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Rachel Corrie Continues Towards Gaza: Will Obama Let Israel Attack?

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How do you know when someone is serious about pursuing a strategy of nonviolent resistance until victory for justice is achieved?

When they refuse to turn back in the face of state violence. Damn the commandos. Full speed ahead.

The Irish Times reports:

The MV Rachel Corrie is ploughing ahead with its attempt to deliver aid to Gaza despite yesterday's attack by the Israeli navy on Gaza-bound ship the Mavi Marmara.

The cargo ship, which has four Irish nationals and five Malaysians aboard, is due to arrive in Gazan waters tomorrow, a spokeswoman for the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign said.

The vessel became separated from the main aid flotilla after being delayed for 48 hours in Cyprus due to logistical reasons.

Nobel laureate Maireád Corrigan-Maguire, former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday, and husband and wife Derek and Jenny Graham are the Irish nationals on board.

Speaking from the ship today, Mr Graham said the vessel was carrying educational materials, construction materials and some toys. "Everything aboard has been inspected in Ireland," he said. "We would hope to have safe passage through."

Might the Israeli military attack the Rachel Corrie, as the Israeli military attacked the Mavi Marmara? Would the Obama Administration permit such an Israeli attack on the Rachel Corrie, as the Obama Administration permitted the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara?

Note that in particular, under international law, an Israeli military attack on the Rachel Corrie in international waters would be an attack on the government and people of Ireland, because the Rachel Corrie is an Irish-flagged vessel. As former British Ambassador Craig Murray recently wrote:

To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.

Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean however that international law is the only applicable law. The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody's territorial waters) the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred. In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships. In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction. If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

One presumes that Michael Higgins, the foreign affairs spokesman of the Irish Labour Party, is well aware of these considerations, and that his statement about Irish government policy noted in the Irish Times article should be read in this light:

Labour foreign affairs spokesman Michael D Higgins today called on the Government to demand safe passage for the MV Rachel Corrie.

In a statement, he said some of those on the vessel had contacted him earlier today and had stressed they wanted to avoid conflict and to be allowed unload their cargo to help the residents of the Gaza Strip.

"The Minister for Foreign Affairs . . . must make it clear that any assault on the Rachel Corrie would be regarded as a hostile act against Ireland and a clear breach of international law that could not be ignored by this country," Mr Higgins said.

In cities around the United States today, Americans will be protesting against the Israeli government attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. While protesting the attack on the Mavi Marmara, Americans should demand that the Obama Administration act to guarantee safe passage for the Rachel Corrie to reach Gaza.