Israeli navy takes over flotilla ships
Israeli navy takes over flotilla ships Israel news photo: IDF Spokesperson

The state must immediately release a ship seized in 2012 which tried to break through the sea blockade the Israeli Navy is maintaining off the coast of Gaza. According to Haifa Regional Court Judge Ron Sokol, the fact that the state waited ten months between seizing the ship and asking for legal recognition of the ship as “seized maritime property.” The ship, the Estelle, was part of the third Gaza flotilla that took place in October, 2012.

According to the internationally accepted Law of the Sea – in place since 1864 and the basis for maritime warfare issues and disputes – states that seize ships or other property, even if they do so based on legal precedent and permits (such as in the case of a maritime blockade against an aggressor or terror group) must have a recognized court review the seizure immediately after it takes place.

The fact that the state waited ten months before seeking the court's opinion means that it failed to follow the proper accepted practice, and as such had forfeited its right to seize the ship. Sokol said that the matter was very serious, and was far more than a mere technical matter, as the state had tried to argue.

“Each day a ship is held untold damage is caused to its owner, because of loss of income from use of the ship and the cost of upkeep in port,” Sokol said, adding that the state had released ships that tried to break the Gaza blockade in the past, and that the seizure under question constituted a policy change that had not been announced. 

The ship is owned by a company controlled by Dror Feiler, a notorious leftist who helped organize the 2010 flotilla to Gaza. Feiler, a former Israeli, lives in Sweden. He is currently an Israeli citizen, although the Interior Ministry has considered the possibility of removing his citizenship.

Feiler made international news in 2004 when he created what he said was a work of art that depicted a female Arab terrorist bomber in a pool of red paint simulating blood. Israel's Ambassador to Sweden, Tzvi Mazel, flew into a rage upon seeing the exhibit and threw one of the lighting poles into the pool, causing an electric short circuit. Feiler is now the chairman of the Swedish organization Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace (JIPF) and European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP).