The IDF ordered its naval blockade of Gaza after the “Freedom Flotilla” set sail
from Turkey, and therefore there was no legal restriction preventing the
flotilla ships arriving off the Gaza coast and no legal justification to seize
them, MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad) claimed Wednesday.
Zoabi made her claims in
response to a High Court of Justice petition against the attorney-general’s
decision not to press charges against her for her participation in the
Attorney Hassan Jabareen of the Adalah Legal Center for Arab
Minority Rights, who is representing Zoabi in the petition and filed the
response on her behalf, said Adalah has a copy of the military order, which he
claims is dated May 28, 2010.
The flotilla ship Mavi Marmara
, owned by
the Hamas-linked Turkish Islamic group IHH, sailed from its dock in Antalya,
Turkey, on May 26, 2010, to join several other ships in international waters off
the coast of Cyprus. Several days later, on May 30, the six “Gaza Freedom
Flotilla” ships set sail from those international waters to Gaza. The IDF raided
the flotilla a day later.
According to Jabareen, the military order was
signed by OC Navy V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom, and Adalah claims they received a copy
in its capacity as a representative of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab
Citizens of Israel, which participated in the flotilla.
In December, the
Eretz Israel Shelanu (Our Land of Israel) movement, MK Michael Ben Ari (National
Union) and far-right activist Itamar Ben-Gvir petitioned the High Court against
the attorney-general’s decision not to indict Zoabi. The attorney-general had
cited “evidentiary and legal difficulties” as reasons for his decision to close
the investigation files on Zoabi and others.
Police had investigated
suspicions that several Israeli citizens, including Zoabi, had participated in
the flotilla and attempted to enter Gaza illegally, in contravention of the
Disengagement Implementation Law.
In addition to the attorneygeneral and
Zoabi, the petition names Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in Israel’s
northern faction, who also took part in the flotilla, as a respondent.
October 2011 an immigration tribunal in the UK ruled that Salah should be banned
from entering that country because he “engaged in the unacceptable behavior of
fostering hatred.” The petitioners argue that the state’s failure to indict
Zoabi and Salah is unfair, since haredi Jews who participate in other violent
events have been prosecuted, including West Bank settlers who took part in
“Zoabi and Salah are treated differently, and
this causes serious damage to the principle of equality,” the petitioners argue,
and ask the court to intervene by ordering the attorney-general to reopen its
case against the two Arab Israelis.
In his response to the petition,
Jabareen claims that the petitioners have not taken into consideration that the
military order came only after the flotilla set sail.
Adalah also argue
that the IDF’s takeover of the flotilla was carried out in international waters,
and as such Israeli criminal law does not apply.
According to Zoabi, the
petitioners have also failed to take into account the fact that no one has
brought any claims against her for violent acts during the IDF’s takeover of the
The response to the High Court petition also argues that as
an MK, Zoabi enjoys parliamentary immunity. That immunity, attorney Jabareen
argues, extends to all political activities that a lawmaker conducts as part of
her public role.
After Adalah filed the response to the High Court, Zoabi
said on Wednesday that the central issue for her was “the blockade of Gaza and
the killing of nine activists [aboard the ship].”
“Both these things are
crimes that should be punished under international law,” Zoabi said. “The
people behind the siege [of Gaza] and the killing of the nine activists should
stand trial, namely the Israeli government and not Haneen Zoabi.”
added that she wants to prosecute the IDF sailors who raided the flotilla ship,
and the prime minister who sent them.
The Balad MK said she has asked the
IDF and the attorney-general to release documentation confiscated by the naval
commandos who raided the ship, and documents relating to the commando unit
itself, which she claims may expose the IDF’s actions during the flotilla
In response to Zoabi’s claims, the IDF spokesman said on
Wednesday that the blockade’s legality was not dependent on any particular
“The naval blockade of Gaza, which MK Zoabi sought to break, was
already imposed on January 3, 2009, under international military laws. Already
at that time, the [political echelons] made public declarations regarding the
imposition and enforcement of a blockade, including via a ‘Notice to Mariners.’
Other messages were posted periodically through the proper channels,” the IDF
The IDF spokesman added that the two probe committees – one
appointed by the Israeli government and the other by the UN secretary-general –
said unequivocally that the imposition of the blockade and its enforcement with
respect to the Mavi Marmara
had been made in accordance with the
“This includes the fact that the extent and the location of the
blockade were made publicly known prior to the Mavi Marmara
reaching the Gaza
Strip,” the IDF spokesman said.
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