By Stuart Littlewood
‘Intercepting the Mavi Marmara on the high seas… was clearly unlawful.’ The United Nations said so.
It’s in the report of the UN fact-finding mission set up by the Human Rights Council to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks a year ago on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance to Gaza, during which nine people were killed and many others injured.
Reporting last September the Mission was "satisfied that the blockade was inflicting disproportionate damage upon the civilian population in the Gaza Strip and that as such the interception could not be justified and therefore has to be considered illegal…
"The Mission considers that one of the principal motives behind the imposition of the blockade was a desire to punish the people of the Gaza Strip for having elected Hamas. The combination of this motive and the effect of the restrictions on the Gaza Strip leave no doubt that Israel’s actions and policies amount to collective punishment as defined by international law… No case can be made for the legality of the interception and the Mission therefore finds that the interception was illegal.”
And that wasn’t all. The Mission considered that the naval blockade was implemented in support of the overall closure regime. “As such it was part of a single disproportionate measure of armed conflict and as such cannot itself be found proportionate. Furthermore, the closure regime is considered by the Mission to constitute collective punishment of the people living in the Gaza Strip and thus to be illegal and contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
The action of the Israel Defense Force in intercepting the Mavi Marmara on the high seas was "clearly unlawful" and could not be justified even under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations [the right of self-defense].
Pack Your Bags, Mr Ban
So just what did the Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, think he was doing last week when he attempted to scupper the latest humanitarian effort by sending a letter to governments around the Mediterranean calling on them to use their influence to discourage any more flotillas such as the one due to sail towards the end of June, which he says "carry the potential to escalate into violent conflict".
There is, of course, nothing potentially violent about an unarmed mercy ship. There is everything potentially violent about an illegal naval blockade that the United Nations should have squelched long ago.
A press release from Mr Ban’s office said that flotillas were not helpful in resolving the basic economic problems in Gaza, though the situation there remains unsustainable, and that assistance and goods destined to Gaza should be channeled through legitimate crossings and established channels.
No, Mr Ban. What has been unhelpful in resolving the basic economic problems in Gaza is the yellowbellied failure of the UN to discharge its duty to implement its own resolutions and enforce humanitarian law.
The Secretary-General ought to remind himself of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), which emphasises "the need to ensure sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings" and calls for "the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment".
“Unimpeded”, Mr Ban, as in u-n-i-m-p-e-d-e-d. Do we need to buy a megaphone?
So what is this talk about using "legitimate crossings and established channels"? Everyone knows that those channels, operated by the criminal blockader itself, are designed to impede the flow of everything and everyone to and from Gaza.
It’s bad enough that the wimp Obama is busy rewriting international law, circumventing inconvenient UN resolutions and trying to give his Zionist friends the green light to keep the Palestinian lands and resources they have already stolen and create opportunities for them to grab more.
Why aren’t you, as Secretary-General, exhorting member states around the Mediterranean to do their duty under the UN Charter and ensure that the aid gets through to Gaza DIRECT?
As if we hadn’t enough of them already.
If you cannot uphold international law or insist on compliance with the raft of UN resolutions requiring an end to Israeli occupation and a permanent halt to interference with the Palestinian Territories, Mr Ban, you bring the UN into disrepute. You should pack your bags and clear off back home.
The Secretary-General’s spokesman, Martin Nesirky, sings the same tune and says that Freedom Flotillas are useless. He urges the Government of Israel to take further meaningful and far-reaching steps to end the closure of Gaza, within the framework of Security Council resolution 1860, and emphasises that the operation of legitimate crossings must be adequate to meet the needs of Gaza’s civilian population. That’s real bright when everyone and his dog knows you can "urge" Israel all you like but the regime will take no notice until it is forced to.
Israel is a member of the United Nations and a signatory to the UN’s Charter, whose principles it happily violates repeatedly. It now plans to continue its crazed defiance of the law, the UN and international opinion by committing the same crime again and blocking the next flotilla. A report today in Ha’aretz shows how futile the words of Ban and Nesirky are. Israeli prime minister Netanyahu warns that his military will if necessary use force against anyone who tries to disobey his navy’s orders and head to Gaza’s shore. There is also talk of deploying snipers.
It’s clear that peace-workers and the decent folk of the world cannot look to the UN for action under present management. For all its pouncing around it has done nothing effective. So while we wait for Mr Ban to be replaced by someone with guts and gumption, perhaps Mr Nesirky would kindly explain what is so “useless” about a humanitarian flotilla trying to burst through a cruel and illegal blockade that’s operated by a bunch of delinquents who may soon have to answer to charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity?
A letter two months ago to my MP about the need to protect the next Gaza flotilla from unlawful interference has gone unanswered. What arrangements were being made, I wanted to know, to defend these civilians from the sort of murderous harassment on the high seas that caused worldwide uproar last year?
The Med is full of NATO ships at the moment in the service of freedom and democracy, or so we’re told. It would not surprise me if the brass hats have agreed to steer well clear of the area where Israel does its marauding and leave the Zionist extremists free to terrorise and assault the unarmed crews and passengers of a brave little fleet of mercy ships.
– Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.