State: Gaza blockade legal, raid justified

State attorney asks High Court of Justice to reject petitions to release flotilla and allow it to enter Gaza.

June 2, 2010 06:44
3 minute read.
One of the flotilla boats docks at the Ashdod port

greek ship flotilla ashdod 311. (photo credit: Ron Friedman)


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The state, in a sharply worded response, asked the High Court of Justice on Tuesday to reject out of hand petitions pertaining to Monday’s seizure of vessels that were on their way to break the Israeli sea blockade of the Gaza Strip.

A panel of three judges headed by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch was due to hear the petitions on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

In its response to a petition filed by four lawyers, including attorney Avigdor Feldman, the state’s representatives, State Attorney Moshe Lador, Osnat Mandel, head of the High Court Petitions Section of the State Attorney’s Office, and attorneys Dina Zilber and Hila Gorni, wrote, “The petition suffers from a fundamental distortion in the description of the events as they actually transpired in reality, to such a degree that it is unclear what relationship there is between it and the possibility of doing justice, as the petitioners claim to seek in their action.”

The petitioners demanded that Israel return the hundreds of anti-blockade activists to their vessels in international waters and allow them to sail to Gaza. They described the interception of the ships and the fighting that broke out on board the Mavi Marmara as “murder,” “slaughter” and a “criminal act.”

The state replied that based on previous judicial decisions, the court should reject the petition because of its “vulgar and harsh language... The petition crossed the boundaries of what is acceptable in the way they chose to present their arguments.

“Not only does it not facilitate doing justice or clarifying the matter, but rather the opposite. It undermines this possibility, causes severe and unjustified injury to the image of the state, presents a highly distorted picture and deals unfairly with the respondents and the court to which it comes seeking justice.”

The state pointed out that “a not insignificant number of hostile elements took part in the flotilla who were armed with clubs, knives, iron rods, glass, etc., and they did not hesitate to use them against IDF soldiers who tried to prevent the boat from reaching Gaza.”

The aim of the passengers was to use force to open the Gaza Port, which would pave the way for “innumerable” ships carrying weapons and terrorists to the Gaza Strip, the state argued. Furthermore, the flotilla was organized in full coordination with the Hamas government. In fact, Hamas planned to sail its own boats to welcome the international flotilla.

The organizers deliberately sought a confrontation with Israel, the state continued.

“The flotilla marketed itself publicly as motivated by humanitarian concerns but the reality points to a different aim,” the state wrote.

“The organizers did not heed Israel’s efforts to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza through diplomatic dialogue, advance announcements, loudspeakers or radio messages. The organizers also rejected Israel’s offer to transfer the aid on board the vessels directly through Israel. They openly declared that their aim was to break the boycott.”

The state described in detail the attacks on the soldiers as they landed on the boat from a helicopter and argued that they had no choice but to open fire in self-defense.

In the legal section of the petition, the state declared that Israel was in a state of armed conflict with Gaza and therefore entitled by international law to blockade Gaza.

It quoted Tel Aviv University law professor Yoram Dinstein as writing that “there are several instances of contemporary (post-UN Charter of the Law of the Seas) practices of blockades, e.g. in the Vietnam and in the Gulf War.”

It also quoted the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflict, which states, “Merchant vessels believed on reasonable grounds to be breaching a blockade may be captured. Merchant vessels which, after prior warning, clearly resist capture may be attacked.”

The state also called on the court to reject a petition by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel; and Physicians for Human Rights, demanding that Israel notify the families of the victims who were killed and wounded and of those who were arrested, and inform them where each of their relatives is being held in Israel.

The state maintained that this petition was premature because the authorities were still gathering information about the whereabouts and status of each of the passengers.

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