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Sinking the Flotillas with the Weight of the Law

How a brilliant legal strategy might prevent the Free Gaza Movement’s next propaganda strike against Israel.

by
Dave Swindle

Bio

June 29, 2011 - 12:37 pm

The logic is simple. Hamas is recognized by the United States government as a terrorist organization, thus it is a crime to provide material support for them. The Free Gaza Movement (FGM) is preparing another international “freedom flotilla” which seeks to deliver supplies to Hamas-controlled Gaza, bypassing the established channels that Israel has set up to allow the flow of humanitarian goods into the region. Therefore, any company which collaborates with the flotilla in any way is aiding a terrorist group and is vulnerable to prosecution.

This is the method developed by the Tel Aviv-based Shurat HaDin, an Israeli civil rights organization that seeks to “bankrupt the terror groups and grind their criminal activities to a halt — one lawsuit at a time.” On June 5th, Roger L. Simon reported here at PJ Media on the law firm’s efforts and noted that in addition to contacting maritime insurance companies with warnings of potential lawsuits it had also warned Inmarsat, the satellite and communications company which services the boats. Shurat HaDin wrote in a press release,

We informed INMARSAT that we are acting to prevent the new flotilla of ships from approaching Gaza and carrying out a repeat of the dangerous confrontation that took place a year ago. The letter makes it clear that the company’s failure to terminate satellite services to the ships will result in both criminal and civil liability.

Inmarsat did not respond to Shurat HaDin. So on June 27 a lawsuit was filed in Miami-Dade County in Florida by Michelle Fendel, a U.S. citizen living in Sderot, Israel, with her husband who teaches at a rabbinical school. They have the standing to sue given the fact that Hamas rockets flowing into Gaza are a direct threat to their lives and property. The defendants are Inmarsat PLC (the United Kingdom-based foreign corporation,) Inmarsat Inc., and their CEO Andrew J Sukawaty. The plaintiff is not seeking financial compensation, just a court order preventing Inmarsat from providing service to the flotilla.

Whether the lawsuit against Inmarsat will compel the company to cut satellite service (and thus prevent them from sailing) is still an open question. However this “lawfare” strategy is already showing results on other fronts.

On June 19 Shurat HaDin reported that as a result of their campaign the French boat in the flotilla lost its insurance and would not be able to join. The infamous Mavi Marmara — the Turkish vessel which saw nine dead jihadists last year in a clash with Israeli commandos — also had to pull out of the flotilla because of an inability to acquire insurance.

Yesterday the New York Times reported that Shurat HaDin’s tactics caused Greece to hold two of the boats docked in their ports, thus delaying the planned voyage this week.

There remains no victor yet in the lawfare battle over whether the flotilla will ultimately set sail this summer. According to the Times, Adam Shapiro, an FGM spokesman who advocates violence against Israel, says all of the ten vessels set to sail have insurance and have been deemed seaworthy. If that’s true then Greece may end up releasing the boats any day now.

The case against Inmarsat may be the last hope for those hoping to prevent another violent confrontation at sea.

David Swindle is the associate editor of PJ Media. He writes and edits articles and blog posts on politics, news, culture, religion, and entertainment. He edits the PJ Lifestyle section and the PJ columnists. Contact him at DaveSwindlePJM @ Gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @DaveSwindle. He has worked full-time as a writer, editor, blogger, and New Media troublemaker since 2009, at PJ Media since 2011. He graduated with a degree in English (creative writing emphasis) and political science from Ball State University in 2006. Previously he's also worked as a freelance writer for The Indianapolis Star and the film critic for WTHR.com. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their Siberian Husky puppy Maura.
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