Armed Conflict Foreign Relations & International Law

The Lawfare Podcast: Israel, Gaza, and the Law of War

Natalie K. Orpett, Gabor Rona, Jen Patja
Thursday, January 4, 2024, 8:00 AM
What does international humanitarian law say about the current conflict between Israel and Hamas?

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The conflict between Israel and Hamas is provoking heated debates about which side is in the right. Each accuses the other of things like war crimes. Oftentimes, they’re expressing a political or moral judgment—but the fact is, these are also legal terms.

So for this discussion, we’re going to step back from the debates and try to take a dispassionate look at the law that applies here—international humanitarian law, or IHL.

To do that, Lawfare Executive Editor Natalie Orpett sat down with Gabor Rona, who previously served as the legal adviser for the International Committee for the Red Cross. They talked about what IHL has to say about the most heated debates of this conflict, including the high number of civilian casualties in Gaza and Hamas’s use of human shields. They talked about the gaps in the law. And they talked about whether the law even matters here. 

Natalie Orpett is the executive editor of Lawfare and deputy general counsel of the Lawfare Institute. She was previously an attorney at the law firm Jenner & Block, where she focused on investigations and government controversies, and also maintained an active pro bono practice. She served as civilian counsel to a defendant in the Guantanamo Military Commissions for more than eight years. She also served as counsel to the National Security and Foreign Policy Legal Team of the Biden-Harris Transition Team.
Gabor Rona is a Professor of Practice at Cardozo Law School, where he teaches international human rights law, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law. He previously served as the International Legal Director of Human Rights First, where he advised Human Rights First programs on questions of international law and coordinated international human rights litigation.
Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.

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