Ethics & International Affairs Volume 17.1 (Spring 2003): Debate: Israel's Policy of Targeted Killing: By Any Name Illegal and Immoral: Response to "Israel's Policy of Targeted Killing"[Abstract]

Mar 2, 2003

Since November 2000, Israel has been implementing an assassination policy in the occupied territories. The Israeli policy is both illegal and immoral. The legal questions are much more complicated than would appear from David’s argument. Although individual killings may be lawful in specific cases, this debate concerns a policy providing systematic justification for such acts. Neither international nor Israeli law ensures any backing for this policy. Armed Palestinians are not combatants according to any known legal definition. They are civilians––which is the only legal alternative––and can only be attacked for as long as they actively participate in hostilities.

The argument that this policy affords the public a sense of revenge and retribution could serve to justify acts both illegal and immoral. Clearly, lawbreakers ought to be punished. Yet, no matter how horrific their deeds, as the targeting of Israeli civilians indeed is, they should be punished according to the law. David’s arguments could, in principle, justify the abolition of formal legal systems altogether.

The Israeli government has not endorsed the minor changes of policy that David suggests, and for a reason. Israel’s initial refusal to acknowledge the very existence of this policy and even its later hesitant admission suggest it is aware of the problems the policy entails and of the difficulties of dismissing them. Assassinations have been part of Israel’s security policy for many years, and Israel is currently the only democratic country that regards such measures as legitimate. The Palestinian violations of international law, however, cannot be used to grant legal and/or moral legitimation to these violations when perpetrated by others.

To read or purchase the full text of this article, click here.

You may also like

OCT 11, 2022 Journal

Ethics & International Affairs Volume 36.3 (Fall 2022)

The editors of "Ethics & International Affairs" are pleased to present the Fall 2022 issue of the journal! The highlight of this issue is a book symposium ...

AUG 2, 2022 Journal

Ethics & International Affairs Volume 36.2 (Summer 2022)

The editors of Ethics & International Affairs are pleased to present the Summer 2022 issue of the journal! The highlight of this issue is a roundtable organized ...

President Barack Obama chairs a UN Security Council meeting, September 2009, New York, NY. <br>CREDIT: <a href="">White House/Pete Souza/Public Domain</a>

OCT 7, 2020 Podcast

The United Nations at 75: Looking Back to Look Forward, Episode 1, with David M. Malone

David M. Malone, rector of United Nations University, speaks about the Security Council, the Sustainable Development Goals, peacekeeping, and more. How can the UN continue ...