The ever watchful Robin Shepherd informed us last week of a new flotilla being organised by ‘European Jews for a Just Peace’ so, as Robin suggests, it is time to take a look at who and what lies behind these latest ships of fools.
In common with the previous attempts to break Israel’s partial blockade of Gaza the organisers of this flotilla claim the moral and legal right to do so on the basis of their interpretation of the situation on the ground – an interpretation sadly lacking anchorage in facts. They claim that the blockade is ‘illegal’, ‘morally wrong’ and ‘indefensible’. They also claim that their actions are necessary due to the ‘humanitarian crisis ’ in Gaza. There is, of course, no truth in either of these oft-repeated claims and never has been – they are merely a smoke screen for political activism.
Israel continues to transport thousands of tons of humanitarian aid of all kinds into the Gaza Strip every day and details of the amounts and nature of the aid entering Gaza are openly publicized on the internet for all to see. Three months ago restrictions on the types of goods entering Gaza were eased even further and there is no truth whatsoever in the claims made by various flotilla organizers of shortages or even starvation. Not only is Israel’s economic blockade on Gaza entirely in line with international law, the fact that flotilla organisers have consistently reserved their indignation for Israeli actions whilst conveniently ignoring very similar ones on the part of Egypt indicates clearly that their motives are political rather than humanitarian.
Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza is also entirely legal under international law, as Professor of international law Ruth Lapidoth points out
“When Is a Blockade Legal?
In order to be legal, several conditions have to be fulfilled. The first is the requirement to give widespread notice when a blockade is applied and to make sure that any ship that is stopped knows that there is a blockade. Nowadays the problem of notification is much easier than in the past because of the great improvement in communications.
Another condition for the legality of a sea blockade is effectiveness. It is not enough simply to declare a blockade. It has to be enforced, otherwise it is not valid and legal.
According to a further condition, a blockade should not cut off an unrelated foreign state from access to the sea. In the case of Gaza, the blockade does not prevent Egypt from reaching the sea.
Furthermore, a blockade has to be based on equality: It must apply to everybody. Of course there is always the possibility that the blockading party may give special permission to certain neutral ships to go through, but these are exceptions.
A blockade has to permit the passage of humanitarian assistance if needed. However, the San Remo Manual includes two conditions (in Article 103): first, the blockading party may decide where and when and through which port the assistance should reach the coast. In addition, the state may require that a neutral organization on the coast should control the distribution of the items. For instance, in Gaza, does it reach the civilians or Hamas?
Finally, there is the condition that a state may not starve the civilian population (San Remo, Article 102). This conforms also to the general principles of the laws on armed conflict.
What If a Ship Disobeys the Blockade?
What may be done to a ship that disobeys the blockade? Here, there may be a distinction between merchant ships and warships. A merchant ship may be visited, searched, or captured; and if the ship resists, it may be attacked. The situation of neutral warships is not quite clear: Warships may also be searched and captured, but opinions are divided on whether they may be attacked. An attack is certainly permitted in a situation of self-defense.
A ship that clearly intends to breach the blockade can be dealt with while it is still on the high seas. Stopping the flotilla in international waters 100 kilometers from Israel was legal: In time of armed conflict, ships breaching the blockade may be searched even on the high seas.”
It is therefore easy to conclude that all those who claimed that Israel acted illegally during the May flotilla event, even invoking accusations of ‘piracy’, were widely off the mark and obviously motivated far more by political ideology than any concrete understanding of international law.
Given therefore that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza which could justify the breaching of Israel’s maritime blockade and that Israel repeatedly offers to transport any donations made to the people of Gaza via existing overland channels, coupled with the fact that in order for the blockade – aimed at preventing the transportation of weaponry to the terrorist regime with which Israel is at war – to be considered legal it must be universally enforced, it is obvious that the organizers of the various flotillas have other aims in mind when they repeatedly try to break the blockade. It is therefore necessary to look at the organizations behind the campaign.
The umbrella organization which co-ordinates, initiates and promotes blockade-breaking is the ‘Free Gaza’ movement: a coalition of various sub-groups including the International Solidarity Campaign from which it draws two of its leaders – Adam Shapiro and Huwaida Arraf. Its board of advisors includes figures with long histories of anti-Israel activity and rhetoric such as Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Jeff Halper of ICAHD, Noami Klein and Baroness Jenny Tonge. The ‘Free Gaza’ campaign has clear links with Hamas – the terrorist organization with which Israel is at war.
Under the ‘Free Gaza’ umbrella the organizers of this upcoming flotilla also shelter. ‘European Jews for a Just Peace’ also includes assorted organizations, including ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’ and ‘Jewish Voices for a Just Peace in the Middle East’. Recently a meeting was held in Stockholm to co-ordinate the next ‘Freedom Flotilla’. Its participants included the IHH – the self-same Turkish ‘humanitarian’ organization which was the cause of the bloodshed on board the Mavi Marmara on May 31st. This indicates beyond any reasonable doubt that the tragic events of the last flotilla were by no means a one-off mishap, but are part of a carefully constructed campaign to deliberately de-legitimise Israel and undermine its capability for self-defence. After all, any legitimate human rights activists would have immediately distanced themselves from the martyrdom-seeking IHH thugs after the Mavi Marmara affair. ‘Free Gaza’ and its partners instead continue to work with the IHH on several simultaneous projects.
Let’s now take a look at some of the figures involved in the EJJP flotilla project. The EJJP website informs us that:
“Soon we will send a Jewish Boat to Gaza. The reasons for our campaign and our boat principles are reproduced below. We, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP), are organising the project in cooperation with members of our German partner Jüdische Stimme für Gerechten Frieden in Nahost (Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East). The campaign is sponsored by European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP), the federation of 11 European Jewish peace groups, American Jews for a Just Peace (AJJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
We are well advanced with practicalities: in particular, our experienced boat captain and JfJfP Executive Committee member Glyn Secker, has identified a suitable vessel at a reasonable price. We had originally planned to sail in July but organization has taken rather longer than we expected and we are now on schedule for August/September.”
JFJFP confirms this plan on its own website, which may not surprise those already familiar with its history of anti-Israel campaigning and collaboration with dubious organizations . JFJFP’s veteran British anti-Israel protester Glyn Secker was certainly very quick off the mark to defend the activists aboard the Mavi Marmara, just hours after the violent event, apparently having no need to wait for clarification of the facts.
In Germany, activists behind this flotilla project include Kate Katzenstein-Leiterer and Edith Lutz , both members of EJJP. Edith Lutz has participated in the past in one of the ‘Viva Palestina’ convoys infamous fools supplying cash to the proscribed terrorist organization Hamas. Kate Katzenstein-Leiterer has been quoted as saying that
“[s]ome see what we are doing as a betrayal. But the question is, what do they really know about the whole thing. Some people don’t want to be educated”
She is also a signatory of the ‘Jewish Appeal to Support the Goldstone Report’. Another leading light in the German branch of EJJP is Rolf Verleger, author of ‘Israel’s Wrong Way: a Jewish View’ and a man who thinks that Norman Finkelstein is “a proud and conscious Jew, who defends himself against the appropriation of Jewish tradition by Jewish blood-and-soil nationalism”.
In Sweden the latest flotilla is being promoted by former Israeli Dror Feiler, and if the name sounds familiar, so it should: this is the man responsible for the ‘art installation’ which so upset the Israeli ambassador to Sweden in 2004 because of its glorification of a suicide bomber responsible for the deaths of 21 Israelis. Feiler was also involved in the organization of the previous ‘Freedom Flotilla’ which ended in the deaths of nine people. He seemed at the time to have let slip the mask of faux humanitarianism, stating quite openly that:
“Either they take over our ships and force us to come to Ashdod, or intercept and sink us — or we’ll make it to Gaza. If we make it, we will have broken the siege. If they sink us, they will be showing the true face of a country gone insane. And if they force us into Ashdod, then they will be exactly like pirates in the Gulf of Aden . . . they’ll be the new pirates of the Mediterranean.”
So for Feiler and company this is a win-win situation: whatever Israel does it will look bad. Nothing to do with aid, nothing to do with supporting hungry Palestinians: It’s all about helping Hamas in its war against Israel.
The previous flotilla which Feiler organized had several Swedish passengers including Ulf Carmesund – secretary of the Social Democratic Brotherhood Movement, renowned for its flirtations with people such as Gilad Atzmon and Azam Tamimi . Also present was Swedish MP Mehmet Kaplan – the man who invited the Muslim Brotherhood to Sweden’s parliament. Mattias Gardell and Henry Ascher who is also involved in planning the upcoming escapade.
Another former participant in the May flotilla was Greek professor Vangelis Pissias – pictured below at the latest Stockholm meeting of the new flotilla’s organizers – who was quoted as saying that “[w]e’re helping the Palestinians, just like the Greeks helped during World War II against the Nazis”.
The Ynet story (linked above) noted:
“The professor stressed that he has nothing against Jews and that he even has Jewish friends. However, he refused to condemn Palestinian terrorism. ‘These people are doing what reality causes them to do,’ he said.”
These are but a few of the people and organizations at work behind the next attempt to break the maritime blockade which is preventing weapons reaching Hamas in Gaza. There are, of course, many more but their common denominator is far removed from humanitarian good will. They are eager and willing stooges for the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and they have succeeded in pulling the wool over the gullible eyes of the media, public and politicians too often in the past. It is high time the whole world knew what hides behind their ‘peace activist’ masks even before they board those next ships.
As for the members of ‘European Jews for a Just Peace’ – well what can one say about such people without being too uncharitable? Edith Lutz cited one of her reasons for taking part in the ‘Free Gaza’ campaign as being that “[w]e are frightened that Israeli policies will help anti-Semitism to grow. We also want to show that these actions are not Jewish”.
Ms. Lutz and her friends would do well to recognize that anti-Semitism in Europe existed long before the State of Israel became reality and that it led in the past to a very different kind of ship carrying Jews sailing into these waters. Her decision to endanger the lives of Israelis by aiding the anti-Semitic terrorist organisation Hamas – in the futile hope of making her own experience more tolerable – is not only cowardly, but shows a remarkable ignorance of history and a very basic misunderstanding of anti-Semitism.