In June 2010, Islamic extremists from Turkey and anti-Israel NGO’s joined forces to organize a naval flotilla seeking to violate Israel’s coastal blockade of the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. The terrorists’ mid-sea confrontation with the IDF resulted in the deaths of nine armed militants, serious injury to numerous Israeli soldiers and widespread condemnation of Israel and the IDF.
The same groups were again planning to breach the Gaza blockade in June 2011 in the hopes of provoking another massive public confrontation with the IDF. On June 12, 2011, boats loaded with contraband and up to 1,000 passengers were prepared to set sail to Gaza from Greece, Turkey, France, Ireland and Cyprus.
In addition to the threat of a repeat violent confrontation with IDF soldiers, there was a real concern that weapons, money and other contraband would be smuggled on the boats to Hamas terrorists in the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. Hamas is designated as a terrorist group by the US, the UK, Israel and the European Union.
Commencing several months before the planned flotilla and afterwards, Shurat HaDin took several legal steps to ensure that the flotilla would not set sail and to prevent any unnecessary violence.
The first action was a letter to maritime insurance companies informing them that by insuring sea vessels used by terrorists their company will be liable for any future attacks carried out by those terrorists.
A ship is not permitted to set sail without insurance. The maritime insurance companies insuring the boats utilized by the Gaza Flotilla were not aware that the passenger boats they were indemnifying were being used by the organizers to breach the coastal blockade, violently challenge the IDF and smuggle weapons into Gaza.
As such, Shurat HaDin sent warning letters placing the maritime insurance companies on notice that if they knowingly provided insurance, they would find themselves legally liable for any future terrorist or rocket attacks perpetrated by Hamas, given that the boats provide material resources to Hamas. Several of the companies, including Lloyds of London, responded that they would not insure the Flotilla boats given the information provided in our warning letters.
The second action was Shurat HaDin’s legal warning to Inmarsat, a U.S. based satellite communications provider, that under U.S. law they will be open to charges of aiding and abetting terrorism if they provide services to these Gaza-bound ships.
Inmarsat, based in the UK and the US, is the main provider of maritime communication services, a crucial tool which enables vessels to reach their destinations. After sending a warning letter to Inmarsat for aiding and abetting terror organization, Shurat HaDin commenced a civil action against Inmarsat in Florida State Court on behalf of Michelle Fendel, a resident of the Southern Israeli town of Sderot. Among other things, the lawsuit sought a permanent injunction against Inmarsat which would require it to cease provision of all services to any Flotilla ship on the grounds that the provision of such services constituted aiding and abetting terrorism in violation of US law.
The third action is an ongoing civil lawsuit against 14 ships set to participate in this flotilla.
Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuit in New York Federal Court to seize the ships used in the flotilla. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dr. Alan Bauer, a US citizen who was seriously injured in a Palestinian terror attack in March 2002. The lawsuit contended that the ships were outfitted with funds unlawfully raised in the United States and that furnishing funds to be used for hostilities against a US ally violates a rarely-utilized “informant” statute that allows a plaintiff/informant to seize such property (18 U.S.C. § 962).
On July 5, 2011, after the self-imposed Flotilla deadline expired, international campaigners began to return home, citing various bureaucratic issues, including lack of insurance, and blaming Shurat HaDin for their difficulties.
Read the sections below for the details of the actions.