Sinking Richard Falk and the Gaza Flotilla
Speaking in objection to the Greek government’s move to block the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” from sailing to Gaza, Ebab Lotayef recently told the Sun News Network that they had solicited, and received, a legal opinion about whether or not it was permissible for Greece to prevent the flotilla from sailing.
That legal opinion declared there was “no basis” for Greece preventing the flotilla from sailing.
The source of that legal opinion? None other than Richard Falk.
Falk has reportedly declared that "Greece has no right to detain foreign-flagged ships in its ports other than for purposes of assuring seaworthiness via timely inspection. And they cannot interfere with 'innocent passage' through their territorial waters, and this passage is definitely innocent."
Before one even considers the intentions of the Flotilla activists, one should consider the base errors in Falk’s “opinion”. The Tahrir didn’t merely pass through Greek waters, it docked at port Agios Nicolaos in Crete, making it subject to Greek authority.
Beyond that, the passage through Greek waters was not “innocent”. The goal of the flotilla activists has never actually been to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza – the comically-named Audacity of Hope wasn’t carrying any humanitarian aid at all, only letters to Gaza. David Heap of the Tahrir steering committee has even admitted that the Tahrir is carrying mainly passengers, and very little humanitarian aid.
In fact, their only goal is to grand stand against Israel, and provoke an international incident.
It would be hard to describe the flotilla’s passage – even if it were mere passage – through Greek waters as innocent passage in any sense of the term. Maritime law defines innocent passage as passage that “is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the other state.”
Making Greece a haven for activists intending to violate international law by breaking a legal naval blockade could certainly be considered prejudicial to the good order of Greece.
Falk himself, however, has a very troubled history when dealing with matters related to Israel. Falk is one of a few “international law” scholars to declare that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.
The problem with this is that Falk can only make this argument by twisting the UN convention on genocide so grotesquely that it barely remains recognizable.
Falk would basically insist that Israel was subjecting Palestinians to conditions that would allegedly inevitably lead to their elimination. Naturally, as virtually all anti-Israel scholars do, he ignored the billions of dollars Israel annually sends to Gaza and the West Bank.
If Israel were indeed deliberately trying to impose apocalyptic conditions in Gaza and the West Bank, this would be rather peculiar. It would be entirely another if those apocalyptic conditions actually exist. Anti-Israel activists seem do delight in pretending there’s been a decades-long famine in Gaza. Contrary to this, the UN has estimated that Gaza has an obesity rate of 40%.
Certainly, there is some poverty in Gaza. But there’s also a great deal of opulence to be enjoyed as well, which makes Gaza not terribly different from much of the Middle East.
The best thing that could be said about Falk’s legal analyses vis a vis Israel is that it’s not quite as grotesque as that offered by scholars who accuse Israel of genocide under the “killing members of the group” clause of the UN genocide convention. These individuals interpret the convention so liberally that the death of even a single member could be declared genocidal. Properly interpreted, the number of group members killed must be sufficient to threaten the existence of the group itself.
Gaza’s birthrate is the highest in the Middle East. The few civilians killed each time the Israel Defence Force has to go teach Hamas a lesson, while always regrettable, is not nearly enough to threaten the survival of the Palestinian population as a whole.
But these particular facts just don’t matter to anti-Israel activists. Just like the actual conditions in Israel is a fact that doesn’t matter to Ricahrd Falk. Just like the thousands of tons of humanitarian aid sent to Palestinians every day is a fact that doesn’t matter to Richard Falk. The same Richard Falk who has also bought flotilla claims of Israeli sabotage so readily.
That the flotilla would turn to Falk so readily for his opinion on maritime law simply underscores that they know the fix is in. It doesn’t matter what the relevant facts are. Falk will come down against Israel. The activists know this, and that’s why they turn to him in the first place.
The modus operandi of anti-Israel scholars like Richard Falk is that their bias against Israel will come before the facts at all times.
Patrick Ross is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist