Jewish Review of Books

The Last Word

Friendly Fire: A Response and Rejoinder


thank my friend Jeremy Rabkin for the words of praise for my short book, Israel and the Struggle over the International Laws of War, in the first several paragraphs of his review. I salute him for the radical gestures, observations, and prescriptions he puts forward in the remainder of the review. And, reluctantly, I am compelled to criticize him for allowing the axe he was apparently determined to grind to come between him and fulfillment of the most basic obligations of a reviewer of books.

Rabkin chose to take the occasion of his review to throw down the gauntlet on a deep issue that raises fundamental political and philosophical questions. I argue for reforming the modern international laws of war. He is keen to overthrow them. It could be a fascinating debate. Unfortunately, Rabkin's revolutionary fervor prevents him from restating my arguments accurately and criticizing my views cogently.

One would think from reading Rabkin's review that the purpose of my book was restricted to, in Rabkin's flippant phrase, "getting Israel off the hook" in connection to the Goldstone Report and the Gaza flotilla controversy. To be sure, one of my major aims was to show that contrary to the vicious accusations that it systematically committed war crimes, Israel respected the international laws of war in its Gaza operation of December 2008 to January 2009 and in enforcing its blockade of Gaza against the Mavi Marmara in May 2010. Readers of Rabkin's review, however, would never know that another major aim of my book was to show that the concerted effort—involving diplomats, international human rights lawyers, activists, journalists, and professors of international law—to criminalize Israel's right of self-defense is relevant to all liberal democracies and especially to the United States.

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