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The Targeted Killing Judgment of the Israeli Supreme Court and the Critique of Legal Violence
Law & Critique (2012)
  • Markus Gunneflo

The targeted killing judgment of the Israeli Supreme Court has, since it was handed down in December 2006, received a significant amount of attention: praise as well as criticism. Offering neither praise nor criticism, the present article is instead an attempt at a ‘critique’ of the judgment drawing on the German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin’s famous essay from 1921, ‘Critique of Violence’. The article focuses on a key aspect of Benjamin’s critique: the distinction between the two modalities of ‘legal violence’ – lawmaking or foundational violence and law-preserving or administrative violence. Analysing the fact that the Court exercises jurisdiction over these killings in the first place, the decision on the applicable law as well as the interpretation of that law, the article finds that the targeted killing judgment collapses this distinction in a different way from that foreseen by Benjamin. Hence, the article argues, the targeted killing judgment is best understood as a form of administrative foundational violence. In conclusion Judith Butler’s reading of Benjamin’s notion of ‘divine violence’ is considered, particularly his use of the commandment ‘thou shalt not kill’, as a non-violent violence that must be waged against the kind of legal violence of which the targeted killing judgment is exemplary.

  • Targeted killing,
  • Supreme Court of Israel,
  • Critique of Violence,
  • legal violence,
  • divine violence,
  • Walter Benjamin,
  • Judith Butler,
  • Aharon Barak
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Citation Information
Markus Gunneflo. "The Targeted Killing Judgment of the Israeli Supreme Court and the Critique of Legal Violence. Available at: The Final publication is available at