Kidnapped Humanitarian Activists to Gaza Still in Israeli Gulag Hell
Israel practically equates anyone supporting Palestinian rights with terrorists.
On Monday, the Freedom Flotilla Coalition (FFC), supporting a just future for Palestine, reported on the status of 22 humanitarian activists from 16 countries, including Israeli citizens, on board Al Awda (The Return) vessel, symbolically trying to break Israel’s illegal Gaza blockade.
They were unlawfully detained on Sunday, two Israeli citizens later released on bail, falsely charged with conspiracy to commit a crime for trying to enter Gaza.
Zohar Chamberlain Regev was one of them, saying he saw blood on Al Awda’s deck as activists were forcefully dragged off the vessel.
Twenty other activists remain in captivity at Givon prison for the “crime” of humanitarian activism – deserving high praise, not prison.
FFC expressed grave concern for the safety and well-being of its activists. Contact with them was lost while they’re illegally detained.
“We continue to demand that our boat and the medical supplies on board reach their rightful recipients, Palestinian civil society in Gaza,” FFC said, adding:
Eyewitness Regev explained what happened after the Al Awda was seized, saying:
“People on board were tasered and hit by masked IOF soldiers. We did not get our passports or belongings before we got off the boat. Do not believe reports of peaceful interception.”
In May 2010, Israeli commanders murdered 10 humanitarian activists aboard the Mavi Marmara ship to Gaza, an act of piracy and barbarism in international waters.
Others onboard were brutally assaulted. Israel absolved itself of wrongdoing. Cold, hard facts revealed otherwise.
Numerous other humanitarian vessels to Gaza were illegally interdicted by Israeli forces, activists on board treated harshly during seizure and in detention before release days later and deported.
Israeli actions in international and Gazan waters flagrantly breached the 1958 Geneva Convention on the High Seas and 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Under UNCLOS’ Article 101, maritime piracy includes “any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation…against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State (and) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating (such) an act.”
Usually it refers to robbery or criminal violence committed by private parties. Broadly interpreted, it can apply to states committing lawless acts.
UNCLOS lets them interdict vessels at sea to prevent illegal arms and drug smuggling, the slave trade or terrorist activities – not applicable to flotilla activists bringing humanitarian aid despite Israeli accusations.
Missions to Gaza are humanitarian. Inspected before departure, their cargo includes food, medicines, educational, construction, and other materials, not weapons, munitions or anything threatening Israel.
Under UNCLOS, its commandos have no right to interdict or attack activists on board, in international or Gazan waters.
Under customary maritime law, ships have “innocent passage” rights through all international and coastal area waters, subject to certain restrictions.
UNCLOS defines “innocent passage” as expeditious, continuous passage through waters in ways not “prejudicial to the peace, good order or the security” of a coastal state.
America’s Defense Department defines it as:
“The right of all ships to engage in continuous and expeditious surface passage through the territorial sea and archipelagic water of foreign coastal states in a manner not prejudicial to its peace, good order, or security.”
“Passage includes stopping and anchoring, but only if incidental to ordinary navigation or necessary for force majeure (a natural or unavoidable catastrophe) or distress, or for the purpose of rendering assistance to persons, ships, or aircraft in danger of distress.”
Israel’s brazen interdictions of humanitarian missions to Gaza are punishable under international law. Claiming it acts to defend national security is a bald-faced lie.
FFC demanded to know the status and condition of its activists, accusing Israel of kidnapping them, holding them incommunicado.
The activist group said humanitarian missions to Gaza will continue “until the blockade ends and Palestinians of Gaza regain their full freedom of movement.”
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”