On 23 July 2014, the Human Rights Council, by resolution S-21/1, decided to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before, during or after. Pursuant to resolution S-21/1, the President of the Council appointed three experts to the commission: William Schabas (Chair), Mary McGowan Davis and Doudou Diène.
On 31 May 2010 at 4.26 a.m. a flotilla of six vessels was boarded and taken over by Israeli Defense Forces 72 nautical miles from land. The vessels were carrying people and humanitarian supplies. The flotilla had been directed to change course by the Israeli forces who stated that the coast of Gaza was under a naval blockade. Nine passengers lost their lives and many others were wounded as a result of the use of force during the take-over operation by Israeli forces.
Against the backdrop of widespread international criticism and muted senior official comment regarding Israel’s actions in the Free Gaza flotilla raid, the IDF and some ministries, as well as individual volunteers, turned to social media to counter bad publicity over the incident. While IDF YouTube videos apparently succeeded in attracting attention to Israel’s message, the government’s overall social networking effort appears to have been hastily and clumsily organized compared to a more effective effort at the time of the Gaza incursion from December 2008 to January 2009. Several prominent commentators rebuked the government for what they perceived as a tardy and unprofessional public diplomacy campaign during the incident.
This case-study deals with a strategic political strike against the State of Israel that was planned without interruption since February 2009 and materialized on May 31, 2010. Known as the Gaza Flotilla, this effort exceeded the expectations of its organizers in causing tangible and significant damage to Israel. Planning of the Gaza Flotilla was carried out over the internet and in public conferences by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) primarily operating from major cities of countries friendly to Israel, including London, Dublin or San Francisco. In the broader context, the Gaza Flotilla was just the tip of the iceberg. It is one incident out of many in a campaign entitled ‘Lifeline to Gaza’ designed to break the ‘siege’ of Gaza. The campaign itself is one of several being waged against Israel. Others include the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement, the ‘lawfare’ strategy, and the Durban conferences.
The following list is approximate and partial, and it changes from time to time. It is based on information from Palestinian traders and businesspersons, international organizations, and the Palestinian Coordination Committee, all of whom “deduce” what is permitted and what is banned based on their experience requesting permission to bring goods into Gaza and the answers they receive from the Israeli authorities (approved or denied). It is not possible to verify this list with the Israeli authorities because they refuse to disclose information regarding the restrictions on transferring goods into Gaza. It should be noted that Israel permits some of the “prohibited” items into Gaza (for example: paper, biscuits, and chocolate), on the condition that they are for the use of international organizations, while requests from private merchants to purchase them are denied.
On April 28th, the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish IHH organization, announced that it intended to sail a flotilla to the Gaza Strip on May 24th. This date was later delayed until the end of May. The stated goal of the flotilla, dubbed “The Freedom Flotilla”, is to bypass existing humanitarian aid channels and to make port in the Gaza Strip, despite Israeli maritime restrictions which exist in the region. This is the fourth flotilla launched by the organization.