How Israel’s Lawyers Stopped the Second Flotilla

July 9th, 2011 at 9:27 am David Frum | 38 Comments |

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Israel has deployed a powerful new strategy against the latest wouldbe Gaza flotilla activists: Bore them to death.

For three weeks, the activists aboard the lead flotilla boat, an old freighter renamed the “Tahrir,” have languished in port on the Greek island of Crete.

Greek law is very precise: Before a boat can leave port, its paperwork must be in order.

Curiously enough, militant terrorist groups such as Hamas -whose front organizations in London organized the flotilla -tend not to be very good at paperwork. By contrast, the Israeli lawyers filing applications in the Greek courts are very good at spotting mistakes. Following Greek law, the Cretan harbor authorities have again and again refused the Tahrir permission to depart.

On July 3, the flotilla activists lost patience. They disregarded local rules, and steamed out of port without the necessary permissions. A Greek coast guard vessel intercepted the Tahrir and forced it back to port.

The next day, the activists were brought to court on charges of leaving port without a permit and obstructing the coast guard in the course of its duties. (Two of the activists had descended from the Tahrir in kayaks to interpose themselves between the coast guard vessel and the freighter.)

A Greek court fined the activists 80 euros each and sentenced them to a month in jail -suspended. No drama. No martyrdom. Just another round of visits to another set of clerks’ offices. And of course -more forms to fill out.

There is something almost exquisite about the justice here. The flotilla has been organized by London-based proHamas front groups. As a terrorist organization, Hamas of course rejects the very idea of a society based on law. What more appropriate fate, then, for supporters of this Hamas project than to be tangled forever in legalities?

Only one boat of all the flotilla vessels has managed to depart Greece: a Gilligan’s Island-style motor yacht with nine activists aboard. Israeli vessels should be able to manage it without difficulty.

On Thursday, an attempted “flytilla” was defeated when 200 would-be protesters arrived at Paris airport to board flights to Israel. Lufthansa, Malev, Alitalia and other airlines regretfully informed the protesters that their names appeared on a list of persons who would be denied entry to Israel -and who would therefore have to be returned home at the airlines’ own expense. The protesters had to do their picketing in Paris instead, denouncing Charles de GaulleRoissy as “Israeli occupied territory” -quite a funny idea when you think about it.

The political context has shifted abruptly against the flotilla organizers: The Hamas role in organizing the flotillas has become harder to ignore -indeed, Hamas has ceased even to deny it.

Few European governments wish to act as Hamas’ powder monkey. Even Turkey -which last year looked the other way as violent men assembled aboard the Mavi Marmara en route to Israel -has redirected its policy. Turkey has accepted the UN report that confirms that Israel acted lawfully in stopping the 2010 flotilla attempt. The two countries are now jointly working to craft a statement that, according to one witty observer, “will sound like an apology in Turkish, but not in Hebrew.”

Public opinion is turning, too. Flotilla organizers allege that Israel is impoverishing Gaza with a blockade that denies the population the necessities of life. Last year, some international media organizations accepted that false claim. But in the year since, there has been increasing reportage of the facts of life in Gaza: the bustling marketplaces, the new hotels and shopping malls. (As a YouTube video comments about one new mall: “Gazans were forced to search desperately for sales and specials.”) The escalators in those malls and hotels were imported. From Israel. Some blockade!

European governments are fighting a war in Libya. They see the Muslim Brotherhood advancing toward power in Egypt. They are confronted by horrifying repression by the Hamas-allied Assad regime in Syria. This cannot seem to anyone like a moment to empower Hamas.

On the other hand, few European governments wish to take direct action against Hamas. Too dangerous. So Hamas continues to raise money in Europe, to make propaganda, to recruit supporters -and to organize flotillas.

But it’s one thing to organize a flotilla. Another to set sail.

A classic joke describes the perfect Jewish telegram: “Start worrying now, letter to follow.” It’s never safe to quit worrying about Israel. But this summer, at least, it looks as if at least some of the usual worries have been offset by some good news -and smart lawyering.

Originally published in the National Post.

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38 Comments so far ↓

  • satrap

    Nice work, David; I’m still of the mind that I think it’s better for everyone if Hamas is forced to govern (or prevaricate) out in the open as the leading vote-getter in the territories. There’s simply no way such a primitive band of thugs is a real threat to Israel.

  • tommybones

    Hamas = Militant terrorist group

    Israel’s government?

    Illegally occupying force. Official policy of collective civilian punishment. Massive death tolls inflicted on Palestinian civilians, numbering tens of thousands. Kidnapping civilians by the thousands and imprisoning them without due process, including hundreds of minors. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Tell me, David, what more would Israel have to do to itself be considered a “militant terrorist organization”?

    David Frum’s Rules for the I/P Conflict:

    Israel has the right to violate international law to defend their people, if those laws fail in their duty to protect the people of Israel. Hamas DOES NOT have the right to violate international law to defend their people, if those laws fail in their duty to protect the Palestinian people.

    Israel is justified in violating international law in response to RHETORIC put forth by Hamas, which states its desire to steal Israeli land and make it their own, yet Hamas is NOT JUSTIFIED in violating international law in response to Israel ACTUALLY STEALING PALESTINIAN LAND, by force, and creating new, Jewish-only communities on that stolen land, thus making it Israel’s own.

    Israel is encouraged to defend their people with extreme violence in response to illegal actions taken by Hamas. Hamas is discouraged from defending their people with extreme violence in response to illegal actions taken by Israel.

    Since the definition of a terrorist organization is, in simple terms, an organization which takes part in terrorist activities (like targeting civilians), Hamas is rightly deemed a terrorist organization because of their use of terrorist tactics. Israel, however, is NOT a terrorist organization, in spite of engaging in numerous acts of terrorism.

    When Hamas doesn’t agree to a peace plan, they “do not want peace.” When Israel doesn’t agree to a peace plan, it’s because Hamas “doesn’t want peace.”

    Palestinians are blamed for the violence they receive because they vote for “thugs” to represent them. Israeli leaders, no matter how many crimes they commit, nor how many deaths they cause, nor how many times they actively and unapologetically target civilians for massive collective punishment in violation of numerous humanitarian and criminal laws, are NOT to be considered “thugs.”

    Israel is allowed to stockpile a large nuclear weapons arsenal, but Hamas is deemed evil incarnate for “smuggling” crude, antiquated rockets into their “arsenal.”

    In peace talks, when the Palestinians agree to give up something they are legally entitled to, it’s a concession. When Israel agrees to give up something they are NOT legally entitled to, it’s also to be deemed a concession. This means that the Palestinians can make literally ALL THE LEGAL CONCESSIONS AT THE TABLE, and we can still claim that it was the “Palestinians who didn’t want peace,” when the talks inevitably fail.

    Did I miss anything, David?

    • Nanotek

      I’m trying to educate myself to an on-the-street view in Gaza and all points of view of those involved … are there bloggers living in Gaza you recommend reading?

  • tommybones

    Apparently Palestinians aren’t even encouraged to peacefully protest Israel’s crimes. Tell us, David, what could Palestinian supporters do in support of their cause which you wouldn’t condemn and treat as a joke?

  • Raskolnik

    Another question: was not Hamas openly, freely and fairly elected in a vote pushed by your former boss, George W. Bush? If the United States could talk to the IRA, why can’t the United States talk to Hamas? No one ever elected the IRA to be in charge of anything, and they never had to govern anyone. And they, like Hamas, were a party with both civil and military wings.

    Zionism is racism.

    • dmnolan

      The U.S. could talk to the IRA because the Irish are merely drunken Englishmen. Arabs are foreigners.

  • busboy33

    “Israel has deployed a powerful new strategy against the latest wouldbe Gaza flotilla activists: Bore them to death.”

    A strategy you are employing with great vigor here, Mr. Frum.

    Do you realize the Flotilla/Hamas/Israel are ALWAYS on FrumForum? Often times, multiple articles. What am I asking? Of course you realize it.

  • Graychin

    This IS preferable to opening fire on them.

  • nuser

    IMF approves loan for Greece. Hm….Any connection here? You don’t suppose Greece held back the
    Flotilla due to upcoming vote on said loan? Israel is a terrorist country ,anyway you look at it. How many illegal squatters are there now? Israel has nuclear arms , it makes one wonder when Occupied
    Territories will have them as well. Israel is murdering innocent people, just like Germany did. You should know better, David.

    • pnumi2

      Ooops, nuser, I didn’t see this post of yours before I posted at 9:06. Sorry.

      There can’t be any doubt about the quid pro quo, can there?

  • right_on

    If only Israel’s lawyers where so dedicated when it came to following international law.

    The last flotilla achieved it’s objective, it revealed the draconian nature of a blockade that stopped pasta, coffee and cement. This time round it has also been a success. It has again shows that a modest flotilla carrying nothing untoward, can make Israel spit and splutter as it scrambles to surpress dissent, much like it’s tottering Arab neighbours.

  • pnumi2

    The UN report which Frum is bunched about was written by a panel of four.( A Turk and an Israeli who cancel each other out.)

    “The panel will be led by Geoffrey Palmer, former prime minister of New Zealand, as chairman and Alvaro Uribe, outgoing Colombian president, as vice-chair, Ban said. Representatives from Israel and Turkey will be the panel’s other two members.”

    Two men wrote the report. One of them, Alvaro Uribe, has probably been on the CIA payroll since God knows when. I don’t know that for a fact but he has been under investigation for bribery since 2008. Before Mavi Marmara.

    “The opposition Alternative Democratic Pole party asked for President Uribe to be investigated for bribery.[73] After the declarations made by Medina, the Supreme Court of Colombia sent copies of the process to other judicial authorities, who have the jurisdiction to investigate several former and current cabinet members and other high officials. The Accusations Commission of the Colombian Congress will study the matter and decide if there are enough merits to officially investigate President Uribe.”[74][75]

    A two man panel authored the report. One of the was a South American whose country received billions of U S dollars to fight a drug war. The other was a Kiwi who taught at a law school in a country considered Israel’s greastest protector. But I cast no aspersions.

    Fool me a million times, shame on me. Fool me a billion times, shame on you.

  • ottovbvs

    David you should know by now the third (I think) law of physics…every action produces a reaction. By prolonging this all it’s doing is keeping it in the European news and that’s their audience not the US. Ditto the attempts to fly into Israel. It’s all over the European media (not the UK they have Murdoch on their mind) and that believe it or not is another small victory for the Palestinians because the Israelis look like thugs….legal or otherwise. You’re supposed to be a communication strategist but perhaps this just one of these cases where emotion is triumphing over intellect.

    • carinthia

      Speaking of Murdoch, how come Frum has been silent on this fiasco? Interesting.

  • pnumi2


    All the hot air about Israel just defending itself reminds me about a certain army that laid siege to Stalingrad. At first the siege went well. Soon it began to fail and began to be raised. As the tide turned against the besiegers, the Propaganda Ministry, back in the country whose army attacked, to raise the morale of the citizens, flooded the radio and newspapers with stories of how well the battle was going.

    The siege was lifted and the aggressors lost the war.

    • ottovbvs

      and the aggressors lost the war.

      You breached Godwin’s Law…sort of. I certainly believe Israel has a right to exist but these fools are digging are their own graves. And I look at it as I look at most foreign policy issues…Realpolitik. From being a more or less lifelong Israeli supporter, mainly on emotional grounds, I’ve begun to view them bad news for themselves, for stability in the middle east and for US interests generally. And if I see it this way how must many others who were perhaps less favorably inclined to Israel in the first place?

      • pnumi2


        “I certainly believe Israel has a right to exist but these fools are digging are their own graves.”

        Now, you know that’s exactly how I feel.

        When it comes to Israel I try to engage in outrageous hyperbole in an attempt to match the hyperbole her defenders use. But, as you know, no one can exaggerate like the defenders of Israel can.

        Also, tommybones gets me worked up. He’s so earnest.

        ps The aggressors that lost the war remained intact as a nation and became a paragon of peace and an example for the rest of us.

      • pnumi2

        If I had called the city-that-must-not-be-named by its earlier name, Tsaritsyn, would I still have infringed the Articles of Godwin?

        • ottovbvs

          A minor infringement only. But it’s hard to avoid them occasionally since Wolf and all his works are such an object lesson for mankind. And fascism is fascism whether it’s perpetrated by thugs in brown uniforms or fat congressmen from Alabama.

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    Tommybones: Click over to Slate and read Christopher Hitchens’s recent “Fighting Words” column on this subject. The flotilla participants are not a cohort of noble human rights activists working on behalf of the average citizen of Gaza; they’re a bunch of poseurs who sympathize with Hamas and their puppet masters in Damascus. (And please don’t try some lame counterargument about Hitchens being a neocon stooge. As a supporter of Palestinian rights long before it was fashionable– he co-wrote a book on the occupation, “Blaming the Victims,” with Edward Said, and he’s risked grave physical harm to himself as an activist on the ground– he has plenty of credibility on the issue, irregardless of his admittedly naive support for the Iraq war.)

    It seems fantastic to me that any morally serious person would support Likud’s expansionist programme in the West Bank, but opposition to it does not ipso facto translate into an imperative to support Israel’s enemies, as many self-styled anti-Israel activists apparently do. These idiots, whatever their intentions to aid the Palestinian cause, are actually undermining it. Anyone who favors and works on behalf of the theo-fascist machinations of groups like Hamas does nothing but harm to the condition of those living in Gaza.

    Tommybones, here’s a question I like to ask all persons who have pretensions to seriousness on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: if you were gay or lesbian, which would be a safer place to live, Israel proper or the occupied territories? A person’s answer to this question, when considered in tandem with their views on Israel on the Palestinians, provides a clear view of their sincerity (or insincerity) on the topic.

    • ottovbvs

      And please don’t try some lame counterargument about Hitchens being a neocon stooge. As a supporter of Palestinian rights long before it was fashionable– he co-wrote a book on the occupation, “Blaming the Victims,” with Edward Said, and he’s risked grave physical harm to himself as an activist on the ground–

      Actually I think Hitchens is something of a neocon stooge as he proved conclusively with his support of the Iraq fiasco. I haven’t checked the timing of his book with Said or his Palestinian activism but maybe you don’t know he used to be a Trotskyite communist and wrote for the British far left and pro Palestinian magazine The New Statesman. He and Vanessa used to be very much asshole buddies. Hitchens is one of those attractive, very literate, very articulate and very intelligent people in the media but his judgement is often fairly deplorable. It’s no accident imho that so many far right conservative polemicists started life as various forms of communists (eg. Kristol and Podhoretz senior). Hitchens is just the latest in the line although he goes off the reservation occasionally, notably on the issue of religion. I wouldn’t trust him with the family silver. And I’m bound to say dismissing a lot of people who are basically willing to risk their lives (The Israelis did kill 9 people in that last convoy)in this way:

      “they’re a bunch of poseurs who sympathize with Hamas and their puppet masters in Damascus.”

      Strikes me as a both unreasonable and too sweeping.

      UPDATE: Just for kicks I checked the original publication date of the Said/Hitchens book. It was 1988 when (although by then resident in the US, he married money I think) he was still very much in the far left phase.

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    Otto: your characterization of Likud’s foreign policy as self-defeating is entirely correct. It is baffling to me how Netanyahu and his commrades cannot see how inflaming the anti-semetic passions of the Palestinians– which is precisely what Likud’s hideous, low density ribbon development in the West Bank is doing– does nothing to make Israel secure, only the opposite. (And it is the Likudniks who absurdly claim to be the sole political faction in Israel capable of keeping their country safe from terrorism!)

  • nuser

    Oh my! You get a few shitty rockets and you have a major assault on Israel. Statistics please. What is the bottom line here? Israel wants all of it period. If huffing and puffing does not do it, we will just
    steal the land and throw in a bunch of red herrings. Have you ever wondered about those rockets?
    Never really hurts too many people as opposed to Israeli warfare. You don’t suppose these rockets are
    guided by an Israeli commando?Why else would anyone use a peashooter?

  • pnumi2


    (Shame on you, David Frum)

    July 2, 2011
    Greece arrests flotilla captain for leaving port
    “ATHENS – Greek authorities have arrested the captain of a boat that is part of a Gaza-bound flotilla trying to deliver humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory, officials said yesterday.

    The 60-year-old captain, John Klusmire, was being held at Piraeus police headquarters and will remain there until a court hearing Tuesday.”


    July 8, 2011
    The International Monetary Fund’s executive board on Friday approved a disbursement of about 3.2 billion euros to help Greece pay debts due this month and return to positive economic growth in 2012.”

    For some of us 1 + 1 still = 2.

  • nuser

    tommybones: here is a question…….
    Do I understand you to say ;it is better to live in Israel if you are homosexual?Who asked?

  • tommybones


    • PatrickQuint

      tommybones, I think I know what nuser is trying to say. He’s making reference to this:

      WaStateUrbanGOPer // Jul 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm:
      “Tommybones, here’s a question I like to ask all persons who have pretensions to seriousness on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: if you were gay or lesbian, which would be a safer place to live, Israel proper or the occupied territories?”

      nuser would appear to think that you dodged the question. I don’t care if you

      Incidentally, I don’t see any good guys in this conflict. Hamas and Isreal both have been killing innocent civilians. The scale is off from what I can tell, but it’s the thought that counts. Hamas would like to steal land from Israel, and Israel is succeeding in stealing land from Hamas. I’d like to be on Israel’s side on this, I really would (they’re like a small pocket of the West in the Middle-East with a citizenry that shares many North American and European values). I’m at the “you know what, to Hell with you people” stage when it comes to Israeli/Palestinian politics.
      This would suggest that being gay is safer in Israel. So, how do I do on the sincerity test?

  • tommybones

    I understand the question, but fail to see what it has to do with the issues presented here. Of course it’s safer to be gay in Israel proper than in the occupied territories. So?

  • nuser

    Sorry ! I should have written exactly what you did. So? It does make me wonder why he put that
    equation in though. By the way I put that question to Wa, but it sure looks like it was addressed to you.

  • jakester

    Better lawyers and writs than soldiers and guns

    • pnumi2

      I guess the IMF felt that way too, when they disbursed 3.2 billion euros to Greece less than a week after the flotilla didn’t float.

      But you’re right. They probably saved many people from being victims of Mad Dog Israel.

  • PatrickQuint

    pnumi2: “For some of us 1 + 1 still = 2.”

    It took me a while for this to really sink in. What you’re suggesting there is that the Jews, through control of the IMF and secret string-pulling in Europe tried to use this loan as leverage to keep the flotilla from sailing. This is ridiculous because naturally the IMF is not controlled by a secret cabal of Jews, be they moustache-twirling Snidely Whiplash characters in a dark room or senior officials in Israeli politics.

    In reality, of course, the loan was was tied to a series of austerity measures the Greek government has been passing which have led to the riots.

    Then again, you may have been joking with all this. In which case, it was about as funny as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    • pnumi2


      I am sorry if I did not make it clear that it was the US, the largest member of IMF, who arranged the timing of this at the IMF. Representatives of the member nations who did not, as I do not (and, as I am sure, tommybones does not) want to see one more person, Israeli or Arab, die in the blood bath of their conflict.

      It is exactly the same as the hundreds of vetoes in the Security Council that the U.S. has cast for the benefit of Israel over the years. Do you disagree with that?

      In reality, of course, the loan was was tied to a series of austerity measures the Greek government has been passing which have led to the riots.

      Those loans were appropriated quite some time ago. But there is many a slip between the cup of appropriations and the lip of disbursal. It would be well to remember that.

      It is the timing of the disbursal of the funds last Friday which is both fishy and business as usual.

      But the bottom line, Patrick Quint, is that Israeli lawyers had nothing to do with Greece’s actions. Israeli lawyers do not practice law in Greece.

      These are talking points that David Frum picked up from AIPAC and which apparently some believe the way they believed the many stories about WMD.

    • pnumi2

      Patrick Quint

      After getting what I consider harsh criticism from you, can I ask you whether you are for the pardoning of Jonathan Pollard?

      And whether you are an apologist for Israel in the matter of the USS Liberty.

      Surely you can answer those questions. If you do not return here to answer them, I’ll ask you when I see another post from you.

  • tommybones

    Your post tells me you literally have no comprehension of the enormous political pressure the U.S. has on other nations in regard to Israel. Add the IMF, which everyone knows is just another branch of the U.S. State Department, and only the ignorant would dismiss this as coincidence.

  • Raskolnik

    People, please be easy on Patrick. He is a thoughtful man, who is just coming to realize how destructive the relationship between the United States and Israel has been for both nations, as well as the world on the whole. If you push him or insult him, it will only make it more difficult for him to understand what he needs to understand.