Wednesday, September 14, 2011

From Reuters:
Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip violates international law, a panel of human rights experts reporting to a U.N. body said on Tuesday, disputing a conclusion reached by a separate U.N. probe into Israel's raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship.

The so-called Palmer Report on the Israeli raid of May 2010 that killed nine Turkish activists said earlier this month that Israel had used unreasonable force in last year's raid, but its naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled strip was legal.

A panel of five independent U.N. rights experts reporting to the U.N. Human Rights Council rejected that conclusion, saying the blockade had subjected Gazans to collective punishment in "flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law."
It is not until paragraph 10 that we find out the name of one of these "experts" - Richard Falk!

Richard Falk, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories and one of the five experts who issued Tuesday's statement, said the Palmer report's conclusions were influenced by a desire to salve Turkish-Israeli ties.
Ah, Richard Falk. A man who is a  the proven liar and twister of international law who explicitly supports terror against Israel and compares Israel to Nazis is opining about the impartiality of someone else's report. 


But let's look at the legal arguments of his team. Their press release says:



“In pronouncing itself on the legality of the naval blockade, the Palmer Report does not recognize the naval blockade as an integral part of Israel’s closure policy towards Gaza which has a disproportionate impact on the human rights of civilians,” stressed the experts.
“As a result of more than four years of Israeli blockade, 1.6 million Palestinian women, men and children are deprived of their fundamental human rights and subjected to collective punishment, in flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law,” they said. “Israel’s siege of Gaza is extracting a human price that disproportionately harms Palestinian civilians.”
Their main argument in this press release is that Israel's naval blockade cannot be separated from its closure of Gaza. Yet Palmer addresses this issue head-on, in paragraph 70:
At this juncture, a word of clarification is necessary. The naval blockade is often discussed in tandem with the Israeli restrictions on the land crossings to Gaza. However, in the Panel’s view, these are in fact two distinct concepts which require different treatment and analysis. First, we note that the land crossings policy has been in place since long before the naval blockade was instituted. 239 In particular, the tightening of border controls between Gaza and Israel came about after the take-over of Hamas in Gaza in June 2007. 240 On the other hand, the naval blockade was imposed more than a year later, in January 2009. 241 Second, Israel has always kept its policies on the land crossings separate from the naval blockade. The land restrictions have fluctuated in intensity over time 242 but the naval blockade has not been altered since its imposition. Third, the naval blockade as a distinct legal measure was imposed primarily to enable a legally sound basis for Israel to exert control over ships attempting to reach Gaza with weapons and related goods. 243 This was in reaction to certain incidents when vessels had reached Gaza via sea. 244 We therefore treat the naval blockade as separate and distinct from the controls at the land crossings. This is not to overlook that there may be potential overlaps in the effects of the naval blockade and the land crossings policy. 245 They will be addressed when appropriate. Likewise, the restrictions on the land crossings to Gaza are part of the context of our investigation, and our recommendations in Chapter 6 address the situation there. 246 But the legal elements of the naval blockade are analyzed on their own.
As usual, Israel bashers ignore the substance of the argument and just use repeated assertions as proof. These "international law experts" cannot marshal a single argument against Palmer so they resort to calling themselves experts and assuming that people are too stupid to actually compare the arguments.

But Falk himself is even more deceptive. He just co-wrote an article that also attacks Palmer and pretends to address the legality of Israel's naval blockade.

The most significant finding of the report is its most dangerous and legally dubious: the conclusion that Israel’s blockade of Gaza, in effect since mid-2007, was somehow, despite being severely harmful to the 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza, a legitimate act of self-defense.
The word "blockade" has a very specific legal meaning, and almost always refers specifically to a naval blockade (sometimes air.) When Falk says that Israel's "blockade" started in 2007 he knows he is lying - it started in 2009, during the Gaza war.

 Falk then says something that would be considered incredible if he already hadn't made a career of trampling on international law to demonize Israel:
The report gives considerable attention to the illegal rockets fired into Israel by Palestinian militants mainly associated with Hamas, and notes, appropriately, that “stopping these violent acts was a necessary step for Israel to take in order to protect its people.” But while that justifies protective action, it does not make the case for a valid claim of self-defense under international law.
Yes, Falk is making another argument that Israel is not allowed to do anything in self-defense beyond sitting there and trying to shoot rockets out of the sky.

Palmer disagrees:
74. Israel was entitled to take reasonable steps to prevent the influx of weapons into Gaza. With that objective, Israel established a series of restrictions on vessels entering the waters of Gaza. These measures culminated in the declaration of the naval blockade on 3 January 2009. There were a number of reasons why the previous restrictions were inadequate, primary among them being the need for the measures to be legally watertight. 
Falk, characteristically, is silent in responding to the actual legal arguments and instead makes up lies about the naval blockade - which is, in the end, not preventing a single shipment of humanitarian supplies from getting to Gaza.

Palmer has the last word:
80. As a final point, the Panel emphasizes that if necessary, the civilian population in Gaza must be allowed to receive food and other objects essential to its survival. However, it does not follow from this obligation that the naval blockade is per se unlawful or that Israel as the blockading power is required to simply let vessels carrying aid through the blockade. On the contrary, humanitarian missions must respect the security arrangements put in place by Israel. They must seek prior approval from Israel and make the necessary arrangements with it. This includes meeting certain conditions such as permitting Israel to search the humanitarian vessels in question. The Panel notes provision was made for any essential humanitarian supplies on board the vessels to enter Gaza via the adjacent Israeli port of Ashdod, 281 and such an offer was expressly made in relation to the goods carried on the flotilla. 282

81. The Panel therefore concludes that Israel’s naval blockade was legal.


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