Mavi Marmara Appeal Could Set Legal History

Complainant sought to prevent 2010 'Free Gaza Flotilla' ships from setting off from US; case could deal blow to terror efforts in America.

Sarah Leah Lawent ,

Mavi Marmara
Mavi Marmara
AFP photo

In what may establish a groundbreaking legal precedence, the United States Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear the case of American biologist Alan Bauer, who filed suit in 2011 in the Federal court in Manhattan seeking to impound 14 vessels which were outfitted to be used in the 2010 Mavi Marmara Flotilla - which set off from Turkey in order to break the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip - on the grounds that the funding for the ships was raised illegally in the United States.

Dr. Bauer, who was seriously wounded with his son in a 2002 Palestinian suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem, explained that "when the US Chief Prosecutor refused to pursue the matter on his own, I decided to invoke my right as an American citizen to seize the flotilla."

The plaintiff had alleged that the ‘Free Gaza’ Movement', along with other US-based anti-Israel organizations, had raised the funds in the US to outfit the ships, contending that this action, in being used for hostilities against a US ally, constituted a violation of American law.  Bauer rested his claim on the rarely used 18th century “informant statute” (18 USC, Section 962), which allows that a plaintiff (referred to as an “informer”) is entitled to privately seize vessels outfitted in the US for use against a US ally.

The appeal claims that the respective regulations on neutrality and booty, having been in existence for more than 200 years, have been recognized by both Congress and the Courts, and that the domestic legal status of locus standi (the right or capacity to bring an action or to appear in a court) allowed for seizure of the vessels. They have submitted that the previous court hearing the case erred in its interpretation that the respective neutrality and booty regulations did not apply in this instance.

On May 31, 2010, the Mavi Marmara - the largest ship in a flotilla which alleged to be carrying “humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza” - set out for the Gaza coast in an effort to break Israel’s blockade.

After repeatedly refusing orders to turn around and dock in Ashdod, Israeli commandos boarded the ship only to be attacked by armed "activists". Soldiers were forced to open fire, resulting in the deaths of nine radical Islamists.

Upon further investigation when the ship was finally brought into the Ashdod port, not only was there not any humanitarian aid aboard, but no aid supplies whatsoever.

Following the incident, Turkey cut off ties with Israel and placed four top IDF commanders on "trial" in absentia, including former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

The outcome of this case could quite possibly establish a legal precedent which would impede the ability of terror groups and organizations from using the United States as a fundraising base, be it for  operations against Israel or any other US ally.