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June 01, 2010

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In all of the previous posts comments and again here, the facts is downplayed that the flotilla was "announced". It was a public preannounced act of aggression.

If someone "announced" that Cuba was sending a flotilla of ships to Miami we would certainly intercept them, probably not waiting until the three mile limit.

The incompetence of the Israeli response doesn't diminish the fact that this was an act of war by Turkey that demanded an Israeli response.

As I recall, NATO felt no responsibiity to "defend" the US when we unilaterally attacked Iraq.

The end of NATO here is much overblown.

Marty,

An act of war by Turkey?

How is a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid an act of war?

And Miami is in the United States. Gaza, according to Israel, is not part of Israel.

Hi Marty. I must have missed the part where Gaza is part of Israel...

Wow,both of you came up with a certainly trivial detail within minutes , it is in fact Israels blockade that was being challenged, sorry if thats too big a stretch for you.

They were very, very lucky that the IDF decided to stop them in international waters. If they were smart, they would have stopped them inside the 3 mile limit, where they actually have jurisdiction.

I asked this on the other thread, does Israel have a legal claim to the waters off the Gaza coast under the 3 mile limit? As Eric points out, Gaza is not part of Israel, according to the latter.

Marty,

Your entire comment is based on the premise that this was an act of war by Turkey against Israel.

I asked how that is considering the fact that: the destination was not Israel, the boats were carrying humanitarian aid, not arms.

How are those trivial details?

When was the last time the IDF proved itself to be good at anything other than killing civilians?

30 years ago?

I would suspect if we had a blockade and someone tried dto run it we would consider it an act of war, no?

"If they were smart, they would have stopped them inside the 3 mile limit, where they actually have jurisdiction. Legally, they can be stopped--the US Coast Guard stops ships all of the time inside the US territorial waters limit. "

If Israel has jurisdiction over Gaza, then what would you call their behavior in treating it as a vast prison camp for 1.5 million people, wrecking the economy and preventing reconstruction, and making arbitrary rules about what can go in or out? And don't say it's all about Shalit or the rockets, because it's not just about them. Both sides hold prisoners unjustly and both sides send missiles across the border (Israel has done it a lot more). Hamas enforced a ceasefire on their side for six months in 2008 (until Israel killed some militants in November) and the blockade still wasn't lifted.

Ethan Bronner of the NYT and others have written more than once that the reason for the blockade is to put pressure on Hamas and establish a contrast between the WB under the PA and Gaza under Hamas. That's collective punishment.

One of the bad things about this kind of incident is that people get wrapped up in the details of this incident (when was the first shot fired, who was more responsible for the violence etc).


And Marty shows up worrying about the act of aggression by people bringing in supplies and showing their opposition to an act of collective punishment. At some point I wonder if we can start contemplating a similar blockade for Israel until they give up their apartheid-like practices. By all means let's allow humanitarian supplies in. But God forbid, not the coriander

Marty, if we were blockading a locality that we were not at war with, and someone tried to bring in humanitarian supplies, and we did violence in international waters, we (the U.S.) would be wrong.

I understand how, in how you view the world, it is difficult to understand how the United States could do anything that is wrong, but yes, using a universal code of actions and ethics, we would be the transgressors.

Now if you are saying that Israel has declared a state of war against the Palestinian State (which the Gaza strip, de jure, if not de facto belongs to) and is carrying out military operations, then that's a slightly different story, but even then, they fired on a NATO-aligned nation's vessel.

My link for Bronner's comment about the motive for the blockade.--

link

nothing will change.

for good or for ill, the US will never leave Israel's side and the rest of the world knows it.

there will be a few weeks of grumbling. and then nothing.

Just to be clear, I didn't comment on the previous thread BECAUSE I agree that it was stupid, even though intentionally provoked. I was specifically commenting on the "end of NATO" hyperbole in this post.

Marty

If the US had unilaterally declared a blockade that was not endorsed by the UN and some other nation. like the USSR decided to ignore that illegal blockade and the US then decided to enforce that blockade then, in international law, the us would be committing an act of war against the USSR, not the other way round.

In this case Turkish ship refused to recognise Israels right to blockade Gaza. Now there is pressure on Turkey to do something, and on every other Arab nation to stand with them. What happens when the next flotilla is escorted by ships of the Turkish and Pakistani navies the Iraqi and Qatari Coastguard? If Israel attacks then who will the USA support? How long will the US bases be safe if they support Israel? The only way round this is for Obama to send the US navy to escort the next peace convoy. Expect the announcement soon.

I would suspect if we had a blockade and someone tried dto run it we would consider it an act of war, no?

That all depends.

Marty: I was specifically commenting on the "end of NATO" hyperbole in this post.

It's not hyperbole, Marty.

I realize this is difficult for you to understand, but the Treaty is binding on the US as well as on the other NATO nations.

Turkey is a member of NATO. Israel is not.

Israel launched a military attack on a civilian vessel in international waters - a civilian vessel of a country with which Israel is not at war. Israel is the aggressor in this act, and the US, by NATO treaty obligations, is required to come to the aid of Turkey against Israel. As are 28 other nations, including the UK.

The US can and has veto'd any attempt made by the UN Security Council to make Israel obey international law. It does not have veto rights over NATO, except that if the US takes Israel's side against Turkey, it has effectively broken NATO to pieces. The US can certainly break NATO: it has no lesser power of veto.

This is not hyperbole, Marty. This is just straightforward WTF? and a big set of questions - how much political capital does the US still have with Turkey after all the crap the US loaded on Turkey over the Iraq war?

(The US wanted to invade Iraq via Turkey, and the Turkish government, quite rightly, said nothing-doing: the US couldn't invoke NATO obligations there, because NATO applies to defense against an aggressor nation, and the US was attacking Iraq as an aggressor nation.)

I would suspect if we had a blockade and someone tried dto run it we would consider it an act of war, no?

Adding:

But they were in international waters still. That's an important distinction.

And for all those Constitutionalists out there, Article VI notes that "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding." (Emphasis added)

So yeah, Israel attacked a NATO member, that NATO member has the right to call on US support; and that support has a weight over most of our laws.

Couldn't Turkey already call for NATO support when dealing with the PKK in Iraq?

I have seen the suggestions that the US might not act if Turkey invoked Article 5. I just cannot see how the US could do that.

If Turkey asks, as a result of this action, perhaps. But if Turkish naval vessels escort the next ships, and get attacked?

As Robert mentions, that would be the end of NATO -- which would have a severe negative impact on US policy (and troops) in Afghanistan. Can you see President Obama just writing of Afghanistan . . . especially on these grounds? Not to mention that the Israeli government has gone out of its way to be obnoxious to the US lately. In short, The US cannot afford to stand back, and has little incentive to do so.

It seems to me that when the Germans sank US ships while blockading Britian, we considered it an Act of War.

The Israeli blockade itself is illegal, which is very much a part of the point of the aid flotilla campaign.

The campaign goes back three years, and its goals include focusing international attention on the blockade, its illegality, and its effects -- as well as actually "breaking" the blockade, because any ships that do manage to land (one small one, so far) make it more difficult for the Israeli government to deny others.

The Israeli government's actions have been immoral and criminal and stupid, but it is the continuous complete cocoon of impunity, provided by the U.S. government, that encourages constant Israeli escalation. They took this action because they knew they could get away with it.

To judge from the State Department statement, nothing has changed in that respect. So shining stupidity and arrogance within our own government provide the mirror for those same qualities in the Israeli government.

As citizens, we have already paid a price for these vicious policies, and we will pay a steeper one in the future, but that's not the only reason why we should demand an end to them. Occupation is wrong. The closures, blockades, torture, starvation, humiliation, and attacks with which it's maintained are wrong. These deaths are simply more visible and dramatic than the near-daily toll throughout Palestine.

Couldn't Turkey already call for NATO support when dealing with the PKK in Iraq?

Turkey has chosen not to invoke Article V against the PKK, either to avoid embarrassing the US, and/or because of horse trading behind the scenes.

Thank you for your commentary on this event. I have incorporated a few comments into my own blog feature, Blockade Party. The text goes between some historic pictures from the War Between The States.
The second "bullet point" about Israel was included. Can we extend this skepticism to some of the videos floating about.
On a lighter note, there is a picture of weapons from the flotilla on a blog called LawrenceofCyberia. This gets the blog name of the week award.
Text should be something that you put between the pictures.

The Security Council recognizes, this wasn't an action taken in a vacuum and it can't be addressed as a single incident. Quoted almost in full from here

Here's the draft "Security Council Presidential Statement on the recent incident in the Eastern Mediterranean":

The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza. The Council, in this context, condemns those acts which resulted in the loss of at least ten civilians and many wounded, and expresses its condolences to their families.

The Security Council requests the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel. The Council urges Israel to permit full consular access, to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately, and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance from the convoy to its destination.

The Security Council takes note of the statement of the UN Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter and it calls for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.

The Security Council stresses that the situation in Gaza is not sustainable. The Council re-emphasizes the importance of the full implementation of Resolutions 1850 and 1860. In that context, it reiterates its grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stresses the need for sustained and regular flow of goods and people to Gaza as well as unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza.

The Security Council underscores that the only viable solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an agreement negotiated between the parties and re-emphasizes that only a two-State solution, with an independent and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours, could bring peace to the region.

The Security Council expresses support for the proximity talks and voices concern that this incident took place while the proximity talks are underway and urges the parties to act with restraint, avoiding any unilateral and provocative actions, and all international partners to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties and throughout the region.

That "unimpeded provision and distribution" clause is "technically" met by shipping through Israel or Egypt.

Interestingly there was not a specific definition of whose actions were the "acts which resulted in the loss of at least ten civilians and many wounded".

They also urge restraint and "avoiding any unilateral and provocative actions". Again, talking to both sides.

The UN seems to understand the fine lines being walked here.

However, it seems like this administration is reacting all the time to Israeli actions, seeming to provide no upfront limits on what we will support. Perhaps it is the nature of the current Israeli government, or the nature of the current US government, or the Israeli view of the current US government, that seems to create regular crises that we must figure out how to react to.


This is a very good analysis; perhaps the best I've read on the blogs or news outlets.

I fear we are well and truly screwed because nobody has the cojones to stand up to the Israel Lobby.

The Security Council recognizes, this wasn't an action taken in a vacuum and it can't be addressed as a single incident.

Yes, but the UN Security Council records show, there is no point in attempting to condemn Israel for any breach of international law - not from the murder of foreign civilians by Israeli military to the illegal occupation of the West Bank to the attempted genocide by starvation of the Gaza Strip blockade. Any such attempt will be veto'd by the US.

To condemn Israel from the Security Council and avoid a US veto, it is required to walk a fine line and pretend there are "faults on both sides", &c.

As before: NATO has no such US veto. It's always supposed to be a treaty of mutual obligation.

However, it seems like this administration is reacting all the time to Israeli actions, seeming to provide no upfront limits on what we will support. Perhaps it is the nature of the current Israeli government, or the nature of the current US government, or the Israeli view of the current US government, that seems to create regular crises that we must figure out how to react to.

Yeah, under Bush, Israel didn't do anything stupid and inflammatory like invade Lebanon. Or assassinate Palestinian leaders. Or besiege Arafat. All under the "current administration."

Regarding Jes' point about the UN:

"You will note that Israel is not condemned directly, only "those acts which resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and many wounded, and expresses its condolences to their families." Presumably, that would also include attacks against the Israeli soldiers that boarded the ships. The Times reports this concession was granted in order to secure American approval of the final statement. "

Yeah, the US is shielding Israel...again.

see here for more details.

Robert McK: how to lose an Information War

You say it as if that's a bad thing.

Israel is waging that war to maintain an illegal and cruel occupation; we're funding and backing it. I hope to hell the pro-occupation side is losing the Info War.

Eric,

I didn't say they didn't do stupid things, I said they don't ask us where the line is (at least as much). Maybe they don't ask because now they think we might say no?

And I was just wondering anyway.

Sure Marty. I don't think Israel asks where the line is because they assume the answer is, "There isn't one." That goes for every administration since Bush the elder - who, to his credit, was the last POTUS to take an even nominally tough stand on Israeli excesses.

Outside of one "line" I would divine: No attack on Iran without our say so.

Two points:

1. every report I've read, stated the ships were in international waters when they were attacked during "innocent passage" (UNCLOS III Section III, Article 17)

2. As a Coast Guard veteran, let me say that when the USCG boards foreign flag vessels, it is done either inside territorial waters of the U.S. or under specific agreement and permission of the flag country.

I've waited all night at boarding stations while our cutter contacted the district, which contacted headquarters, which contacted the State Department, who then had to wake someone at an embassy, who then started back down the phone chain, waking people in their own country.

And under no circumstances would the Coast Guard have been allowed to start toad cranking passengers and crew.

mojo sends

The distinction between international waters and Israeli waters is not as important as people think.

Israel is in a state of war with Gaza and has instituted a blockade. This is a legal act of war.

Under the laws of war, a belligerent (Israel) may intercept for boarding and inspection a ship from a neutral country (Turkey or Ireland) bound for the blockaded port (Gaza) even on the high seas. The only way to inspect the cargo of a ship of that size is to unload it. This entails no further delay as Ashdod is within driving distance of Gaza.

The cargo from yesterday's confrontation has already been shipped from Ashdod to Gaza.

The flotilla had clearly announced it was heading for Gaza and was going to run the blockade. They had been told that Gaza was under blockade. The flotilla chose confrontation.

Running the blockade would be an act of war, and the blockaders (Israel) would be within their rights to sink the ship should it try to evade them.

@vanmojo: Peacetime rules are different, of course.

See this pdf summary of maritime law, especially sections 7.6 through 7.10:
http://www.usnwc.edu/getattachment/a9b8e92d-2c8d-4779-9925-0defea93325c/1-14M_(Jul_2007)_(NWP)

This means that resisting the boarding by force was not within the law. Even if they only used sticks and knives.

Hold on now AreaMan. If Israel is "at war" with Gaza, that means that any actions the ships running the blockade would be covered under combatant rules.

In other words, they could have armed merchant ships in order to engage IDF vessels.

You can't be at "war" without two to play. That also means that any act by Hamas from Gaza--to include attacks on Israel civilians 'supporting the war effort' would be legal as well.

When did Israel declare war on Gaza?

@vanmojo:

1. May I inquire as to the meaning of the technical term toad cranking?

2. I have a cat named Mojo. Good cat.

3. I think Israel doesn't have a coast guard. It does have a navy.

@Mackay:

I don't know exactly when Israel declared war on Gaza. I expect it was the beginning of operation Cast Lead.

Even though they are at war, it is against the laws of war (treaties) to deliberately target and attack civilians. Collateral damage when targeting legitimate targets is not illegal.

To review, there are 3 main categories of behavior:
1. Peacetime activities.
2. Legal acts of war.
3. War crimes.

There are probably others but I can't think of any right now.

Caveats: There are genuine gray areas. Gaza/Hamas is not a nation and has not signed any treaties. Hamas claims that they are not restricted by any international law whatever and any violence they do is "Legal".

Law for just one side is not really law.

Even though they are at war, it is against the laws of war (treaties) to deliberately target and attack civilians. Collateral damage when targeting legitimate targets is not illegal.

This is often a difficult intent to prove. Regardless, in connection with cast lead, the Goldstone Report indicates that Israel went over the line.

Robert:

Great analysis, except IMHO for this:

The target audience here is the US more than Europe or the Middle East

In explaining why wars (or "incidents") occur, I tend to go to what I call the Clausewitz/O'Neill Principle.

Clausewitz said: War is a continuation of politics.

Tip O'Neill said: All politics is local.

Clausewitz/O'Neill: Wars begin for *domestic* political reasons -- the audience for action abroad is at home.

So I assume that the "audience" for the IDF attack is Israeli society. I don't know enough about Israeli internal politics to say which faction(s) are saying what to whom, or how the message is being received.

I suspect that the conservative Zionist faction in the US (now made up at least as much of goyim as of Jews) is also part of the audience; I don't get the impression that non-Zionist or J-Street US Jews have much influence in Israel any more. If we start thinking of Israel the way sensible US Muslims think of Saudi Arabia -- as the fanatics who pretend to speak for our religion but don't actually set the rules -- that's pretty much what Peter Beinert described.

It makes it a little easier to prove intent, when Israeli officials talk about the dahiya doctrine

So if Hamas declared a blockade of Israel, they could legally stop a US merchant ship delivering arms to Tel Aviv and consficate them?

I just wanted to clear the fog of legal analysis here.

when the USCG boards foreign flag vessels, it is done either inside territorial waters of the U.S. or under specific agreement and permission of the flag country

Good to know. So, when (for instance) M/V Gatun was boarded, it was done with the permission of Panama?

What if drug smuggling were done under the flag of a country that routinely refused permission to board? Would the USCG have to wait until the vessel in question entered its territorial waters?

North Korea is to China, what Israel is to the United States.

Good to know. So, when (for instance) M/V Gatun was boarded, it was done with the permission of Panama?

Yes:

"The Coast Guard obtained flag-state consent to board the vessel through a maritime agreement between the U.S. and Panama."

North Korea is to China, what Israel is to the United States.

@Area Man

1. Toad Cranking: v. 1. to kill; 2. to kill indiscriminately.

2. Cool, Mojo likes cats

3. Navy, Coast Guard, doesn't matter, at least to my mind. They were attacking a vessel during "innocent passage" (per UN Convention of Sea Section III, Article 17) without provocation.

mojo sends

@bobbyp said:
"
So if Hamas declared a blockade of Israel, they could legally stop a US merchant ship delivering arms to Tel Aviv and consficate them?
"

Good question. I think Hamas/Gaza could if they were a nation that had signed the requisite treaties. They aren't a nation, they aren't eligible to sign treaties, and the don't have the power to enforce a blockade.

Good question for a legal exam, I'd say...

Legal acts of war are settled by force. Acts in peacetime are theoretically settled by law and protocol.

Am I the only one who looks at Bibi and his buddies and see the same level of incompetence/arrogance/ignorance as Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld? Is there an international pattern here?

The only real difference is that Bibi had real military service. Although he doesn't appear to have learned a lot from it.

@Slartibartfast said:
What if drug smuggling were done under the flag of a country that routinely refused permission to board? Would the USCG have to wait until the vessel in question entered its territorial waters?

It depends. If the captain had the stated intent of entering U.S. waters, or if the vessel had taken some provocative action against the cutter.

Neither was the case here. These vessels were not making for Israeli territorial waters. These ships were headed for waters that are (or at least should be, per international law) controlled by Gaza.

And while we can't call it "piracy" in the legal sense (because pirates are by definition non-state private actors) this did come pretty close in my mind to an act of state sponsored terror...

mojo sends

They aren't a nation, they aren't eligible to sign treaties, and the don't have the power to enforce a blockade.

But upthread you said that Israel declared war on them, which grants Israel certain rights.

Are you saying that they declared war on a non-nation? Do the applicable laws recognize such declarations?

Are you saying that they declared war on a non-nation? Do the applicable laws recognize such declarations

It appears Gaza exists in the same indeterminate state as Gitmo. It's observed state is whatever state is needed to fit the current argument, even if 20 minutes ago it was the opposite.

Allowing it to collapse to a static state would cause so many issues. Much better to keep it ambiguous, and exploit it.

We could call them "Schroedinger territories."

I agree with Hogan. There is ambiguity and genuine gray area because Hamas is not a state and either has no rights, or has no restrictions, or both.

Israel is in a state of belligerency with the non-nation of Hamas/Gaza, and has instituted and has been enforcing a blockade. A blockade is legal act of war when done between two nations. This is as close as the law (treaties) seem to come.

I actually don't know if Israel has "Passed" a formal declaration of war. The Israeli war cabinet has approved the belligerent actions. This is the Israeli process.

There may be some precedent in the wars against the Indians in the West and the war against Pancho Villa. That's a guess.

Great Britain signed a treaty with the non-nation led by George Washington, recognizing the US. So somebody could, I suppose, sign a treaty with Hamas. If they wanted to.

Later on, Great Britain also recognized the Confederacy. This didn't work out. Force matters.

The problem with using maritime law to state that Israel can board a ship running a blockade is that according to that law there is a certain procedure they must follow. This does not include dropping onto the ship at midnight from helicopters.

There is ambiguity and genuine gray area because Hamas is not a state and either has no rights or has no restrictions, or both...

So if every nation on earth took back their diplomatic recognition of Israel as a "state", the US could blockade, starve, or even invade this newly created 'Schroedinger territory' with impunity? If they fought back, could that be dismissed as simply "terrorism", or would that fall under the rubric of collateral damage?

Force matters!

Later on, Great Britain also recognized the Confederacy. This didn't work out. Force matters.

Are you in the habit of randomly throwing out factually baseless tidbits about the world?

But no, Great Britain never recognized the Confederacy, much to the dismay of the South.

Indeed, Great Britain never recognized the Confederacy, though they thought about it at one point. Once Antietam went in favor of the Union, and Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, the issue was effectively settled. One might also question AreaMan's interpretation of blockade law.

* Potential for miiltary conflict between Turkey and Israel. Very low, but not impossible.
* Potential for increased rocket attacks out of Gaza. Very high.
* Potential for increased global anti-Israel/Jewish terrorism--very high.
* Potential for economic or other sanctions. High but who knows.
* Potential for a change in the Gaza blockade. Depends entirely on the US.

Re: potential open conflict between Turkey and Israel--that's largely up to Turkey's initiative at the moment, and I doubt it even more than I might otherwise because the AKP doesn't get along with the army, and won't want to put them in a position of popularity or power.

Re: Rockets out of Gaza: I would put the probability of Hamas rocketing now at very, very low. They're not stupid. The greater danger is that some more hotheaded group like Islamic Jihad will do something idiotic and Hamas won't be able to control them. That said, I still don't expect it. It doesn't make sense. Rockets serve two purposes: to remind Israel that Gaza hasn't given up, and to remind the world that Gaza exists. Right now both needs are being filled admirably without rockets; I expect most Gazans to sit back and enjoy watching Israel stew for once.

Re: sanctions--really? From whom? The UN? With a guaranteed US veto?

Finally, re: lifting the blockade; you forgot Egypt. That's the other reason I don't expect rocket fire; everybody will be way too busy buying crackers and cooking gas.

All the rest of it, I generally agree with. I think NATO will die a slower death than what it seems you're suggesting, but you might have just meant that this would be the death knell. Lord knows it started decomposing at least a couple of years ago.

I assume that certain conditions must be met before an occupying power can declare "war" on the territory in question once hostile insurgents have a certain amount of influence. Israel does not have a permanent troop presence in Gaza, but it exercises a high degree of control. When Gaza was declared an enemy entity by Israel, was the international consensus back then that the occupation ended there? During Operation Cast Lead, the Security Council adopted resolution 1860, and Gaza is refered there as "integral part of the territory occupied in 1967" suggesting that no change has taken place. I'm unclear what exactly the status of Hamas is in the context of the United Nations, from what I remember, the Taliban were refered to as a "group" for example, and not recognized as some kind of official government.

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