Top Israeli officials face arrest in Spain, South Africa

Palestinians in Gaza commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Mavi Marmara massacre when 10 Turkish activists were shot dead by Israeli forces in international waters.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Over the last week 11 Israeli officials have had international arrest warrants against them circulated for their role in the deadly raid on a Turkish ship that was part of the Freedom Flotilla en route to Gaza in May 2010.

On Friday Spanish media outlets began reporting that a court in that country had found Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and six other senior Israeli officials liable for prosecution for crimes against humanity for their role in the 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara.

Nine passengers were immediately killed by Israeli troops. A 10th victim died from his wounds in May 2014.

And on Tuesday, South African police agreed to start circulating Turkish arrest warrants against four former Israeli military commanders for their role in the massacre.

In May 2010, Israel violently raided the Turkish-owned vessel that was part of the flotilla sailing in international waters on its way to break the siege on Gaza.

Following Spain’s ruling, the court issued arrest warrants targeting seven top officials in the present and former Israeli governments, including Netanyahu, Avigdor Lieberman, Ehud Barak, Moshe Yaalon, Eli Yishai, and Benny Begin. The former commander of Israel’s navy, Eliezer Marom, has also been issued with an arrest warrant.

In South Africa, the warrants target the former Israeli army chief Gabi Ashkenazi, former navy commander Eli Marom, the former head of military intelligence Amos Yadlin and the former head of air force intelligence Avishay Levy.

All four military leaders will be arrested if they enter South Africa. Interpol South Africa is working with their counterparts in Turkey.


The directorate of the Priority Crimes Investigation Unit of the South African police changed its policy after the conclusion of a four-year lawsuit brought by Gadija Davids, a South African journalist, who was on board the Mavi Marmara when Israeli forces stormed the ship. Davids was assaulted and detained by Israeli forces.

“This decision has allowed us to hold these commanders, now fugitives from justice, responsible to answer for crimes that were committed in the high seas,” Gadija Davids said.

Davids’ lawyer, Ziyaad Patel, said the decision “sets an important precedent” for South Africa’s use of universal jurisdiction, a provision in international law that allows courts to try cases of human rights violations committed in other countries.

According to Patel, this is the first instance of South Africa invoking universal jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed abroad.

Jose de la Mata, a Spanish national court judge, instructed the police and civil guard to notify him if any of the seven officials stepped foot on that country’s soil.

Spanish citizens who were on the Mavi Marmara filed a criminal complaint against the Israeli officials five years ago.

In June, de la Mata suspended the case only to reopen it this month.

Universal jurisdiction

According to the Latin American Herald Tribune, de la Mata put the case on hold last June after Spain significantly curbed its universal jurisdiction doctrine, which allows for the prosecution of crimes regardless of where they were committed.

Spanish courts had been a leading enforcer of international law, prosecuting Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and investigating crimes committed by Argentina, Rwanda and Guatemala.

An Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson responded to the court’s ruling, stating, “We consider it to be a provocation. We are working with the Spanish authorities to get it canceled. We hope it will be over soon.”

The Spanish and South Africa suits are part of a multinational effort to prosecute those responsible for the attack on the flotilla in 2010. Attempts to sue Israeli officials for their role in the attack have taken place in England, France and most recently the United States.

The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court was recently ordered to reopen an investigation into the incident for possible war crimes after closing it last year.




This is only the beginning. It is inconceivable that the world will simply continue to allow indefinitely the war crimes of Israel to go unaddressed. The hubris of Israel will be its downfall. Let's hope it falls very soon before more innocents are abused or murdered.


I have been praying for justice in Palestine and for the innocent victims of the last few days in Syria.
This is the best news, I have had in a long time, thanks Ali and all of your contributors - for bringing us the truth. You never backed down, and very brave, to enlighten The People.

Jane Zacher

Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.