Friday, June 4, 2010

Sifting Through the Debris Left in the Wake of the First Gaza Flotilla

The May 30, 2010 Battle of the First Gaza Flotilla, fought about 65 miles off the Israeli coast early Sunday, as the blockade runners were slowly edging away from the coast in night-time international waters, may be the most important maritime engagement in the eastern Mediterranean since World War II. There have been a number of operations and engagements there since 1942, but this one, while a tactical victory for the Israeli Navy, left them with a strategic dilemma for the foreseeable future that is insoluble.

There will be more flotillas. Many. The stance of the government of Israel and their sole supporter of substance, the USA, that the blockade needs to be sustained by any means, legal or not, will be assailed, as more young people and notable civil rights figures from more countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia seek to participate in the next flotillas.

Both sides will be better prepared next time. The MV Rachel Corrie may have been refitted so that it is un-jamable, so that when it is assaulted, everything that happens in real time, gets out in real time until it is intentionally shut down or destroyed. However, there is no visual evidence, similar to the real-time video link that emanated from the Mavi Marmara. Will the Israelis upgrade their ECM and EW suites to the point they can shut down live blog web sites and twitterers at will?

I had hoped, earlier this week, that the confrontation between the MV Rachel Corrie might become the most important anti-battle in the eastern Med in 70 years. It isn't going to happen. Today - Friday - although there is conflicting information, it appears the freighter, with a small number of prominent Palestinian rights activists aboard, may be getting close to the area the Israelis have described as an "exclusion zone." There are also reports that a Turkish corvette is stationed off the Gaza coast.

Whatever happens to the MV Rachel Corrie, either today or over the weekend, there will be a third flotilla, and a fourth and a fifth. Each will probably be larger. As they are confronted, more unions around the world will boycott ships with Israeli goods. More campuses will vote to boycott Israeli products, academics and other ties. More pension funds will discuss divestment. More journalists will finally wake up and see Israel for its growing similarities to late 1970s South Africa.

The Israeli military forces may have one so-called tactical victory after another in the battles of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th flotillas (and so on?), but they are doomed to suffer a very large strategic defeat.

image - Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, poses alongside the cargo ship MV Rachel Corrie (AP Photo/Niall Carson-pa, file)


Anonymous said...


Formerly T-Bear said...

FWIW the interference and jamming of Marine emergency channel 16 is a major criminal offense. That channel has been reserved for emergency calls and for establishing communications between ships on other channels. This channel 16 is monitored by all ships at sea for distress messages.

Another Israeli crime on the high seas.

the problem child said...

Hi Phil,
I think this legal opinion will interest you.

Other links to other opinions at the bottom of the article.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your stuff for awhile and place a high value on your opinion. I find links and references to be credible and sound. I've read materials that you've suggested.
On the matter of Israeli-Arab relations, I keep thinking I've gotta be missing something. I understand the situation. I'm knowledgable about the history of the area and key historical events. I've seen many maps of the various treaties. I know how they came to be where they're at, literally and politically. I'm a critical thinker and open to new information.
I would characterize you as being primarily humanitarian in perspective, but it's clear that you are pro-Palestine/Arab politically. What I cannot glean from your posts, is why.
This is not a challenge to your beliefs, nor a disagreement. I'd genuinely appreciate knowing your rationale.

Anonymous said...

anno 1:06

Well stated.

Phil what's up: why the anti Israel sentiment?

Phil, I do not think you are a racist. You appear to be smart, but on this subject you seem blind.

Anonymous said...

Food for thought and adding some depth.

The flotilla - eight ships all owned or chartered by 'Free Gaza Movement', the Turkish IHH, 'Ship to Gaza', and the 'European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza', 'Perdana Global Peace Organisation', a Malaysian Islamic NGO.

The M/V Rachel Corrie is not an Irish ship, nor did it set out from Ireland loaded with activists. It’s registry is Cambodian. It is owned by Free Gaza Movement based in Cyprus and Malaysian Perdana Global Peace Organisation, yet another Islamic NGO financing this activity.
There is just one Irish citizen onboard, Mairead Corrigan. The rest are Islamic Malaysians, including television journalists and camera crew.
Of the 600 "activists" on the first ships, 500 were Turkish; all Islamic men. Not women, not other religions. The others were mostly Indonesian Islamics.
Let's review the circumstances - 600 activists comfortable with a violent outcome - they can count success either way - of which 500 are Islamic men eager for martyrdom in the name of Allah. 45 Israeli military commandos.
To me, it would seem that the few casualties there were, speaks to restraint and discretion by the IDF. I wouldn't want one of my family members to be one of the 45 against 500.

According to Israeli and Palestinian sources, as of June 2nd, Hamas refused to allow the humanitarian aid into Gaza until Israeli authorities released all flotilla detainees and allowed building materials, which are thought to make up 8,000 of the 10,000 tons of goods, to reach them.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh: "We are not seeking to fill our (bellies), we are looking to break the Israeli siege on Gaza."

Greta Berlin, Free Gaza Movement:
"This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege on 1.5 million Palestinians."

Berlin was photographed with International Solidarity Movement activists and Californian Paul Larudee (Free Gaza) celebrating with Ismail Haniyeh (Hamas) and receiving medals from Hamas leaders in Gaza in August 2008.

Israel has every right to protect itself under international law, including by blockades in international waters.
The blockade is not just perfectly rational, it is perfectly legal. Gaza under Hamas is a self-declared enemy of Israel -- a declaration backed up by more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilian territory. Yet having pledged itself to unceasing belligerency, Hamas claims victimhood when Israel imposes a blockade to prevent Hamas from arming itself with still more rockets.

Anonymous said...

The Blockade of Gaza has its roots in the aftermath of the 2007 Palestinian Civil War fought between the two major Palestinian political factions: Hamas and Fatah. The conflict resulted in the militant group Hamas ousting rival Fatah from the Gaza Strip. Fatah continued to rule in the West Bank while Hamas ruled in Gaza. In the wake of the Fatah-Hamas War, Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade of goods into and out of Gaza, allowing only for a limited amount of inspected humanitarian aid into Gaza. The blockade has continued to this day. Israel and Egypt’s rationale for the blockade of goods into Gaza was to prevent weapons – specifically materials needed to build rockets and mortars – from being moved into Gaza that could be used in rocket attacks against Israelis and Egyptians. To prevent another War in Gaza, which resulted from the Israeli response to Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups firing rockets from Gaza into Israel, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade of goods into and out of Gaza, allowing only for inspected humanitarian aid to be brought into the city. Egypt has gone so far as to begin the construction of an underground steel barrier to prevent Palestinian smuggling tunnels from circumventing the blockade. -Dr. Robert Cargill

Dr. Cargill has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Central and South America, and the Middle East. 1999 - Square Supervisor in the excavations at Banias (Golan Heights) with Dr. Vassilios Tzaferis and Dr. John F. Wilson. 2000 - Area Supervisor at Banias. 2004 - Square Supervisor for the excavations at the nearby site of Omrit, Israel with Dr. Andy Overman. 2006 - excavations at Hatzor, Israel in 2006 with Dr. Amnon Ben-Tor.
Dr. Cargill has taught at Pepperdine University, Azusa Pacific University, Portland State University and UCLA and is author of “Qumran through (Real) Time: A Virtual Reconstruction of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls.” Dr. Cargill regularly lectures on topics concerning archaeology, biblical studies, the Dead Sea Scrolls, religious sects in the Second-Temple period, and linguistic ideology. Memberships: Society of Biblical Literature, American Schools of Oriental Research, Israel Exploration Society, Association for Jewish Studies, and the Archaeological Institute of America, among others. He is also involved in social and environmental organizations including the National Geographic Society, Global Green USA, Ducks Unlimited, the Sierra Club, the Santa Monica Mountain Trails Council, and supports Public Radio and NPR.

A few United States' military action blockades:

Cuba 1962

Okinawa - 82 days, until mid-June 1945. It was referred to as the "Typhoon of Steel” due to the intensity of gunfire, the ferocity of the fighting, and the number of Allied armored vehicles and ships engaged in the assault.

The battle resulted in one of the highest number of casualties of any engagement in World War II. Japan lost more than 100,000 troops, and the Allies lost more than 50,000 casualties. About 100,000 civilians were also killed, wounded or committed suicide. Approximately one-quarter of the civilian population died due to the invasion.
Hiroshima and Nagaskai - Many historians believe this brutal battle, the largest sea-land-air battle in history, convinced American leaders to force Japan's surrender with a nuclear strike rather than invade its main islands.

Astor, Gerald. Operation Iceberg: The Invasion and Conquest of Okinawa in World War II. 1996.
Feifer, George. The Battle of Okinawa: The Blood and the Bomb. 2001.

Anonymous said...

"Naval Blockade" or All Out War Against Iran? (excerpted)
Global Research, August 13, 2008

"Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 08-4 'Operation Brimstone' commenced on July 21 in North Carolina and off the Eastern US Atlantic coast from Virginia to Florida. Of significance was the participation of British, French, Brazilian and Italian naval forces as part of a multinational US naval exercise directed against Iran.

More than a dozen ships participated in the naval exercise including the USS Theodore Roosevelt and its Carrier Strike Group Two, the expeditionary Strike Group Iwo Jima, the French submarine Amethyste, Britain's HMS Illustrious Carrier Strike Group, Brazil's navy frigate Greenhalgh and Italy's ITS Salvatore Todaro (S 526) submarine. (See Middle East Times, August 11, 2008,, July 28, 2008,

Stating the purpose of a war game and identifying the real "foreign enemy" by name is not the normal practice, unless there is a decision to send an unequivocal message to the enemy.

Anglo-US war games are a routine practice. What is significant in these large scale naval manoeuvres is the active participation of France, Brazil and Italy in war games which are explicitly directed against Iran.

The participation of these countries in extensive war games points to broad consensus. It also suggests that the participating nations have accepted (in political and military terms) to participate in a US-led military operation directed against Iran. The active participation of France and to a lesser extent Italy also suggests that the European Union is firmly behind the US initiative."

Congressional Initiative -
The naval blockade against Iran, which is tantamount to a declaration of war, is a bipartisan project tacitly endorsed by the Democrats. In May 2008, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives (H.CON. RES 362) that called for the enforcement of an all out economic blockade, including the encroachment of trade and the freeze of monetary transactions with the Islamic Republic:

"The President [shall] initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran .... prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran's nuclear program."

"[H. CON. RES. 362] urges the President, in the strongest of terms, to immediately use his existing authority to impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, ... international banks which continue to conduct financial transactions with proscribed Iranian banks; ... energy companies that have invested $20,000,000 or more in the Iranian petroleum or natural gas sector in any given year since the enactment of the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996; and all companies which continue to do business with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps." (See full text of H.CON RES 362)
The mandate of the Combined Task Forces "aims to establish security and stability by countering terrorism in the Middle Eastern maritime environment and allowing legitimate mariners to operate safely in the area..." (Canadian Navy, News)

In the present context, this multinational naval alliance, will be used to encroach upon maritime trade with Iran as well as play an active role in implementing the proposed economic blockade of Iran."

Cyprus bans ships from sailing to Gaza

NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus says it has banned any ship from sailing to Gaza from its shores because organizers of a flotilla trying to break a blockade of the Palestinian territory ignored a government appeal not to involve the island.

Anonymous said...

On the Joe Meadors post, you mention that you posted a poll here that asked respondents which boundaries that country should have, and if it should be allowed to continue to expand. Could you point me to that post or poll? I didn't see it.

Curious about your position that you favor a "one-state, non-religious Israel/Palestine."
What would that be? What would it look like? Who would be the government?