State attacks flotilla petitions

Court asked to deny petitions demanding flotilla activists' release.

By DAN IZENBERG
June 1, 2010 22:04
4 minute read.
Palestinian flags wave in Gaza port, foreground, a

Gaza Flotilla 311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 
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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 six vessels which were on their way to break the Israeli sea blockade on the Gaza Strip and deliver humanitarian goods to the Palestinians living there.

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

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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 boats in international waters and allow them to sail to Gaza. They described the interception of the boats and the fighting which broke out on board 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."


Hostile elements took part in the flotilla


The state pointed out that "a not insignificant number of hostile elements took part in the flotilla that 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" boats 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 their 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 boats 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.


Israel was in accordance with international law


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 the Israeli Arab human rights organization Adalah, 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 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 in the process of gathering information about the whereabouts and status of each of the passengers.

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