C2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Responding to Hamas Attacks from Gaza—Issues of Proportionality,” March 2008 (excerpts)

In response to criticisms that its military attacks on Gaza following Hamas Qassam rocket strikes in Sederot were causing unnecessary civilian casualties, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) released a background paper in March, excerpted below, to clarify and justify the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) understanding of the principle of proportionality. This principle, along with the principle of intentionality, forms the jurisprudence of International Humanitarian Law. Citing a number of international legal scholars and Article 52(2) of the Additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions (1977), to which Israel is a signatory, the background paper attempts to redefine proportionality in order to legitimate attacks on targets that are not strictly military, placing the blame for any civilian deaths on Hamas for using civilians as “human shields.” Although the IDF and the MFA have advanced this argument in response to international criticism about IDF strikes causing civilian deaths in Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories, this background paper represents an attempt to subordinate the need to cause as little harm to civilians as possible to Israel’s stated need to preempt future attacks. The report is available online at www.mfa.gov.il.