Hamas

Goldstone reconsiders

In the Washington Post, Richard Goldstone writes:

We know a lot more about what happened in the Gaza war of 2008-09 than we did when I chaired the fact-finding mission appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council that produced what has come to be known as the Goldstone Report. If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.

The final report by the U.N. committee of independent experts — chaired by former New York judge Mary McGowan Davis — that followed up on the recommendations of the Goldstone Report has found that “Israel has dedicated significant resources to investigate over 400 allegations of operational misconduct in Gaza” while “the de facto authorities (i.e., Hamas) have not conducted any investigations into the launching of rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.”. . . .

Our report found evidence of potential war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity” by both Israel and Hamas. That the crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional goes without saying — its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.

The allegations of intentionality by Israel were based on the deaths of and injuries to civilians in situations where our fact-finding mission had no evidence on which to draw any other reasonable conclusion. While the investigations published by the Israeli military and recognized in the U.N. committee’s report have established the validity of some incidents that we investigated in cases involving individual soldiers, they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.

4th anniversary of Schalit capture

Jerusalem Post:

From Jerusalem, to Rome, to New York, supporters of captive soldier Gilad Schalit on Thursday cried out for his release as they marked the eve of the fourth anniversary of his kidnapping.

In Rome, the lights of the Colosseum were turned off. So too, the lights around the Old City walls in Jerusalem.

Lighting up the darkness at the walls was a sign showing the number of days, 1,460, that Schalit had been held by Hamas in Gaza, along with the line, “This is the time I have spent in captivity.”

In New York, a flotilla of ships, called “The True Freedom Flotilla,” sailed from Pier 40 around the Statue of Liberty and past the buildings of the United Nations.

Addressing a crowd in Rome, Gilad’s father, Noam, asked the international community not to forget his son.

“As I stand here tonight, in the capital of Italy, Rome, which is one of the central, ancient and important cities in Europe and the civilized world, I call on the international community and the European one in particular not to forget Gilad,” said Noam.

MV Rachel Corrie intercepted

The MV Rachel Corrie has been intercepted by the Israel navy approximately 55 km from the Gaza Strip, according to the Jerusalem Post. Earlier reports that the vessel had been boarded appear to have been incorrect.

Ynetnews reports that the ship’s crew have ignored a Navy request to stop. The Navy has now taken over the ship.

Gaza links – 2

The crew of the MV Rachel Corrie say they will continue sailing for Gaza.

Israel’s UK ambassador cancelled his appearance at the Hay on Wye festival in Britain. The UK lawyer Michael Mansfield QC said he believed Prime Minister Cameron should send British naval vessels to protect ships delivering aid to Gaza.

Leading officials of France, UK, Ireland and Belgium were quick to condemn Israel’s campaign on Monday, before video footage showed that the demonstrators aboard the Mavi Marmara were armed and that they violently attacked Israeli military personnel. The White House, however, refrained from criticizing Israel, and senior US officials have since defended Israel’s actions.

Michael J. Totten has the video.

Flotilla passengers tell IDF: “Go back to Auschwitz”.

Gaza links

Some links and headlines from the media and blogosphere:

  • The Irish-owned MV Rachel Corrie is still headed for Gaza.
  • Turkish newspapers have reported that three of the four Turkish jihadis killed during the boarding of the Mavi Marmara by IDF troops had declared their readiness to become shaheeds, or martyrs.
  • IDF footage of demonstrators aboard the Mavi Marmara preparing and initiating the armed confrontation.

  • At Standpoint, Joshua Rozenberg has republished an IDF document which gives an assessment of the legality of Israel’s military operations off Gaza this week.
  • US Vice President Joe Biden has said that Israel has the right to stop the ships bound for Gaza.
  • The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Report is publishing intelligence digests and articles about the flotilla, which it says is largely composed of organizations tied to the GMB.
  • The former commander of British forces in Afghanistan has said that Israeli troops should not be blamed for the deaths of activists on the Mavi Marmara.

Turkey’s role in the Gaza conflict

Israeli sources say it appears likely that the demonstrators who used knives. clubs and other weapons to attack IDF soldiers aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara are themselves Turkish nationals, and belong to an Islamist group connected with global jihadi networks. In fact, around 400 of the 700 people who sailed in the 6-vessel convoy were Turks. A recent TIP release notes that

The IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi – “humanitarian relief fund”)…has provided financial support to Iran-backed Hamas and has ties to global jihadi networks and the Muslim Brotherhood – a global umbrella Islamic organization of which Hamas is a branch – as well as mujahideen groups in Afghanistan.

In 2006, a study conducted by the Danish Institute for International Studies showed that the IHH was involved in planning an al-Qaeda attack against Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. IHH reportedly acquired forged documents, enlisted operatives and delivered weapons to al-Qaeda in preparation for the attack, which was ultimately foiled.[6]

The Danish study also cites a French intelligence report which stated that in the mid-1990s the IHH sent a number of operatives into war zones in Muslim countries to get combat experience. The report said that IHH transferred money and “caches of firearms, knives and pre-fabricated explosives” to Muslim fighters in those countries.[7]

Israeli officials have expressed concern that Islamist groups that endanger Israeli national security now have considerable influence within the Free Gaza movement, the group that organized the flotilla. According to the group’s own mission statement, “We agree to adhere to the principles of nonviolence and nonviolent resistance in word and deed at all times.”[8]

6] “IHH, which plays a central role in organizing the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, is a Turkish humanitarian relief fund with a radical Islamic anti-Western orientation,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, May 26, 2010, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e105.htm

[7] “IHH, which plays a central role in organizing the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, is a Turkish humanitarian relief fund with a radical Islamic anti-Western orientation,” Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, May 26, 2010, http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/html/hamas_e105.htm

[8] “Our Mission,” Free Gaza Movement Web site, Jan. 30, 2009, http://www.freegaza.org/en/about-us/mission

[9] Wilson, Scott, “Israel says Free Gaza Movement poses threat to Jewish state,” The Washington Post, June 1, 2010, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/31/AR2010053103445.html

The release goes on to stress the links that are believed to exist between the IHH and Turkey’s ruling party, the AKP, observing that in recent years the Turkish government has moved away from cooperation with Israel and has adopted a less friendly stance on several issues, including a conciliatory approach to Iran on the question of sanctions and the Iranian nuclear program.

While in themselves the actions and statements of a self-styled humanitarian organization might not be thought to present a significant challenge to the security of other states, including Israel, the IHH group’s connections both with militant Islamists and with the Turkish government party do give considerable cause for concern. In particular, the news that the Turkish Navy is reported to be considering sending a naval escort for the next two boats carrying pro-Palestinian demonstrators presents the possibility that such an action could spark a major conflict between Turkey and Israel. That the Mavi Marmara incident was a deliberate provocation there seems little doubt – hopefully it did not mark the first stage in a planned series of escalations. Western peace activists who have joined the convoys need to be careful that their activities do not end in starting a regional war.

Update (4.25pm): Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutogu has said in Ankara that “it’s time calm replaces anger”.

Israel, Gaza and International Law

Standpoint magazine has published an authoritative analysis of Israel’s legal position under international law. The anonymous posting which forms the centre of Joshua Rozenberg’s piece:

1. A maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza. Such blockade has been imposed, as Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas regime that controls Gaza, which has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Israel with weapons that have been smuggled into Gaza via the sea.

2. Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under international law that may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at sea. (Examples: USA blockaded Cuba, UK blockaded The Falklands, the EU blockaded Yugoslavia)

3. A blockade may be imposed at sea, including in international waters, so long as it does not bar access to the ports and coasts of neutral States.

4. The naval manuals of several western countries, including the US and England recognize the maritime blockade as an effective naval measure and set forth the various criteria that make a blockade valid, including the requirement of give due notice of the existence of the blockade.

5. In this vein, it should be noted that Israel publicized the existence of the blockade and the precise coordinates of such by means of the accepted international professional maritime channels. Israel also provided appropriate notification to the affected governments and to the organizers of the Gaza protest flotilla. Moreover, in real time, the ships participating in the protest flotilla were warned repeatedly that a maritime blockade is in effect.

6. Here, it should be noted that under customary law, knowledge of the blockade may be presumed once a blockade has been declared and appropriate notification has been granted, as above.

7. Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no boats can enter the blockaded area. That includes both civilian and enemy vessels.

8. A State may take action to enforce a blockade. Any vessel that violates or attempts to violate a maritime blockade may be captured or even attacked under international law. The US Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations sets forth that a vessel is considered to be in attempt to breach a blockade from the time the vessel leaves its port with the intention of evading the blockade.

9. Here we should note that the protesters indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade by means of written and oral statements. Moreover, the route of these vessels indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade in violation of international law.

10. Given the protesters explicit intention to violate the naval blockade, Israel exercised its right under international law to enforce the blockade. It should be noted that prior to undertaking enforcement measures, explicit warnings were relayed directly to the captains of the vessels, expressing Israel’s intent to exercise its right to enforce the blockade.

11. Israel had attempted to take control of the vessels participating in the flotilla by peaceful means and in an orderly fashion in order to enforce the blockade. Given the large number of vessels participating in the flotilla, an operational decision was made to undertake measures to enforce the blockade a certain distance from the area of the blockade.

12. Israeli personnel attempting to enforce the blockade were met with violence by the protesters and acted in self defense to fend off such attacks.