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June 7th, 2010
Freethought San Marcos: Israel’s piracy, bellicosity, and inhumanity

Freethought San Marcos: A column

What’s the difference between a group of masked Israeli commandoes taking control of a vessel in international waters at gunpoint, capturing or killing its passengers, and confiscating its cargo and a band of Somalis taking a ship at gunpoint and doing the same? The Israeli commandoes are paid agents of the government of Israel and were acting under a military commission from the government of Israel, making their pirate-like behavior an act of war according to many experts.

For those of us who believe in the right of a Jewish homeland, the behavior of the various governments of Israel since 1948 toward the people, mostly Palestinians who have lived in what is now Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza for generations, has been troubling at the least. I am probably like many Americans who support Israel but do not support the actions of its government when it attacks unarmed people (as when it carpet-bombed Gaza before instituting a blockade); destroys orchards of olive, lemon, and other producing trees vital to the lives of Palestinians who have tended them for generations; confiscates land on which Palestinian families have lived and worked since long before Israel was created in 1948; forces Palestinians from their homes; expands Israeli settlements into Palestinian land; blockades the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in Gaza, depriving them of food, medicine, building materials, and other supplies vital to their lives.

Constitutional expert and political blogger on Glenn Greenwald made this comment during a MSNBC interview about the actions of Israel in boarding a Turkish ship that was part of a flotilla taking humanitarian supplies to Gaza a few days ago: “The blockade is one of the most brutal and inhumane blockades that we’ve seen in the last generation. Look at UN reports that are objective, not Netanyahu aides, that say that 60% of the babies in Palestine have anemia, 65% of the population is food insecure; the entire Palestinian economy has collapsed as a result of this blockade. Israel routinely refuses to permit all sorts of imports including food, chocolate, french fries, anything but the barest necessities to keep those prisoners — which is what they are — alive.”

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported in May that 98 percent of industrial operations in Gaza have been shut down since 2007 and there are acute shortages of fuel, cash, cooking gas and other basic supplies as a result of the blockade. Israel’s military operation in Gaza destroyed water and sanitation infrastructure, including reservoirs, wells, and thousands of kilometers of piping, leading to widespread water-related health problems. About half of Gaza’s hospitals and healthcare facilities were damaged by Israel’s previous military operations. As much as 20% of Gaza’s essential medicines are usually out of stock, and there are shortages of essential spare parts for many items of medical equipment.

If Israel wanted merely to inspect the cargo of the Turkish ship it assaulted, it could have done so during daylight hours, not in the dead of night. It could have used diplomatic channels to arrange an inspection through the Turkish government, with whom it has enjoyed friendly relations. When masked Israeli commandoes armed with automatic weapons (as well as less lethal arms) descend on the ship from helicopters at 4:30 am in international waters, few people would have seen this as a normal act. It was a belligerent act, a frightening act, perhaps an act of piracy akin to the piracy regularly seen off the cost of Somalia. It became an act of kidnapping and robbery as the commandoes confiscated both the humanitarian supplies and personal property of the more than 600 people participating in the flotilla.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982 defines “maritime piracy” as “any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed: (i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft;
(ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State….”

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) defines piracy as “the act of boarding any vessel with an intent to commit theft or any other crime, and with an intent or capacity to use force in furtherance of that act.” The illegal military action by Israel in seizing the vessels, taking all aboard them captive, placing them in prisons in Israel, confiscating all of the cargo (as well as personal property of the passengers), and killing nine passengers looks a lot like piracy whether or not it counts as piracy technically.

As reported in the Boston Herald: “U.S. Rep. Barney Frank described the nine activists killed in the conflict as ‘innocent’ and called for an independent inquiry into Israel’s actions. Frank said that ‘as a Jew,’ Israeli treatment of Arabs around some of the West Bank settlements ‘makes me ashamed that there would be Jews that would engage in that kind of victimization of a minority.’”

Given the ongoing military conflict between Hamas (the party that controls the democratically-elected government in Gaza) and Israel, the Israeli blockade would be legal if it passed the test of proportionality; that is, if it did not inflict excessive harm on civilians according to British maritime and international law expert Douglas Guilfoyle. UN agencies have concluded that only 25% of needed aid is getting through to Gaza. Hamas fires into southern Israel sporadically, but not enough to justify a blockade as extreme as the one Israel has imposed. The harshness of the blockade demonstrates the lack of proportionality Guilfoyle speaks about.

Among those participating with over 600 people in the flotilla was former Ambassador Edward Peck, who has served under eight presidents and was ambassador to Iraq under Jimmy Carter and to Mauritania under Ronald Reagan, and was a Foreign Service officer in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Also participating in the flotilla was retired US Colonel Ann Wright, a former US diplomat. She called on the Obama Administration to challenge the Israeli government’s siege of Gaza: “It would be a really brave, bold move as every U.S. presidential administration since the formation of the State of Israeli in 1948 has blindly given free-rein to Israel in whatever actions it wishes to undertake no matter if the actions are a violation of international law. The carte blanche given to Israel by the United States has been dangerous for Israel’s national security as well as for the national security of the United States.”

When a country is free to use its military to engage with impunity in what amounts to piracy, kidnapping, murder, and theft on the high seas, while keeping 1.5 million people in a virtual concentration camp 26 miles long by 7 miles wide, holding them captive without adequate food, medicine, and supplies, there isn’t much justice or law in the phrase international law. No one with a basic understanding of the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including supporters of Israel, should see Israel’s actions toward Gaza as proportional to the threat posed, and it certainly is neither compassionate nor humane to the civilians held captive there by Israeli policy.

© Freethought San Marcos, Lamar W. Hankins

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48 thoughts on “Freethought San Marcos: Israel’s piracy, bellicosity, and inhumanity

  1. Have you seen the video? It and history kind of undermine your narrative. Can Turkey, Iran or anyone assure Israel that rockets won’t start flying into their bedrooms again if the blockade eases?

    And I wouldn’t use the words ‘concentration camp’ to describe the actions of a people who know a thing or two about concentration camps.

  2. Why not get a bunch of carnival cruise liners over to Israel and bring all the Jewish folks to Florida. Florida would no longer have a housing surplus and rockets would no longer be landing on Jewish settlements.

  3. Excellent article, the truth is, it’s not just the 1.5 million people of Gaza who are in an open air prison; it’s also the Palestinians of the West Bank too.
    And John McGlothlin, you really miss the point, why it is when it comes to Palestine, the victims always are being blamed for whatever the aggressor occupiers do to them. So John, go read some history books about the Middle east, you might understand what Mr. Hankins means.

  4. Response to John McGlothlin:

    The use of the words “concentration camp” is intentional because it is one of history’s great ironies that a people persecuted and killed for their religion and culture are willing to behave toward another people in a similar manner. I recognize that Gaza is not Auschwitz, but for most of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, the suffering and death they experience from the blockade is a slower means to the same end that was served at Auschwitz. Death by a thousand pin pricks is still death.

  5. John, not only have I seen the video, but I saw the interview with the Israeli ambasador, and his version of the story didn’t match the video.

    Today is the 43rd anniversary of the attack on the USS Liberty.

  6. @ John McGlothlin, yes, They were inspected by customs and would consent to inspection. The raid was an execution. The attack was a night time assault and self defense is legal. Two things to keep in mind, International waters – international law. When the mission is deception, Peace activists are military targets. They shot an unarmed American once in the chest, once in the face and three times in the back of the head.

  7. The boarding of the ship was incompetent and the loss of life magnifies the incompetence. The government of Israel makes poor decisions sometimes. I bet everyone will agree to that, but that doesn’t mean that the blockade itself is one of them. Israel is at war with Hamas — just ask Hamas. Rather than a more aggressive conflict, Israel has chosen a passive defensive action of a blockade and denied its enemy items it finds dangerous. The list is questionable, but the idea is not. Why would Israel allow Hamas to rearm freely?

  8. Response 2 to John McGlothlin:

    Israel should not support rearming Hamas, and I have never suggested otherwise.

    International law (approved through international agreements by all but rogue states) provides that civilians should not be made to suffer for the actions of their government. However, before Hamas was democratically elected in Gaza, it was doing to Israel exactly what it is doing now and Israel did not impose the blockade to harm the civilian population of Gaza. It seems that israel is trying to punish the civilian population for exercising their right to vote for their choice in an election.

    I disagree completely with the violence of Hamas, just as I oppose Israel’s violence. I have believed for many decades that nonviolent resistance to Israeli expansion and violence is the best way to end the conflict. I believe that the Israeli population as a whole would not stand for violence against unarmed, nonviolent resisters. There is such a movement among Palestinians along with the support by some Israelis for it, but we don’t get news about these nonviolent efforts very often.

  9. According to the reports on the autopsies, one Turk was shot 4 times in the head; the Israeli ambasador said they were only armed with pistols. I own and shoot both .45 and 9mm, and 4 times in the head is not pistol fire. Someone isn’t telling the truth.

  10. This article was horribly researched prior to writing.

    I am originally from Aqaba, Jordan and have been attending school at Texas State for 2 years. I have personally been to Gaza. They have open air markets that are filled will fresh produce. They have clothing stores, retail shops, toy stores, etc. In fact, they produce enough food to actually export some. You should try some of the fruit they export. For the most part, everyone seems happy and enjoying life. I have seen more suffering in Los Angeles and New York City than in Gaza.

    The only things the blockade prevents from entering Gaza are weapons. Israel brings in additional food, medical supplies, clothes, etc. If any argument could be made, it would be that unemployment is so high that many can’t afford these things. And there aren’t any social safety nets to help these people. But it is absolutely false to claim that the goods are not there.

    It is true. Many of the Palestinians are suffering. But not because of any of the actions by the Israelis. Hamas has created an environment where corporations are scared to have a presence in Gaza. Small businesses aren’t successful because Hamas is like the mafia and they push around the Gazans and take away their profits.

    It’s too bad the author does feel his article warranted any genuine research. It’s pieces like this that are harming the peace process. Nothing will change until people like this author learn the truth.

  11. Ali – First off I have to assume you are talking about the blockade article I posted. I am in constant contact with Gaza. And keep up with Cynthia Mckinney so I am very aware of the situation there. They have been under siege and you HAVE TO KNOW THAT. We all know here what is going on and the blockade started in 2007. They are not allowing MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS They are not allowing CHOCOLATE They are only allowing certain meds they approve They are not allowing BUILDING SUPPLIES They are not allowing TOYS the list is not available and changes every week. They have lost a lot of life this year alone and you are looking pathetic defending them. Now that we have that out of the way, This is a comment space for Lamars article, I hope you were not talking about that article. That is a very good article don’t you think?

  12. Ali,
    First, I sincerely doubt that you’re from Jordan, and if you really are, you would’ve known few things about how the people of Gaza live now, you just need to check what the U.N. agencies report about the situation there.
    Second, watch this report aired on NBC nightly news on Tuesday 6/8 then you’ll know for a fact how the people of Gaza live.

  13. Gary First-I was talking about the author, not you. But Cynthia McKinney is hardly a source of honest information. And another thing – how specifically are you in constant contact with Gaza?

    Under siege suggests a continued attack. You seem to confuse the terms siege and blockade. That would be amusing if the situation wasn’t so dire. Israel is not continually attacking Gazans. In fact, the only time Israeli military fires at Gaza is in response to rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. Your use of the word siege suggests that you are either ignorant of it’s real meaning or intentionally using it to further propaganda. Which is it?

    Coffeeman-I care not what you “sincerely doubt”. It’s never a good sign when your first argument is “I doubt you are who you say you are.” People who argue like that generally have nothing to bring to the discussion. If you are using the UN as your source of information, I understand your confusion. NBC is yet another poor source for information. It’s too bad that so many liberal Americans are so gullible when it comes to the Middle East.

    I have a hard time understand your logic that Jordanians “know few things about how the people of Gaza live”. Your opinion on this matter is irrelevant and baseless.

    If you don’t want to take it from me, fine. I don’t really care either way. But at least see for yourself:

  14. Response to Ali _________:

    The pictures from the above link, dated last November, might be meaningful if I could read the language in which the captions are printed and knew something about the source of the pictures. The pictures themselves have no relation to malnutrition and food insecurity by high percentages of Gazans. There is a vibrant underground economy in Gaza, but that has little to do with the need for potable water, sanitation, food affordable by Gazans, and housing. Without knowing your bona fides, I am unable to understand why I should believe you rather than the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs about the situation in Gaza.

  15. I feel that I do not need to tell you about my contacts Ali. Why would you want to know? Who are you? And why are you lying and disrespecting here?

  16. Lamar-the pictures show the reality that you failed to research. The pictures tell a story that contractions your narrative. And what is your response? “I can’t read Arabic. I don’t know the source.” Ask Gary’s contacts to translate for you. But don’t get me wrong-it’s important to question sources. I just find your excuses sophomoric and your unwillingness to seek out a translation or find supporting evidence suggestive of the fact that you might not like what you find. You seem like the type of person that doesn’t like his narrative challenged in any way-the type of person that would rather ignore evidence to the contrary than reevaluate and change his position. Maybe I’m wrong.

    Gary-that was an expected response. When a liar get’s caught, it’s common for them to say something to the effect of “I feel that I do not need to tell you…” Typical. Why would I not what to know how you are in “constant contact with Gaza”? Not many people have “constant contact with Gaza”, so I find it intriguing. Your conclusion that I am lying is lacking something very critical-we call it evidence. Mix some of that in with your accusations next time. As for the “disrespecting” part-I assume you are referring to the fact that I called you out on incorrectly using the term ‘siege’. I offer my most sincere apologies if I hurt your feels. I will make a more conscience effort to be more sensitive when pointing out other people’s mistakes next time.

    I’ve said what needed to be said and will leave it at that. Hopefully, the readers will verify for themselves rather than believe this article.

    السلام يكون معكم جميعا.

  17. Lamar, the next time a group of thugs tries to enter your home to kill your family will you try and stop them? These thugs got what they deserved. Provocation produced just deserts. There are 2 sides to every story and your analysis is sadly lacking in balance. The time I spent at the ICTY litigating international war crimes convinced me that all sides are wrong and that provocation is a tool of expediency.

    In Kosovo its clear that the KLA used tactic of sacrificing its population in order to achieve “international humanitarian outrage” guess what it worked. Here Israel is bombarded and attacked by Arab thugs. These guys were suicide bombers in a boat. Outrage should be directed at the suffering caused those Arab bombs hurling toward innocents in Israel.

    Sorry Guy, your off the mark here.

  18. Response to David Sergi:

    I find it hard to accept that former Ambassador Edward Peck, retired US Colonel Ann Wright, and Irish Nobel peace prize winner, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, would be considered “Arab thugs” or “suicide bombers in a boat.” I find fault with both Israelis and Palestinians for the failure to achieve a peace settlement. If you believe that Israel is the only aggrieved party in that conflict, that is something about which we will have to disagree.

  19. In this case they were part of a group of thugs. If you choose to keep bad company, even late in life and even after you have acheived greatness and associate with thugs you become one. Just look at how Helen Thomas went from a respected journalist to a pariah when her dementia kicked in. Our Courts convict many people because they choose to be present when others commit crimes and they are complicit in the planning.

    This is a text book play from the FLA in Kosovo. It’s a manufactured ploy and your really too smart to fall for this. I have been in the presence of ICTY defendants and other accused war criminals; I have spoken to those that have defended the KLA members and been to Kosovo; this similarity is amazing

    I believe both sides are aggrieved. In this case I do believe that Israel has the right to defend itself.. As long as rockets rain down on Israel the blockade is a humanitarian way to keep rockets out. If Hamas would renounce violence and sit at the table then statehood is possible and the blockade goes away.

  20. I am sorry I reloaded the page five times and my stuff wasn’t here and now it is and I got some egg on me. I little pissed I guess.

  21. Those videos clearly show that this was no “Peace Flotilla”. Sling shots and metal bars are no match for side arms and suggest to me that they intended to provoke violence from the Israelis. Weapons, whether primitive or advanced, have no place in the hands of peaceniks. They knew exactly how Israel would respond and, unfortunately, the liberal media is playing right into the propaganda trap.

    I would suggest that next time Israel disable to propellers and let the boats drift in the Mediterranean.

  22. The vid shows there was a hit list and Slingshots? Do you tghink those ex military Americans are terrorists? Really? The IDF has been parading those slingshots all week. You know its a toy from wall mart right? You saying they were trying to provoke their attack is typical, Turn it around so that the guys with masks, machine guns and a list with pictures is the victim.

  23. Easy, Gary First. You seem to be blinded from the egg on your face.

    What do you make of this?

    The Captain of Turkish Ship “Marmara” Testifies: “I Tried to Stop the Preparation Two Hours Before IDF Boarded”

    Israel’s Foreign Secretary’s Department shared video of the captain of the Turkish ship “Marmara” testifying how the “peace activists” prepared to use violence with the soldiers enforcing the blockade. He claimed, “I tried to stop the preparations for violence, but with no success. I ordered the employees of the ship to collect all the iron rods (sticks)”.

    While the supporters of the “peace activists” keep insisting that the IDF initiated the violence on board, Israel is offering more proof of the real intentions of the so called “peace activists”.

    For the first time since the flotilla incident, the department of foreign affairs disclosed the testimony of the captain of the Turkish ship, who said that he saw with his own eyes the participants of the flotilla cutting rods from the deck and converting them to iron cudgels.

    The captain, Muhamet Toobel, said the preparations to confront the IDF soldiers started two hours before the first soldier came on board.

    Toobel noted that in the hours before the confrontation the crew felt the stress among the activists who were gathered on the main deck. After a quick check, he understood that members of the Turkish organization IHH were responsible for creating the iron clubs.

    This preparation worried him, and he tried to stop it, but to no avail.

    “I asked the second (sub) captain what’s going on and he told me ‘they cut the iron rods and put them on the bridge’. When the soldiers came on the board they (the activists) ran to the bridge and grabbed the iron billy clubs.

    “Some of the iron cudgels I saw, I took and threw to the sea and others I hid. I was not aware that there were such huge amounts of iron that were converted to weapons”, further testified the captain, a Turkish citizen.

    When asked if the activists prepared in advance for the confrontation, he answered “yes, that is what I saw and that is also what I have been told by members of my crew.”

    The documents containing the complete investigation of the captain and video testimony of another activist from the flotilla were uploaded to the website of the terror department of Israel’s intelligence agency and were to be used for countering propaganda around the world.

    This website has a high reputation of trustworthiness as no editing is ever performed on the information uploaded to its database.

  24. “U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) Ann Wright, on a speaking tour of the United States on behalf of radical pacifist women’s group Code Pink, bills herself as an eyewitness to the IDF raid on the Mavi Marmara and what she termed the “murder” of “nine innocent civilians.” However, in an interview with Aaron Lerner of IMRA, she admits she did not actually see the clash between the IDF soldiers and the armed passengers on board the Mavi Marmara.

    Lerner asks questions about what she saw, but does not remind her that the confrontation took place between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m., in the dark of night (IDF footage of the raid was carried out with night vision equipment) when she admits to being on another ship..”

  25. Thanks for joining in the discussion. No, not blind. Been watching this situation for quite a few years now. OK That link, it’s not usable. It’s Israeli intel. I would not believe anything there under any circumstances. The activists were getting ready for an illegal assault you are correct and they have every right to defend themselves. You people that are saying they were supposed to just lay down are not living in reality. The attack is illegal and looks like it was a planned hit to anyone who knows how these Israelis work.

  26. Interesting. So Israeli sources are automatically discredited, Gary? It is a video interview with the captain of the Marmara! The source doesn’t get any better than that. You seem to have a disturbing prejudice that is preventing you from honestly examining all the evidence.

    JKS, thanks for sharing that video. It seems like few people actually want to know the truth.

  27. This is the BS that needs to stop now, You are mistaken, OR something else. The dancing men were Israeli and were on Israeli TV later saying they were Mossad and were there for documentation. Be sure to see the Israeli TV and the NYP talking about it. Of course they offer support to go fight their war. Why were Israelis dancing on 911 in Manhattan? That is the question.

  28. I just did some research on your vid and It’s of of the celebration (in Kuwait!) when Saddam was captured.

  29. According to Snopes, Gary doesn’t have a clue what’s real and what isn’t. But like we needed Snopes to confirm that one!! 😉

    Claim: CNN used old footage to fake images of ‘Palestinians dancing in the street’ after the terrorist attack on the USA.

    Status: False.

    Try again, Gary!

  30. If you actually did research on that one, such as googling “Palestinians dancing 9/11” the second hit was the snoops report that confirms the authenticity of the videos Hollaway linked to.
    Apparently, your research skills are top notch, Gary 1st. /sarcasm

  31. I saw the snopes and ignored it as I always do. Is that what you call a source? The clip is faked. The EU wants an investigation, Rock stars are canceling shows in tel aviv, And 2 million protested in Turkey. Because they dont watch American TV or read snopes. hahaha have fun kiddo. Peace

  32. Maybe you can shut me down with a website with the word “facts” in the name next. There are literally hundreds of website set up for deception on this and any topic concerning Israel. And You need more than snopes. That is not even on topic. The Mavi Marmara is the topic. Still snopes me all you want, that’s BS from a BS site. TIMMAY!

  33. Oh, Gary. If only I was as smart, and as well informed, and as insightful as you. Oh, man. I surrender to your superior sources and arguments. /s

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