|BGU Neve Gordon at the Brown University Center Headed by Beshara Doumani, a Saudi Born Palestinian
This is hardly news. In his Ph.D thesis in 1990 at Georgetown University, Doumani ridiculed Israeli academics and stated: "Israeli academics, and ironically, their Palestinian counterparts who sought to rebut them, generally assume that the real history of Palestine did not begin until after the first aliyeh [sic] or wave of Zionist immigration in 1882."
Doumani also sits on the advisory board of FFIPP, an "Educational Network for Human Rights in Palestine/Israel. It is a network of Palestinian, Israeli, and international faculty and students, working in solidarity for a complete end of occupation and just peace."
Shortly after the outbreak of the Second Intifada Doumani and other Palestinian academics signed a declaration stating that, "The profoundly irresponsible and self-serving act of the Barak government in allowing Ariel Sharon onto the Haram al Sharif shows not just an alarming lack of judgement, but also a total disregard for Palestinian, Arab and Muslim sensibilities. The use of live ammunition against unarmed Palestinian civilians at demonstrations there the next day and at protests ever since, shows total contempt for Palestinian life." This document also stated that "Israel’s recognition of its responsibility in the creation of the Palestinian refugees in 1948 is a pre-requisite to finding a just and lasting resolution of the refugee problem in accordance with relevant United Nations resolutions."
Neve Gordon was among the Israelis backing this pledge.
IAM already reported that Gordon was linked to a Saudi sponsored center. When Gordon was in a Sabbatical at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies in the University of California, Berkeley, he wrote his 2008 book Israel's Occupation and it was the head of the center Nezar alSayyad who, as Gordon stated in the acknowledgements, "welcomed me and provided me with the necessary resources to write".
Last month Gordon was hosting a workshop, "Human Shields and the Force of Discrimination" at Doumani's Middle East Center in Brown University with Nicola Perugini, an assistant Professor and head of the Human Rights and International Law program at the Al Quds Bard Honors College in Jerusalem. They presented a paper together, "The politics of human shielding: On the resignification of space and the constitution of civilians as shields in liberal wars" (see below). The paper intentionally does not criticize the many reported cases of Palestinians, especially Hamas, using civilians as human shields. They merely spoke about actions of the Israeli army during the operation in Gaza in 2014.
"In order to better understand the politics of human shielding... potentially against entire civilian populations and the spaces they inhabit—we examine the 2014 Israeli military operation in Gaza, dubbed by Israel as ‘‘Protective Edge’’. One of the prominent claims repeated by the Israeli government and military throughout the oﬀensive is that Hamas (the Palestinian Islamist party that rules the Gaza Strip) deliberately used human shields as a warfare technique, and therefore it bears responsibility for the extensive killing of civilians and destruction of civilian buildings and infrastructures carried out by the Israeli army during the military campaign. In his ﬁrst appearance at the UN General Assembly after Protective Edge, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated the human shields mantra. Showing his international audience a picture of children playing in the vicinity of a rocket launcher, he averred that ‘‘Hamas deliberately placed its rockets where Palestinian children live and play’’." By citing Netanyahu the authors meant to present what he said as untrue or "Israeli propaganda".
They explain their methodology for addressing human shields but were careful not to blame Palestinians for it. "We begin to address these questions with a concise genealogy of human shields in international law, followed by a brief overview of how the discourse of human shields emerged in the context of Israel/Palestine. Next, we examine the way Israel used the concept human shield in the 2014 Gaza war by analyzing a series of infographics spread by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on its Twitter account, Facebook and oﬃcial blog. It is in this context that we discuss the intricately knit connection between the resigniﬁcation of space and the constitution of a civilian as a shield, showing also that the infographics are merely one element in a broader apparatus of discrimination produced by the IDF. After illustrating how the deployment of the phrase human shield helps render legal the deployment of lethal violence against civilians, we conclude by arguing that the relatively recent appearance of human shields highlights the manifestation of a contemporary political antinomy."
The workshop that Gordon hosted included also Avner Gidron of Amnesty International as a speaker. Gidron is not an objective observer but an activist pushing his political agenda. In a 2014 Huffington Post article "Israeli Land-grabs and Settlements: More Than Merely 'Counterproductive,'" he stated that "Israel's land-grab and dissection of the West Bank including East Jerusalem has had a devastating impact on the lives of Palestinians. Around 40 percent of West Bank has already been classified by Israel as "state" land. And the settlements, built on this illegally seized Palestinian land, are for Jews only. Discrimination against Palestinians on grounds of nationality and religion is the dominant feature of Israel's settlement policy."
The role of Israelis in pro-Palestinian workshops and conferences is significant. Most people do not realize that the Palestinian activist community on Western campuses will only befriend Israelis who are willing to bash Israel. Neve Gordon, a radical political activist masquerading as academic, has a long history of legitimizing their agenda.
Gordon's continuous involvement with groups that push for BDS raises questions that the BGU authorities need to address. He is not only active in the BDS movement but also damages Israel's higher education reputation.
“The Politics of Human Shielding”
McKinney Conference Room, Watson Institute
November 17, 2015, 9:15 a.m. 5:45 p.m.
Organized by: Nicola Perugini, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Italian Studies and Middle East Studies, and Neve Gordon, Department of Politics and Government, BenGurion University of the Negev, and
Middle East Studies | Brown .
Cosponsorship funding by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Human Shields and Weaponized Bodies
Bruce Cronin (CUNY) :
Shielding attackers from responsibility: the exploitation of passive precaution in asymmetrical conflicts
Who is responsible for civilian casualties that result from air attacks against combatants operating in towns and cities during asymmetrical conflicts? The comingling of combatants with civilians and civilian objects in asymmetric conflicts has traditionally been viewed by military officials as a form of human shield activity.
According to many analysts who study this practice, weaker parties employ this tactic to protect their fighters and military resources from attack by discouraging their vastly stronger adversaries from launching assaults that could result in significant civilian casualties. Officials from militarilyadvanced states argue that these “proximity human shields” create a strategic disadvantage, forcing them to cancel planned attacks, delay engagements, and eliminate objects from their target lists. They also hold that it violates the principle of “passive precaution,” which requires defenders to clearly separate – and if necessary relocate – their military forces from civilian objects. From this perspective, responsibility for civilian casualties that result from attacks in these situations is held by the weaker party.
At the same time, aerial attacks by the stronger party in many of these situations are not consistent with military necessity; they are more accurately described as military convenience in that there are usually alternatives. In fact, stronger parties often exploit the presence of combatants in civilian areas by launching attacks against infrastructure and political targets in populated areas that they know will result in civilian casualties, calculating that they can shift the blame to the weaker adversary. This enables the vastly stronger attackers to avoid calculating the expected collateral damage into their proportionality equation. Thus, by evoking the principle of “passive precaution,” strong powers often declare attacks on civilian areas to be legal, so long as are combatants and/or weapons located somewhere in the vicinity.
This paper will argue that the primary responsibility to avoid civilian casualties in these situations lies primarily with the attacking military force. This is because of the conditions that define most modern asymmetrical conflicts:
First, asymmetrical conflicts are almost always fought solely on the territory of the weaker adversary – often in urban settings – providing few opportunities for the weaker party to mobilize and/or protect themselves from aerial attacks. In many cases, the combatants from the weaker party operate from these towns because it is where they and their supporters live and have no other alternatives.
Second, the stronger party almost always maintains complete control of the airspace, enabling them to detect and attack their adversaries at will. This not only provides an advantage against which the weaker party cannot defend, but also provides the attacker with the luxury of deliberation prior to engaging in combat.
Third, modern military strategy among technologically advanced states has shifted the locus of combat from the “battlefield” (which is defined in terms of territory and time) to “battlespace” (which is a virtual, nonlinear locus of combat), enabling the attacker to expand their theaters of operation to virtually any part of the target country. It is therefore the stronger party that usually defines that towns and cities where the weaker parties operate as battlefields, thereby creating the very situation that they condemn as a violation of the laws of armed conflict.
Bruce Cronin is Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department at the City College of New York. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University and was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. He has also taught at the University of WisconsinMadison. Cronin is the author of Community Under Anarchy (1999) and Institutions for the Common Good: International Protection Regimes in International Society (2003). He is currently writing a book that examines why states who are committed to the principle of civilian immunity and the protection of noncombatants end up killing and injuring large numbers of civilians during their military operations. The book argues that despite the efforts of Western military organizations to comply with the laws of armed conflict, the level of collateral damage produced by Western military operations are the inevitable outcome of the strategies and methods through which their military organizations fight wars. This approach encourages its military organizations to recklessly employ the use of overwhelming force under conditions that are legal but likely to cause excessive civilian harm.
Banu Bargu (New School): Bodies against war, bodies at war: human shielding as a practice of resistance
This paper examines human shielding as an act of nonviolent resistance against warfare. Drawing on recent examples from Turkey and Northern Iraq, carried out by peace activists and the local population, it discusses the logics of collective organization, questions of instrumentality and morality, and relationship to the law involved in the voluntary performance of human shielding action. The paper thus analyzes the resort to human shielding as a new form of embodied struggle that is enabled by the contemporary modalities of biopolitical warfare. The paper explores the distinguishing features of human shielding, specifically whether it has the potential to counteract the symbolic violence and hegemonic form of the politicization of life entailed by a biopolitical conception of warfare.
The paper also scrutinizes some limitations of such action in relation to the conception of subjectivity it puts forth, its appeal to “humanity,” and participation in the dominant tropes of humanitarianism of our time. Building on this analysis of the potentialities and limitations of human shielding as an act of resistance, the paper aims to interrogate how the discourse of human shielding has become a new field of contention in which the enactment of human shielding as a strategy of resistance clashes with the politically accusatory mobilization of the putative or actual use of human shielding by states against nonstate/protostate parties in conflict.
Banu Bargu’s main area of specialization is political theory, especially modern and contemporary political thought, with a thematic focus on theories of sovereignty, resistance, and biopolitics. Her research interests are situated at the intersection of philosophy, politics, and anthropology, with a regional focus on the Middle East (especially Turkish politics). In her research and teaching, she draws upon the traditions of continental and critical theory as well as the history of Western political thought, with a keen interest in interrogating these traditions from the perspective of current political issues and practices. Her work engages with thinkers such as Machiavelli, Marx, Stirner, Schmitt, Foucault, and Althusser around the themes of violence, the body, sacrifice, martyrdom, and aesthetics. It also attempts to weave together political theory with political ethnography and explores transdisciplinary and hybrid forms of research. Bargu is currently working on a booklength manuscript on Althusser’s political thought and his rethinking of the materialist tradition, especially in light of the posthumous publication of Althusser’s work on the aleatory.
Human Shields and Liberal Wars
Alice Hills (Durham University) : Human shields are a distraction
The use of human shields is an emotive but minor feature associated with specific operations and environments.
Given that it is prohibited by international legislation, debate about its utility or acceptability is actually a distraction from two more fundamental questions: (i) Is precision possible in dense urban environments? (ii) How can liberal democracies best manage civilian casualties? Both questions must be answered in the light of the tactical advantages accruing to the unscrupulous.
Alice Hills joined Durham University, UK as the chair of conflict studies in 2013. Before joining Durham she was professor of conflict and security at the University of Leeds, where her research and teaching focused on security governance in fragile states, counterinsurgency in cities, and the relationship between security and development. Prior to that she taught defence studies at the UK's Joint Services Command and Staff College where she specialised in urban operations and policemilitary relations.
Neve Gordon and Nicola Perugini (Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Brown University) :
The politics of Human Shielding and the force of discrimination
This paper examines the principle of discrimination, arguably the bedrock of international humanitarian law (IHL), in order to analyze the relationship among visibility, violence and ethics during war. According to IHL, one of the foundations of the legality of killing in situations of war is the possibility of discriminating between combatants and noncombatants. After pointing out that the condition of possibility of the principle of discrimination is visibilitythe ability to perceive a plurality of actors, to define the relationship among them, and make distinctions—we claim that when violence becomes the object of public and legal scrutiny, a legalvisual debate about the perceptions of violence and the degree of discrimination adopted by the actors in the battlefield frequently emerges. In order to investigate the relationship between visibility and discrimination we focus on human shielding as a particular articulation of the principle of discrimination, whereby the elusive category of civilianhood is transformed through an act of framing which confers on certain civilians a new legal status. Analyzing short military video clips and fographics broadly circulated by the IDF on social media during Israel’s last military operation in Gaza (2014), we use Foucault’s notion of dispositif to show how an apparatus of discrimination was developed in which a variety of institutions and actors—such as government and security agencies, think tanks, NGOs, and media outlets, which employ legal and security experts, film editors and producers, graphic designers and copywriters—put to use heterogeneous technologies, such as satellite images, lasers, aerial photos and videos in order to frame lethal force in ways that often legitimates it. We go on to show how this apparatus transformed Palestinians into human shields, thus making their killing legitimate according to IHL.
Neve Gordon ’s research focuses on human rights, the IsraeliPalestinian conflict and political theory. His first book, Israel’s Occupation , was published in 2008 by the University of California Press, while his second book, The Human Right to Dominate (written with Nicola Perugini) was by Oxford University Press. Gordon has edited two volumes, one on torture in Israel (with Ruchama Marton) and the other on marginalized perspectives on human rights. He has published over 30 articles in academic journals and is currently working on a new book project dealing with human shields. Gordon has been a member at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, Brown University, and the University of Michigan.
Nicola Perugini is Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Italian Studies and Middle East Studies at Brown University and coauthor (with Neve Gordon) of The Human Right to Dominate (Oxford University Press, 2015). Perugini is an anthropologist who taught at and directed the Al Quds Bard Honors College Human Rights Program in Jerusalem. In 2008-2009 he taught at the International Relations Department at American University of Rome. In 2012-2013 Perugini was a Member at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton). He has published articles on law and spatial practices, embedded anthropology, asylum seekers, humanitarianism, politics of the gaze, and trauma and settler colonialism in a number of Italian and International journals and edited volumes. Perugini collaborates with DAAR (Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, Beit Sahour, Palestine) and has collaborated with the research project “Forensic Architecture” (Goldsmiths, University of London, funded by the European Research Council). From 2010 to 2012 he has worked as a consultant for Unesco in Palestine and he is the corecipient of the 2011 Melina Mercouri International Prize the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes.
Human Shields, Asymmetrical Warfare and International Law
Lisa Hajjar (University of California Santa Barbara): Customizing extreme violence: a critical assessment of Israel’s War record in Gaza
One feature of international humanitarian law (IHL) is the role of state practice—particularly the practice of powerful states—in promoting what is or should be legal in the context of war and conflict. Customary IHL, according to the ICRC, “derives from ‘a general practice accepted as law’….and that the international community believes that such practice is required as a matter of law.” This paper focuses on the Israeli record of state practice and legal interpretation that func'tion in tandem to expand the state’s right to deploy extreme violence against Palestinians. However, unlike states that just ignore legal rules, Israeli officials strive to make their violence appear “legal” and to promote their practice as “the new custom” for warring against stateless enemies.
The paper will highlight the Israeli policy of targeted killing, and the use of massive force in disregard of the rules of distinction and proportionality (the Dahiya Doctrine) as well to prevent a live kidnapping of a soldier (the Hannibal Doctrine). The aim is to demonstrate how the 2014 Gaza War exemplifies the high stakes battles over international custom.
Lisa Hajjar has an MA in Arab Studies with a concentration in International Affairs from Georgetown University (1986) and a PhD in Sociology from The American University (1995). Her areas of expertise include sociology of law, law and society, international and global studies, and political sociology. Her research interests include human rights, international law, torture, war and conflict. She is the author of Courting Conflict: The Israeli Military Court System in the West Bank and Gaza (University of California Press, 2005) and Torture: A Sociology of Violence and Human Rights (Routledge, 2012). She is currently working on a book about antitorture lawyering in the United States in the post9/11 period. In 2014-2015 she was the Edward W. Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut.
Chase Madar (Foreign affairs journalist and legal analyst) :
Asymmetrical warfare and the laws of armed conflict: the American experience
Although Washington is increasingly engaged in asymmetric wars around the world as a belligerent or patron, such wars are nothing new in the sweep of U.S. history. What happens to law’s formal requirement of impartial evenhandedness when applied to barely commensurate parties? In the course of the ongoing global war on terror, what has changed in American war law–and what remains constant? As the unipolar moment of U.S. power shows little sign of waning, asymmetrical warfare may come to define jus in bello just as the symmetrical wars of multipolar Europe once did, and still do. The law around direct participation in hostilities and human shields interpreted in the tradition of Washingtonian lawfare.
Chase Madar is a journalist and former civil rights attorney in New York. A contributing editor at The American Conservative magazine, he also writes for the London Review of Books, Le Monde Diplomatique, The National Interest, Al Jazeera, Jacboin, TomDispatch and the Times Literary Supplement. He is the author of The Passion of Chelsea Manning: The Story behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower .
Human Shields, Human Rights and Military Necessity: A conversation with Charles Dunlap and Avner Gidron
Charles Dunlap (Duke University)
Charles J. Dunlap Jr., the former deputy judge advocate general of the United States Air Force, joined the Duke Law faculty in July 2010 where he is a professor of the practice of law and Executive Director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security. His teaching and scholarly writing focus on national security, in ternational law, civilmilitary relations, cyberwar, airpower, counterinsurgency, military justice, and ethical issues related to the practice of national security law. Dunlap retired from the Air Force in June 2010, having attained the rank of major general during a 34year career in the Judge Advocate General Corps. In his capacity as deputy judge advocate general from May 2006 to March2010, he assisted the judge advocate general in the professional supervision of more than 2,200 judge advocates, 350 civilian lawyers, 1,400 enlisted paralegals, and 500 civilians around the world. In addition to overseeing an array of military justice, operational, international, and civil law func'tions, he provided legal advice to the Air Staff and commanders at all levels. In the course of his career, Dunlap has been involved in various highprofile interagency and policy matters, highlighted by his testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives concerning the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Dunlap previously served as staff judge advocate at Headquarters Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia and at Headquarters Air Education and Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, among other leadership posts. His other assignments include the faculty of the Air Force Judge Advocate General School where he taught various civil and criminal law topics. An experienced trial lawyer, he also spent two years as a military trial judge for a 22state circuit. He served tours in the United Kingdom and Korea, and he deployed for operations in the Middle East and Africa, including short stints in support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also led militarytomilitary delegations to Colombia, Uruguay, Iraq, and the Czech Republic.
Avner Gidron (Amnesty International)
Avner Gidron is Senior Policy Adviser at Amnesty International.
Human Shields and the Force of Discrimination
Neve Gordon is an associate professor of politics and government at Ben Gurion University. His research focuses on human rights, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and political theory. His first book, Israel’s Occupation
, was published in 2008 by the University of California Press, and his second book, The Human Right to Dominate
(written with Nicola Perugini) was published by Oxford University Press in July 2015. Gordon has edited two volumes, one on torture in Israel (with Ruchama Marton) and the other on marginalized perspectives on human rights. He has published over 30 articles in academic journals and is currently working on a new book project dealing with human shields. Gordon has been a member at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley, Brown University, and the University of Michigan.
Institute for Middle East Studies, with the support of the Department of Education's National Reserach Center (NRC) Grant.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E St. NW
Washington, District Of Columbia 20052
The politics of human shielding: On the resignification of space and the constitution of civilians as shields in liberal wars
- Neve Gordon⇑
- Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
- The authors acknowledge equal contribution. Their names appear in alphabetical order. Corresponding author:
Neve Gordon, Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In this paper, we use Israel/Palestine as a case study to examine the politics of human shielding, while focusing on the epistemic and political operations through which the deployment of the legal category of human shield legitimizes the use of lethal force. After offering a concise genealogy of human shields in international law, we examine the way Israel used the concept in the 2014 Gaza war by analyzing a series of infographics spread by the IDF on social media. Exposing the connection between the re-signification of space and the constitution of a civilian as a shield, we maintain that the infographics are part of a broader apparatus of discrimination deployed by Israel to frame its violence post hoc in order to claim that this violence was utilized in accordance with international law. We conclude by arguing that the relatively recent appearance of human shields highlights the manifestation of a contemporary political antinomy: human shields have to continue to be considered protected civilians, but since they are considered an integral part of the hostilities they are transformed into killable subjects.
Keywords Human shields, civilian, urban warfare, social media, principle of distinction, international humanitarian law, Israel, Palestine
The meaning of the distinction between legitimate violence and illegitimate violence is not immediately obvious. Walter Benjamin, Critique of Violence A shield literally denotes an object of variable dimension and shape, which is used as an instrument of protection. As a basic military concept, the word shield refers to a universal
The authors acknowledge equal contribution. Their names appear in alphabetical order. Corresponding author: Neve Gordon, Department of Politics and Government, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel. Email: email@example.com Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 0(0) 1–20 ! The Author(s) 2015 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0263775815607478 epd.sagepub.com
and cross-cultural instrument utilized in diﬀerent contexts in order to provide defense and preserve the human body from being injured. On the one hand, then, a shield is a protective tool, one that reminds us that human beings, even the most capable and brave, always remain vulnerable subjects who can be injured or killed. On the other hand, since almost every oﬀensive is dependent on some sort of protection, the shield also func'tions as a necessary instrument of combat, making it easier for its possessor to injure or kill the enemy. The shield, in other words, serves as a physical and conceptual threshold. It epitomizes the dialectic between armed oﬀense and defense within the framework of violence and war. The issue becomes even more complex—evoking the Benjaminian (1978) question about the meaning of violence—when the adjective human is tied to the word shield, forming the phrase human shield.
Generally speaking, this phrase refers to those situations in which civilian bodies acquire a protective func'tion in the midst of ﬁghting; willingly or unwillingly these bodies are transformed into a technology of warfare—in the Foucauldian (1988) sense whereby technology can be a form of human action—and, like inanimate shields, they embody a dialectic between oﬀense and defense. But in spite of the similarities between inanimate and animate shields, three crucial distinctions need to be stressed in order to understand the speciﬁcity of human shielding.
First, unlike the inanimate shield, the human shield is predicated upon a value that is ascribed to a living human being who is deﬁned as a civilian and as such protected according to international humanitarian law (IHL). Put diﬀerently, the materiality of the human body does not really lend itself to shielding and therefore if the human was conceived to be a mere inanimate object lacking the value assigned to the human qua civilian it would not be useful as a shield; a human body thus becomes a shield by virtue of its deﬁnition as a civilian. The central category of civilian in IHL (Kinsella, 2011) is, in other words, the condition of possibility of human shielding.
Second, as opposed to the inanimate shield, which is ultimately conceived and produced in order to protect human vulnerability in war, in the case of human shields vulnerability itself becomes the means of protection. In other words, the human shield defends a vulnerable body (an animated combatant), an object (an unanimated weapon or military structure), or an area (in some cases a civilian area) that has become part of the military hostilities, but it does so through its own vulnerability. In this sense, the politics of human shielding is fundamentally a politics of vulnerability: a form of politics in which vulnerability occupies a central position in the deﬁnition of the relationship between political actors within the battleﬁeld and the meaning of violence.
The third distinction results from the ﬁrst two and concerns the ethics of shielding. Unlike inanimate shields, the appearance of both voluntary and involuntary human shields in a war zone produces a certain ethical uncertainty or ambiguity in the laws of war (Bargu, 2013). When a person in a battleﬁeld is deﬁned as a human shield—a vulnerable civilian body that willingly or not becomes a technology of warfare whose func'tion is to render a military target immune—he or she loses some of the protections assigned to civilians by IHL and an ethical quandary surfaces relating to the precise legal status of the human shield. Questions concerning the circumstances allowing human shields to be legitimately killed, the way the spaces they occupy are signiﬁed, as well as who is responsible for the life and potential death of the human shield, constitute the basic grammar of the ethics of human shielding. In the following pages we focus on this latter articulation of human shielding, while reﬂecting on the emergence of the phrase human shields in its contemporary normative and political meaning (Otto, 2004; Rubinstein and Roznai, 2011; Schmitt, 2008). What exactly are human shields? When did the notion of human shielding begin to crystallize in
the international political arena? And what is the ethical func'tion of human shields, particularly in relation to the deployment and legitimization of political violence? In order to better understand the politics of human shielding—by which we mean the epistemic and political operations through which the deployment of the legal category of human shield legitimizes the use of lethal force, potentially against entire civilian populations and the spaces they inhabit—we examine the 2014 Israeli military operation in Gaza, dubbed by Israel as ‘‘Protective Edge’’. One of the prominent claims repeated by the Israeli government and military throughout the oﬀensive is that Hamas (the Palestinian Islamist party that rules the Gaza Strip) deliberately used human shields as a warfare technique, and therefore it bears responsibility for the extensive killing of civilians and destruction of civilian buildings and infrastructures carried out by the Israeli army during the military campaign. In his ﬁrst appearance at the UN General Assembly after Protective Edge, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated the human shields mantra. Showing his international audience a picture of children playing in the vicinity of a rocket launcher, he averred that ‘‘Hamas deliberately placed its rockets where Palestinian children live and play’’ (Frederick, 2014). The constant reiteration of the human shields trope in reference to Gaza demands further inquiry. And although this military campaign presented its own speciﬁcities, the way the concept human shield was deployed throughout the fray helps reveal why the accusation of human shielding applies only to certain political actors; why only certain subjects can become human shields while others are excluded; and what is the foundational logic and political implications of these distinctions.
We begin to address these questions with a concise genealogy of human shields in international law, followed by a brief overview of how the discourse of human shields emerged in the context of Israel/Palestine. Next, we examine the way Israel used the concept human shield in the 2014 Gaza war by analyzing a series of infographics spread by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on its Twitter account, Facebook and oﬃcial blog. It is in this context that we discuss the intricately knit connection between the resigniﬁcation of space and the constitution of a civilian as a shield, showing also that the infographics are merely one element in a broader apparatus of discrimination produced by the IDF. After illustrating how the deployment of the phrase human shield helps render legal the deployment of lethal violence against civilians, we conclude by arguing that the relatively recent appearance of human shields highlights the manifestation of a contemporary political antinomy. A brief genealogy of human shields Every critique of violence is primarily a historical and philosophical investigation into the legal and political genealogy of the concepts that provide violence its own rationalization (Benjamin, 1978). In IHL, the term civilian is one of the key concepts that determines the legitimacy and illegitimacy of violence (Kinsella, 2011; Meron, 1989; Pilloud et al., 1987). The principle of distinction between combatant and noncombatant formally serves to protect civilian lives (Hannikainen, 1988). Diﬀerent humanitarian conventions stipulate how civilians should be protected in time of war (Sasso' li et al., 2011). And yet, as Anghie (2007) and other scholars (Ringmar, 2013; Wilke, 2014) remind us, civilianhood was historically couched along racial lines until its progressive universalization following World War II. During colonialism, the status of civilian was recognized only to the citizens of colonial powers. IHL did not protect either indigenous combatants or noncombatants. Gordon and Perugini 3 Therefore, when colonial states killed the colonized they did it without violating international law, since colonial subjects were considered outside its sphere of application (Anghie, 2007). But after the process of decolonization the category of combatant and civilian was extended to the ex-colonized, who were then conceived as protected subjects under international law. The universalization of civilianhood within the post-colonial context has produced new ethical dilemmas for international law regulating warfare. A new tension emerged between, on the one hand, the desire of liberal states to frame their wars and violence within international law (Khalili, 2012) and, on the other hand, the wide scale killing of civilians in contemporary wars (Eck and Hultman, 2007). This, as we maintain, is exactly why the concept human shield is becoming increasingly important and why its critique is urgent. Human shielding refers to the use of persons protected by IHL, such as prisoners of war or civilians, to deter attacks on combatants or military sites. At ﬁrst glance, the phrase human shield does not seem to rationalize violence, but rather to prohibit an unethical form of warfare and render it illegitimate. Placing civilians on train tracks, in airports or in any site that is considered to be a legitimate military target of the enemy army in order to prevent the latter from striking is illegal according to IHL. Along similar lines, carrying out military operations from within civilian spaces, particularly schools, hospitals, religious sites, civilian neighborhoods and even industrial areas is illegal due to the potential use of human shields. While human shields have been used throughout history in order to protect both military and non-military targets, 1 it took the greater part of the 20th century for the legal category of human shielding to crystallize into its contemporary normative meaning. One cannot ﬁnd explicit reference to human shields in the Hague Conventions, but Article 23 of the 1907 Convention states that ‘‘A belligerent is forbidden to compel the nationals of the hostile party to take part in the operations of war directed against their own country’’. 2 Referring to this article, an oﬃcial commission of the Belgian government blamed the German forces of using ‘‘human screens’’ during World War I. 3 The authors of the 1915 report explain that ‘‘If it be not permissible to compel a man to ﬁre on his fellow citizens, neither can he be forced to protect the enemy and to serve as a living screen’’. This is how the Belgian governmental commission reconstructed some of the German practices of ‘‘human screening’’: In both cases the eﬀect would be to compel him to engage in acts of warfare against his own countrymen, to expose him to danger, and to inﬂict upon him the most painful moral violence. But certain of the German oﬃcers have little regard for such considerations. On the 6th August a number of soldiers were made prisoners by a German column. At Saive a company of Belgians were encountered. The prisoners were immediately placed at the head of the troops, so to cover the column and make it impossible for the Belgians to ﬁre upon them. On the 23rd August the Germans forced women and children to walk in front of the troops ordered to take the bridge at Lives, opposite to Biez. A number of these women and children were wounded (Oﬃcial Commission of the Belgian Government, 1915: xviii). Germany’s occupation of Belgium provoked an intense debate that included European government oﬃcials, US representatives, and diﬀerent intellectuals. In the eyes of many participating in this debate, German warfare in Belgium constituted a moral watershed. Abuses against Belgian civilians and particularly the violation of the principle of distinction between combatants and noncombatants occupied, for example, a central place in Emile Durkheim’s condemnation of ‘‘German mentality’’. In spite of the fact that Germany had previously used many of its WWI warfare techniques in its colonies
(including the use of civilians to prevent attacks against its troops), according to Durkheim, WWI and particularly the crimes Germany committed on European soil represented a turning point that marked Germany’s exclusion from ‘‘the great family of civilized people’’ (Durkheim, 1915: 3). 4 While the Belgian case may have been one of the ﬁrst instances whereby an enemy army was explicitly accused of using human shields by an oﬃcial commission, during and after World War II human shielding was referred to more frequently. Nazi military commanders frequently transported prisoners in trains carrying ammunition and soldiers in an attempt to shield the trains and tracks from aerial attacks. But this did not stop the Allies, who bombed the trains while knowing that innocent prisoners, transformed by the Germans into human shields, were being killed (Blatman, 2011). It is therefore not particularly surprising that in the Fourth Geneva Convention the pertinent article was altered so as to permit military forces to attack targets that are protected by human shields, thus combining the prohibition of using human shields with the legalization of killing them (provided the killing abides by the principle of proportionality). While the term human shield does not actually appear in the document, the Fourth Geneva Convention provides de jure protection to militaries that kill human shields. 5 The word shield ﬁrst appears in the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Convention, only after decolonization. Article 51(7) both prohibits the use of human shields and reiterates that it is legitimate for militaries to attack areas protected by human shields. ‘‘The presence or movement of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favor or impede military operations. The Parties to the conﬂict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations’’. 6 More recently, the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court characterized human shielding as a war crime. 7 The introduction of human shields in IHL was, as Bargu (2013) has noted, a reaction to the increasing ‘‘weaponization’’ of human bodies in contemporary warfare. Bargu concentrates on voluntary human shields, arguing that they should be conceived as a new form of agency that aims to protect the weak by achieving deterrence during warfare through the invocation of a certain moral sensibility. We follow this line of argument, but shift the perspective in two important ways. First, we are interested in all forms of human shielding, both voluntary and involuntary, particularly since the latter comprise the vast majority of human shields. Accordingly, agency is not a prominent category in our analysis. Second, we examine the phenomenon by analyzing how the powerful operate, maintaining that the use of the legal phrase human shields should be understood not so much as a protective technology of the weak, but rather as a necro- technology deployed by the strong—a technology that recasts civilians as legitimate targets of lethal violence. Indeed, the signiﬁcance of human shield clauses in international law cannot be overstated considering that urban settings are rapidly becoming exceptionally prominent battleﬁelds (Gregory, 2011). Urban areas, as Stephen Graham put it, ‘‘have become the lightning conductors for our planet’s political violence’’, while ‘‘warfare strongly shapes quotidian urban life’’ (Graham, 2011: 16). The dramatic increase in urban warfare entails that civilians inevitably occupy the front lines of the ﬁghting. Insofar as this is the case, then practically all ﬁghting within cities involves warfare practices that, according to IHL, can be said to include the use of human shields. It also suggests that human shielding has a very pronounced spatial and architectural dimension. Gordon and Perugini 5 The development of the human shields discourse in Israel/Palestine Civilians have often been at the forefront of violence in Israel/Palestine. One of the ﬁrst instances of the use of human shields occurred during the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in mandatory Palestine, when Palestinians carried out frequent acts of anti-colonial sabotage against British installations, including railway lines and trains. Initially, the lines were patrolled on foot and by reinforcing the train cabs with armor and mounting them with soldiers and machineguns. This did not seem to work, since the ‘‘trolleys were derailed and ﬁred at on numerous occasions’’. The British accordingly equipped the train with a ‘‘pony truck’’, a contraption connected to the front of the train with a long extension whose func'tion was to deﬂect the explosion of mines. As a report about the railways points out, ‘‘The pony trucks had a ﬂat sheet built over the single axle on which, it was discovered, hostages could be made to sit’’ (Figure 1). Hence, Palestinian bodies became a warfare technology, used as human shields against insurgency attacks and as ‘‘human mine sweepers’’ (Cotterell, 1986; see also Anderson 2013 for the use of human shields during the 1936–1939 Arab revolt). While human shields were used sporadically in Israel/Palestine over the next seven decades, it was only in the midst of the second Intifada that the legal category human shield was invoked with certain frequency. In a report entitled Human Shield, the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem describes how, during the 2002 military operation ‘‘Defensive Shield’’, Israeli soldiers would randomly take Palestinian civilians and force
Figure 1. Two Palestinians being taken for an uncomfortable ride on the pony truck extension. Source: Haganah Museum.
them to enter buildings suspected of being booby-trapped, made them remove suspicious objects from roads, stand inside houses where soldiers had set up military positions, and walk in front of soldiers to shield them from gunﬁre (Stein, 2002). Together with other liberal human rights organizations (Sissons, 2002) B’Tselem condemned Israel for violating the fundamental principle of civilian immunity inscribed in IHL. They noted that the Fourth Geneva Convention and the 1977 Additional Protocol explicitly forbid the use of the civilian population to aid the military objectives of the occupying army as well as the forced use of local residents as a means towards military advantage or for the securing of intelligence. In an attempt to stop the weaponization of Palestinian human bodies, seven liberal Israeli human rights NGOs submitted a petition against the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense and the Israeli military, asking the High Court of Justice to ban the use of human shields (Adalah, 2014). In 2005, the Court reached a decision. Citing Pictet (1958), who wrote the oﬃcial commentary on the Four Geneva Conventions, Chief Justice Aharon Barak characterized the use of people as human shields as a ‘‘cruel and barbaric’’ act. He noted that ‘‘a basic principle, which passes as a common thread running through all of the law of belligerent occupation, is the prohibition of use of protected residents as a part of the war eﬀort of the occupying army’’. IHL was, in other words, used by the court to protect Palestinian civilians against the demands of ‘‘military necessity’’. One year after the High Court ruling, other Israeli political actors began appropriating the term human shield. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC), a conservative Israeli think-tank whose oﬃces are located in the Ministry of Defense, published a report about Hezbollah’s use of Lebanese civilians as human shields during the 2006 Lebanon War (Erlich, 2006). In this report, the claims originally made by Israeli and international human rights organizations against the IDF, and which were validated by the High Court of Justice, were slightly reframed. Appropriating the same logic advanced by the liberal human rights NGOs, the anti-terrorism think-tank accused Israel’s enemies of human shielding. In so doing, the think-tank transformed the prohibition of using human shields into a legal and ethical justiﬁcation for military necessity (Perugini and Gordon, 2015). The think-tank reasoned that Hezbollah’s violation served to legitimize Israel’s killing of Lebanese civilians, pointing out that the ‘‘exploitation’’ of a civilian population is ‘‘considered a war crime and gross violation of international laws governing armed conﬂict’’. It went on to argue that ‘‘the IDF’s air strikes and ground attacks against Hezbollah targets located in population centers were carried out in accordance with international law, which does not grant immunity to a terrorist organization deliberately hiding behind civilians, using them as human shields’’ (Erlich, 2006: 8, 10). Hence, the use of human shields is not only a legal violation, but, in contemporary asymmetric urban wars, can also help validate the ethical claim that the death of ‘‘untargeted civilians’’ is merely collateral damage. A few years later, following the Israeli military campaign in Gaza called Cast Lead (winter 2008–2009), the same conservative think-tank published a report entitled Evidence of the Use of the Civilian Population as Human Shields (ITIC, 2009a). In this and other reports released in subsequent months, the ITIC (2009b) provided a series of images and testimonies as evidence of how Hamas and other militant groups had used homes, schools and mosques for military-operational purposes. ITIC’s descriptions help corroborate Weizman’s (2006) claim that cities are not simply the site but the very medium of contemporary warfare as urban spheres increasingly become primary theatres of violence. Accordingly, within urban warfare the noncombatant and combatant as well as civilian and military ediﬁces overlap. But since the noncombatant civilian is protected according to IHL Gordon and Perugini 7 this overlapping creates a problem for liberal regimes which insist on the legality of their actions in order to underscore the morality of the violence they deploy.
Gaza 2014 and human shields
According to data gathered by the UN, at least 2133 Palestinians were killed during Israel’s 2014 military campaign ‘‘Protective Edge’’ in Gaza. Of the initially veriﬁed cases, 1489 are believed to be civilians, including 500 children. Many fatalities involved multiple family members, with at least 142 Palestinian families having three or more relatives killed in the same incident, for a total of 739 deaths. In addition, approximately 18,000 housing units were either destroyed or severely damaged, leaving approximately 108,000 people homeless. On the Israeli side, 72 people were killed during the war, 67 combatants and 5 civilians (OCHA oPt, 2014). These ﬁgures already point to a clear discrepancy with respect to the number and proportion of civilian deaths: 70% of all those killed by Israel were civilians compared to the 7.5% of civilians killed by Palestinians. The legal phrase ‘‘human shield’’ became one of the central tropes promulgated by Israel during the Gaza war because, on the one hand, the categorization of civilians as human shields helps conceal the fact that ‘‘pin point strikes’’ and ‘‘surgical capabilities’’ can neither predict nor guarantee discrimination, while on the other hand, it helps Israel justify the large proportion of civilian deaths and the destruction of civilian spaces in Gaza. The normative argument became part of ‘‘semiotic warfare’’ aimed at legitimizing Israel’s military campaign. 8