Israel’s actual invention is new standard on ‘asymmetrical’ conflict

Central to Israel’s defence of its actions in Gaza last year is the claim that international humanitarian law (IHR) is inadequate and must be modified to accommodate the “asymmetrical” nature of modern warfare. Rather than arguing that greater protection should be afforded to the weaker party in such uneven conflicts, the leading theorists of this new doctrine, Asa Kasher and Amos Yadlin, actually demand greater privilege for the strong, the wealthy and the well-armed.

Contrary to cherry tomatoes, solar water heaters and purple carrots, this is a truly Israeli invention, from which other countries currently engaged in "wars on terror” stand to benefit considerably, to the detriment of the rest of mankind.

In “The Second Battle of Gaza: Israel’s Undermining Of International Law”, Jeff Halper offers a thorough analysis of this aspect of “Operation Cast Lead” and its aftermath. The following is a brief excerpt:

This is a serious stuff. We are in the midst of the second battle of Gaza, a campaign not only to refute and defame the UN’s Goldstone Report and sanitize Israel’s actions there but to change international humanitarian law in a way that protects the powerful states and their armies while removing the fundamental rights of the world’s poor and downtrodden to resist. The stakes are high. What will happen to the Palestinians—or oppressed peoples everywhere—if Kasher & Co. succeed in striking the Principles of Distinction and Proportionality from international law? Imagine an entire world unprotected against occupation, invasions, exploitation and warehousing, a global Gaza. It would be world that reflects current reality: everyone would be either an Israeli Jew, part of a privileged global minority who main ethical responsibility is towards defending itself against “terrorists,” or a Palestinian, part of an impoverished, occupied majority with no control over its resources or its future, which nevertheless carries responsibility for the well-being and security of its violent “zero-tolerant” masters.

About Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel

Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel is a Canadian-Israeli translator living in Italy.
Posted in Gaza, Israel/Palestine | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

{ 24 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Chaos4700 says:

    While we’re at it, should we maybe talk about the history of terrorism in the Middle East? Who promulgated the use of the car bomb against the British Mandate, for instance?

  2. VR says:

    Yes, and Israel sees itself as the star to propagate this “new” concept of doing war. Did you notice that I put the parenthesis around new? That is because there has always been a plea for a special dispensation in order to accomplish the destruction of a people. The plea has always been “how different” these particular people act, how savage and unpredictable, not according to the “normal” conventions of war. It is indeed new only in one sense, that the targets are indeed as described “removing the fundamental rights of the world’s poor and downtrodden to resist.”

    There was another time when this was asked for, and it was Norman Finkelstein who brought this to light, in one of his exchanges with Dershowitz, who was calling for the need for this “specialized” way of fighting. It was indeed called for before, and it was the precursor of horrible acts –

    “The central premise of Dershowitz is that “international law, and those who administer it, must understand that the old rules” do not apply in the unprecedented war against a ruthless and fanatical foe, and that “the laws of war and the rules of morality must adapt to these [new] realities.”[4] This is not the first time such a rationale has been invoked to dispense with international law. According to Nazi ideology, ethical conventions couldn’t be applied in the case of “Jews or Bolsheviks; their method of political warfare is entirely amoral.”[5] On the eve of the “preventive war”[6] against the Soviet Union, Hitler issued the Commissar Order, which mandated the summary execution of Soviet political commissars and Jews, and set the stage for the Final Solution. He justified the order targeting them for assassination on the ground that the Judeo-Bolsheviks represented a fanatical ideology, and that in these “exceptional conditions”[7] civilized methods of warfare had to be cast aside:

    In the fight against Bolshevism it must not be expected that the enemy will act in accordance with the principles of humanity or international law…any attitude of consideration or regard for international law in respect of these persons is an error….The protagonists of barbaric Asiatic methods of warfare are the political commissars….Accordingly if captured in battle or while resisting, they should in principle be shot.[8]
    It was simultaneously alleged that the Red Army commissars (who were assimilated to Jews) qualified neither as prisoners of war protected by the Geneva Convention nor civilians entitled to trial before military courts, but rather were in effect illegal combatants.[9] Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

    4. Alan M. Dershowitz, “Arbour Must Go,” in National Post (21 July 2006); Alan M. Dershowitz, “Arithmetic of Pain,” in Wall Street Journal (19 July 2006).

    5. Helmut Krausnick et al., Anatomy of the SS State (New York: 1965), p. 336 (quoting Himmler).

    6. Horst Boog et al., Germany and the Second World War, vol. iv, The Attack on the Soviet Union (Oxford: 1998), pp. 38, 39, 517.

    7. Krausnick, Anatomy, p. 356.

    8. Ibid., pp. 318-19; Boog, Attack, pp. 499-500, 510, 515.

    9. Boog, Attack, pp. 497-8, 508.

    Read the entire article here, it is well worth the read –


    • On a philosophical level, does the approach promoted by the likes of Kasher and the Lawfare Project imply a rejection of natural law (often identified with “Judeo-Christian morality”) in favour of a “will to power” approach? And are they beginning to embrace the latter in a more open, explicit fashion, or are we still engaging in the same pointless exercises in humanistic rhetoric?

      The involvement of extremist religious groups is interesting in this context, although Nazism, on a philosophical level, was always far less objectionable to religious exponents than “Godless Communism”.

      • Citizen says:

        What is natural law? Doesn’t it imply that there is a hidden designer to what happens? Or is it simply the law of tooth and claw? Hobbes’s view? Aquinas believed that Kings, barons, knights, freemen and serfs was the natural order of society. Some Zionists believe that Palestinians are simply roadblocks built into the landscape. A matter of engineering a way around, through, or of wiping away, moving elsewhere or destroying. What is the natural law as built into Judiasm? Into Christianity? Into Islam? The ten commandments? The sermon on the mount? The Talmud? What is the contrary to natural law? Positive law, that is, law clearly legislated by men? But in turn, doesn’t that law support itself by implicating natural law for support? The US was formed by those dirty old white guys who believed in natural law. Its in the US founding documments. How does the will to power differ? By combining the law of tooth and claw with an overriding myth of
        exception? Of the right order of things a la Aquinas –as updated in Mein Kampf?
        Or as revised again by repriortizing… by early Zionists? Present Zionists? Hagee?
        Triumph Of The Will. Nietzsche. He hated the German regime. And he pointed to specifics as to why. They used the metaphorical content of his work to support the Nazi doctrine. The poetry of his work. See any similarities today?

        • Aristotle, Seneca, Aquinas, Hobbes, Spinoza, Jefferson, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buber, Levinas, secular humanism – they’ll all do, in terms of basic principles of universal justice and the natural rights of all human beings (with or without a deity, transcendent or otherwise). You are right that it is not an exact contrast to “will to power”, but it was meant as shorthand for a system that recognises inherent human value and places limits on the desire to dominate and/or disregard others. It can and has accommodated various kinds of exceptionalism, but it is not compatible with the right of might or morality based on “vital impulses”.

        • VR says:

          One time in a class, one of my professors chided me for what he called “presentism,” in regard to Plato’s classes of men in the Republic. He said that I inserted a morality and sensibility that men have only come to recently.

          Men’s souls are like different types of metal – some gold, others silver, and other bronze and iron. Essentially saying some were made to lead and rule, while others were to serve like slaves. This is where I objected, and was consequently accused of presentism – or reading this era into the times of Plato.

          There was a question that I asked afterwords which sort of stopped the show, so to speak. If there were no difficulties, and if none saw the enslavement of men as wrong, than why was the explanation by Plato necessary? The reason my teacher could not answer, and Plato gave his gloss example, is that this division of some men inherently better than others and more worthy of life and liberty, is wrong – that is why Plato had to “elaborate.”

          In one of the most ancient pictorial text there is an arrow which is shot over a wall, it is meant to depict only one thing from the ancient of times – FREEDOM.

          SAY IT

        • There is always the danger of anachronism when approaching ancient (and even not-so-acncient) texts, but the fact remains that the human spirit is fundamentally the same as it has always been, throughout recorded history and beyond. There’s a good reason we still read Plato and the Bible and Shakespeare, and that is that the similarities between us far outway the differences.

  3. Citizen says:

    Dershie is actually worse than Julius Striecher, who was hung at Nuremberg.

  4. radii says:

    Brand Israel: Find yourself in trouble? Re-write the rules!

  5. The reasoning behind the inquiry in the assymetry of a state in warring conflict with a militia, is that they are not peers in the rules.

    The rules of war, especially as articulated by solidarity, grant militias the “right” to conduct warfare by “any means necessary” (meaning as horrifically as is tactically successful, not meaning as as self-restrained and judicious as would be successful). They are the occupied and have the right to resist.

    Its the reason that states became the norm of governance, rather than factions.

    The reasoning of Israel to reform the law is both sound and unsound.

    Its sound like regulation of large corporations is sound. Regulation of corporations attempts to restrict harmful behavior otherwise allowed in law. And, it is unsound as regulation of corporations creates an additional obstacle to competition, in the increased costs of entry over less lawful enterprises.

  6. RE: “Israel’s actual invention is new standard on ‘asymmetrical’ conflict”
    ME – Ziocaine: a little dab will “do” ya!

  7. MRW says:

    This is frightening. This is worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews between 1933-1940.

  8. potsherd says:

    Israel may be leading the charge, but it is US imperialism that has the most to gain by delegitimization of the right to resist foreign occupation.

  9. tree says:

    Thanks for this post, Shmuel. As far as I am concerned, you have been an invaluable addition to this website for your knowledge, your reasoning and your firm belief in equality and justice for all. And I think my sentiment is shared by many here.

  10. Pingback: Syracuse University plays lead role in undermining int’l law, with concern for Israel