"If a person entrusts a neighbor with money or goods, and they are stolen from the trustee's house, then, if the thief is found, he must pay double." Exodus 22:7

The Gaza Blockade - Is it illegal?

According to Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockade

A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually directed at an entire country or region, rather than a fortress or city. Also, a blockade historically took place at sea, with the blockading power seeking to cut off all maritime transport from and to the blockaded country; although stopping all land transport to and from an area may also be considered a blockade.

Close patrol of a hostile port, in order to prevent naval forces from putting to sea, is also referred to as a blockade. When a coastal city or fortress was besieged from the landward side, the besiegers would often blockade the seaward side as well. In the twentieth century, blockades sometimes included stopping all air traffic within the blockaded area. Most recently, blockades have sometimes included cutting off electronic communications by jamming radio signals and severing undersea cables.

Since WWII

Soviet land blockade of West Berlin, 1948–1949, known as the Berlin Blockade.

Egyptian blockades of the Straits of Tiran prior to the 1956 Suez War and the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

United States quarantine of Cuba during the October 1962 missile crisis, a partial blockade.

Indian blockade of East Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh War

Egyptian blockade of Israel during Operation Badr, part of the Yom Kippur War.

NATO blockade of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia 1993-1996 during Operation Sharp Guard.

Israeli sea and land blockade of the Gaza Strip since the outbreak of the Second Intifada (2000) up to the present.

Israeli blockades of some or all the shores of Lebanon at various times during the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the 1982 Lebanon War and the 1982-2000 South Lebanon conflict — resumed during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.

Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip, beginning in June 2007. [13]

Turkey and Azerbaijan blockades on Armenia during the Nagorno-Karabakh War

Whatever some people might have you believe, Israel is not totally blockading Gaza, restricting food and human necessities; That would be a siege. Israel's "Blockade" is checking goods coming into Gaza do not include weapons or war materials.

Israel’s Naval Blockade of Gaza Is Legal, Necessary

June 10, 2010, 5:16 PM EDT - Extracts from a commentary by Dore Gold      June 11 (Bloomberg)

The continuing demand that Israel should agree to an investigation -- with international involvement -- of its interception of a Turkish-led flotilla to Gaza last week presupposes that Israel did something fundamentally wrong.  

There is always room to conduct an internal probe by the Israeli Defense Force. This happens in Israel even after a successful military operation let alone in the case when the results are controversial. In fact, the IDF has already begun an inquiry into this incident.  

But Israel’s critics are raising other questions.

Why is Israel blockading the Gaza Strip?

What right does it have to board a ship in international waters? 

Why interfere with the humanitarian needs of Gaza’s Palestinian population?

Worldwide Hypocrisy

In dealing with the question of Israel’s right to halt the flotilla, there is an extraordinary amount of international hypocrisy going around generated by those who ignore the past practices of other states at war as well as the true humanitarian situation in Gaza.  

Naval blockades are a legitimate instrument that states employ for self-defence. They were used in the 19th-century by the British Navy, which blocked French ports in the Napoleonic Wars, and employed again in the 20th century during both world wars.      The U.S. set up a blockade of Cuba in 1962 to prevent the Soviets from delivering missiles to Fidel Castro -- though the White House called it a quarantine. The British also employed a blockade during the Falklands War.

More recently, the UN itself instituted a blockade of Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, adopting Security Council Resolution 665, which called on all UN member states “to halt all inward and outward maritime shipping in order to inspect and verify cargos.” The UN wanted to prevent the importing of weapons into Iraq and the export of Iraqi oil.  

During the Bosnian war, there was an arms embargo on Yugoslavia, and as a result NATO established a naval blockade between 1992 and 1996 of its Adriatic coastline. During those years, NATO ships boarded and inspected 6,000 ships and diverted 1,500 other vessels. Ships were halted and inspected before entering the territorial waters of Yugoslavia.     

Naval blockades have continued since then. Sierra Leone was blockaded by West African countries. Saudi Arabia declared that it was placing a naval blockade on the Red Sea Coast of Yemen in November 2009, in order to block Iranian re-supply of the Shiite rebellion in the northern part of Yemen. In the previous month, Yemen announced it had seized an Iranian ship named the Mahan-1 loaded with anti-tank weapons for the Yemeni Shiites.

Catching Violators

In general, the boarding of ships by soldiers to make sure that they are not carrying a cargo that violates an international embargo has been a common practice of many states.     

In December 2002, the U.S. learned that a North Korean ship in the Indian Ocean, some 600 miles from Yemen, was carrying Scud missiles and perhaps chemical weapons. Without permission from North Korea, Spanish commandos boarded the ship in international waters and found the missiles, but eventually let it go.      Normally the boarding of a ship at sea, outside of a blockade, requires the permission of the country whose flag it flies. Yet there is a growing debate about whether that norm should continue if there are suspicions that it might be carrying weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups.

Two Narratives

International reactions are often shaped by initial impressions. Undoubtedly, even Israel’s friends bought into the Hamas narrative: "the Gaza Strip is starving," "Israel’s cruel blockade must be removed", "the Turks just wanted to give humanitarian aid", "Israel opened fire on humanitarian workers."      Israel must replace the Hamas narrative with its own account: In fact, Gaza has plenty of food. Indeed, the Washington Post reported on June 3 that the stores of Gaza City are stocked “wall-to-wall” with food.

The people of Gaza need a better future, which the Hamas regime will never provide them, but they are not cut off from the world by Israel.      The Israeli blockade is legal and necessary and its removal would lead to a flood of heavy Iranian weaponry, including long- range missile systems, coming to Hamas.

Israel acted the way any other country, in exercising its right of self-defence, would have acted.

(Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1997 to 1999. )

Is Israel's naval blockade of Gaza legal?

Jonathan Saul - Reuters - LONDON - Wed Jun 2, 2010 2:16pm BST

http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE65133D20100602

What is the legality of the blockade and did Israel's intervention breach international law?

CAN ISRAEL IMPOSE A NAVAL BLOCKADE ON GAZA?

Yes it can , according to the law of blockade which was derived from customary international law and codified in the 1909 Declaration of London. It was updated in 1994 in a legally recognized document called the "San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea."

Under some of the key rules, a blockade must be declared and notified to all belligerents and neutral states, access to neutral ports cannot be blocked, and an area can only be blockaded which is under enemy control.

"On the basis that Hamas is the ruling entity of Gaza and Israel is in the midst of an armed struggle against that ruling entity, the blockade is legal," said Philip Roche, partner in the shipping disputes and risk management team with law firm Norton Rose.

WHAT ARE INTERNATIONAL WATERS?

Under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea a coastal state has a "territorial sea" of 12 nautical miles from the coast over which it is sovereign. Ships of other states are allowed "innocent passage" through such waters.

There is a further 12 nautical mile zone called the "contiguous zone" over which a state may take action to protect itself or its laws. "However, strictly beyond the 12 nautical miles limit the seas are the "high seas" or international waters," Roche said.

The Israeli navy said on Monday the Gaza bound flotilla was intercepted 120 km (75 miles) west of Israel. The Turkish captain of one of the vessels told an Istanbul news conference after returning home from Israeli detention they were 68 miles outside Israeli territorial waters.

Under the law of a blockade, intercepting a vessel could apply globally so long as a ship is bound for a "belligerent" territory, legal experts say.

CAN ISRAEL USE FORCE WHEN INTERCEPTING SHIPS?

Under international law it can use force when boarding a ship.

"If force is disproportionate it would be a violation of the key tenets of the use of force," said Commander James Kraska, professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College.

Israeli authorities said marines who boarded the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara opened fire in self-defence after activists clubbed and stabbed them and snatched some of their weapons.

Legal experts say proportional force does not mean that guns cannot be used by forces when being attacked with knives. "But there has got to be a relationship between the threat and response," Kraska said.

"While the full facts need to emerge from a credible and transparent investigation, from what is known now, it appears that Israel acted within its legal rights," said J. Peter Pham, a strategic adviser to U.S. and European governments.

OPPONENTS HAVE CALLED ISRAEL'S RAID "PIRACY." WAS IT?

No, as under international law it was considered a state action.

"Whether what Israel did is right or wrong, it is not an act of piracy. Piracy deals with private conduct particularly with a pecuniary or financial interest," Kraska said.

A Mandate to act

The 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement served as the basis for Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. In it, Israel was given authority to act precisely as it did. The relevant sentence states: "As part of Israel's responsibilities for safety and security within the three Maritime Activity Zones, Israel Navy vessels may sail throughout these zones, as necessary and without limitations, and may take any measures necessary against vessels suspected of being used for terrorist activities, or for smuggling arms, ammunition, drugs, goods, or for any other illegal activity…" Cal Thomas

Summary

The outcry against Israel has centred on inaccurate claims for what "International Law" says.

Israel has been portrayed as attacking "peaceful" "humanitarian workers" etc but the IDF responded to a murderous attack from members of a terrorist organisation.

Israel (and Egypt) was willing to land and transport the humanitarian aid, after having checked for weapons; not turning away humanitarian aid as the situation was portrayed.

Israel's actions were all perfectly legal in dealing with a territory with which it is at war. (or more accurately that is at war with Israel) Southern Israel is still being targetted with missiles See Sderot Media Centre

Israel's blockade is not causing a humanitarian crisis - the facts do not support the claims made by Hamas and its supporters. If some people are living in deprived conditions it is the fault of the Hamas government for siphoning off money to fund terror instead of looking after all its citizens. There is plenty of money and goods in Gaza, even if not fairly distributed. It would appear Hamas is keeping some people in poverty to show journalists.

Created 22/06/10

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