Blockades and Muslims

No competent legal scholar can seriously question the legality of Israel's Gaza blockade. The Israel Defense Force Judge Advocate has clearly laid out the basis for Israel's action, demonstrating its absolute conformity with international law.

The truth is that the IDF's actions were unnecessarily moderate. Blockade is a perfectly acceptable and often necessary act of war. And Israel is at war with the Hamas regime in Gaza, which not only emphatically calls for Israel's destruction, but also persistently and deliberately attacks the Jewish state, particularly targeting civilians. Britain brutally but successfully blockaded Germany in both World Wars (the blockade as much as any other factor brought about Germany's surrender in the WWI), while the United States effectively blockaded Japan in World War II. 

But what is really ironic is that blockade is a favorite tactic of the Arabs and the Turks. The Turks control two of the world's critical waterways (the Bosporus and Dardanelles) and have historically blockaded them at will. Meanwhile, the Arabs, in violation of the armistice agreement that ended the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, completely blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba (i.e., not just to limit war materiel), cutting off Israel's southern port of Eilat. 

After the 1956 Sinai Campaign (fought by Israel in part to break the Aqaba blockade), the United Nations stationed "peacekeeping" troops in Sinai as part of the bargain for securing Israel's voluntary withdrawal from this territory. In 1967 the Arabs told the U.N. to get out (which, of course, it cravenly did) and reimposed the blockade. While it is often said that Israel acted preemptively in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, striking the first blow, in reality, the blockade itself was a belligerent act under international law. Israel was already at war when its warplanes hit Egyptian airfields.   

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Arabs went one better. Having lost control of the Sinai and unable to maintain a blockade of Aqaba in the face of Israeli air power, the Arabs blockaded the distant Straits of Bab el Mandeb (over a thousand miles from Israel), which separate the Arabian peninsula from Africa. Talk about blockading international waters!

Of course, no "freedom flotillas" full of European and American "activists" sailed to break the Arab blockades, though they were in international waters and in violation of all manner of "humanitarian law" in that they were complete and indiscriminate, blockading foodstuffs and all other goods, not just war materiel. 

By comparison, Israel's blockade of Gaza has been unnecessarily moderate, indeed hardly a blockade in the historical sense at all. Gaza is awash in food and consumer goods. And indeed, the primary intent of the "freedom flotilla," by the admission of its leaders, was not to resupply Gaza, which is hardly needed. Had it been, the ships could have been unloaded at an Israeli port and the goods shipped overland to the supposedly needy Palestinians. Rather, the intent of the "Free Gaza Movement" was to break the Israeli blockade.

Under the international law of war as articulated in the San Remo Manual (effectively the latest iteration of the law of war at sea), Israel treated the blockade runners like neutral merchant ships -- warning the vessels of the blockade and to dock at the port of Ashdod rather than face boarding. Even in boarding, the IDF acted not as a belligerent might have, but as a police force, not opening fire on the vessels, but rather attempting to peacefully steer the vessels safely into the Israeli port.

But the IDF needn't have done so. The Free Gaza Movement's flotillas are not humanitarian convoys, but blockade-breakers, and so, in actual fact, belligerents. Israel and Hamas are at war, and Israel's blockade is a legitimate act of war against Hamas. The freedom flotillas' calculated attempts to break the blockade are deliberate acts of war against Israel. The wacky but dangerous collection of left-wing activists, Arab and Turkish terrorists, and just plain crazies are not humanitarians, but belligerents in a war. Israel would have been within its rights under international law to have sent the whole motley fleet to the bottom of the sea.   

The Israelis did not do this, but rather acted with restraint, dropping paintball-armed commandos onto the deck of a ship filled with armed and violent fanatics -- and yet they still face international opprobrium and condemnation. But this, of course, is nothing new. Whenever Israel attempts to please the humanitarians, they are doubly punished -- not only by taking unnecessary casualties themselves, but in heightened levels of bogus legal and propagandistic attack. 

So in 2002, when Israel sacrificed 23 soldiers rooting out terrorists room by room in the Jenin refugee camp rather than just bombing the place to rubble, they were accused of a massacre. When Israel pulled its punches in against Hezbollah in 2006, it was not only condemned for "disproportionate attacks," but also mocked for military incompetence. And even though during Operation Cast Lead the IDF went so far as to personally telephone individual Palestinians in Gaza to warn them of impending attacks and urge them to evacuate (an almost laughably considerate form of war), it was accused of all manner of war crimes in the Goldstone Report. 

The lesson ought to be clear by now. The humanitarians don't want peace; they want blood. And they are getting it.