Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?

At least 9 people have been killed after Israeli commandos stormed a convoy of ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip on 31st May 2010 .

Israel has been criticized in the past for placing embargoes on aid entering Palestine, as the region is governed by Hamas, which does not recognise Israel and is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States government.

The convoy had been carrying 10k tonnes of aid from Cyprus to Gaza when the largest vessel was boarded by Israeli commandos in open waters.

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
Yes because...

Israel can't be allowed to violate international law and human rights

This shocking event is by no means isolated and therefore completely predictable. It is about time that the international community acts against such atrocities or the rule of international law will be undermined.

The Declaration concerning the Laws of Naval War, 208 Consol. T.S. 338 (1909) does indeed allow blockade and for contraband to include such potential humanitarian goods such as food and clothing to be considered contraband. But does it apply?

Declaration concerning the Laws of Naval War

Recognizing all the advantages which an agreement as to the said rules would, in the unfortunate event of a naval war, present, both as regards peaceful commerce, and as regards the belligerents and their diplomatic relations with neutral Governments;


Article 1. A blockade must not extend beyond the ports and coasts belonging to or occupied by the enemy.

So this only applies in cases of international war and Israel is not at war unless it wants to recognise a Palestinian state and make a declaration of war against it.

No because...

The U.S has and continues to do a fine/impeccable/immaculate job of undermining international law. Other countries do not follow suit because the U.S of A will/does fault them/us at every attempt: keeping the ranks in order/check.

Without America's support Israel wouldn't go so far.

The reason Israel is attacked more for the same brash behavior that America backs and gets way with on her own turf ; is that Israel is a Jewish state. Down with antisemitism.

First of all it is debatable whether boarding a ship in international waters is violating international law. Elements of international law and laws of war by henry wager halleck on page 249 state that there is disagreement between Brits/US and European on whether it is lawful to intercept a ship on the high seas during a blockade. The US has boarded Russian Ships in international waters during the Cuban Blockade. Furthermore, "A vessel carrying goods liable to capture as absolute or conditional contraband may be captured on the high seas or in the territorial waters of the belligerents throughout the whole of her voyage, even if she is to touch at a port of call before reaching the hostile destination". Foodstuffs and clothing can be considered contraband.

However, the proportionality of the act is questionable. Clearly Israel used force that was beyond what would have been warranted. In addition, the effects of blockade on Gaza can be argued to be having disproportionately large effects on the civilian population

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
Yes because...

On the high seas

What the Israelis did was pretty much illegal, although as with most international law there are large grey areas.

PART VII, HIGH SEAS, UN Convention on the law of the Sea


Reservation of the high seas for peaceful purposes

The high seas shall be reserved for peaceful purposes.


Invalidity of claims of sovereignty over the high seas

No State may validly purport to subject any part of the high seas to its sovereignty.


Right of navigation

Every State, whether coastal or land-locked, has the right to sail ships flying its flag on the high seas.

There is however not very much on what states can do in terms of holding a ship that is on the high seas. Obviously Israel is not the only country to have done this, there was a recent example of a North Korean ship being boarded and turned back and it was the discovery of materials for enriching uranium on a ship on the high seas that persuaded Lybia to come clean.

The most relevent article I can find is:

PART VII, HIGH SEAS, UN Convention on the law of the Sea


Right of visit

1. Except where acts of interference derive from powers conferred by treaty, a warship which encounters on the high seas a foreign ship, other than a ship entitled to complete immunity in accordance with articles 95 and 96, is not justified in boarding it unless there is reasonable ground for suspecting that:

(a) the ship is engaged in piracy;

(b) the ship is engaged in the slave trade;

(c) the ship is engaged in unauthorized broadcasting and the flag State of the warship has jurisdiction under article 109;

(d) the ship is without nationality; or

(e) though flying a foreign flag or refusing to show its flag, the ship is, in reality, of the same nationality as the warship.

None of these would seem to be relevent in this case making the boarding of the ships on the high seas illegal, possibly even piracy (if it was not by a state anyway).[[]]

Once again as above the San Remo Manual is for in a war situation[[]] which we do not have in Gaza.

San Remo Manual

67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:

(a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;
(b) engage in belligerent acts on behalf of the enemy;
(c) act as auxiliaries to the enemy s armed forces;
(d) are incorporated into or assist the enemy s intelligence system;
(e) sail under convoy of enemy warships or military aircraft; or
(f) otherwise make an effective contribution to the enemy s military action, e.g., by carrying military materials, and it is not feasible for the attacking forces to first place passengers and crew in a place of safety. Unless circumstances do not permit, they are to be given a warning, so that they can re-route, off-load, or take other precautions.

[[]] so once again it comes down to 'is the blockade legal?'.

The specific bit the opposition is quoting from says

San Remo Manual

146. Neutral merchant vessels are subject to capture outside neutral waters if they are engaged in any of the activities referred to in paragraph 67

so what does 'outside neutral waters' mean? I don't know for sure but I imagine it means once in the belligerents territorial waters rather than on the high seas. Which may well be quibbling but as the point is about them being on the high seas it is relevant. It would be much less relevant if the ships had been stopped in israeli waters.

mind giving a reference for the 'al qaeda operatives' as I have not heard of this.

No because...

This is not really an argument for sanctions. Yes what the Israelis did may have been wrong, or even against international law but does that mean there should be sanctions against them? Probably not. There are many states that bend the rules or slip through grey areas, particularly states like the US and we do not see sanctions against them.

Besides, the quoted articles are a subjective selection. According to the San Remo Manual [[]], Ships can be searched if, among other things,

San Remo Manual

The following activities may render merchant vessels military objectives:

(b) acting as an auxiliary to an enemy's armed forces, e.g., carrying troops or replenishing warships;

(e) refusing an order to stop or actively resisting visit, search or capture;

(g) otherwise making an effective contribution to military action, e.g., carrying military materials.

It has been shown that the Mavi Marmara was carrying enemy troops (al-Qaeda operatives were caught on board), so b. fits. They refused to be boarded, so e. fits, and They've been shown to carry tools for making rockets, so g. fits.

This kind of selective reading of laws is just the kind of injustice Israel is constantly facing, and the people who engage in it, to the detriment of Humanitarian law, should themselves be under sanctions.

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
Yes because...

Israel has rejected calls for an independent investigation

Israel has rejected calls to launch an independent investigation into the deaths of nine people on the 'aid' ships[[Tovah Lazaroff, Israel rejects independent probe calls, Jerusalem Post, 06/02/2010, which regardless of what these ships were doing is required by the international law of the sea.

PART VII, HIGH SEAS, UN Convention on the law of the Sea


Duties of the flag State

1. Every State shall effectively exercise its jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying its flag.

7. Each State shall cause an inquiry to be held by or before a suitably qualified person or persons into every marine casualty or incident of navigation on the high seas involving a ship flying its flag and causing loss of life or serious injury to nationals of another State or serious damage to ships or installations of another State or to the marine environment. The flag State and the other State shall cooperate in the conduct of any inquiry held by that other State into any such marine casualty or incident of navigation.

[[]] The ships were under the laws of the state whose flag they were flying and there must be an inquiry in to the deaths that must invole the flag state. If Isreal refuses to follow even the most obviously basic parts of International law then there should be sanctions. Let us hope Israel gets off its high horse once it is no longer in a huff about the international pressure.

No because...

Again, this is a one sided reading. If a country should immediately be subjected to sanctions for supposed violations, then why not start with Turkey, whose been lending its flag to a ship carrying enemy combatants under the cover of "humanitarian effort"? Why couldn't Turkey act like Cyprus and refuse to allow these ships to dock? If the world applied the same principles to Turkey as it dfoes to Israel, there would be much more cooperation from Israel.

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
Yes because...

Oh God

Israel soldiers attack a ship which carring humman aids to people in Gaza, so who is terrorist now? What is more they have promised to use more force next time.

Israeli Naval Officer

We boarded the ship and were attacked as if it was a war, That will mean that we will have to come prepared in the future as if it was a war.

[[Yaakov Katz, 'Next time we'll use more force', Jerusalem Post, 1/6/10, So more force next time. And the next? How long can Israel go on attacking civilians from across the world with force?

No because...

Israel started the blockade on Gaza so as to prevent weapons and firearms from entering the strip and assisting terrorists in murdering innocent civilians. All Israel was trying to do in stopping the ships was to verify that no weapons were on board, afterwards it would send the supplies to Gaza. Israel did this.

Furthermore, Gaza is not in a humanitarian crisis. Israel allows food and supplies to enter the strip regularly.

If Israel was to allow this boat to go through, what would prevent Iranian and other terrorist-supporting organizations to send weapons through the sea as well?

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
Yes because...

israel are terrorists . They deny all human rights

The problem is that the US and the united nations are always standig by israel , in that only israel has the right to violate any decision while the arabs and iran are under sanctions.

No because...

point of fact the UN is not always behind Israel, indeed it has been historically been very anti-Israel. It is only the US that defends from multiple resolutions against Israel in the UN with its veto power. Indeed it is comming close to making a veto on Israel's behalf every year.[[]] Leave it up to a simple majority General Assembly vote and I am pretty sure there would have been sanctions on israel for decades.

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
Yes because...

If another middle east country carried out such an act ?

What would happen if this was another country, say Syria, who was doing the blockade (Lebanon would make sense), and had attacked a US ship attempting to bring aid through the blockade? The US and the entire western world would be up in arms, sanctions would immediatly be brought out to punish the regime that would do such illiberal acts as impede aid and trade and it might even escalate into no fly zones or small amounts of bombing to teach them a lesson. At the least the fleet would be out in force to protect the aid ships.

It is one rule for the west and another for everyone else.

No because...

Have you seen the videos of the raid? They clearly show Israeli soldiers being hit with sticks. Surely Israel should be allowed to defend itself against the nations around it that seek only to destroy Israel because of it's religion. Israel seeks peace and is a victim to the nations around it.

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
Yes because...

palestinians have been forced from their land and their homes. When people try to help them through international aid, transported by ship, Israel stops aid getting to the people of Palestine

Israel has unilaterally put some of the heaviest sanctions in the world on Gaza due to the palestinians violent actions against inocents yet is not to be sanctioned for its own violent actions against those who are equally inocent. Either both are wrong so both should face sanctions (the crimes are different so the extent of the sanctions can be different too) or both are right in which case neither should have the sanctions.

Instead we have a case of the mightly bullying the weak and crying foul when someone trys to help bandage the person who is being bullied up.

No because...

The reason Israel stops people getting aid is because they are being run by the terrorist organistaion, Hamas. They have bombed innocent Israeli people. The Israeli government have a right to react. If you watch the footage of the raid, you Israeli soldiers being hit with sticks. The aid ship was in the wrong.

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
No because...

Israeli soldiers were simply defending themselves.

The Israeli soldiers came under attack while bording the aid ships so had to defend themselves.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

It's also a clear case of self-defense because as our soldiers were inspecting these ships, they were attacked - they were almost lynched. They were attacked with clubs, with knives, perhaps with live gunfire, and they had to defend themselves - they were going to be killed. Israel will not allow its soldiers to be lynched and neither would any other self-respecting country.

Five of the six ships accepted these terms [to bring their goods into Ashdod for inspection] without violence. Apparently, the sixth ship, the largest, which had on board hundreds of people, had a premeditated plan to harm IDF soldiers. When the first soldiers dropped down onto the deck of the ship, they were attacked by a violent mob and were compelled to defend their lives.

[[Gaza flotilla: Statement by PM Netanyahu, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 31/5/10,

Yes because...

Fight fire with fire not napalm.

Such a disproportionate reaction can hardly realistically be termed 'self defence/defense'.

This is debatable. Remember Israel and Gaza are at war and there is propaganda by both sizes. What will be important is what the passengers on the vessel state happened

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
No because...

It wasn't an aid convoy

Had it been an attempt to get food into Gaza, they could have done it the regular way: send it through the Red Cross, which brings it into Gaza with Israeli approval after being searched. The fact that they chose to come through the back door, and not allow the soldiers to search their cargo for weaponry or known terrorists, shows that they had something to hide. Israel, of course, can expect such attempts to subvert the laws of humanitarian help by Palestine sympathisers, since it's being done routinely by the use of ambulances as APCs and schools as rocket launch sites, and the IHH organization has been known to stockpile weapons and explosives, as caught by the Turkish police in the past.

Yes because...

That is 'IF' Israel's side of the story is to be taken on faith. Not allowing the Israelis to search a ship in international waters is not a crime.

The 'haul' of weapons that has been found does not look like the kind of weapons of any use to hamas, although they might be useful in reconstruction, axes, hammers, polls. The odd slingshot/catapult that might help palestinian youths throw some rocks in the next intafada [which of course will hopefully never happen].

Israeli ministry of foreign affairs

During a search aboard the maritime vessel Mavi Marmara, IDF forces uncovered a cache of weapons including many knives, slingshots, rocks, smoke bombs, metal rods, improvised sharp metal objects, sticks and clubs, 5KG hammers, firebombs and gas masks in case IDF forces fired riot dispersal means at the activists as they violently attacked the soldiers. These weapons were used against Israeli Navy personnel as they attempted to board the ship.

So the initial haul does not look to include guns or any rockets or anything along the lines of the weapons that Hamas uses to attack Israel.[[]] Which of course is odd because it means Israel was initially lying when it said their soldiers came under fire so shot back.

Israeli Defence Forces

I saw two from my group lying flat on the ground. From the opening of the corridor they were shooting at them the entire time with live fire, bullets.

[[]] Though the IDF does imply that this might have come from pistols grabbed from their soldiers.

Also Israel seems to admit that it was an aid convoy

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The humanitarian aid off-loaded from the Gaza flotilla was transported to the Kerem Shalom crossing.

[[]] Perhaps it was an aid convoy afterall!



The other point is that the organisation who has organised these vessels has stated that this was a media stunt. Basically, going via land would not have captured the world and media attention that a high seas interception and the deaths of 9 people do. The organisation wants to free gaza and to do so they need the world and media to notice what is happening in gaza and report on it.

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
No because...

Israel can't be judged more severely than its enemies.

Laws should be applied equally to all parties. While the world turns a blind eye on the Palestinian use of their own children as human shields, the destruction of hundreds of houses in Rafiah by their own Hamas overlords and incessant other violations of the rules of warfare by Hamas, it cannot at the same time scorch Israel for doing much less while trying to defend themselves.

If Israel is boycotted while Hamas is allowed to keep subverting humanitarian efforts, it not only encourages Hamas to keep up this behaviour, but also creates a feeling of unjust treatment among Isrealites, which makes them less likely to cooperate with international organizations.

Yes because...

Unfortunately it practically has to be judged more severely. This is because Israel refuses to recognise a Palestinian state and since the international system works on the basis of states Hamas and co. are in grey areas, what they do is most certainly illegal but what can the international community do? No state so how do they sanction it? As a result Israel does it on its own and is seen as being illegitimate in the process whereas if Palestine was allowed to be a state that had gone rogue we would have a UN mandated blockade that would be much more legal than the Israeli one that is similarly grey in its legality.

Israel's actions must be judged severely since the Israelis are not suffering the way that the gaza citizens are. 61% of gaza citizens are food insecure, water and sewer systems are broken, 46% of agricultural land is out of production, fishermen are restricted to two or three nautical miles off shore result in decrease catch otherwise they are shot at or boats seized. How can this be compared to Israel's western style way of life.[[]]

Never has a blockade worked successfully. Look at Iraq or North Korea, the people suffer while the leadership is living fine. Israel must realise that a blockade is not the answer.

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
No because...

The argument of 'disproportianate force' is ridiculous when your life is threatened

The Israeli soldiers who came on to the Mavi Marmara were met with violent resistance. This includes knives, metal bars, attempts at kidnapping some of the soldiers, attempts to snatch weapons, and throwing a soldier over board. When you are surrounded by a large group of people threatening your life, you do not care that a gun is more powerful than a knife. It doesn't matter- you do what you can to save your life.

The soldiers came on board the ship with paint guns; they weren't aiming for a violent confrontation- what can you do when your life is at risk? Start a fist fight, when you have a gun at your disposal?

Yes because...

Unfortunately the answer to that has to be yes, use your fists (or rather be prepared for riots i.e. tear gas, truncheons, and riot shields and if you don't have them then come back later). shooting people multiple times through the head is not justified when it is you making the hostile act in the first place. The people on the ship could equally well say 'They are soldiers, of course they are going to use force, they brought guns so our lives were threatened and had to resist with our clubs'. Arguments like that on both sides are silly.

In Britain we have had debates over whether it is justifiable to shoot someone who has entered your house potentially as a burglar, this is very similar - the israelis were there to take the ship which should not justify resistance and it certainly does not justify the burglar shooting the people in the house when they try to force him out with clubs.

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?
No because...

It was a silly use of force but not something that should be sanctioned.

To get sanctions against a state that state has to do something pretty abhorrent or against the interests of a large number of states. This particular incident does not qualify for either. How can the storming of a few ships be comparable to the situation in North Korea, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait or Iran's numerous violations of international law and sponsoring of terrorists combined with attempts to get nuclear weapons? There are only 11 states under UN sanctions[[]] and most of these are attempts to prevent arms falling in to the hands of warlords. While Israel may be irresponsible in its use of force from time to time it is still a legitimate state actor not a warlord. At the same time what Israel has done does not really affect the core interests of most states so they have little interest in putting sanctions on Israel. Turkey was most effected so has taken its own measures.

Individual states may impose their own sanctions as they wish but this act is not nearly big enough to warrant UN sanctions.

Yes because...

Should Israel face sanctions over the storming of a Gaza aid convoy?

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