Just war moral philosophy and the 2008–09 Israeli campaign in Gaza

In a 37-page article for the journal International Security, Jerome Slater writes: Scholars and policymakers regard the Israeli-Palestinian conºict as one of the most serious and intractable conflicts in today’s world. In particular, there continues to be fierce controversy over the most recent large-scale Israeli military action in that conflict: the three-week attack on Gaza that began on December 27, 2008. Operation Cast Lead, as Israelis call the attack, was justified by Israel and its supporters as a legitimate use of force in self-defense, the purpose of which was to end Hamas’s terrorist attacks on Israel’s civilian population. Even critics of Cast Lead have mostly accepted this argument—despite condemning Israel’s methods and, especially, its indiscriminate attacks on Gaza’s civilian infrastructure and sometimes direct attacks on noncombatants. In particular, most of the leading investigations of Cast Lead, including those by the Goldstone Commission, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and B’Tselem (Israel’s leading human rights organization) did not seek to refute the self-defense argument, even as they concluded that Israel had been guilty of war crimes because of the manner in which it conducted the attack on Gaza.

The argument of this article, however, is not only that the Israeli methods were morally (and, in most cases, legally) wrong,1 but that the very purpose of Cast Lead cannot be justified as one of self-defense. Rather, I argue that Cast Lead was a moral catastrophe, a wholesale violation of the just war philosophy that has guided Western thought on war and morality for more than 2,000 years. In addition, with regard to the history of Israeli military strategies, Cast
Lead was hardly unprecedented, because it must be understood in the context of Israel’s “iron wall” strategy, which from the outset has included deliberate attacks on civilians or their economy, institutions, and infrastructures. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email