My Lords, I was attached as an international observer to the Israeli Turkel commission, which considered the "Mavi Marmara" flotilla incident. The House of Lords Library note on this debate omits reference to the Turkel commission, but it mentions the Palmer panel, which considered the Israeli and Turkish investigations for the UN. Palmer said:
"Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was ... a legitimate security measure ... and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law".
Palmer says the flotilla "acted recklessly" and that there are,
"serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organisers".
Israel was entitled to stop the flotilla, but Palmer is right to criticise the plan. However, he is on weaker ground in criticising the use of force by the IDF. In an annexe, we examined each use of force by IDF personnel and found them prima facie justified, except for a handful of cases where there was insufficient material. Unfortunately the annexe was classified. It should be published.
The blockade was an extension of the land crossings policy to prevent military supplies entering Gaza, and wages indirect economic warfare, limiting Hamas's ability to attack Israel. This affects the civil population but is legitimate unless it causes a humanitarian crisis. We spent 40 pages examining this. I will give noble Lords a few quotes:
"The Gaza Strip Economic Committee (a representation of the Palestinian Authority) ... receives requests from private market forces and importers in Gaza ... Ordering the goods and determining priorities between the parties requesting the entry of goods is done by representatives of the Palestinian Authority".
Lists of goods are then delivered to the Israeli authorities.
"Between the various requests, the order of priorities for entry is as follows: (1) medical supplies and medicine; (2) requests by international organisations ... (3) agricultural materials; (4) the balance of supply capacity for the private market ... No evidence was presented before the committee to the effect that Israel prevents the passage of medical supplies apart from those ... prohibited for security reasons ... when the relevant Israeli authorities are notified of a shortage of any medical supplies, there is an organised system for replenishing those supplies ... there is no quota limiting the amounts of foods that are allowed to enter the Gaza Strip".
Strictly speaking, there is no humanitarian crisis.