SOLDIERS BOARD one of the two Gaza-bound boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists in the Mediterranean Sea in 2011.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
An NGO obtained an unusual court order on Wednesday to seize a flotilla – which is trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza – in order to provide assistance to terrorist victims, even though those boats have not yet been captured by the IDF.
Shurat Hadin – Israel Law Center, representing terrorist victims’ families, got Jerusalem District Court Judge Moshe Drori to issue a temporary seizure order for two Norwegian ships, which are due to reach Gaza’s maritime area as part of the flotilla in the coming weeks.
The interim court order means that the ships, the Karstein and Freedom, worth between €75,000 and €150,000, will be initially designated to be sold, the proceeds going to benefit the victims of Hamas terrorism, should the IDF capture them while trying to break the blockade.
According to court documents, the ships’ owner and Hamas would still have an opportunity to contest the seizure and sale of the ships before a final order is granted.
The flotilla’s organizers have said that if they succeed in reaching Gaza, the ships will be donated to civilian organizations and local fishermen.
But Shurat Hadin, bringing expert witnesses former Dep. Navy commander Rear-Admiral Noam Feig and former Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) official Aryeh Spitzen, told the court that Hamas would most likely use the ships to increase the size of its navy. Even if the ships were initially donated to civilian causes, Hamas’s desire to use them to attack Israeli naval vessels, natural gas facilities and for more attempts to break the blockade would be too hard for it to resist.
Drori did not order the IDF to seize the ships and said he would express no opinion regarding how the state should handle the issue of the ships from a national security perspective.
Rather, the court said its order simply meant that if the IDF chose to seize the ships and brought them to Israel, the temporary seizure order would then apply to the ships.
The petition leading to the court order was filed on behalf of the Gavish family, who was killed in the 2002 Passover terrorist attack – David, Rachel, their son Avraham, and maternal grandfather Yitzhak Kanner.
Shurat Hadin was also representing the family of Adam Weinstein – murdered in a 2001 Jerusalem terrorist attack.
In 2006, a different judge ruled that Hamas give the Gavish family NIS 90 million, but until the seizure order regarding the ships there had been no way to get Hamas to pay.
The Weinstein family’s case is still ongoing before Drori in a separate legal proceeding.
The ruling raises questions about whether it will be upheld if it is later appealed, as the Supreme Court in August 2016 issued a ruling blocking the state from confiscating the Estelle, the Swedish ship used in a 2012 flotilla aimed at breaking Israel’s Gaza blockade.
However, that ruling had rejected the state’s desire to confiscate the ship on the grounds that the state waited nearly a year to make its confiscation request.
It was unclear whether Shurat Hadin’s preemptive claim and its argument that it needed the boats to fulfill Israeli court judgments would be enough to lead to a different result should the ships’ owners appeal upon a seizure.
“Flotilla organizers sail here on ships every year to try to break the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip and to violate the sovereignty of Israel,” said Shurat Hadin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner.
“Every year they are stopped by the IDF and their ships are towed to the Ashdod Port and they are sent home as if nothing occurred. No longer. This time, the ships will not be returned to their owners, but will be turned over to terrorist victims. For the first time, the flotilla organizers will learn that there is a price to pay for their provocations, for systematic violations of international law and for supporting a terrorist organization.”
In the past, Shurat Hadin has also succeeded in delaying or helping to get flotillas canceled using lawsuits to sabotage flotilla ships’ insurance.