The transnational politics of warfare accountability: Human rights watch versus the Israel defense forces

Nikolas Rajkovic, Pascal Vennesson

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    13 Citations (Scopus)


    This journal is one of the Britain’s leading IR journals, edited by the UK’s most senior and—according to Professor Richard Falk of Princeton—esteemed IR scholar: Prof. Ken Booth. This article (9, 929 words) questions a dominant paradigm that NGOs speak to “truth to power”, and specifically that human rights NGOs, like Human Rights Watch, command the power of transnational legal advocacy. We explore how the IDF as an advanced military power had, over the course of the 2006 Lebanon and the 2009 Gaza Wars, developed capacities of transnational legal advocacy which pushed back public criticism by human rights NGOs, notably as HRW. Further, the article emphasizes how sophisticated states can radically adjust their public relations strategies in light of NGO critiques, and become supported by friendly NGOs, which together turn-the-table of critique upon the conduct of human rights NGOs themselves. A recent publication in Europe’s leading security studies journal, Security Dialogue, referred to the contribution of our article as follows: “(p. 106)…HRW’s attempt to make the IDF accountable for what it alleged to be violations of international humanitarian law during Operation Cast Lead takes place in a complex, discursive and institutional field involving Israeli political and military agencies, UN officials, human rights advocates, and a cluster of non-state organizations advocating in defence of Israel. Vennesson and Rajkovic (2012) have documented at length how this antagonistic transnational field acquired its present shape….” See: William Walters, “Drone strikes, dingpolitik and beyond: Furthering the debate on materiality and security”, 45 Security Dialogue 2 (2014): 101-118.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)409-429
    Number of pages21
    JournalInternational Relations
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012


    • human rights, humanitarian intervention, international security, lawfare, Middle East, NGOs, transnational advocacy


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