The Gaza Blockade Raid - Not Piracy

Let's be clear about one thing regarding the Israeli attack on the ship attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

It was not an act of piracy, despite the outcry...

Forget what country did it. Consider, first, the facts: armed commandos attack an unarmed ship in international waters, open fire and kill nine civilians, including one American. What do you call that? An act of piracy. It doesn't matter what country did it.

No, it does matter what country did it.  More specifically, it depends on whether a country did it.  Because if any country's armed forces did it, it is not an act of piracy, by international legal definition.

As David Bernstein pointed out at Volokh Conspiracy, "piracy is by definition undertaken by non-state actor."

As another maritime law/international law observer pointed out:

A word on the legal position, which is very plain. To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.

A look at UNCLOS, international law of the sea, appears to support that distinction:

Article101 - Definition of piracy Piracy consists of any of the following acts: (a) any illegal acts of violence or detention, or any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft, and directed: (i) on the high seas, against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft; (ii) against a ship, aircraft, persons or property in a place outside the jurisdiction of any State;