Was Israel’s flotilla raid illegal or legal?
Not that legality really matters in this case because Israel’s actions have caused a PR disaster. But was Israel’s raid on the aid flotilla from Turkey legal or illegal according to international law?**
I would say yes and no, depending on where you stand:
If you support Israel. Then you believe that Gaza is a “disputed” territory without its own sovereignty. Consequently, you believe that the blockade on commerce coming into that tiny strip of land is perfectly legit (because it occurred off the shores of Israeli waters). As a supporter of Israel, you can understand their efforts to board the ship. Since it was okay to board the ship, you believe that none of the ship’s crewmen should have attacked the fast-roping commandos. Once the crewmen attacked the Israeli soldiers with lead pipes, rods and other weapons, you feel that it was well within the confines of Israel’s right to defense to repel the attackers with terminal force.
Now comes the question of “proportionate and disproportionate response in the use of force.” Was the killing of 10 flotilla aid workers proportionate or disproportionate? I think no matter where you stand, the argument that force was proportionate is hard to justify. Nevertheless, international law is murky in this area and since you support Israel, you can say that the force employed was proportionate and nobody can really prove you wrong.
If you support Gaza. Then you believe that Israel is “occupying” Gaza, and Israel is in violation of international law because it is denying Gaza’s sovereign right to trade and aid. Furthermore, the blockade is an act of war, casus belli, because Israel attacked a foreign flagged ship from Turkey. Under the Law of the Sea (more or less), any ship harboring in international waters that is forcefully boarded by a foreign entity is having its sovereignty violated.
Regarding the question of (dis)proportionate use of force. You feel that Israeli commandos acted aggressively against aid workers who were trying to defend themselves. To you, Israel’s use of force was disproportionate and reprehensible. But of course, when an unjust amount of force is used by a government there is no international law that can actually punish that government. Instead, you can only use this episode to demonstrate how Israel acts as an oppressive aggressor, inclined to use violence when it sees fit.
Now that’s my take, for some more good commentary check out these 3 articles:
- Pro Israel: Israel was Right by Leslie H. Gelb
- Pro Gaza: The Legal Position on the Israeli Attack by Craig Murray
- The no-shit, legality doesn’t matter, Israel made a bad move article: Israeli Force, Adrift on the Sea by Amos Oz
**I’m no international lawyer by any means. But I do have a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy so maybe I can speak on this subject, at least somewhat. Still, please correct me where I’m wrong and fact check to make sure I’m not completely off the map.