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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Israel: Civilians & Combatants

In 2005, Asa Kasher and Amos Yadlin published in an American academic journal "Assassination and Preventive Killing,"[1] an essay that explores the issue of "assassination within the framework of fighting terror." There are good reasons to believe that the political and practical significance of this essay goes far beyond its academic interest. Asa Kasher is professor of professional ethics and philosophy of practice at Tel Aviv University and an academic adviser to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Amos Yadlin is a major general who at the time the article appeared was the military attaché of the embassy of Israel in Washington; he is currently the head of Israeli army intelligence.

The writers are quick to point out that the "views expressed in the present paper are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the...IDF or the State of Israel." But the issue is not whether their views are official, but whether they are in fact influential in the Israeli army. Soon after the recent Israeli intervention in Gaza, Amos Harel argued in Haaretz (February 6, 2009) that the guidelines suggested in the article are indeed the ones that govern the IDF's conduct in battle. This claim has since been both affirmed and denied by Israeli soldiers. We will not join that dispute here, but given the intense interest in Israel's rules of engagement in the Gaza fighting, it's critically important to address Kasher and Yadlin's argument.


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