Gaza Aid Ship Estelle Commandeered by Israeli Navy; Israel kidnaps European Members of Parliament

The Israeli navy boarded the aid ship Estelle in international waters on Saturday, illegally commandeering it and kidnapping the 30 persons aboard, including five European parliamentarians and Canadian former member of parliament Jim Manly, who is also a retired minister of the United Church.

The Israeli authorities have imposed a blockade on the civilian Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip. Although the blockade does still block some key imports, its major impact comes from Israel’s refusal to allow most goods produced in Gaza to be exported or to allow its population freely to travel out of the Strip. The blockade has produced massive unemployment and poverty, lack of potable water, widespread food insecurity, startlingly high levels of anemia, and the stunting of poorer childrens’ growth. Since Israel is recognized by the UN as the Occupying authority in Gaza, for it to subject the non-combatant population of 1.7 million to this blockade is illegal in international law and contravenes the 1949 Geneva convention on the treatment of Occupied populations (a set of laws designed to forestall further excesses such as those of the Fascist, Axis powers in the 1930s and 1940s). For more on Gaza see my essay of last Wednesday (click here).

Aljazeera English has video:

(This aid mission was primarily organized by Swedish and Norwegian groups. Humanitarians in both countries have been particularly vocal about the Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians in Gaza. Prominent Swedish mystery novelist Henning Mankell was himself a passenger in the flotilla of the Mavi Marmara, which the Israeli army attacked in 2009, killing 9 passengers, including one American. Mankell’s detective Kurt Wallander always sees an injustice when it has been committed and is dogged about rectifying it.)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu denounced the Estelle aid mission as an attempt to blacken Israel’s reputation. But what seems clear is that it is the blockade of the civilians of Gaza, half of whom are children, that blackens Israel’s reputation. Netanyahu denied that there is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but US diplomatic documents demonstrate that his government and that of his predecessor have deliberately attempted to calibrate their punishment of the Palestinians so as to fall just short of producing actual starvation, keeping them on the edge of it. To say that there is not a humanitarian crisis is not the same thing as saying that there is not a set of illegal Israeli policies producing severe humanitarian problems.

Israeli authorities maintain that they must impose the blockade for security reasons, to stop weapons smuggling. But the US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks demonstrate that the purpose of the blockade is to unseat the Hamas Party-militia in Gaza. Since the most damaging element of the blockade is preventing the exports of most Palestinian products, it can hardly primarily be aimed at preventing imports of weapons. The blockade is a way of punishing non-combatants, and the careful scientific calculations carried out by Israeli authorities of how they could keep the Palestinians alive while they were being denied anything but essential nutrition is just about the creepiest thing I’ve heard of since the end of the colonial era in the 1960s.

The European members of parliament aboard were: From Greece: Vangelis Diamandopoulos and Dimitris Kodelas; from Norway: Aksel Hagen; from Spain: Ricardo Sixto Iglesias; and from Sweden: Sven Britton. Ricardo Sixto is a member of the United Left bloc from Valencia and has a degree in History and Geography from the University of Valencia.

Aksel Hagen has a doctorate in life sciences and is an activist in the areas of education and the increasing gap between the rich and the poor. Sven Britton is a physician and academic specialist in infectious diseases, and feels strongly about the health impact of the blockade on the people of Gaza:

By the way, I think the American wire services and newspapers that report on this incident but neglect to name these names are not doing real journalism, since the presence of the sitting parliamentarians is a significant part of this story. It is a slap in the face of the European Union and completely outrageous that sitting members of parliaments of its member states should be attacked in international waters and illegally kidnapped and falsely accused of being illegal immigrants into Israel!

When the left next gets in, in Sweden and Spain and the other countries represented, and some sorts of boycott of Israel are considered, how do you think these parliamentarians will vote? The Israeli right wing rather disgracefully hides behind accusations of anti-Jewish racism in explaining such sentiments, but never considers that bad Israeli policies are eliciting critiques of . . . bad Israeli policies. (Not to mention that it is falling down funny for the far right wing Likud Party to go around accusing other people of racism!)

Even as it is, the Swedish government considers there to be a severe humanitarian situation in Gaza and says it would therefore have been reasonable to let the ship proceed.

Another reason the parliamentarians should be reported on is fairness: if US Congressmen were on such a mission and were kidnapped on the high seas this way, you can bet that they would be named and interviewed by the press. That it has to be the bloggers that provide this level of detail is one reason that the newspapers are in trouble– they are often too timid in the face of powerful single-issue lobbies that want to shape the news; and some of them, such as the Murdoch newspapers, are actively complicit with many of those lobbies, indeed, part of them.

The other passengers are listed at the end of this Turkish article.

27 Responses

  1. I concluded long ago that job one is to kill and replace our utterly corrupt American “news media”, which is better described as right-wing propaganda. I don’t know how to kill it except by telling everyone I meet to read foreign newspapers and blogs instead of the MSM.

  2. “It is a slap in the face of the European Union and completely outrageous that sitting members of parliaments of its member states should be attacked in international waters and illegally kidnapped and falsely accused of being illegal immigrants into Israel!”

    Not to mention attacking and kidnapping members of parliament in sovereign countries that are not members of the EU, like Norway’s MoP Aksel Hagen.

  3. I only read the first two paragraphs, enough is enough.

    Israel has taken its 20th or 40th last step over the line.

    It’s time for Obama to show his “FIRST real honest action” as the President of the United States. He must demand that the Israel government immediately: release all 30 persons kidnapped from the Gaza aide ship Estelle and allow delivery of its cargo of aid; replace the criminal Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and all of his cronies with honest politicians; and reach within 3 months a two state solution with Palestine or else the United States will begin immediately cutting all its ties with Israel. This would begin with removing all the military equipment and nuclear weapons given to Israel that established it as the Middle East keystone military base.

    Of course another country would have to be selected by the US government to replace Israel’s role. Are there any honest governments available? Are there any individuals in the US government that could make intelligent and wise choices? Perhaps a collective effort by the UN and NATO with a group of 6 or more countries would work better. I’m politically ignorant, nevertheless wouldn’t have any clue from the crap that the corrupt, controlled mass news media dishes out.

    Thus, I’m like most Americans that want honest, wise and intelligent individuals that can relate to and represent the 99% of Americans and that can stop making the same mistakes decade after decade. Or are the mistakes not mistakes just plans by the ruling billionaires and millionaires?

    There’s excessive secrecy and greed in governments.

  4. And not one US Congressman or woman aboard ?
    Didn’t we used to have leaders in this country ?
    Leo J. Ryan, we need you.

  5. This is erratic, self-destructive behavior by the Israeli government. They are doing themselves tremendous damage, isolating themselves like this in the world community.

    Israel has always been…um…let’s say “vigorous in the pursuit of its own security,” but they were always rational about it.

    This government’s policies have been increasingly irrational. They already alienated their best friend in the region, Turkey, with this blockade, and now they’re going to do the same with Europe.

    • They have also in recent years largely lost the support of the Bedouin community in Israel. The Bedouin, who had a reputation as expert pathfinders, had served in the Israel Defense Forces and incurred a substantial percentage of the casualties in the armed conflict in Gaza between the IDF and Palestinian resistance groups.

      During the Second Intifada, Hamas published an open letter to the Bedouin community citing their honorable cultural legacy, encouraging them to refrain from serving in the IDF and establishing scholarship opportunities for their youth.

      The Druze within Israel are the only major Arab group that have remained loyal to the Israeli government and its IDF.

  6. The UN has investigated and ruled the blockade to be entirely legal under international law (see the Palmer Report.)

    Israel has an obligation to blockade a hostile state on its border that lobs rockets almost daily at its civilians and whose government calls in its charter for the destruction of world Jewry.

    It is a testament to the uniquely moral nature of Israel that despite this blockade, it still allows in enough basic goods and services to keep Gaza from collapsing.

    Finally, I’d like to remind you that Egypt is also blockading Gaza, not just Israel.

    • The 462-page Goldstone Commission Report authorized by the U.N. found credible evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Operation Cast Lead.

      One of the many instances cited included the bulldozing of a chicken farm that supplied 10% of the eggs in Gaza; it resulted in the killing of 31,000 hens. This seems like a clear attempt to starve Gazans.

      The naval blockade of Gaza was also condemned in the Goldstone Commission Report.

      A full reading of that report describes incidents committed by the IDF that are comparable to the atrocities committed by Nazi forces in occupied areas of Europe during WWII.

      • Quite appropriate that you cite “Israeli crimes against chickens.” That’s comparable to “the atrocities committed by Nazi forces in occupied areas of Europe during WWII”? Where two million Jewish children were murdered in 4 years. NUTS.

    • Because if Egypt dropped the blockade, the Israel lobby would demand the US destroy the Egyptian economy in punishment.

      When you use the term “uniquely moral” you are already far down the road to racism, sounding like known racist states like Imperial Japan, South Africa, and well, the United States of America. The illegal Occupation and settlements created the “threat” that Israel is responding to.

    • The blockade is a form of collective punishment and is thus unambiguously illegal according to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is party and which is not overturned by the Palmer Report.

      Israel has an obligation to lift the blockade and to treat the Palestinians according to the “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man…” teaching of Hillel.

    • Silly Palestinians. Everyone knows a civilized state would use F-16s and cluster bombs for that sort of thing.

  7. Let’s remember that our brazen adoption of Kill Lists follows YEARS (even decades!) of Israeli Judicial-Free-Killings in Gaza & the West Bank (not to mention the obscene bombardment of Gaza as the Nobel Peace Commander-in-Chief took office four years ago). Israel seems to set the precedents for US foreign policy. We are obviously following Zionism into an abyss.

    And in today’s “news”‘: 3500 US warriors are playing War Games with 1000 Israeli warriors for the next few months. Why? Perfecting & refining the Iron Dome, of course.

    Lastly, this is exactly the Clear Talk that encourages me to contribute to Juan Cole’s Peace Chest for his necessary mid-east travels! Perhaps to Gaza next year?

  8. What the US government does and “does not do” reflects on the corruption our educational system which is turning out ignorant, (intelligent?) rich robots that are incapable of thinking which is what the corrupt rulers want.

    Being rich, consuming more and continual expansion can only end in overpopulation and destruction of the world. Peace comes within in helping ourselves and all others in doing our individual best without judgment. A good cook serves great meals that are healthy. Great politicians serves all of humanity, not a select group. Great teachers develop the thinking skills of each student, not just their memory skills. Too many non-thinking skilled technicians are being manufactured in our schools and colleges for the dictators. Ignorant, non-thinking people often if not always end up with a dictator & a corrupt government.

    Your daily blog should be a mandatory read 3 times weekly for students in Administration of Justice, Anthropology, History, Humanities, Interdisciplinary Studies, Journalism,
    Legal, Media Communications, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, etc. Two reports would be required:
    one after one month and the final second report at the end of the semester. Both reports including on how Informed Comment applies and pertains to your individual major and how its made you think differently and more about some subjects. Of course additional reports would be acceptable for extra credit or to counter poor tests results.

    For students in the course list below, weekly reads once or twice a week should be enough to open their minds. Use same report schedules as above.

    Art, Business, Computer Science, Computer, Counseling, Information Systems, Counseling, Drama, Economics, English, Geography, Health and Human Services, Health Education, Kinesiology, Library Studies, Medical Assistant and Office Tech, Music, Nursing, Real Estate(global & local), Speech.

  9. The comparison of Gaza to Warsaw was carefully thought out. The amount of calories available to the inhabitants is a red herring attempting to divert the argument away from the fact that Israel has turned Gaza into a ghetto. Something that should horrify any right thinking person. The psychological and physical damage, albeit over a longer time scale, will be just as severe.. That Egypt is also blockading Gaza is down to a fear of armed conflict woth the most heavily armed nation on the area and pressure from the US.

  10. What your report fails to mention but is mentioned in the mainstream media reports I have read is that the “aid” ship contains little to no actual aid thus giving credence to Netanyahu’s view that this voyage exists to mock Israel and not help the Gazans.

  11. Many of the poorest countries of the world since World War II have had the highest rates of population growth. Plenty of children starved to death as part of that.

    Was there any calorie level that you would mind being implemented other than that which destroys the Palestinian people? What excuse will you be offering for the next step towards ethnic cleansing, which you undoubtedly support? When does Israeli liebensraum ever become obscene for you?

  12. Irrational means doing something that will cause you harm, in exchange for little of value.

    The israelis are perfectly rational. Nothing will come of this because of their absolute chokehold on American politics. In exchange they get to bully people. No worries.

    Obama? Yes, he will condemn israel just before the American election. Yes, he will, sure, right away.

    • Nothing will come of this because of their absolute chokehold on American politics.

      Viewing everything as though the United States is the only thing that matters is a mistake.

      • Anything less is overdeterminism. If just one of the myriad security council resolutions condemning israeli behavior in the occupied territories or Gaza was allowed to pass through, israel would be subject to the same sanctions that Iraq and now Iran has suffered.

        It’s not complicated. The US is the enabler of brutality. Full stop. Here they say, “israel is the man, and America is the donkey”.

        It’s always been that way.

      • That is to say, it is detrimental to Israel to have unfriendly relations with Turkey. It is detrimental to them to alienate the Europeans.

        There are other factors in the world beside the United States.

  13. if you have not read ken o’keefe’s account
    of the assault on the mavi marmara,
    here it is,
    in his own words :

    “I said this straight to Israeli agents, probably of Mossad or Shin Bet, and I say it again now, on the morning of the attack I was directly involved in the disarming of two Israeli Commandos. This was a forcible, non-negotiable, separation of weapons from commandos who had already murdered two brothers that I had seen that day. One brother with a bullet entering dead center in his forehead, in what appeared to be an execution. I knew the commandos were murdering when I removed a 9mm pistol from one of them. I had that gun in my hands and as an ex-US Marine with training in the use of guns it was completely within my power to use that gun on the commando who may have been the murderer of one of my brothers. But that is not what I, nor any other defender of the ship did. I took that weapon away, removed the bullets, proper lead bullets, separated them from the weapon and hid the gun. I did this in the hopes that we would repel the attack and submit this weapon as evidence in a criminal trial against Israeli authorities for mass murder.
    I also helped to physically separate one commando from his assault rifle, which another brother apparently threw into the sea. I and hundreds of others know the truth that makes a mockery of the brave and moral Israeli military. We had in our full possession, three completely disarmed and helpless commandos. These boys were at our mercy, they were out of reach of their fellow murderers, inside the ship and surrounded by 100 or more men. I looked into the eyes of all three of these boys and I can tell you they had the fear of God in them. They looked at us as if we were them, and I have no doubt they did not believe there was any way they would survive that day. They looked like frightened children in the face of an abusive father.
    But they did not face an enemy as ruthless as they. Instead the woman provided basic first aid, and ultimately they were released, battered and bruised for sure, but alive. Able to live another day. Able to feel the sun over head and the embrace of loved ones. Unlike those they murdered. Despite mourning the loss of our brothers, feeling rage towards these boys, we let them go. The Israeli prostitutes of propaganda can spew all of their disgusting bile all they wish, the commandos are the murders, we are the defenders, and yet we fought. We fought not just for our lives, not just for our cargo, not just for the people of Palestine, we fought in the name of justice and humanity. We were right to do so, in every way.”

  14. Juan, and others. -There is stress, unimaginable stress heat is placing on politics to war and we who live today have duty to resist playing the game of war..
    link to
    Earth is dying of heat increase and politics to war is rising.
    Please do not play this game.. It is not the ring tone I hear.
    The ring tone of those who seek justice as in fiction is real.
    My phone went crazy and played back ring tone of novelist last night while I tried, called to try and get votes out for a friend citing his Navy experience.. My heart is for Earth..

  15. Leon,

    You’re right, the comparison should not have been made.

    Still, the situation in Gaza is, well, very bad. Pointing out that “… Gaza is one of the fastest growing societies in the Middle East – a testament to the fact that they are well-nourished” only serves to disinform.

    According to a report issued by the UN and the PCBS, food insecurity also at a high rate throughout 2011 despite a decline in the past three years: 27% of the Palestinian population was food insecure. The situation in Gaza remained much worse than in the West Bank as there 44% of people were food insecure. Only 23% of Gazans were food secure, compared with 45% in the West Bank. (

    A new UN report has concluded that without ‘sustained and effective remedial action’, including reconnecting Gaza with the West Bank, the deterioration of basic infrastructure in Gaza will render the region virtually uninhabitable by 2020. (

  16. The comparison is inappropriate.

    However, high population growth is consistent with food insecurity; insecure populations often have high birth rates.

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