This article examines the content of and justification for a new "ethical code" designed for the Israeli army to take into account the "fight against terror." It argues that the code contains two innovations: it includes acts aimed exclusively at military targets in its definition of "terrorism," and it contains a principle of distinction that prioritizes the lives of citizen combatants over those of noncitizen noncombatants, contrary to centuries of theorizing about the morality of war as well as international humanitarian law. The article suggests that the principle of distinction played a direct role in Israel's offensive in Gaza in winter 2008-2009, as demonstrated by a preponderance of testimony indicating that Israeli military commanders explicitly instructed soldiers to give priority to their own lives over those of Palestinian noncombatants.
Muhammad Ali Khalidi is an associate professor of philosophy at York University in Toronto. He has been a research consultant at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Beirut and has worked on the subject of refugee rights, including the right of self-determination and the right of return. He also writes on various topics in the philosophy of science, mind, and cognition.