Sun Sentinel – Sunday June 20,2010
Consul General Ofer Bavly
There is much debate in the media and among opinion-makers regarding the legality of Israel’s enforcement of a naval blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. At times, we get bogged down in minute details of legalese that, while interesting to historians 50 years down the road, can make us lose focus in the short term. It is important to step back and look at the big picture.
The “Quartet” (the United States, the UN, the European Union and Russia) imposed a boycott on Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel and accepts previously signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Hamas promises never to fulfill any of these conditions. It imposed a death penalty on Palestinians doing business with Israel or supporting peace with Israel.
The boycott means the international community will not deal with Hamas or trade with it.
Following the bloody coup in Gaza in 2005, Hamas launched a vicious missile campaign against Israeli towns bordering on Gaza. They have launched over 10,000 missiles. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live under an almost daily barrage of rockets, all of which were smuggled into Gaza through underground tunnels from Egypt or by ship from the Mediterranean Sea.
This is why Israel imposed a naval blockade on Gaza. The aim of the blockade is to deny terrorists more missiles and more weapons.
Hamas is a terrorist organization sponsored, armed and financed by Iran. Its objective is the destruction of Israel, to be replaced by a fundamentalist theology-based regime similar to that of the Ayatollahs. Hamas officially opposes negotiation with Israel and refuses to contemplate coexistence with the state of Israel. Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmud Abbas and expelled it from the Gaza Strip in a violent coup.
Against this background, we must examine the clash between “peace activists” on the Turkish ship Marmara and forces of the Israeli navy.
Make no mistake: Any aid on board was a cover for its real intention. It was designed to strengthen Hamas and show support for its radical ideology. Israel was absolutely correct in demanding to screen the ships’ cargo. Previous ships, such as Karin-A and Francop, were loaded with thousands of missiles and weapons on their way to Hamas and Hezbollah.
In 1962, the United States imposed a naval blockade on Cuba, designated an enemy country. Soviet plans to smuggle nuclear missiles into Cuba led to an American decision to deny access to Soviet ships attempting to unload cargo in Cuba. This was legal according to International Laws of War. The U.S. Navy had orders, as per standard operating procedures, to shoot any ship breaking the blockade and sink it.
Fortunately, Soviet ships turned around and did not try to break the blockade. In the case of the Marmara, all calls from the Israeli navy were ignored. The ship tried to run the blockade.
When Israeli navy forces boarded the Marmara to take it to an Israeli port, they were brutally attacked with weapons, including guns, knives and metal pipes, amassed on board in preparation for a clash.
Responsibility for the ensuing violence and casualties rests squarely with the instigators of this farce masquerading as a humanitarian operation. They refused our offer to transfer aid to Gaza through Israel and chose violence.
Whether surprised or not, Israel’s soldiers were obligated to defend themselves. Five of the six ships presented no opposition, and their passengers were unharmed. The passengers on the sixth ship tried to kill our soldiers. Self-defense is absolutely legal.
Let us not forget the big picture. Hamas is a terror organization targeting innocent Israeli civilians. The ships in the flotilla of hate and violence came to support Hamas and supply it and were looking for a violent clash with Israelis.
We put a stop to this operation. Sometimes, the big picture is quite simple to understand.