UN's Richard Falk: IDF seizure of Gaza-bound ship is 'criminal' [Reuters. In Haaretz today]
A United Nations human rights investigator on Thursday called Israel's seizure of a ship carrying relief aid for the Gaza Strip "unlawful" and said its blockade of the territory constituted a "continuing crime against humanity". Israeli authorities on Tuesday intercepted the vessel, which was also carrying 21 pro-Palestinian activists, and said it would not be permitted to enter Gaza coastal waters because of security risks in the area and its existing naval blockade. Richard Falk, an American Jew and the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said the move was part of Israel's "cruel blockade of the entire Palestinian population of Gaza" in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting any form of collective punishment against "an occupied people".
Falk, who is an expert on international law, said Israel's two-year blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza restricted vital supplies such as food, medicine and fuel to "bare subsistence levels". The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a report this week that Israel was also halting entry to Gaza of building materials and spare parts needed to repair damage from its 22-day invasion late last December. "Such a pattern of continuing blockade under these conditions amounts to such a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions as to constitute a continuing crime against humanity," Falk said in a statement released in Geneva. Prior to leaving Cyprus, the ship was inspected by Cypriot authorities in response to Israeli demands to determine whether it carried any weapons, according to the UN investigator. "None were found and Israeli authorities were so informed." "Nonetheless, the 21 peace activists on the boat were arrested, held in captivity and have been charged with 'illegal entry' to Israel even though they had no intention of going to Israel," Falk added.
"Clearly the purpose of that ship was to create a buzz and serve as a propaganda vehicle against Israel"That is called chutzpah, as the only reason the ship draws attention is because Israel not only kidnapped the people on the ship, but is choking Gaza and strangulating it. Let's remember one simple fact here: the ship left Cyprus, sailed international waters, with passengers as dangerous as a Nobel Prize Laureate, and tried to sail into a territory on which Israel has no claim, a.k.a. Gaza.