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Review Essay

Fighting the Laws of War

Protecting Civilians in Asymmetric Conflict

In This Review

Moral Dilemmas of Modern War: Torture, Assassination, and Blackmail in an Age of Asymmetric Conflict
Moral Dilemmas of Modern War: Torture, Assassination, and Blackmail in an Age of Asymmetric Conflict
By Michael L. Gross
Cambridge University Press, 2009, 336 pp. $27.99 Purchase
Inventing Collateral Damage: Civilian Casualties, War, and Empire
Inventing Collateral Damage: Civilian Casualties, War, and Empire
By
Between the Lines, 2009, 372 pp. $34.95 Purchase

In December 2008 and January 2009, Hamas and Israel waged a fierce three-week battle in the Gaza Strip. The Israel Defense Forces targeted urban infrastructure in Gaza, devastating populated areas as they attempted to end the barrage of Qassam rockets fired indiscriminately by Hamas toward southern Israeli cities. The war ended inconclusively in January, when Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire amid concerns about mounting civilian casualties. But the conflict shifted from Gaza to Geneva in April, when the UN Human Rights Council appointed former South African judge Richard Goldstone -- chief UN prosecutor in Yugoslavia and Rwanda during the 1990s -- to lead a fact-finding mission to Gaza. In September, Goldstone's team announced its conclusion: both Hamas and Israel had violated the laws of war, and both had possibly committed crimes against humanity.

Many have interpreted the Goldstone report, as it has become known, as yet another battle in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,

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