Israel is hard at work to stop international citizen activists groups from 22 countries that form the Gaza Freedom Flotilla from sailing in less than three weeks to bring international attention to Israel's brutal siege on Gaza. As a part of Israeli government propaganda, the civil society to civil society project is purposefully and wrongly portrayed by the Israeli government as sending weapons and "material support" to Gaza's democratically elected government headed by Hamas — a group Israel and the United States have designated as a terrorist organization.
Israel's massive diplomatic offensive on European countries, Turkey, Canada and the United States that strongly demands countries not allow ships and passengers to sail has been followed by a new type of warfare called "lawfare."
Instead of direct military "warfare," the Israeli government and its front organizations, American Israeli Public Affairs Council (AIPAC) and the Shurat HaDin Law Center, are using lawsuits filed against insurance and satellite telephone companies that may sell equipment to the flotilla organizers and against citizen activist groups that have raised funds to purchase ships as strategies to attempt to stop the flotilla.
AIPAC Joins Israeli Government Attack on the Gaza Flotilla
On June 2, New York City corporate attorney Neal Sher, the former executive director of AIPAC, the most powerful lobby in the United States, filed a lawsuit in Toronto, Canada against the organizers of the Canadian Boat to Gaza for "raising funds and providing material support to Hamas."
The lawsuit was on behalf of a Canadian-Israeli citizen and asks for an interim and permanent injunction to stop the Canadian Boat to Gaza initiative "from continuing to raise funds, purchasing equipment or supplies, and purchasing or renting a vessel for the purpose of delivering goods or funds to the Gaza Strip." The lawsuit also wants to block the Canadian grassroots group "from sending goods, funds or any other material support, directly or indirectly, to Hamas or any of its representatives, and/or from aiding and abetting Hamas by assisting in bringing imports and exports to and from the Gaza Strip."
In addition, the Canadian-Israeli citizen, 68-year old Cherna Rosenberg, wants $1 million in damages "for trauma and injuries suffered as a consequence of the defendants' conspiracy" from the time she lived in the Israeli town of Sderot, where she "endured the constant and relentless mortar attacks emanating from Gaza."
The lawsuit's aim is to continue the Israeli government's six-decade control over the economic future of Gaza by refusing to allow the export and import of goods by sea and the free movement of Palestinian people without the approval of either the Israeli or Egyptian government.
One would hope that a counter-suit by a citizen of Gaza would be brought asking for millions of dollars in damages for the daily attacks on Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces "for trauma and injuries suffered as a consequence of Israel's aggression on civilians" in all parts of Gaza where "they endured constant and relentless attacks by F-16s, Apache gunships, naval bombardment, drones, white phosphorus, dense inert metal explosive bombs and countless other weapons."
Lawsuits in the US Against Companies Offering Services to Participating Ships
A second lawsuit attempts to prevent the flotilla from sailing by bringing lawsuits in the United States against companies that provide services to ships in the flotilla.
Shurat HaDin Law Center, reportedly an independent non-profit organization but certainly supporting and working for the policies of the State of Israel, sent letters to worldwide maritime insurance firms and satellite communications companies, warning that companies that provide services that assist in the breach of the Israeli blockade on Gaza will be sued in the United States for aiding the Hamas terrorist organization.
Shurat HaDin's Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner demanded that mobile satellite services company Inmarsat, one of the companies providing communication and navigation services to ships that sail in the region, refuse to provide their equipment and services to ships participating in the flotilla. Darshan-Leitner said, "We informed them that if they do so, they will be in violation of the American Neutrality Act, which prohibits aiding a group in their struggle against the military of an ally country. Since Imarsat has offices in the US, the law binds them."
Shurat HaDin has also sent letters to 30 of the top maritime insurance companies in the world announcing the law center's intent to sue if the companies provide insurance to ships participating in the flotilla.
Relentless Campaign of False Information Used Against the Flotilla
"Maritime insurance companies insuring the boats utilized by the Gaza Flotilla surely have no idea that the passenger boats that they are indemnifying are being used by the organizers to run the coastal blockade, violently challenge the IDF and smuggle weapons into Gaza. No legitimate insurance company nor its shareholders would reasonably agree to insure an expedition like that. We have begun to send letters placing the maritime insurance companies on notice concerning the Gaza Flotilla, and warning them that if they provide insurance (a necessary component in the effort to smuggle contraband to the terrorists) that they themselves will be legally liable for any future terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas."Lloyd's, the world's largest maritime insurance company, reportedly said that it would not insure ships participating in the flotilla. Lloyd's Senior Manager of International Regulatory Affairs, Andy Wragg, responded to Shurat HaDin's letter…
"As you correctly point out in your letter, Hamas is subject to UK and EU terrorist-financing sanctions. As such, any vessel identified as being owned or controlled by that organization would not be permitted to be insured by underwriters at Lloyd's, or any other EU insurer. The Lloyd's Market has robust systems in place to ensure international sanctions are followed, and therefore, any underwriter identifying an insured or prospective insured acting on behalf of, or for the benefit of Hamas, would not insure such a risk."However, none of the ships of either the 2010 or 2011 flotilla have any connection with Hamas and no amount of false Israeli propaganda can change the truth. Although the truth is not what much of the commercial media is concerned with.
Force is not the Best Way to Stop the Flotilla
"We…think that the war on the flotilla should not be left for the Special Forces to fight alone. There is no need for Israeli soldiers to repel down ropes in order to stop the next flotilla — all that's needed is some courage and original thinking. There are various ways to prevent, postpone, limit and avert the danger — and force isn't always the best way."We Agree-Force is not the Way to Stop the Flotilla-Ending the Naval Blockade is!
On this, we agree with Darshan-Leitner. Force is not the way to stop worldwide condemnation of Israel's blockade of Gaza. The way to stop the flotilla is to end the naval blockade of Gaza!
Until the blockade ends, Flotillas filled with citizens from around the world will continue to challenge Israeli's brutal policies and the United States complicity in them.
* Ann Wright is a retired US Army Reserve Colonel and a former US diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war. As a U.S. diplomat, she served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia, serving a Deputy Ambassador in the last four Embassies. She travelled to Gaza three times in 2009 after the Israeli attack on Gaza that killed 1440 Palestinians and wounded over 5,000 and left 50,000 homeless. She was a passenger on the May, 2010 Gaza flotilla and is an organizer for the U.S. Boat to Gaza, “The Audacity of Hope,” that will sail in the second flotilla.