, house demolitions, ethnic cleansing) that has allowed it in past negotiations to exclude completely issues of Palestinian rights under international law from the diplomatic interactions encompassed by ‘the peace process’ (better understood as an ‘annexation process.’). Such an exclusion is crucial as international law is on the Palestinian side for all contested issues (boundaries, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, water). This continuing reliance on the US should be treated as unacceptable in relation to seeking a just and sustainable peace. Allowing the United States to mediate is comparable to a husband insisting that his law partner and closest friend determine the terms of a divorce settlement with his estranged and impoverished wife.
EH: Lastly, It has been one year since President Obama’s Speech to the Muslim World, what are your reflections on the aftermath of that speech as far as accomplishments in narrowing the gap between the U.S. and the Muslim World?
RF: I think the speech, with its lofty rhetoric, has by now caused widespread disillusionment, and has failed to improve the situation. As always, ‘actions speak louder than words.’ Here Obama showed an absence of backbone evident, his promises of balance and concern for Palestinian self-determination abandoned as soon as challenged by Tel Aviv and the Netanyahu government. Actually, Obama never offered much of a tangible nature to the Palestinians, but even the modest move he made (an Israeli freeze on all settlement construction, which as unlawful should have been permanently stopped and the settlements dismantled) was challenged by Tel Aviv, and soon dropped by Washington. If Obama had called for this implementation of international law as a preconditions for peace negotiations then it would be possible to conclude that the USG was moving toward balance and that it meant to take international law seriously in addressing the conflict. As of now, unfortunately, the correct impression is to note the essential continuity between the Obama administration and the Bush presidency. In fact with expanded ‘special operations’ US forces operating unlawfully throughout the Islamic world, an increasing danger of military action against Iran, and a gruesome escalation of warfare in Afghanistan bringing much suffering the new American foreign policy seems even more dangerous and destructive than previously. The USG during the Obama presidency has clearly not abandoned its imperial ambitions or approach with respect to the Middle East, and its present behavior offers no support for the Palestinian people in their ongoing struggle for self-determination. Only the de-legitimation movement creates some hope that the Palestinian struggle is beginning to resemble the anti-apartheid struggle during its last stages. Whether this civil society success can produce a political outcome supportive of the long Palestinian struggle to achieve peace with justice remains to be seen.
EH: Thank you, Professor Falk.
http://www.intifada-palestine.com/2010/06/richard-falkthe-shock-resulting-from-flotilla-attack-have-reinforced-the-campaign-to-de-legitimize-israel/