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Israeli Civilians versus Palestinian Combatants? Reading the Goldstone Report in Light of the Israeli Conception of the Principle of Distinction


Goldstone's recent retraction can leave the reader of the report that bears his name somewhat perplexed. Indeed, if the deliberate intent to target civilians could be discussed in some specific attacks listed, such a report nevertheless describes a pattern of behaviour that cannot be swept aside without disregarding the order of priorities set by the Israeli legal system itself. Through analysis of the new Israeli military code of ethics as well as the Israeli Supreme Court case law, this paper examines how civilians in Gaza were deliberately put at risk by a specific interpretation breaking down the flat rule of civilian immunity into a more complex construction opposing the Israeli soldiers’ right to life to the rights of an ‘enemy population’.

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A. Kasher and A. Yadlin , ‘Assassination and Preventive Killing’, 25 SAIS Review, Winter–Spring 2005, 45

A. Kasher and A. Yadlin , ‘Military Ethics of Fighting Terror: An Israeli Perspective’, (2005) 4 Journal of Military Ethics 8

A. Kasher , ‘The Principle of Distinction’, (2007) 6 Journal of Military Ethics 152

D. Statman , ‘Targeted Killing’, (2004) 5 Theoretical Inquiries in Law 179

L. Bomann-Larsen , ‘Licence to Kill? The Question of Just vs. Unjust Combatants’, (2004) 3 Journal of Military Ethics 142

H. A. Frantzen , ‘“Incident at a Roadblock”: Get Used to It!’, (2003) 2 Journal of Military Ethics 78

S. Lee , ‘Double Effect, Double Intention, and Asymmetric Warfare’, (2004) 3 Journal of Military Ethics 247

B. Haydar , ‘The Ethics of Fighting Terror and the Priority of Citizens’, (2005) 4 Journal of Military Ethics 55

D. Kretzmer , ‘Targeted Killing of Suspected Terrorists: Extra-Judicial Executions or Legitimate Means of Defence?’, (2005) 16 EJIL 194

K. E. Eichensehr , ‘On Target? The Israeli Supreme Court and the Expansion of Targeted Killings’, (2007) 116 Yale Law Journal 1876

K. Watkin , ‘Controlling the Use of Force: A Role For Human Rights Norms in Contemporary Armed Conflict?’, (2004) 98 AJIL 17

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Leiden Journal of International Law
  • ISSN: 0922-1565
  • EISSN: 1478-9698
  • URL: /core/journals/leiden-journal-of-international-law
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