How the Flotilla Got Stuck

The Israel Law Center, headed by attorney Nitzana Darshan Leitner, played a pivotal role in keeping this year's flotilla away from Gaza.

David Lev , | updated: 04:15

French Flotilla Boat
French Flotilla Boat

It's often been said that the pen is mightier than the sword – but in this case, a pen writing a few well-chosen words more or less single-handedly aborted the second Gaza flotilla, says attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner of the Israel Law Center (Shurat Hadin).

“In the end, only one ship sailed, and the IDF prevented it from moving to Gaza, but the other 14 ships remained stuck in Greece. And most of them had decided to give up anyway after the Mavi Marmara was prevented from sailing.”

According to the New York Times, the Marmara remained anchored in Crete because it couldn't get insurance for its journey to Gaza – and that was a direct result of letters the Law Center sent out to insurance companies warning them that they were setting themselves up for civil lawsuits and criminal charges.

The Marmara, which will live in infamy in Israeli lore for years to come as the flotilla ship carrying Hamas-sympathizing terrorists who tried to lynch IDF soldiers, was the heart and soul of this year's flotilla, as leftist anarchists and Arab terrorist sympathizers rallied around it as the “martyr's ship” that would further blacken Israel's name when it again tried to break the Gaza blockade. The government worked through back diplomatic channels to convince European countries to intervene against groups that were raising money and crews for the flotilla ships, but the effort was largely ineffective; one by one, flotilla ships gathered in Crete, where they prepared to set sail for Gaza.

But then a funny thing happened; several of the ships, including the Marmara, turned tail and sailed back to Turkey and other countries where they hailed from. Why? One major reason was because of the warnings the Law Center sent out to insurance companies and other firms who were providing services for the flotilla.

“We warned the companies that they would be in violation of the law, both in the US and Europe, if they aided and abetted these ships on a journey to Gaza. First of all, we had already proven that several of the 'charities' providing funds to the flotilla were connected with Hamas, and second, we showed that many members of the crews of these ships were direct supporters, if not members, of Hamas,” says Darshan-Leitner.

Hamas is considered a terrorist group in the US and Europe, and any assistance rendered to a terrorist cause could be prosecuted under security laws in most countries – and the Law Center made it clear to the insurance companies that it would pursue action if they provided insurance for flotilla ships.

“That was enough for most of the companies,” says Darshan-Leitner. Without insurance, the ships could not get clearance to sail, and remained stuck in port – until they gave up and went home. One company that apparently preferred to take its chances in court was Inmarsat, which provides satellite communication services for ships. Inmarsat insisted on continuing to work with flotilla ships – and the Law Center promptly sued the company in a Florida court, representing a US/Israeli dual citizen who is a resident of Sderot. Inmarsat is being accused of aiding terrorism, providing essential services to the terrorist-affiliated flotilla ships. Inmarsat CEO Andrew J. Sukawaty has been named as a defendant in the case.

The Law Center is also working within the confines of the law to prevent future flotilla organizing, seeking legal action against groups in various countries that raised money and organized crews for the flotilla ships. In the U.S., for example, the Law Center has prevailed upon the good offices of Texas Governor Rick Perry to urge U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute flotilla organizers, who are in clear violation of U.S. law, says Darshan-Leitner.

“Last year Israel was taken by surprise – no one thought that the flotilla would end in violence,” she says. “This year we were prepared and much less naïve. And hopefully next year these people will realize that the law is not on their side, and disband the flotilla altogether.”