Tuesday, 1 June 2010

EU statement on Gaza flotilla

Yesterday, 31 May 2010, the EU high representative Catherine Ashton issued a statement on behalf of the EU on the Israeli military operation against the flotilla heading for Gaza, but seized by the Israeli Defense Forces:

The EU deeply regrets the loss of life during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the Flotilla sailing to Gaza and offers its condolences to the families of the victims. The EU condemns the use of violence that has produced a high number of victims among the members of the flotilla and demands an immediate, full and impartial inquiry into the events and the circumstances surrounding them.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains a source of grave concern. The EU does not accept the continued policy of closure. It is unacceptable and politically counterproductive. We need to urgently achieve a durable solution to the situation in Gaza.

The EU underlines its call for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.

The EU calls on Israel to urgently provide Member States with consular access to and information about their citizens.

The EU calls upon all parties and relevant actors to prevent a further escalation of tensions and underlines the need to continue the proximity talks with a view to the resumption of direct negotiations.

Open questions

The IDF has spread video footage of “pacifists” attacking Israeli commandos with cudgels and the like. The scenes are nasty and the consequences tragic, but who started the attack? Who gave Israel the authority to board and seize vessels on the high sea with military might? How would the state of Israel react to the attempted seizure of its own ships in international waters?

In my humble opinion, Ashton’s declaration leaves a number of additional questions open. These issues should be clarified as part of the ‘immediate, full and impartial inquiry into the events and the circumstances surrounding them’.

The EU regretted the loss of life, but did not deal with the legality of the military seizure of civilian (merchant) vessels, registered in NATO member states, in international waters.

The EU called the blockade of Gaza unacceptable and counterproductive, but it did not deal with the legality of the blockade on sea or land.

The EU did not question the legality of the seizure, transportation to Israel, detention and potential penalties of some 700 citizens from different countries.

The EU did not demand the immediate and unconditional release of the hijacked persons. (The EU only called for consular access and information, as each country would do if one of its citizens was caught in a foreign jurisdiction with a suitcase full of heroin.)

United Nations

The spiral of hate and violence is kept in motion by hotheads on various sides, but the United Nations offers an approximate view of reactions within the international community.

A note on the UN Security Council emergency meeting 31 May 2010 [update: new version published] presents available information about the boarding and offers an overview of UN positions as well as statements by state representatives.

As far as I could see, two countries condoned the sea blockade of Gaza: the United States (“delivery by sea was not appropriate”) and Israel (blockade and boarding legitimate).

Has Israel further undermined its long term security?

Ralf Grahn