Ambassador Craig Murray is a former Alternate Head of the UK Delegation to the United Nations Preparatory Commission on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. He was deputy head of the teams which negotiated the UK’s maritime boundaries with France, Germany, Denmark (Faeroe Islands) and Ireland.
As Head of the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, he was responsible for giving real time political and legal clearance to Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, in enforcement of the UN authorised blockade against Iraqi weapons shipments.
Ambassador Craig Murray is therefore an internationally recognised authority on maritime jurisdiction and naval boarding issues.
His analysis of the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the right of the Gaza flotilla to sail:
“The legal position is plain. A vessel outwith the territorial waters (12 mile limit) of a coastal state is on the high seas under the sole jurisdiction of the flag state of the vessel. The ship has a positive right of passage on the high seas. The coastal state can regulate economic activity exploiting the resources of the seas and continental shelf up to 200 miles, the extent of the continental shelf, or the agreed boundary, but there is no indication of fishing, oil drilling or analogous economic activity in this case. The vessel is entitled to free passage.”
“This right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, to which the United States is a full party. Any incident which takes place upon a US flagged ship on the High Seas is subject to United States legal jurisdiction. A ship is entitled to look to its flag state for protection from attack on the High Seas.”
“Israel has declared a blockade on Gaza and justified previous fatal attacks on neutral civilian vessels on the High Seas in terms of enforcing that embargo, under the legal cover given by the San Remo Manual of International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.”
“There are however fundamental flaws in this line of argument. It falls completely on one fact alone. San Remo only applies to blockade in times of armed conflict. Israel is not currently engaged in an armed conflict, and presumably does not wish to
be. San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population.”
“It should not be denied that Israel suffers from sporadic terrorist attacks emanating from Gaza. However this does not come close to reaching the bar of armed conflict that would trigger the right to impose a limited naval blockade in terms of San Remo. To make a comparison, in the 1970’s and 1980’s the United Kingdom suffered continued terrorist attack from the Irish Republican Army, with much more murderous impact causing many more deaths than anything Israel has suffered in recent
years from Gaza. However nobody would seek to argue that the UK would have had the right to mount a general naval blockade of the Republic of Ireland in the 1970’s and 1980’s, even though the Republic was undoubtedly the base for much IRA supply and operations. Justifications of Israeli naval action against neutral civilian ships by San Remo is based on special pleading and an impossibly strained definition of the term “armed conflict”.
Americans must decide if, in the name of homeland security, they are willing to allow TSA operatives to storm public places in their communities with no warning, pat them down, and search their bags. And they better decide quickly.
Bus travelers were shocked when jackbooted TSA officers in black SWAT-style uniforms descended unannounced upon the Tampa Greyhound bus station in April with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and federal bureaucrats in tow.
A news report by ABC Action News in Tampa showed passengers being given the signature pat downs Americans are used to watching the Transportation Security Administration screeners perform at our airports. Canine teams sniffed their bags and the buses they rode. Immigration officials hunted for large sums of cash as part of an anti-smuggling initiative.
The TSA clearly intends for these out-of-nowhere swarms by its officers at community transit centers, bus stops and public events to become a routine and accepted part of American life.
The TSA has conducted 8,000 of these security sweeps across the country in the past year alone, TSA chief John Pistole told a Senate committee June 14. They are part of its VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) program, which targets public transit related places.
All of which is enough to make you wonder if we are watching the formation of the “civilian national security force” President Obama called for on the campaign trail “that is just as powerful, just as strong and just as well funded” as the military.
In a massive flex of muscle most people didn’t know the TSA had, the agency led dozens of federal and state law enforcement agencies in a VIPR exercise that covered three states and 5,000 square miles. According to the Marietta Times, the sweep used reconnaissance aircraft and “multiple airborne assets, including Blackhawk helicopters and fixed wing aircraft as well as waterborne and surface teams.”
When did the TSA get this powerful? Last year, Pistole told USA Today he wanted to “take the TSA to the next level,” building it into a “national-security, counterterrorism organization, fully integrated into U.S. government efforts.”
What few people realize is how far Pistole has already come in his quest. This is apparently what that next level looks like. More than 300 law enforcement and military personnel swept through a 100-mile stretch of the Ohio Valley alone, examining the area’s industrial infrastructure, the Charleston Gazette reported.
Federal air marshals, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, the FBI, the Office of Homeland Security and two dozen other federal, state and local agencies teamed up to scour the state’s roads, bridges, water supply and transit centers under the TSA’s leadership.
What is remarkable about these security swarms is that they don’t just involve federal, state and local law enforcement officials. The TSA brings in squads of bureaucrats from state and federal agencies as well, everything from transportation departments to departments of natural resources.
The TSA had received no specific threats about the Tampa bus station before the April sweep, reporters were told.
They were there “to sort of invent the wheel in advance in case we have to if there ever is specific intelligence requiring us to be here,” said Gary Milano with the Department of Homeland Security in an ABC News Action television report. “This way us and our partners are ready to move in at a moment’s notice.”
Federal immigration officials from Customs and Border Patrol swept the station with the TSA, looking for “immigration violations, threats to national security” and “bulk cash smuggling.” (How the bulk cash smuggling investigation related to national security was never explained.)
“We’ll be back,” Milano told reporters. “We won’t say when we’ll be back. This way the bad guys are on notice we’ll be back.”
The TSA gave the same vague answers when asked about the three-state sweep this week. That sweep wasn’t in response to any specific security threat, either.
The purpose was to “have a visible presence and let people know we’re out here,” Michael Cleveland, federal security director for TSA operations in West Virginia told the Gazette. “It can be a deterrent.”
It might be — if Americans are willing to live this way.
Tara Servatius is a radio talk show host. Follow her @TaraServatius and on Facebook.
From July 8-16, I will join hundreds of internationals for a week of solidarity actions in coordination with 15 Palestinian civil resistance organizations in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. To my knowledge, this will be the first attempt to bring such a large number of internationals—already over 500, according to organizers—to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a coordinated manner. While Freedom Flotilla 2, sailing in the coming days, rightly puts the spotlight on Israel’s cruel blockade of Gaza, we intend to show that Israeli repression in the rest of historic Palestine—the West Bank, Jerusalem, and what is now Israel—is no less important and is part of the same project of ethnic cleansing and colonization.
The opening act of our week of nonviolent resistance is, in my opinion, its most creative and daring component. On a single day, July 8, hundreds of internationals and Palestinians living abroad will fly in to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport and perform one simple but radical action: refuse to lie about the fact that we are there to travel to the Occupied Territories and visit Palestinians.
Anyone who has traveled to Palestine knows the potential risks associated with this action. Israel controls all entry points into Palestine, except for the Rafah crossing into Gaza, which is controlled by Egypt and has its own Kafkaesque challenges. The Israeli government routinely denies entry to people it knows or simply suspects of being Palestine solidarity activists; journalists, academics and cultural workers sympathetic to the Palestinians; even people coming to do volunteer or charity work in the Occupied Territories.
This means that for years, the most common strategy among solidarity activists entering Palestine has been to keep your head down and lie about why you are there.
Plenty of us know the routine. You say that you’re a tourist. You play dumb about history and politics, and you never say you are going to visit Palestinians. You don’t point out the fact that every person of color in your group just got picked out for questioning. You submit calmly to interrogation and construct non-offensive half-truths, conveniently leaving out certain parts of your itinerary. When they search your stuff, you nod and say you understand it’s for “security reasons.” You swallow every rebellious instinct that brought you to Palestine in the first place and temporarily submit to a racist, invasive, intimidating security apparatus in the hope that they will deign to let you in to Palestine, and accept that this is the price to be paid for being able to do the work you want to do.
For the record, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with this strategy. In any given situation, the most useful way to interact with agents of the Israeli state is a tactical decision. I understand there are many groups of people who do not have the luxury of pissing off Israeli security: people who depend on free movement in and out of Palestine for work, study, or to see family; those engaged in long-term projects in the region for whom maintaining access to the Occupied Territories is crucial; those engaged in critical media work that gets Palestine’s story out to the world; those who may be in a more vulnerable position for any number of reasons.
But at the same time, we should be clear that Israel’s border controls and repressive entry policies are part of the apartheid system—a big part. Entry restrictions on solidarity activists, journalists, and NGO workers are a natural outgrowth of the restrictions that prevent a large percentage of the worldwide Palestinian population from returning to their own country and/or moving about freely within it. They are a component of the elaborate matrix of borders, walls, checkpoints, permits, soldiers and secret police by which the Israeli government exerts a choke-hold on free movement and political activity throughout occupied Palestine. They are part and parcel of the occupation machinery that seeks to isolate the Occupied Territories and make life there unbearable so that Palestinians will leave, and that frequently forces them out whether they want to go or not. And like all other parts of the apartheid system, they deserve to be challenged.
This year’s Nakba and Naksa Day protests saw Israel besieged on every one of its garrisoned borders by unarmed Palestinians simply wanting to return home. At the end of this month, Freedom Flotilla 2 will defy Israel’s punitive and illegal naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. We see the July 8 fly-in as our contribution to the new movement that is chipping away at Fortress Israel.
Some fellow activists have raised the possibility that this action will result in nothing more than hundreds of us being summarily deported, and possibly banned from entering Palestine in the future. It is entirely possible that this will happen, and anyone participating in this action should be aware of the risk. It seems to me a very small risk to take in comparison to the crushing violence Palestinians have stood up to for over 60 years. While this action is not for everyone, I believe the time is right for those in a position to expose and nonviolently resist Israel’s repressive entry policies to do so on a mass scale.
Just as no one thinks one flotilla (or two or three) is going to bring the siege of Gaza to an end, no one believes this one day of action will immediately alter the state of affairs at Ben Gurion Airport and the rest of Israel’s borders. In the short term, it is possible that it may even make airport personnel more suspicious and aggressive. That is how oppressors respond to acts of resistance. They often become more aggressive before they are defeated, because they rightly sense that the momentum is on the side of justice.
July 8, and the week of solidarity it opens, is one step in the long process of taking down the apartheid system. The Arab revolutions, the growing BDS movement, and Israel’s own increasingly hysterical reactions to nonviolent protest have radically accelerated the timeline of that process from what many of us believed possible only a few years ago. Israeli apartheid’s days are numbered, and now is the moment to challenge it on every front.
Laura Durkay is a member of Siegebusters Working Group and the International Socialist Organization in New York City. You can follow updates from the week of solidarity on her personal blog, Laura on the Left, and on Twitter at @lauradurkay.
Waiting at Rafah. (All Photos: Ruqaya Izzidien)
Arms grappled through the black metal barrier that separates Palestinians from the Rafah terminal. A barrier which only ever shifts to let through ambulances, press and- very occasionally- a busload of travellers, successfully making it out of Gaza.
Elderly ladies wait for hours brandishing their passports through the bars. Welcome to the new, improved, siege-free Gaza.
When the gate opens, it traps those loitering beside it between its two frames, and people hurriedly look for a gap in the guards’ attention through which they could make a break for it. Those who found a seemingly unguarded exit route where manhandled back behind the fence.
Currently officials at the Rafah border are working their way through an ever-growing backlog of registered travellers. Until the quota of up to 400 travellers per day is lifted, the mayhem at Rafah will only intensify. “I know today is the 18th June,” a guard announced over a loudspeaker, “but today only people registered to cross between 6 and 10 of June will be crossing.”
When the border closed at around 2pm that day, it came with another announcement via loudspeaker, “this isn’t from us; it’s because of Egypt.”
When the Rafah ‘reopening’ was first announced in April, Gazans were promised a border that would permit women, children and the elderly to travel freely, as well as men who had registered to in advance. Currently none of this is true.
Qasem and Qayis Farah are two British-Palestinian children who are have been trying, with their mother, Wesam, to get home to Sheffield in the UK. I first met them on June 16.
“We are trying to get out of this terrible place” eight-year-old Qasem explained. Every time the family was given a window in which to cross, it was retracted. Qasem added, “I miss my dad, I miss all my friends, I miss my best friend, I miss my house, I miss my home; home sweet home.”
The Farah family made it through the Rafah barrier but after waiting for six hours, they were returned to Gaza. They were back at the Rafah crossing when it reopened on 18 June, determined to cross once more.
“When we finally got through last time,” Qasem said, “they just took us back and we had to go through the border again. They just surrounded us and every time we wanted to get through the guards would tell us that your passport is not in, you’ve not got any permission to come through.”
The line at the Rafah crossing.
This experience is typical for Gazans wanting to cross into Egypt. Shahd Abusalama has a summer leadership programme scholarship in the University of Delaware, USA. She was registered to cross the border on June 18, five days before her flight out of Cairo.
“I feel so worried, I’ve been working hard to get this scholarship and everything depends on the border. I can’t leave and move freely, it’s really hard. After the Egyptians said that Rafah border is going to be open permanently, we had lots of hope that we would be able to leave freely and have no more difficulties but everything was an illusion. The reality is far different to what the media and leaders say, the reality is that sometimes the border is open, sometimes it is closed, and sometimes not all buses are allowed to enter. I’ve heard of people who come to the border every day for a whole week in order to enter. It’s like a torment. It makes me feel like I’m less than human.”
But inhumane border regulations are just part of the humiliation that Gazans face at the border. Before being allowed to enter the Gazan Rafah terminal, they must wait in a metal shed, filled with plastic chairs and toilets which are so smutty-looking that they make you want to wash your eyes for just looking at them. A Gazan must stay seated:
“Sit in your chairs and an explanation will be given to you,” the loudspeaker rang out. A Gazan cannot challenge the guards without being escorted from the building. It was like being transported into George Orwell’s mind; people are crammed into an eerie shed which still bears bullet holes I could fit my fist through as the Rafah sub-culture takes hold of everyone by the wrist.
“If you want to get out, sit down in your chairs” the loudspeaker dictated again. Shahd Abusalama’s father looked at me, “This is the system; this is their system.”
Qasem Farah recalled, “We had to stay sitting down because if we didn’t, they would take us back to the border. I don’t think we need permission, we just came in to see our family.”
Border control forces are overwhelmed by the numbers crossing and while the travellers quota remains (currently permitting between 300 and 400 out of Gaza per day), the situation will only escalate as Palestinian authorities attempt to work their way through the ever-increasing backlog of registered travellers.
Shahd Abusalama was sent back from the border, twice, like hundreds of other Palestinians. She is still trying to make it out in time for her scholarship.
Ruqaya Izzidien is a British journalist and cartoonist based in Gaza.
An analyst says George W. Bush’s lawyers threatened to resign en mass when placed in a situation similar to Barack Obama’s lawyers, who were overruled on the Libya war.
American lawyer, columnist, and author Glenn Greenwald says in 2007 lawyers in the Bush administration threatened to resign en mass over the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless eavesdropping program, The Huffington Post reported.
Similar to how Obama ignored legal advice on his Libya war campaign being illegal without congressional approval Bush decided to reject the legal conclusions of his top lawyers and order NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program to continue.
In the Republican’s case, however, several top administration lawyers, including, FBI Director Robert Mueller, threatened to resign en masse if Bush continued with the illegal spying program.
Earlier this week, Obama overruled top White House lawyers by deciding to argue that US military operations in Libya do not require congressional approval. However, his lawyers failed to take any decisive action.
Obama rejected the legal advice of Pentagon general counsel lawyer Jeh Johnson and the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Caroline Krass, in concluding that his administration was not in violation of the 1973 War Powers Resolution (WPR) by continuing its operation in Libya beyond 90 days, The New York Times reported on Friday.
Obama argued that the US military in Libya is only active in support roles and its actions do not amount to “hostilities,” therefore it is not in violation of the WPR despite having extended US operations in Libya to more than 90 days without seeking congress’s approval.
How to watch Press TV in the UK:
Ofcom has finally decided to remove Press TV form the Sky Platform.
The British government has mobilized all its communications and media facilities in a desperate attempt to force Iran’s English language news channel Press TV off-air.
The facilities in question include the pro-Zionist newspaper The Sunday Times and other right-wing media outlets. Also contributing to the attempt is the Office of Communications (Ofcom), the so-called media regulatory body whose managers are directly installed by the Queen and have to report to the monarchy.
Ofcom has been instructed to mount pressure on Press TV with the help of Zionist media giant Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper, The Sunday Times. The paper recently published a politically motivated article to distort facts about Press TV and put more pressure on the Iranian news channel.
Press TV Ltd. is a British production company which is making programs critical of Western imperialism. Its partner in Tehran, sheds light on the dark, undemocratic aspects of the British political structure, especially the hereditary rule of the royals. It also lays bare London’s double standards toward Middle East developments and their links with Britain’s historical presence in the region.
Press TV’s regular coverage of crimes committed by the Israeli regime in the occupied Palestinian territories are definitely among the strict red lines that British media policy-makers will not easily tolerate.
Outgoing Israeli ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, once wrote in The Daily Telegraph that “Britain is increasingly becoming a hotbed of anti-Israeli sentiment. Attitudes once considered marginal or extreme have drifted dangerously close to the mainstream.” … Full article
Naji and Basem At-Tamimi were taken by Israeli forces from their homes in April and held without charge.
Naji was charged with inciting and participating in rallies and organizing demonstrations against Israeli land confiscation and settlement building. Israel has declared such demonstrations illegal.
In a statement released shortly after the sentencing was handed down, the Popular Struggle Committee in Nabi Saleh, where Naji is from, said it rejected Israel’s characterization of the protests as illegal, and said it considered the sentencing of Tamimi for his role in the protests as a “violation of the law,” noting it prevented Palestinians from defending their property.
The committee questioned the “international silence” on the issue, recalling European Union expressions of concern over the jailing of Bil’in activist Abdallah Abu Rahma, and condemnation from the international rights group Amnesty International.
The sentencing, the statement said, “will not curb us from our mission,” and demanded the release of the organizer.
The Prime Minister of Malaysia voiced his support for the upcoming ‘Freedom Flotilla’ of aid ships and 500 supporters from around the world who plan to enter Gaza by sea on June 27th. A ship from Malaysia joins two new French ships added to the roster of a dozen ships set to sail to Gaza next week.
Israeli commandoes have been preparing for the flotilla with war games and new weaponry, including a high-powered water cannon which they plan to fire at the aid ships to prevent them from entering Gaza. Although Israel faced criticism worldwide for its attack on the aid flotilla last year which killed nine aid workers, no changes have been made in Israeli policy and no one has faced charges for the killings.
The two French boats, announced on Sunday, will carry around 40 passengers, including legislators, entertainers and sports stars from France. The flotilla will include ships from the US, England, Estonia, Sweden, Latvia, Portugal, Australia, Kuwait and Portugal, in addition to the French and Malaysian ships.
Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak told a crowd of flotilla supporters in a stadium in Kuala Lampur, “As long as the Palestinian people are oppressed, we will take it upon ourselves to fight for them. We should, even if the world does not.” He said that he will look into a request by the flotilla participants to have the United Nations examine the contents of the ships on the flotilla prior to their departure from Gaza, to pre-empt any claims by the Israeli government that the ships are carrying anything other than their inventoried and inspected loads of humanitarian aid and workers.
The Freedom Flotilla aims to break the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip, imposed four years ago in June 2007. According to the organizers of the Flotilla, “Nowhere else in the world are people required by the international community to accept humanitarian aid instead of freedom. And even that humanitarian aid is not forthcoming, owing to Israel’s blockade. This month, the health authority in Gaza proclaimed a state of emergency due to an acute shortage of vital medicines. Approximately 178 types of medications and 123 types of medical supplies have run out, and an additional 69 types of medications and 70 types of medical supplies are expected to run out within the next three months.”
46 Palestinian aid organizations reiterated their support for the flotilla in a signed statement made earlier this week.