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Morality, Ethics and Law in Wartime

The IDI Army and Society Project included a forum that brought together high-ranking officers from the armed forces and senior figures from academia, the public sector and the media. The forum was established to develop ways of dealing with the tensions and problems that arise when issues located alongside the dividing line between society and the armed forces collide with one another. The aim of the project was to jointly resolve crucial issues, to present a wide range of opinions and to identify possible courses of action.

The sixth session of The Army and Society Forum dealt with issues relating to morality, ethics and law in wartime. Participating in this gathering were senior officers from the IDF, the staff of The Israel Democracy Institute, researchers from the world of academia, and various public figures.

Israel is presently in the midst of a new era in terms of the concept of war, both from a global perspective - international terrorism - and a local perspective—the current conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. In the present conflict, Israel has been forced to switch to a combat reality with its own unique characteristics. There are no clear and recognized geographical boundaries between the two sides, and the customary distinction between combatants and civilians has become extremely blurred. In contrast with large-scale war, in the current conflict decisions are made by the sergeant and the company commander, and a great deal of power rests in the hands of a few individuals. Finally, some the objectives in the present conflict are psychological and sociological in nature: to cause damage to the moral and social steadfastness of the other side in order to wear down its basic values and undermine the belief in the justice of its path.

Since the nature of the conflict in which the IDF is presently engaged is different from conventional warfare, we ask whether the ethical considerations that guide the IDF need to change. It appears that the dilemmas with which the IDF is now struggling are both theoretical dilemmas resulting from the nature of the conflict, and concrete and immediate dilemmas that confront the lowliest soldier manning the roadblock. In this type of warfare, is it possible to talk about not only prevention, but also retribution? How do you reconcile the issue of stopping "a ticking bomb" with the ethical rule that states that no one may be harmed without benefit of a trial? There is tension between the reality of combat and the ethical values that guide soldiers in combat. This book attempts to deal with these issues.



Israeli Press Coverage of the Current Conflict

Characteristics of the Present Conflict
Historical Background
Classic Warfare and the Current Conflict
The Issue of Narrative
The Army and the Political Echelon
The Army, Society and the Political Echelon

Morality, Ethics and Law
Moral and Ethical Dilemmas
Legal Dilemmas
International Law

Psychological, Ethical and Moral Aspects of the Conflict
Coping Mechanisms

A System of Ethical-Moral Principles

A Research Agenda

Appendix A: Conference Programs
Appendix B: Conference Participants
Appendix C: Conference Information Packet
Appendix D: Amnesty International Report (April – June 2002)
Appendix E: Excerpts from the Geneva Convention (1949)
Appendix F: Excerpts from the Rome Statute
Appendix G: The IDF Spirit


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