Iraq: The Flotilla Attack – A Series of Double Standards

I guess we cannot ignore the Iraqi blogosphere's opinion regarding the Israeli raid on a flotilla of six ships carrying international activists, known as the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla”, who were planning to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza and deliver humanitarian supplies. The Iraqis themselves have been victims of sanctions, terrorist attacks, tyranny, Al-Qaida extremists, and wars for a very long time. And perhaps this is why we are having mixed reactions from the Iraqi bloggers regarding the flotilla attack.

Is it a Lawful Attack or Not?

Iraqi blogger, Raed Jarrar, wrote about the media and how phrases such as “self-defense,” and “proportionality of the attack” are being used here and there in order to justify the Israeli raid on the flotilla:

Some folks are falling for the claim that Israel's attack was in “self-defense”. And even many of those who are not buying the Israeli propaganda are distracted by some details about the proportionality of the attack, and whether Israeli soldiers started violence or not.
While the attack was obviously not proportional and Israeli forces could have used many other types of weapons to control the situation without the need to kill and injure dozens of the civilians on the ship, I don't think it matters if the attack was “proportional” or not because it is unlawful to start with.

He then stated that the attack took place in the international waters, and that is why it should be considered unlawful. He even dedicated a separate blog post [En] with records of the exact location of the vessel (Mavi Marmara), which shows that the ship was in international waters before and during the Israeli attack.

Law scholars and experts believe the attack was unlawful because it happened in international waters. The location of the ship during and after the attack was more than 70 miles off the Israeli shores. The location is well documented, and no one in the Israeli government is denying the fact that it happened in international waters. The Israeli raid is a clear violation of the Law of the Sea. Israel cannot board foreign vessels in international waters without their consent.

However, some politicians might rely on Paragraph 67 (Section V) of the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea in order to justify the attack. The paragraph that states that “Merchant vessels” may not be attacked unless they are believed on reasonable grounds to be “breaching a blockade”. And that's why he wrote the following:

International law scholars and experts are very critical of this claim though, because according to them the San Remo Manual does not apply to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian groups in Gaza. It only applies to wars between states, and Gaza is not a state.
But even if the San Remo Manual applied to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, there are a number of reasons to believe it does not apply to this particular attack. For one, the “blockade” these ships were breaching is itself unlawful, because it constitutes collective punishment of Gaza's civilian population in violation of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the blockade is in violation of Paragraph 102 of the San Remo Manual itself that prohibits the establishment of a blockade if “the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade.”. There are other reasons for why this attack violates the San Remo manual if it applied to the conflict. For example, Paragraph 47 (Section III) prohibits attacks on “vessels engaged in humanitarian missions, including vessels carrying supplies indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, and vessels engaged in relief actions and rescue operations”, even if such vessels are “enemy vessels”. Another Example is Paragraph 46 (Section II) where an attack must be “canceled or suspended as soon as it becomes apparent that the collateral casualties or damage would be excessive”. It is obvious that whomever is citing Paragraph 67 of the San Remo Manual is cherry picking to deceive public opinion and justify the Israeli massacre.

Raed then continued:

Based on all the information we have so far, Israeli's claim that the attack was in “self-defense” is absurd, because Israel did not have the right to board Mavi Marmara in the first place. This is like a burglar who claims he or she killed the house owners in self defense because they defended their property with a kitchen knife. The Israeli use of force is unlawful and illegal under international law because the ship was in international waters.

A Series of Double Standards

Hayder El Khoei (Eye-Raki), on the other hand, decided to point out the series of double standards that accompanied the attack and the reactions of the media outlets towards it. He started by an imaginary scenario where Iran is the one the attacked the flotilla instead of Israel. He writes:

Make no mistake about it, had a ship been attacked by the Iranian navy 40 miles out at sea the international community would have been up in arms about the blatant disregard for international law and the United States would have been the first to condemn the act of needless aggression against innocent civilians. Israel would have called Iran ‘a nation of pirates’ and God forbid if a rival nation's flag was hoisted it could even have been a legitimate reason to declare war.

He then continued, but this time he's pointing out what he describes as the Turkish double standard:

But then, what do the Turks know about international law and sovereignty? They are constantly shelling Iraqi villages in territory that does not belong to them and they deny even the most basic human rights to a significant proportion of their own population. How would they have reacted if a wave of incoming aid had been sent to the Kurds in the south-east and the convoy openly refused to cooperate with officials?

It seems that not only media outlets are the one who have double standards. But according to Hayder so do the people in the Arab and Muslim world:

The response to this mess has been just as baffling to me as the incident itself. 10 people are killed and instantly I receive messages from people I don't even know telling me to march outside the Israeli Embassy to protest this heinous crime. Yet when hundreds at a time get blown up to pieces at mosques and markets across the Islamic world, all in the name of ‘Allah’ of course, the response is a lot less dramatic. On Friday almost 100 innocent people were slaughtered whilst worshipping in a mosque in Lahore and no one sent me a text asking me to protest outside the Pakistani Embassy. Muslims on Friday killed roughly 10 innocent civilians for every activist killed by Jews on Monday.

Palestinians Matter More than Iraqis?

Iraq Pundit echoes similar sentiments. He wondered why people are more horrified by the deaths of Palestinians than others (Iraqis in his case)?

I repeat, nobody deserves to be killed. But why is it that so often people are more horrified by the deaths of Palestinians than others?
This brings me to ask again where are the protests when Iraqis are killed while buying vegetables at the market, offering condolences at funerals, going to school, or engaging in other ordinary civilian activities. The message is when Palestinians or their supporters die, it's a tragedy. When Iraqis die, it's just another news story. Why?

He then continued in another blog post stating why peaceful demonstrations are always needed even if they aren't going to change anything on the ground:

When I was in college and everyone marched for the Palestinians, nobody thought any government would follow our advice. We didn't picket the Israeli embassy. We just walked in the streets carrying signs. We didn't think Israel would alter its policies. We marched because we wanted to show the Palestinians our support. We wanted everyone to know we were angry at how the Palestinians were being treated.

He then continued:

Did it change anything? Yet everyone knows the Palestinians have the support of the Arabs. It might not have resulted in their getting their own state, but they know they are the darlings of the Middle East. The Iraqis do not feel there is any support from neighboring countries.

Last but not least, Raed Jarrar concluded:

It is still very important to conduct an investigation into the massacre in accordance to the from the UN Security Council and many other international organizations. Such an investigation would give us all the information and details we need for a final judgment.


  • Dear Tarek, this is a very strong and moving article. Thank you for rounding up these opinions from Iraqi blogosphere. I am very happy to translate it.(although I am sad when reading it)

  • Thanks Portnoy, and thanks for translating it. Although I do not do many Iraqi roundups – mainly Egypt – but every time I cover the Iraqi blogosphere I realize how vibrant and interesting is the blogosphere there.

  • Namik Kemal

    Hi. First of all, thanks for the information is given here. But, there is a problem about the sp called double standard of Turkey against its own Kurdish population. Current Turkish government tries to achieve best solutioins for Kurds and for their rights. It has been Turkish regime or “the deep state in Turkey” which was inflicting oppression on the area. Today there has been a wide range of arrangement to improve human rights in the country. Turkey is going to make a referandum to change its military copu detat made constitutuion.(1982)

    Anyway, for the assumption about a foreign a to the Eastern Turkey without cooperating with Turkish government. i should say those land are Turkish lands. It is not like Gaza lands or waters as Israleis trying to put an embargo. Of course Turkey immediately can an is entitled to stop them.

    For Northern Iraq issue, Turkey did nit enter into Northern Irqa before the Gulf wars. Turkey respects borders.There has been a power vacum in Northern Iraq right after the first Gulf War beacuse the UN declared a no-man land zone there. Iraqi govenrment could not control the area. So, rebellious Kurdish terrorists had camps there for years. The US, EU and many states accepts PKK as a terrorist armed group. So, a comparison between Turkey and Israel is not appropriate. Turkey now have a very good relations with autonomous Kurish state in Northern Iraq and they are happy with Turkish economic and political contribution for the stability of Northern Iraq. As you know Turkey runs a policy of “zero problem with neighbours.”


  • Thank you Namik for your valuable comment. Anyway I believe you meant to leave your comment on “Kurdistance: The Hypocrisy of Defending Turkey” instead of this one.

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