Frames of law – Israeli resaerch

My research on Israeli military lawyers has finally been published over at Environment & Planning D: Society and Space. You can read the full version, entitled ‘Frames of law: operational legal advice in the Israeli military’ here. And the abstract:

In this paper I draw on interviews conducted with former Israeli military lawyers about their role in lethal targeting operations. I argue that military lawyers and the practice of operational law help to legitimize and extend violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. To make the case I focus on Israel’s ‘targeted killing policy’ (2000–present) and on the involvement of military lawyers in the planning and execution stages of targeting operations. I offer two contributions to the literature on war and law; first, I extend Derek Gregory’s analysis of the ‘kill chain’ by arguing that targeting is increasingly made possible by a ‘technolegal’ process. Second, I add nuance to Eyal Weizman’s account of how law extends violence in what he calls the ‘humanitarian present’. I argue that we must attend not only to international humanitarian law and different scales of law but to the simultaneously plural and overlapping legal regimes that govern late modern war. I conclude with a reflection on Judith Butler’s Frames of War to think through the ways in which ‘frames of law’ have come to structure our apprehension of targeting and war today.

The Kirya, the IDF military compound in central Tel Aviv and the location of the Military Advocate General Corps. Photo by author
The Kirya, the IDF military compound in central Tel Aviv and the location of the Military Advocate General Corps. Photo by author

The paper is being published in a special issue on ‘war/law/space’ that I’m co-editing with my dear friend and colleague Michael D. Smith. The special issue is out later this month but for now the EPD blog has some info and links to all of the other papers. More on all of this soon and I’ll post our introduction to the special issue with more links, info and commentary in the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, Mikko Joronen (School of Management, Tampere, Finland) has published a very interesting paper on the 2015 Israeli war on Gaza: “Death comes knocking on the roof”: Thanatopolitics of Ethical Killing During Operation Protective Edge in Gaza’ (full read: here).

While my paper was in press, US legal scholar (and former military lawyer) Michael Schmitt and military lawyer John Merriam published two papers on the very same topic as my Frames of Law paper (click here and here). Not surprisingly, they have a very different take on things and their papers argue that the Israeli military not only abide by the law but go beyond it in terms of the restrictions they place on the use of force. Schmitt and Merriam have unparalleled access to the Israeli military lawyers because of who they are: they’re friendly faces that the Israeli military can trust. All of this requires a full post, which I’ll get to soon.

I welcome any comments or criticisms of my paper: do get in touch if you have any.

2 Comments

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  1. Thanks for this interesting text. I think it fills a very important void for IL research.
    I agree with much of the article has to say specifically with the point that IHL, or IL for that matter, when practiced, generates forms of power relations other than what is immediately discernable in its textual form. A point that you make by insisting on separation or difference between IL and OPLAW. Here what you, inevitably, suggest is that IL is to an extent instrumentalised by JAG’s/MAGC in order to meet the commander’s ever changing intent.
    Yet I am not so convinced of such sharp separation between OPLAW and IL/IHL. After all the practices of stats are also parts of production of law in ‘international law.’
    So to say these practices are not so much deviation, instrumentalisation or as you suggest, transformation of IHL into accepting an ever expansive inventories of targets.
    In other words ‘instrumentalisation’ is part of the potential –power– of instruments. IHL as much as it can be about containing the expansion of violence is about the contained expansion of violence. Point being that, it is one thing to see IHL as instrumentalised for a particular – desirable or undesirable – ends and another to see it as an instrument simultaneously in possession of multiple, at times contradictory ends. I think of the latter to be better representative IL or IHL.
    A friend once made an analogy in this regard, worth mentioning here; ‘a shovel is not an instrument of digging dirt, digging dirt invented an instrument called shovel.’ And I take it a step further if that shovel is used for functions other than digging, lets say injuring a body, this function is not so much external to the instrument or as such vested into the creativity of the agent using it. After all the same properties that make shovel effective tool of digging makes it also effective in injuring. Its the same hard cold iron that cuts through flesh and dirt.
    So about the move from IL to OPLAW: What is the object of transformation in the move from IL to OPLAW ? To be clear once again, I agree that in the material outcome there is a transformation – devastating one indeed – of lets say the target inventory. Now the third, and forth circles are framed as legitimate target (and given the secretive uses of disposition matrix, who knows maybe there is a fifth or sixth, legitimised circle.) Yet this, I don’t see as transformation of the political rationality by which organised killing was legitimised in IL/IHL/LOAC in the first place.
    In the end I also agree, and for long time though of the same thing, that the content of law is determined when it is put in to operation. Which in fact makes it important to note that in this reading then IL a pure form, a frame, that eventually makes the content ‘presentable’ and precisely because of that comprehension of acts as operations is not possible without the frame that captures it. the frame is involved not only to giving meaning to the act but makes the act meaningful by organizing it as well.
    So to say IHL is just a frame, but what better form to take than a frame if the rational is to maintain any expansive operation within its sensible regime?
    Anyhow I don’t know if I was successful in making my point clear, if by any chance I was, I would be happy to hear your thoughts.

  2. Reblogged this on rhulgeopolitics and commented:
    Very excited to see Craig Jones’s paper ‘Frames of Law’ out in Society and Space.

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