by Joseph Klein
The 1909 Declaration Concerning the Laws of Naval War (the London Declaration), the first international instrument to acknowledge the legality of blockades, specifically recognized the right of nations to blockade their enemy.
So does the San Remo Manual, which is a compilation by international law experts of agreed upon international law on blockades and related subjects. The blockade must be declared against a belligerent, and notified to all belligerents and neutral states (Article 93). The declaration must specify the commencement, duration, location, and extent of the blockade and the period within which vessels of neutral States may leave the blockaded coastline (Article 94). The blockade may be enforced and maintained by a combination of legitimate methods and means of warfare provided this combination does not result in acts inconsistent with the rules set out in the San Remo Manual (Article 97).
A blockade is prohibited, according to the San Remo Manual, if (a) it has the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential for its survival; or (b) the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade (Article 102).
Hamas is the self-declared enemy of
Hamas' supporters, including the Free Gaza Movement which helped organize the flotilla in which the fatalities occurred after Israeli commandos met armed resistance when they boarded one of the ships, argue that the blockade is nevertheless illegal under international law. Under Article 102 of the San Remo Manual (quoted above), they argue, the blockade is illegal because Israel's purpose is to starve the Gazan population and deprive them of other necessities for survival, and the damage to Gaza's civilian population is disproportionately excessive in relation to any legitimate military need.
However, this argument ignores two basic facts (not "biased opinions" as some might allege):
First, food and medical supplies have been permitted continuously into
Aside from the fact that Muslim Brotherhood members and other Islamic jihadists were participating in the flotilla – raising questions about the true humanitarian nature of the mission – the organizers of the flotilla admitted that their main purpose was to break the blockade: "This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege on 1.5 million Palestinians."
The Free Gaza blockade runners' willingness to deny the Gaza civilian population the humanitarian aid they claimed to be carrying if they could not succeed in breaking the blockade shows that Hamas' supporters – not Israel – were the ones willing to put Hamas' military objective of breaking the blockade over the needs of Gaza's civilian population.
98. Merchant vessels (defined as a vessel, other than a warship, an auxiliary vessel, or a State vessel such as a customs or police vessel, that is engaged in commercial or private service) believed on reasonable grounds to be breaching a blockade may be captured. Merchant vessels which, after prior warning, clearly resist capture may be attacked.
103. If the civilian population of the blockaded territory is inadequately provided with food and other objects essential for its survival, the blockading party must provide for free passage of such foodstuffs and other essential supplies, subject to:
(a) the right to prescribe the technical arrangements, including search, under which such passage is permitted;
(b) the condition that the distribution of such supplies shall be made under the local supervision of a Protecting Power or a humanitarian organization which offers guarantees of impartiality, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.
104. The blockading belligerent shall allow the passage of medical supplies for the civilian population or for the wounded and sick members of armed forces, subject to the right to prescribe technical arrangements, including search, under which such passage is permitted.
The ships on which there was no violent resistance to an inspection encountered non-violence from the Israeli side. But on the one ship carrying Turkish activists, who had declared their jihadist intentions, Israeli soldiers descended with only paintballs in hand (pistols not drawn) and encountered violent resistance. They had the right to protect themselves and their colleagues with lethal force once they were attacked by packs of assailants using knives, metal rods, clubs, etc. who had also begun to take the soldiers' pistols away from them.
Hamas' supporters turn a blind eye to the terrorist group's violence against innocent Israeli civilians and to its crimes against its own people. Here is an excerpt from a speech delivered by Hamas MP Fathi Hammad, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on February 29, 2008:
Fathi Hammad: [The enemies of Allah] do not know that the Palestinian people has developed its [methods] of death and death-seeking. For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry, at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they were saying to the Zionist enemy: "We desire death like you desire life." (Emphasis added)
There can be no real peace so long as the Hamas terrorists and their state sponsors such as
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