What is grating on my nerves about the Freedom Flotilla matters now that the passengers have been unloaded in Ashdod is the rhetoric around the event. Chillul Who said it well: You can trust both sides to tell only the truths that paint them in the best light. Call me a liberal, but the pursuit of truth was always more important than the selective release of peices of the truth to get what you want.
In opposing efforts to show their separate causes in the best light, supporters of the Israeli government and Palestinian activists are inventing facts and distorting international law to suit their agendas.
Take for example the American Jewish Committee’s official statement: it calls the flotilla “pro-Hamas” and claims they exist “to bolster the despotic Hamas regime and its Muslim Brotherhood support base in Turkey and elsewhere.” One can accuse the Free Gaza Movement of happily singling Israel for condemnation and turning a blind eye to Hamas’ crimes. But the Free Gaza operation was created and launched by secular, Palestinian solidarity Europeans, not the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood.
Elsewhere in the same statement, the AJC asserts erroneously that the IDF encountered “automatic weapons” upon arrival. No source, by either IDF or media outlet, has made such a claim. The IDF press office has released photos of improvised weapons, but no guns. Reportedly, two guns stolen from Israeli soldiers were found later. Israel no doubt was expecting (hoping?) to find guns and rocket-building materials on board. But so far, the flotilla had no guns.
What does the AJC think they’re doing by inventing facts?
On the other side is the assertion that Israel conducted “piracy” in international waters. The legal status of Israel’s operation is open to question. The UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea (of which Israel is not a signatory) largely steers clear of regulating armed conflict. It does allow “hot pursuit” of ships near territorial waters and states are excluded from piracy charges. And various laws of war have long recognized naval blockades in international waters as legal.
Yet in international waters, boats are subject to the jurisdiction of their sovereign. In this case, the boats are Turkish, meaning Turkey has the right to demand the Israeli soldiers be extradited on murder charges under Turkish law in a Turkish court. Alternately, although states are excluded from piracy charges, boarding another nation’s boat could legitimately be classified as an act of war. Furthermore, the goods were delivered to Gaza and not confiscated for Israel’s benefit.
But regardless, piracy this is not. Outrageous, yes. Piracy, no.
In the case of the organized Jewish community, the Freedom Flotilla and their respective boosters, truth is an inconvenient obstacle on the march to ultimate victory.