Fighting by other means in the mideast: A critical analysis of Israel's assassination policy

Michael L. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Israel's efforts to quell violence during the recent conflict with the Palestinians include targeted assassinations of militia leaders. The international community permits the use of lethal force in only two cases, law enforcement and just war, and assassination cannot be justified in either. In the context of law enforcement, assassination remains prohibited as a form of extra-legal execution, regardless of Israel's status as an occupying power. In the context of just war, assassination violates the proscription against perfidious and treacherous means of warfare. In the current conflict, assassination cannot be accomplished without collaborators, a practice that not only is prohibited by convention but seriously undermines Palestinian society. As a result, assassination provokes violent retaliation and corrodes the basis necessary to renew peace negotiations. Nevertheless, assassination may be defensible as a last resort in some cases. These include tyrannicide, killing a murderous and brutal leader to protect innocent civilians, together with instances of 'ticking bombs' - that is, immediate and otherwise unavoidable grievous threats to noncombatants. In each case a modified argument from necessity offers grounds for the defensible, although limited, use of assassination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-368
Number of pages19
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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