Statement on the Gaza Flotilla Tragedy: IPS Fellow Phyllis Bennis

Israel is now claiming a new international law, invented just for this purpose: the preventive “right” to capture any naval vessel in international waters if the ship was about to violate a blockade – in this case, the illegal, Geneva Convention-violating unilaterally imposed (though U.S.-backed) Israeli siege of 1.5 million Gazan civilians. That one just about matches George Bush’s claim of a preventive “right” to attack Iraq in 2003 because Baghdad might someday create weapons the U.S. might not like and might use them to threaten some country the U.S. does like…even if they didn’t really have any WMDs at all and the U.S. knew it all along.

For now, we mourn for our friends and colleagues. We continue to demand information on the victims and demand that the surviving activists and their ships with all their humanitarian cargo be immediately released so they can join the rest of the Flotilla already underway and continue to Gaza.

And as we mourn, our full demands must be for the immediate lifting of the criminal blockade of Gaza – the end of the blockade, not simply allowing a few additional items in under Israeli control. And then we must demand full international accountability, including criminal liability, for the Israeli officials, both political leaders and military commanders, who are responsible for the Flotilla Massacre. The United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and every national government should be prepared to investigate and to arrest those responsible.

Phyllis Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.