Because of Israel’s War Against Palestine, There Are No Innocent Ships at Sea

Yves here. Neither shipping nor the Houthi campaign against ships going to and from Israel are taking a break over the holiday.

By John Helmer, the longest continuously serving foreign correspondent in Russia, and the only western journalist to direct his own bureau independent of single national or commercial ties. Helmer has also been a professor of political science, and an advisor to government heads in Greece, the United States, and Asia. He is the first and only member of a US presidential administration (Jimmy Carter) to establish himself in Russia. Originally published at Dances with Bears

Since the start of Israel’s genocide of Gaza, it has been the claim of the Israelis, their lawyers,  and allies that there are no innocent civilians in Gaza, so they say that killing them all is neither a genocide nor a war crime.

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog said it in India in October.   US Congressman Brian Mast said it, following the Israeli lead.    The US Navy analyst who spied for Israel and served half a life in US prison for his treason has declared it in print.   A French-Israeli lawyer has argued the legality on French television.

The reply the Arab militaries fighting against Israel have made is that there is no innocent oil tanker or container ship moving within missile or drone range of Israel, the Red Sea or the Indian Ocean unless it can prove it. This answer by the Ansar Allah government of Yemen, aka the Houthi military, is that they will attack any vessel which they know to be owned or controlled by Israel through its shipping families, companies, and their cutouts.

As a result, Houthi drone and missile attacks have exposed the elaborate scheme of corporate camouflage and false-flagging which Israel has been employing to conceal the vessel identities  and movement of its international shipping operations. The Anglo-American maritime industry media, privy to these secrets, have not published them. The mainstream western press remains in the dark.

In today’s Gorillla Radio podcast, this isn’t dark any longer. Not genocide in Gaza but money in shipowner pockets is blowing the gaff.

There is much more at stake. The effectiveness of the Houthi ship targeting campaign has so threatened the movement of vital cargoes into and out of Europe that shipping, port, and military officials in France, Italy, Spain, and Greece are now trying to avert a commercial disaster for themselves by arranging secret safe-passage deals with Yemen and Iran in exchange for which they are applying a blockade on Israel’s cargoes, vessels and ports.

This is the secret which is torpedoing the Pentagon’s multinational Red Sea naval escort plan, called OPERATION PROSPERITY GUARDIAN. As the secrecy of Israeli shipping companies spills out, along with the secret dealmaking of the international shipowners with the Houthis,  American shipowners are already complaining bitterly at being cut out of the profits.  “If the main beneficiary of the operation,” editorializesgCaptain of California, a leading US maritime platform, “is one of the largest shipping corporations in the world [Denmark’s Maersk], then there is a question of whose prosperity is Operation Prosperity Guardian truly guarding?”

Just how accurate is Houthi targeting of concealed Israeli shipping connections?

In the podcast I stumbled over the name of the MSC United VIII. According to its owner Mediterranean Shipping Company, “MSC confirms that on 26 December 2023 the container ship MSC UNITED VIII was attacked while transiting the Red Sea. The vessel informed a nearby coalition task force warship of the attack and as instructed engaged in evasive maneuvers. The incident occurred on 26 December 2023 at approximately 12:25 UTC while the MSC vessel was enroute from King Abdullah Port, Saudi Arabia to Karachi, Pakistan. Currently, all crew are safe with no reported injuries and a thorough assessment of the vessel is being conducted. Our first priority remains protecting the lives and safety of our seafarers, and until their safety can be ensured MSC will continue to reroute vessels booked for Suez transit via the Cape of Good Hope.”

In its concern for “the lives and safety of our seafarers”, MSC omitted to explain why the company management had decided to expose the vessel, the mariners,  and the cargo by running the Red Sea gauntlet on behalf of the Israeli shipowners, Eyal and Idan Ofer; they are behind the vessel’s operation, and that was the reason for the Houthi attack. Here’s the full story. There’s more — MSC appears to be owned by an Italian family, the Apontes, who established the shipping line in Switzerland in 1970.  In fact, Gianluigi Aponte, the MSC founder, is married to Rafaela Diamant, and she controls half the shares of the company. Diamant is Jewish and comes from Haifa.  The Houthis know this; maritime reporters don’t.

Left, the container ship MSC United VIII; right, Rafaela Diamant Aponte.  

A similar story of concealed Israeli control and media blackout can be told about the Maersk container vessel,  the Maersk Gibraltar.  This ship was attacked in the Red Sea between December 12 and 14. In the maritime media, it was reported to be Chinese-owned and operated by Maersk. According to the pro-Israel, pro-US Navy source gCaptain, “Maersk Gibraltar is not a remarkable containership for 2023.  She pales at 10,100 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) compared to the ultra-large container vessels (ULCVs) of nearly 24,000 TEUs.  Built in 2016 at Jiangsu Yangzi Xinfu Shipbuilding, the ship is Hong Kong-flagged, owned by Greater China Intermodal Investments, and operated by Maersk Lines of Denmark.  On December 15, 2023, the ship was sailing northbound in the Bab el-Mandeb and entering the Red Sea on a voyage from Salalah, Oman,  to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia when she was the target of attack by the Houthi in Yemen…Between December 12 and 14, two further ships were attacked, along with Maersk Gibraltar, even though Maersk Gibraltar was not Israel-owned or traveling to or from Israel.”

The Maersk Gibraltar. Source:
After it was diverted from the Red Sea, the vessel sailed south down the east African coast. It is now under way off the west coast of South Africa heading north. Here is the Reuters cover-up version of the Houthi strike;  read more here.

This was calculated deceit.

The Maersk Gibraltar is operated by the Danish Maersk shipping line for the owner listed as Greater China Intermodal Investments (GCI); that entity is listed in Hong Kong and appears to be Chinese. However, in 2018 GCI was acquired by the US corporation, Seaspan, listed on the New York Stock Exchange and controlled by David Sokol, a notorious American business figure.

What the shipping record reveals is that Seaspan had contracted with the Israeli ZIM shipping company, owned by the Ofer brothers, to build new container vessels and then operate them on long-term charter.   ZIM has said publicly it intends to expand this partnership with Seaspan.  Eli Glickman, ZIM’s chief executive, has acknowledged that with a new fleet order, “we are securing ZIM’s core fleet needed to serve our operations and meet our customers’ growing needs while continuing to maintain our operational agility. Furthermore, this transaction demonstrates our deep commitment to the environment and to reducing our carbon footprint.”

The Houthis have been following closely. They also appear to have known that in March of this year Sokol arranged to sell out of Seaspan to the Japanese container shipping company, Ocean Network Express (ONE).   That company has made no secret of running several schemes it is calling “Israel shuttle services”.  These conceal the movement of Israeli cargoes and portcalls to Arab ports, such as Damietta in Egypt, and to ports in the Adriatic.   These are details which are no secret to the Houthis. They are being kept secret by Israel’s supporters in the western media.

For the big picture, explaining the reason for the secrecy and cover-up and counting what’s at stake now that the gaff has been blown, listen to today’s podcast as Chris Cook leads the discussion.


Subscribe to Gorilla Radio on Substack here:


Following the broadcast discussion of the Russian naval deployment map of December 26, fresh news has been published to suggest that at least one of the Israeli Navy’s squadron of three   German-built Sa’ar corvettes  may have broken out of its Eilat base. According to this report, one of these vessels is now at a United Arab Emirates (UAE) base on one of the Socotra archipelago islands east of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and Gulf of Aden .

Press reporting of this intention on Israel’s part isn’t new.   A London think tank reported in mid-2023 that “the Israeli Navy and the UAE are partnering to establish a base on Socotra and are reportedly building a military base on the nearby Abdul Kori island.”    The source for the claim was cited as The Middle East Monitor, an Arab source reportedly financed by Qatar and supporting Hamas.    For several years the Arab and Iranian press have been reporting a growing Israeli presence on the Socotra islands, aided by the UAE.

However, the Russian map of naval deployments in the area as of December 26 does not show the Israeli corvette at Socotra. Instead, at the top of the map the Israeli Navy vessels are shown without arrows confirming their deployment,  neither at Eilat nor elsewhere.

Click to enlarge and see full map. The island of Socotra is at lower right of the map.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Amfortas the Hippie

    objectively, the Houthis are pretty much kicking all kinds of ass, for such a tiny, impoverished bunch.
    including an apparently rather sophisticated intelligence operation.

    ive been expecting a crumbling of the Empire for a long time…never knowing just how it would eventually play out.
    i never would have placed my bet on Yemen playing such a large role.

    1. elissa3

      Lest we forget, Osama bin Laden was a Yemeni. The general population may be very poor, but they are not stupid.

      1. Greg

        Despite belief otherwise in many countries, intelligence doesn’t really correlate with wealth very well at all. Best to assume a normal distribution in any large population.

    2. Paris

      Sorry, everybody and their mother know the Iranians are behind the Houthis lol. Maybe you don’t. The Iranians have more resources (read wealth) and more intelligence too (not just raw IQ, but spying etc).

      1. c_heale

        Saying the Iranians are behind the Houthis, is saying that the Houthis have no agency, which is something that is not credible.

        I do not know what kind of links Iran actually has with Yemen or the various political forces in Yemen, since this has not been outlined in detail in any Western publication I have seen. I have only seen vague assertions from neo-con or similar sources.

        Does anyone out there have good information on this.

        1. Hickory

          It’s not about agency. It’s about resources. Many people around the world want to do what the Yemenis are doing, but they lack the resources. This research described in the article as well as the weapons tech are non-trivial. Saying Iran is behind it merely offers an explanation for how this group got the capabilities it did. I don’t have any personal insight whether it’s true or not, but if it is true it doesn’t diminish Yemenis’ agency, although it would presumably give Iran some amount of influence with Yemeni leadership.

  2. The Rev Kev

    I wonder how long it will be until we hear of missile and drone attacks on Socotra islands. The UAE actually stole these islands from Yemen and they are letting the Israelis build a base there. Oddly enough, there is not a single mention of Israel in this Wikipedia article on the United Arab Emirates takeover of Socotra-

    Doesn’t matter as Yemen knows they are there and there was already an attack on a secret Israeli base in Eritrea back in October-

  3. Aurelien

    “No innocent civilians in Gaza” is meaningless. In an armed conflict, only “military targets” may be attacked, according to the Geneva Conventions, and these are limited to those that “make an effective contribution to military action.” In principle, anyone who is unarmed, or is wounded or who has surrendered, is a “protected person” and may not be attacked. In principle again, only uniformed members of the armed forces of a country may be attacked, but IHL recognises that “civilians” who participate in military actions (including women and children) are legitimate targets, and this is becoming more and more true as wars change their nature.

    As for the Houthis, I do wonder if they have the English-language technical shipping expertise to follow the same kind of logic as Helmer, or if someone is providing it to them, and if, for that matter, they have weapons which are capable of precise enough targeting. It may just be that many ships going through that area have a connection of sorts with Israel.

    1. EAC

      Actually, it looks like the Houthis may have the skillset. Every year, according to IIE Open Doors data, between 300 to 600 stiudents from Yemen are studying at colleges and universities in the United States, Most likely the UK also has a fair share, not to mention other higher ed institutions around the world. These are full degree programs, not short-term exchanges or 1 year study abroad.

    2. nippersdad

      Israel already litigated this issue at the ICJ in 2004, where it was found that under international humanitarian law Israel has no right of self defense in occupied areas. It doesn’t even matter if they are attacked by military forces from within the area as the whole point is already mooted; occupied areas have the right to self defense that occupiers do not. They really have no legal case for going into Gaza at all.

      Relevant law:

      It all hinges on whether or not Gaza can be defined as a “state’, but as they have no sovereignty there just isn’t a case to make.

      1. vao

        It all hinges on whether or not Gaza can be defined as a “state’, but as they have no sovereignty there just isn’t a case to make.

        The case is even clearer since Israel does not recognize a Palestinian state and even lobbied various institutions (e.g. the ICC) to deny Palestine the rights accruing to a full-fledged state.

        1. nippersdad

          Exactly right!

          Every single person in Gaza could be an overt member of some special forces A Team, right down to the ninja babies in camouflage, and Israel would still have no legal right to touch a hair on their heads.

          1. Polar Socialist

            If Israel is an occupier, it actually has an obligation to protect civilians under it’s control and provide them with water, food and medication.

            That was the point of “withdrawing” from Gaza way back when. A technicality that they think gets them off the hook.

            1. nippersdad

              Yep, “think” being the operative word. Gaza doesn’t have any control over the Rafah crossing on their border with Egypt, their port(s?) or even the ability to build an airport; if they don’t even have the ability to escape they have no sovereignty. Gaza is pretty much the definition of a concentration camp, with all of the legal responsibilities on Israel that having one imposes.

  4. ciroc

    It is unlikely that the Houthis are familiar with the inner workings of the shipping industry, so they are likely being tipped off by Iranian intelligence.

    1. Alan Roxdale

      I disagree. I think it’s clear the Houthis have a serious intelligence bureau and have been preparing this action for some time. What is needed is a few laptops, English, an internet connection, excel, and time. Technology now available in all corners of the globe.

      Read up on Hamas home grown shaped RPG detonators. The world has moved on while the commentariat has been watching Netflix.

      An immediate response to this is going to be censorship of public company records. Expect crime to balloon all over the west in the coming years.

    2. The Rev Kev

      Just because they are brown people does not mean that they are stupid. After being at war for nearly a decade I am sure that their intelligence agencies are pretty good and they probably have people working in the shipping industry giving them the lowdown of Israeli ownership of commercial ships. Sure, they probably get intel from the Iranians but you don’t think that those western shipping lines would not be giving them the ins and outs of their own operations to prove that they have no Israeli owned ships in their fleets going through the Red Sea?

    3. Polar Socialist

      Bab-el-Mandeb is a narrow strait. So narrow that ships follow Bab-el-Mandeb Traffic Separation Scheme, which means one lane in and one lane out of the red Sea. Each lane is only 1.5 nm wide.

      Since there’s no established traffic control in the straits (see: Danish straits or Kerch strait), the approaching vessels do have to communicate with each other – in clear, with names – to sort out their turn to enter the scheme. And at the moment also contact the present naval vessels to get the latest threat situation updates.

      Somebody with a VHF radio and good binoculars can collect enough intelligence about a vessel and also know within a nautical mile where it will be in a hour.

    4. John k

      I wonder if their op includes a list of all commercial ships that, say, have docked in an Israeli port in the last year. Even if not published somebody might have been watching.
      Imo there’s significant ship swapping in normal times, but maybe the value of ships used in Israeli shipping has declined.

  5. nippersdad

    I had watched that gCaptain episode Helmer references the other day, and one of the things that stuck out for me was the number of ships that would have to be escorted through the Red Sea were Operation Garden Protection to have gone through as planned. He mentions about six navy ships for each convoy, and even if they did not have to fight off drones or missiles the sheer magnitude of shipping through there made it look unworkable. You would need an entire fleet to do it, just sailing back and forth endlessly.

    But perhaps the most interesting point he made concerned the cost of insuring those container ships and the industry response to those costs. He predicted that sending everything around the Horn of Africa is setting up the container industry for another supply chain debacle on par with that witnessed during COVID. Lack of Red Sea access is messing up the usual container ship routes, so they cannot get their empty vs. full container schedules right, and the time for new rate changes is right around the corner. If a break through is not found with the Houthis, this could mean another level of carrier rate inflation cemented onto the last one, and those carriers that are on the hook for new ships could be left in the profit lurch when regular costs come back upon conclusion of the conflict. Those are the people that the US is running interference for, hence the “prosperity for whom” title of the podcast.

  6. Feral Finster

    The Houthis have no corrupt or venal leaders who want western toys. They have no assets to be seized or bombed and no [FAMILY BLOGS] to give.

  7. juno mas

    As I’ve said, the Houthis as proxy warriors leave the Ukraines in the proverbial dust. Imagine what they could do with $60 Billion.

    1. Joe Well

      This is what the West should do with all its enemies: give them an insane amount of money and then let the corrupt scum rise to the top and destroy their ability to accomplish anything. Also free MBA programs. No, not being sarcastic.

      1. c_heale

        That has been the modus operandi since the beginning of the Western empires, and maybe of all empires, when military force was not sufficient.

        1. Snailslime

          True, arguably Rome, Byzantium and China all did or at least tried this in/from ancient times, as probably did plenty of other empires, but with these it’s pretty extensively documented and well explored by historians and archeologists..

  8. Rip Van Winkle

    How much business have Lloyds desks and shipping insurers lost by prohibitions due to the sanctions? Or are they getting around this speed bump by using off-shore paper?

  9. Lamped.usa

    Gaza is both an area where a few million people live and a sophisticated and deadly terrorist camp. Gaza terror infrastructure was designed to be intertwined with the civilian infrastructure. If a medical director of a hospital, or a school principal, or an imam knows that there is a tunnel entrance into their facility, would it not be their responsibility to protect the people attending those institutions?

    Ensuring that any retaliatory strike against the terror camp would inevitably endanger the civilians was a part of an evil plan. Those using the word genocide with respect to the Gaza operation are participants in the plan.

    — there are no innocent ships at sea —
    Red sea should be blockaded until normal conditions are restored for all.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is first class Making Shit Up, a violation of our written site Policies, as well as hasbara.

      Your argument is completely bogus. Gaza is occupied territory. The population of an occupied territory has a right to revolt. The occupiers do not have a right to self-defense. They have obligations to the population of the occupied territory which Israel has systematically violated.

      The US constitution recognizes the same premises:

      We hold these truth to be self evident: that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness….

      When any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter and abolish it, and instutute new government.

        1. Van Damne

          Gaza was under partial blockade from Israel and Egypt with the purpose of limiting the supply of weapons to the enclave. Judging from the numbers of weapons in Gaza that did not work well.

          When it comes to Oct 7, Hamas should be considered an occupying force. The majority of those they attacked , kidnapped or raped had nothing to do with the blockade or an imaginary occupation.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            This is Making Shit Up, a violation of our written site Policies, as well as hasbara. The number of pro-Zionist fabricators/enforcers has increased of late.

            The United Nations classifies Israel as an occupier state over the Palestinian territories, whose occupations and annexations following the 1967 Six-Day War remain in violation of international law


      1. buryat Tina

        Is something like this actually written somewhere as a law?
        “The occupiers do not have a right to self-defense”

        That would definitely justify the Ukrainian attack on Belgorod.
        Nebenzya is going to like it.

        1. Yves Smith Post author


          The Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq has already criticized Israel’s abrasive and abusive “lawfare” methods in international law. Over the invasion of Gaza in 2008–9, it argued that Israel could not invoke self-defense as a justification for war because it contravenes both Israel’s obligations as occupier (in “effective control”) of Gaza and the legal principle of military necessity “as the exclusive legal justification for any operation.” Indeed, “despite the widespread acceptance of Israel’s pretext, the legal status of the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] excludes the application of Article 51 of the UN Charter as a result of the prolonged occupation.”

          This is supported by scholarly analysis of international law in reference to Israel’s numerous invasions of Gaza. Norman Finkelstein argues that “Israel . . . has no legal mandate to use force against the Palestinian self-determination struggle.” Why? Because “Israel cannot pretend to a right of self-defense if the exercise of this right traces back to the wrong of an illegal occupation/denial of self-determination (ex injuria non oritur jus [No legal benefit or right can be derived from an illegal act]).” National Palestinian rights are paramount, and protected by law.


          So here’s a news flash: Israel actually does not have the right to defend itself in terms of the West Bank and Gaza. It has the right to protect its citizens, but it does not have the right to use overwhelming military force against people under its occupation.

          Israel may take measures to protect its citizens—one of the most obvious would be to desist from putting them in harm’s way by planting settlements in the middle of occupied territory. It may also protect them using the police powers an occupier must have, powers which, it must be emphasized, are primarily in place to maintain law and order and protect the safety of those under occupation for whom Israel is ultimately responsible. It cannot sign an agreement like the Oslo Accords and thereby remove that responsibility for the welfare of people under occupation from itself. Palestinian Authority or no, the occupier remains responsible for the welfare of the people under occupation…

          The short of it, though is that Israel treats Jenin, indeed the entire West Bank and Gaza, as enemy territory. In Gaza, Israel actually formalized that label in 2007, designating the Strip “enemy territory.” It can’t do the same in the West Bank because of the settlements dotted throughout that territory, and the attack this week on Jenin shows it doesn’t need to. The designation of Gaza was part of Israel’s attempt to convince the world that, despite controlling Gaza’s eastern and northern land border, coordinating control of its southern border with Egypt, controlling the sea on Gaza’s west, and controlling Gaza’s airspace, Israel’s decision to withdraw its troops and settler from inside the Strip and turn it into the world’s biggest open air prison meant that Gaza was no longer occupied…

          As Prof. [Naura] Erakat explained, “A state cannot simultaneously exercise control over territory it occupies and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is ‘foreign’ and poses an exogenous national security threat. In doing precisely that, Israel is asserting rights that may be consistent with colonial domination but simply do not exist under international law.”

          Israel’s defenders elide this point by creating an alternative reality. One piece of that reality is that there is a Palestinian government that was created by the Oslo Accords and which governs parts of the West Bank to varying degrees. In the designated Area A, which includes Jenin, that governance is argued to be the same as any government.

          That’s simply not true, as the repeated incursions, not to mention the regular closures and presence of soldiers and checkpoints around Jenin make clear. Israel, which has never declared its own borders, occupies the entire West Bank. It collects, and often withholds, taxes from the PA, while Palestinian security forces are focused primarily on coordinating with Israel to combat militants—in other words, Palestinian security is primarily set up to protect Israelis, and, secondarily, the increasingly illegitimate and authoritarian rule of the Vichy-like Palestinian Authority, not to protect ordinary Palestinians.

          Yet Israel then claims it has a right of “self-defense.” Of course, the fact that such a right does not exist does not mean it must sit idly while its citizens are attacked. But, again quoting Prof. Erakat, “As long as the occupation continues, Israel has the right to protect itself and its citizens from attacks by Palestinians who reside in the occupied territories. However, Israel also has a duty to maintain law and order, also known as ‘normal life,’ within territory it occupies. This obligation includes not only ensuring but prioritizing the security and well-being of the occupied population.”

          There is a distinction between the right—indeed the responsibility—to protect the people under its authority, citizens and occupied people alike; and the right of self-defense in war or something akin to it. While Israel’s apologists like to characterize Israel-Palestine as a war, it is not. In the West Bank and Gaza it is an occupation. In an occupation, the occupied people have a right to resist, including armed resistance, although doing so via arms means those individuals participating are combatants and not protected civilians…

          Former UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories John Dugard explains the distinction between a state acting in self-defense and one using force to maintain a military occupation. In Israel’s case, its efforts to slowly annex the territories it occupies instead of working toward a withdrawal and ending of that occupation, as it is legally obliged to do, mean that the occupation itself is illegal. Nonetheless, it is still subject to the international laws of occupation.

          Plenty more like that. Search is your friend.

          1. buryat Tina

            Maybe I’m missing the point but I see no legal references in your comment.

            Israel clearly announced the war on Hamas and clearly expressed no interest in staying in Gaza after the war. With what had happened on Oct 7 and in a situation where hostages are involved Israel is definitely protecting its citizens.

            This is totally different from Russia/Ukraine situation. That is a clear case of direct occupation with likely annexation scenario and no war declaration.

Comments are closed.