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Monday, January 24, 2011

Turkel Commission: Gaza blockade legal, Mavi Marmara raid justified

As had been anticipated, the Turkel Commission rendered its report on Sunday, and concluded that the Gaza blockade was legal and that the raid on the Mavi Marmara was justified (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
According to the concluding remarks of the committee members and international observers, "The naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip – in view of the security circumstances and Israel's efforts to comply with its humanitarian obligations – was legal pursuant to the rules of international law. The actions carried out by Israel on May 31, 2010, to enforce the naval blockade had the regrettable consequences of the loss of human life and physical injuries. Nonetheless, and despite the limited number of uses of force for which we could not reach a conclusion, the actions taken were found to be legal pursuant to the rules of international law."


The first report addressed the the question of whether or not the naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip by Israel conformed with the rules of international law. This included an assessment of the actions taken by the IDF to enforce the naval blockade and of the actions taken by the organizers of the flotilla and its participants and their identity.

Regarding the legality of the operation itself, the commission reached the conclusion that the Israeli armed forces' interception and capture of the Gaza Flotilla vessels – including having the Shayetet 13 naval commandos board from the Morena speedboats and fast-rope from helicopter onto the roof of the vessels – was consistent with established international naval practice.


The commission concluded that on board the Mavi Marmara and the other flotilla vessels was a group of IHH and affiliated activists (the IHH activists) that violently opposed the Israelis boarding. The IHH activists who participated in that violence were civilians taking a direct part in hostilities.

"The force used against civilians on board the flotilla was governed by the principles of "necessity" and use of "proportionate force" associated with human rights based law enforcement norms. However, the IHH activists lost the protection of their civilian status for such time as they directly participated in the hostilities. The use of force against these direct participants in hostilities is governed by the applicable rules of international humanitarian law," the report said.

The commission explained that the IHH activists carried out the violence on board the Mavi Marmara by arming themselves with a wide array of weapons, including iron bars, axes, clubs, slingshots, knives, and metal objects.

"Overall, the IDF personnel acted professionally in the faces of extensive and unanticipated violence. This included continuing to switch back and forth between less-letha and lethal weapons in order to address the nature of the violence directed at them," the commission said.
And let me stop there because as I understand it, that's a misstatement of the law. When they forfeit their status as non-combatants, they can't shoot at the soldiers and then melt into a crowd of civilians and be protected once again as civilians. But that's precisely what these terrorists attempted to do.

Here's another key finding:
It also found that Israel's "effective control" of the Gaza Strip ended when the disengagement was completed.
That's something we've been arguing about for five and a half years.

As you might imagine, the Turks were not pleased about this.
Turkey said on Sunday it was "appalled and dismayed" at the findings by an Israeli inquiry that cleared the Israeli government and military of wrongdoing in the raid on a Turkish aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip.

Turkey also said its own panel's report into the May 31 incident, which it submitted to a UN inquiry in September, had found that Israel's blockade on the territory and "attack against the humanitarian aid convoy" had violated international laws.
And of course, Prime Minister Erdogan got into the act.
Turkey’s prime minister is dismissing an Israeli inquiry’s findings defending the actions of Israeli troops in the deadly interception of a Turkish-led protest flotilla to Gaza last year.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Ankara on Sunday that the Israeli report had “no value or credibility.”

The Israeli inquiry found that the actions of troops who met violent resistance aboard one ship were legal under international law. Israeli troops killed nine of those on board.
But the IDF did come in for some criticism.
The commission faulted the military planners of the mission for not taking into account the possibility of serious violence, saying “the soldiers were placed in a situation they were not completely prepared for and had not anticipated.”

However, looking at 133 individual cases in which soldiers used force — 16 of them involving shooting to kill — the commission found soldiers had acted properly and that their lives had been in danger. The soldiers, the report said, “acted professionally in the face of extensive and unanticipated violence.”
Fifth columnist MK Haneen Zoabi, who was on the Mavi Marmara, also had something to say.
MK Haneen Zuabi (Balad), who was onboard the Mavi Marmara aid ship to Gaza, offered a different conclusion, saying that the report only contains the official Israeli version of events.

"The report can not repair the image that Israel has as a country that continues to break international law," Zuabi said.

"The commission did not call upon the only citizen and witness that saw what happened because of suspicions that her testimony would harm the harmony of the report," she continued.

Last August, a video was released showing that Zuabi knew that IHH activsts aboard the Mavi Marmara were armed. The clip shows Zuabi standing side by side with IHH members armed with metal pipes while IDF soldiers attempt to take command of the ship's lower deck. She can later be heard arguing with IDF commanders in an attempt to prevent them from evacuating a seriously injured man.

She had previously stated that she had helped IDF forces evacuate the injured from the ship.
They didn't call on her because they knew she was a liar.

Bottom line: The report is unlikely to change anyone's opinion. The BBC, for example, immediately dismissed the report as a whitewash. But maybe Israel can use it to rebut the forthcoming UN report on the incident.

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At 3:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

zoabi is still insisting that she was a witness to the events on the ship?

when will this traitor to her country be expelled from the knesset?

and of course the report will not change world opinion

did anyone honestly believe that it would?

At 4:46 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - it sounded too much like an apology.

Is this what Israel is going to do every time it defends itself - appoint a commission of inquiry to justify it?

Israel should have just told the world to get lost and mind its own business. There was no need to wait almost a year to be told what we already knew to be the truth on May 31st.

And the Turkel Report won't sway a world that already found Israel guilty even before all the facts became clear.

At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with you, Norman, the report doesn't read like an apology at all. What it does do, for the first time, is present in detail what the first commandos onto the deck actually experienced, in their own words. It humanizes the shadowy people we see in the IDF videos who descended into hell from the helicopter. The report also concludes that taking IDF soldiers hostage was part of IHH's plan. And its analysis of the law and of precedent is excellent.

At 10:14 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Professor, all the facts are fine and we have no disagreement on that.

I just think the truth is something that needs no defense, period.


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