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June 04, 2010

Comments

Oh, come on: The activists on the ship disagreeing with the commandos about the way things went down has about as much significance as the commandos disagreeing with the activists: They're opposite sides in the conflict. Neither qualifies as objective.

The activists on the ship disagreeing with the commandos about the way things went down has about as much significance as the commandos disagreeing with the activists: They're opposite sides in the conflict. Neither qualifies as objective.

Precisely why an independent investigation seems warranted (as Eric concludes).

Good luck with that, when there aren't any unbiased witnesses. What's the independent investigation going to conclude? That the witnesses disagree about what happened?

I guess we can close down the court system and just do trial by combat, or maybe throw people into ponds and see if they float, because there are no unbiased witnesses in many cases. Historians should give up their profession for the same reason.

Well, I DO tend to think the law should stay out of cases where the only evidence is "he said, she said", with no basis at all for deciding who's lying.

If you don't know who's lying, you don't know who's lying, and really wanting to know doesn't clear the fog.

But Brett, there is, or at least was, evidence. Videos taken by journalists, etc. Granting that they may have picked their shots, but it is definitely a step up from "her said; she said." Unfortunately, it will be a bit of a technical challenge to certify the accuracy of the material after the Israelis have had a few weeks to improve them.

Brett, for once I partly agree. It might turn out to be impossible to develop a definitive account of what happened, but I also think it's too early to say that for sure.

And I agree with wj that Israel will probably do its best to muddy the waters. They've probably put forward the best case they could with the videotapes they had and I'd be surprised if they allowed anything too damning to get out.

Brett, it is critical to note that there is some objective evidence, the bodies of the dead. If the wounds are as described by the activists, it will be hard to square that with what I have read of the Isreali version of events.

I read Paul McGeough's story--it sounded pretty plausible to me. Even without physical evidence when you have consistency in the overall picture from various witnesses it conveys to me that this is probably how it was.

I don't think the same thing can be said about the testimony of soldiers. You'd expect most of them to stick to the official story, claim that everything was done as humanely as possible and deny any stories of brutality. I'd expect that from police or soldiers of almost any country if an operation was botched (or if it was deliberately brutal, but in either case). Everyone shot had it coming, we all behaved with perfect professionalism, etc...

It's not as if it were possible to interrogate the witnesses separately to see which stories are consistent with each other and with the physical evidence.

Interesting that nobody is calling for an investigation of the organization that arranged this deliberate placing of a bunch of civilians in the middle of a war zone. Double standard, much?

Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty, the Australian journalists on the flotilla, were not activists but reporters, credentialled press from the Sydney Morning Herald, whose presence there had been cleared with Israeli authorities. Didn't stop them being tasered, imprisoned, strip-searched, and their equipment confiscated. Luckily Geraghty managed to conceal three SD cards with photos on them from the Israelis. These have now been published int he Australian press. McGough took advantage of the time he was locked up to interview a number of eyewitnesses. Israeli press intimidation FAIL.

@Mike Stiber:

"War zone?" First, and for the twentieth time in these comments: the ship was in international waters. Second, what war? Israel is an occupying power that, with the active support and cooperation of the United States government and the bought support of Egypt, is collectively punishing the people of Gaza.

We also have (as discussed on other threads) the basic and undisputed sequence of events: a civilian vessel in international waters was boarded by Israeli military, following which, multiple people were killed, most of them civilians. The vessel itself had no weapons until the Israeli soldiers boarded it, carrying weapons. Journalists aboard who took videos of the event, had their videos confiscated by the Israeli government, which proposed to investigate its own military. I foresee that this last sentence will shortly become "and they declared their soldiers and commanders and politicians innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever".

That gives a basic picture of what happened, against which claims by the Israeli government may be tested.

Mike: Interesting that nobody is calling for an investigation of the organization that arranged this deliberate placing of a bunch of civilians in the middle of a war zone.

Newspapers and other media organizations arrange the deliberate placing of a bunch of civilians in the middle of a war zone all the time, Mike. So do other organizations: in 1948, my dad was one of a bunch of civilians deliberately placed in the middle of a war zone, and he nearly got killed, but I've never felt any inclination to have the Religious Society of Friends "investigated": I know why my dad went, and I'm very proud of him.

First, and for the twentieth time in these comments: the ship was in international waters.
Whether the ship was in intl water doesn't matter a lick. All that mattered was that it intended to run the blockade and refused to be searched. At that point it can be seized, whether in international water or elsewhere.

jpe, the blockade is not legal. It is not about weapons, Israel is not in a war with Gaza.

Nor was the manner of IDF boarding that of a normal military enforcement of a blockade, even if the blockade were legal.

I'm being reminded why I stayed away from blogs and commenting for so many months over the last year. The earth is round, the sky is blue, the sun rises in the east. But if defending the indefensible requires the earth to be flat, the sky to be green, etc., then the apologists for starvation and murder will insist it's so.

Nell: I'm not quarreling at the moment w/ the legality of the blockade, only w/ the absurd notion that the fact that the attack was in intl water had any bearing on its legality.

I'm not quarreling at the moment w/ the legality of the blockade only w/ the absurd notion that the fact that the attack was in intl water had any bearing on its legality.

Actually, it does have bearing on the legality of boarding the boat. Generally speaking, boarding rights differ depending on whether a vessel is in international waters, or a particular nation's waters.

Thus, the legality of the blockade, and the fact that it was in international waters, are linked in terms of legal analysis.

Regardless, Nell's point was in response to someone's comment that the ship was in a war zone - which it clearly was not seeing as it was in, alas, international waters.

Also, on what basis do you suggest that it "refused to be searched"? Israel did not follow standard protocol for stopping and searching ships.

Oh, come on: The activists on the ship disagreeing with the commandos about the way things went down has about as much significance as the commandos disagreeing with the activists: They're opposite sides in the conflict. Neither qualifies as objective.

Brett, as pointed out, there are accounts from independent journalists who were not activists, including award winning Australian McGeogh.

And the journalists' recounting matches up with the activists, even though they did not have time or opportunity to coordinate their stories, as some gave interviews and comments from hospitals/prisons.

There is also video and film, that the Israelis confiscated - surely because they want the whole truth to be known to the public. Hence the seizing, altering and burying.

Good luck with that, when there aren't any unbiased witnesses. What's the independent investigation going to conclude? That the witnesses disagree about what happened?

Again, film evidence - even from the Israelis who have only released a severely truncated film - and the testimony of impartial journalists.

"Brett, as pointed out, there are accounts from independent journalists who were not activists, including award winning Australian McGeogh."

Walter Duranty was a journalist, too. You're not seriously suggesting that journalists are necessarily to be trusted, are you? Particularly journalists who volunteer to ride on blockade runners?

I agree that journalistic objectivity would be a good idea. Too bad so many journalists view it as a good cover story...

Brett,

Not "necessarily" but they are also not activists. McGeough is an award winning journalist, with stellar credentials.

But of course, that doesn't mean that their word should be taken as gospel.

However, when all of the journalists tell a version of events, and that version is corroborated by all of the activists, then it should at least get one thinking.

That is, unless you are predisposed to embrace a different narrative.

Further, forensics don't lie. If there are bullet holes in the backs and tops of heads, that is what it is.

Also, to repeat, they didn't exactly have the time or opportunity to all coordinate their stories. Which adds to their probative nature when they are so consistent.

Actually, it does have bearing on the legality of boarding the boat. Generally speaking, boarding rights differ depending on whether a vessel is in international waters, or a particular nation's waters.
Not per the San Remo manual, and I haven't seen anything to suggest otherwise.

jpe, pardon me for intruding a brief reality check.

Per San Remo, a blockade can be enforced in territorial waters (out to 12 miles) and in contiguous waters (i.e out to 24 miles). However, the IDF attacked these ships at, I believe, approximately 40 miles from Gaza. Which means, per San Remo, they were *not* legitimate subjects for enforcement of a blockade. Or are you disputing one of those facts? And if so, which one (the specifications in San Remo or the location of the interception)?

Not per the San Remo manual, and I haven't seen anything to suggest otherwise.

Further to what wj said, as per the San Remo manual, the blockade is arguably illegal due to its impact on the civilian population, and thus boarding the ship in international waters is illegal.

I'm being reminded why I stayed away from blogs and commenting for so many months over the last year.

Nell, you've got to do what you've got to do, but I certainly miss your comments when you're gone. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Thanks, Turb. But I'm finding that I can't handle the same close focus on events that I used to, which blog-posting encourages/requires. Following the dragged-out (and continuing) U.S. toleration of the coup in Honduras last year took me down below some reserve, and the disaster in Haiti was a knockout blow.

Some of the fraying was repaired while I turned away completely and immersed myself in neglected household and community activities. In early May, I began, cautiously, to check in on old haunts around the web. Wrong month!

So, off again for a while. Glad you're here!

If Walter Duranty did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

Particularly journalists who volunteer to ride on blockade runners?

Yeah, why on earth would a journalist want to be on the scene when news is made? What's that all about?

From McGeough's account, the ships were attacked by the Israeli forces exactly at dawn prayer time, when most of the men would be gathered and otherwise occupied. The timing may have had more to do with Israeli strategy than the location.

I never thought I'd be defending Fairfax media but seriously, we're not talking a tiny leftist rag here, these are two journalists who work for the corporate media empire that dominates huge chunks of Australia and New Zealand.

Fairfax can be accused of an awful lot of things (really really aggravating things) but a left-wing/anti-israel bias isn't one of them.

You'll note it's a Fairfax site running the story, and the managing director of Fairfax who gets the last quote choosing to back the journalists.

So yes there are unbiased witnesses, they're freaking journalists.

@ WJ: your reality checks could use more reality. The San Remo manual does not constrain blockades to the territorial or contiguous seas.

If you actually read the manual, you'll see no such constraint.

the blockade is arguably illegal due to its impact on the civilian population, and thus boarding the ship in international waters is illegal.
The two things - whether the blockade is illegal and whether enforcing a blockade in international waters - are analytically distinct. The one has no bearing on the other.

No, if the blockade is illegal, then it cannot be enforced in international waters - however, even absent a blockade, a nation has certain boarding rights in its own waters for security concerns.

Not distinct.

True, but it wouldn't be illegal because of the locus of the boarding. ie, my first point was entirely correct: a ship that is running a blockade can be stopped in international waters. Whether the blockade is legal in the first instance is a separate question altogether.

Here's Dave Glazier on that point in the comment section to Opinio Juris:

IF Israel is in an international armed conflict with anyone — there is no requirement here that it be in/with Gaza, then Israeli naval vessels are entitled to exercise the belligerent right of visit and search to stop any merchant (i.e., non governmental) vessel outside of neutral waters which they have reason to suspect may be aiding an adversary. Such action is permissible on the high seas, as well as in Israeli territorial waters.

my first point was entirely correct: a ship that is running a blockade can be stopped in international waters.

No, you were wrong then (and so's Dave Glazier) and you're still wrong.

No country has the right to stop and board a neutral vessel in international waters, no matter what "blockade" they've declared.

They can decide that the country isn't really "neutral" - ie, that Israel now wants to be at war with Turkey.

Or they can wait till the vessel reaches contiguous waters, in which case they have a right to maintain a legal blockade and the issue becomes if Israel's blockade of Gaza is legal.

Or they can wait till the vessel reaches territorial waters, in which case they have a relatively unambiguous legal right to proceed with stopping a vessel, boarding it, and searching the cargo - though even if they had waited till their territorial waters, using armed commandos to launch a military attack would have been of dubious legality.

That the blockade is of disputed legality raises one set of legal problems. It does not do away with the set of legal problems about a military boarding of a civilian vessel under a neutral flag in international problems. Neither does it do away with the set of legal problems regarding using the military to carry out an attack upon a civilian vessel, no matter where the military do it.

You only have to ask yourself: A US civilian ship sets out to take aid supplies (not weapons) to the losing side in another country. While the US ship reaches international waters, the winning side boards the US civilian ship with commandos, and kills nine Americans. Still going to argue that the winning side had every right to do that?

Is not! Is to!

The only person I can find that knows anything about international law says you are all right, and all wrong. There are rules and agreements but essentially no one to enforce them (or multiple authorities that disagree which means the saame thing) so they are not actual laws, meaning legality is not really a question.

Based on the flow of this thread I surmise he is probably right.

So I figure it is legal if you think they are legitimately defending themselves and not if you think they aren't. Right or wrong might be a different discussion.

Marty: The only person I can find that knows anything about international law says you are all right, and all wrong. There are rules and agreements but essentially no one to enforce them (or multiple authorities that disagree which means the saame thing) so they are not actual laws, meaning legality is not really a question.

...that actually makes sense (which is not something I often think when reading one of your comments, but I still think this when re-reading it the next day).

Given that the present status of international law amounts to "If the US breaks it or the US supports you breaking it, totally legal: if you try to use international law to set limits on what the US is allowed to do or what other countries the US supports are allowed to do, TERRORIST SYMPATHISER DIE IN A FIRE" I guess it even makes sense according to current law.

Gee, I miss the days when the US thought of itself as a country that enforced and upheld international laws and human rights, rather than just the biggest warlord on the planet.

True, but it wouldn't be illegal because of the locus of the boarding. ie, my first point was entirely correct: a ship that is running a blockade can be stopped in international waters. Whether the blockade is legal in the first instance is a separate question altogether.

No, there is still an expanded "excluded zone" that would apply.

Meaning, for instance, that Israel could not wait just outside of Ireland's territorial waters and board the Corrie the moment it emerged from same.

It's simply a matter of holding Israel to the same standards as any other country. Like, remember when that South Korean ship was sunk? And it looked an awful lot like North Korea had sunk it? So of course we let the North Koreans investigate the incident all by themselves, and agreed to accept whatever results they came up with. Why should we treat Israel any differently?

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