Gaza and the ethos of death

Israel’s military has bombed whatever stands, lives and moves in Gaza, including the UN facilities and aid. No other state in the world has behaved, without facing dire diplomatic consequences, in such a way. The Israeli state which, although located in the Middle East, claims a ‘western’ civilizational link and heritage has surely fallen short of it. The Israeli government has failed totally in its actions: Hamas is still able to rocket blast South (and possibly North) Israel, the Israeli military actions have killed 130 ‘militants’ sacrificing about 630 civilians, it has prevented the rescue of the injured, causing the Red Cross to condemn the actions, and has attacked UN convoys (a “deja vu” since the Israeli army has a certain preference for “mistakenly” bombing the UN). Among the disturbing facts of the Israeli Kadima government  is  that  257 children have been killed and 1,080 wounded. It is a massacre, and one which only one ‘democracy’ in the entire world has the ‘privilege’ to perpetrate.

We may wish to ask: is this a collective punishment? I do not think so. Let’s face one fact, the Israeli government, as discussed in my previous post, would have lost the elections if they had not acted against Hamas’ rockets. We have also to recognize that a state has the right of self-defense (as any other country or people for what matter). The problem is where self-defense ends and mass murder begins. Surely Israel has misused its self-defense option in this case. To call, today, Israel’s actions self-defense is ridiculous. Like in the case of the last war in Lebanon, Israel has failed to acheive its targets, as Olmert has admitted, but this time it cannot give up: there are the elections.

They can only bomb and bomb, killing without a real solution, for any ceasefire which then results in Hamas launching new rockets will mean the political death of Kadima and allies. The Israeli government can today only espouse an ethos of death to cover its own failures. Unfortunately, many  Israelis like many Palestinians, adhere to this ethos and believe it can deliver the peace they need. For this reason the Israeli government, and groups like Hamas, are so ready to adopt it, foster it and praise it.

The politics of the ‘ethos of death’ is based on the principal that death is necessary to convince that serious actions have been taken to protect, or achieve, the political aim. The ‘ethos of death’ works not only for Israel, which has to convince its own population that the government can guarantee security,  but Hamas too, since death reinforces the group’s  position and transforms, inevitably, Israel into a twenty-first century Herod: slaughtering so many children has never helped the image of a nation!

Israelis and Palestinians seem trapped in the cycle of the ‘ethos of death’ and the problem is that mediators seem unable to recognize it. Mediators are again focusing on technical aspects: stopping Israel’s carnage and Hamas’ rockets. This is not the issue. Both Israel and Hamas know that they have to reach, one day or another, a ceasefire, even though Israel will not be able to stop Hamas from possessing and using rockets, nor will Hamas stop the Israeli blockage of  Gaza. The issue is that, when needed, the ‘ethos of death’ will be used again at the first political strategic opportunity.

Blood covers not only the bodyies of the dying but also the frustration of the Palestinian and Israeli people, often transformed by the ‘ethos of death’ into twenty-first century vampires seeking more and more blood from the ‘enemy’ in the name of survival. If both the people of Israel and Palestine do not reject the politics of the ‘ethos of death’, this new ceasefire will remain a mere parentheses of calm so that Palestinians in Gaza may bury families and mourn hundreds of relatives and friends dead, and the Israelis of the South may repair windows, ready to be soon broken again.

30 thoughts on “Gaza and the ethos of death

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  1. It occurs to me that I don’t give a hoot what muslims believe, and what stories there are about your prophet. What I abhor is Theocracy.

    Suppose the Amish took over your country and declared that they had a revelation from God that electricity was evil. Possession of a light bulb, usage of an appliance, became a capital crime.

    Would you say “we must respect this religion” or would you say “who are these lunatics?”

    There would also be a group of Amish who said things like “ooh, it’s terrible that people are being executed over light bulbs and toasters, we don’t approve of it at all.”

  2. Could you please lt me know the source of that compelling photo of the dead family, or any information about it.


  3. Ibn Hisham I think relates the story of the Jewish woman.

    When I first started reading Islamic sources I thought terrorism and other ME problems were caused by economic/political conditions, etc. As I waded through one violent, crazy page after another I decided, hey, this has a bearing on why they are violent and crazy. This is why the mosque was capable of writing a violently insulting letter to the rest of us.

    People who have been told since babyhood that this is wonderful stuff are probably not going to understand our revulsion.

  4. After reading the primary sources, the terrorists made perfect sense to me. M himself praises terror: “i have gotten all I wanted by terror…”

    It is those who are saying that islam is wonderful, peaceful and tolerant and that M is perfect and should be emulated – those are the ones who make no sense.

    1. Dear Eliza,

      you read which primary sources? in which language? from where? It took me about 15 years to read some of them, it took me three languages to have access to them, and of course, without ‘people’ and knowing how they ‘read’ them, the sources are useless.

      By the way, can you please reference your quotation above and sources? a link, a name of the book, anything that we can check… I have googled your reported quote by ‘M’ (suppose Muhammad) and check yourself.… so maybe you need to provide some more explanation?
      If you wish I can suggest a quite good number of readings which are books, encyclopedias and major works. I fear that you are just reading from the Internet, but also that what you find on Islam and Muslims is exactly what you wish to find.
      If so, well, there is nothing to say: ideologies cannot be discussed.

  5. It would not suprise me to learn that muslim sources were leaving out the fact that he had kiiled her relatives. There is another story about his patience with a Jewess throwing garbage on him that has been called a lie by other muslims.

    After 9/11, the mosque in my town sent a very aggressive, nasty letter to the newspaper saying something along the lines of “behead all those who say Islam isn’t peaceful.” I was astonished and began reading the Koran, hadiths, bios of Muhammad, etc. on the web. I wanted to read primary sources and not somebody’s opinion.

    Boutros is reading Bukhari on the airwaves and causing a stir. The primary sources are raw and amazing in themselves.

    It appears that the history is that muslims show up in the West with ideas of stomping the kuffar, kuffar eventually throws them out.

  6. Eliza,

    I’ve come across the story of the Jewish woman who poisoned Muhammad quite a few times in original Arabic sources. I’ve never come across a mention of Muhammad having killed her relatives. Please quote me a reference that can be checked up because it seems to me you’re spreading porkies.

    Marranci, thanks for your interesting and insightful blogs. It’s good to read someone who isn’t interested in defending a particular group. Your criticisms of both Hamas and Israel make a lot of sense.

  7. It is indeed a dreadful sight to see people being killed in Gaza. In my humble opinion, now it is not the differences in religion is the main issue. Since I believe there are NONE beliefs and religions in the world since that allows killing innocent lives and promote such war acts. Even to someone that has no formal knowledge would love to live in a peaceful world. It is such a lie if you like to see bloods and tears everywhere. There are many ways to resolve issues instead involving innocent lives.

    I have read and study a few Islamic history. Thus I believe there are no such “Genocide” practice is allowed. Similarly the practice of Taoism and Christianity. I wonder why we have to make things complicated? Promote peace and against war acts.

    All I can say most of us confused with the word “terrorism” brought by President Bush. Until today, there are no concrete definition and solid proof to label people as terrorist. That is what I can understand. I’m still seeking till today the exact definition of terrorism, and why Muslims has been labeled with it. It is such a shame.

    Prof. Marranci, I hope you can write more on this. The murder act must be stopped in whatever means. The innocent lives must not become the victim of consequences.


  8. So, Marranci, you tell me why once again history is recording droves of demented muslims throwing themselves at the rest of society. What is this dementia?

  9. Historically, this tune has been played again and again. The world is weary of it. Alas for the foolish myths of man.

  10. I think you are trying to absolve Islam of its violence, urge for conquest and contempt for others. Can’t be done. The wolf has come running out of the sheepskin and you won’t be able to send it back.

    1. You cannot absolve or condemn a “religion” for ‘Its violence’. Religion per-se does not exist, it is an illusion to say that ‘exist’ as agent inspiring people. Only what people think and do is real. So there is violent and militant Islam because there are some people whom feel to be Muslims whom are violent and militant (so Christian, Jews, Atheists and so on).

      To blame the product instead of the producers miss the point, but I see how it is easy to end in such conceptualization. Indeed it is a bit like when people see the sun in the sky and they think that it is moving, while in reality it is the opposite, it is the earth moving around it.
      The same happens with religion, and many other ‘cultural objects’. People think that they can ‘induce’ behavior, that they are agents, while the only agent is the human being and its brain. Relativism and culture constructivism should be overcome in the understanding of society and how culture is produced.

  11. Islam can be a religion, but it is often a violent political movement.
    Mohammad was poisoned by a Jewish woman whose relatives he had killed. Amazing to me that people take as their spiritual guide a person who comported himself in such a manner as to receive vengeful justice. They actually tell their young to “emulate Mohammad”.

    1. Opss, I think that you have to recheck the story here. I am not sure which books you are reading but maybe you wish to look for more academic serious material. If you are interested I can suggest some works from different prospective.
      In any case, do you really think that people act because of stories of the past or maybe they use rhetoric from the past to fit their ideas and actions in the present? Again, stories, myths, religions are not agents and causes but instruments. You change the instrument and the melody remains the same, just the texture and orchestration are different. Today many are focusing to much on the ‘instruments’ and not the ‘music’, the process to create it and the composers.

  12. i feel relii sowii 4r da peopl in gaza i alwyz pry dat isreal stp fighting against gaza they shud luk at da state of the kids in gaza even little babies are dieing and isreal wouldnt like it if there little children were dieing so isreal pleasen stop fighting against gaza

    just pray that the war will stp and every one will be fine and no more people die inshalla!

  13. It is extraordinary that muslims expect the kuffar to care about their lives. Next time you are in a mosque and people are cursing the kuffar, or praying for the death of the Jews, ask yourself why on earth the kuffar should mind if the entire muslim world blew up. Indeed, they might engineer just that.

    1. Dear Eliza,
      I am not sure how acquainted you are with mosques and how many ‘sermons’ during the Friday prayer in different mosques you may have attended, but I can say that, with very few exceptions, your description is an exaggeration. More than an open ‘kill the kuffar’ statement, in case, extreme individuals use subtle psychological methods to convince others to perform violent acts. If you wish to know more, you may be interested in reading my book.
      Anyhow, I can tell you that about the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts the words ‘Muslims’ or ‘kuffar’ or any other religious rhetoric is very much instrumental and even Hamas or Kadima understands the war as mainly ‘political’. Indeed one of my interests as an anthropologist is this dichotomy of how the conflict is mainly understood in the Middle East, and particularly in Israel and Palestine, and how it is perceived in the west. As you can expect, the overwhelming perception of the conflict in the ‘west’, among the general population, is of a ‘religious issue’. Interestingly enough, it was the same in the case of the Northern Irish conflict. While in Northern Ireland very few would define the conflict as mainly ‘religious’, outside Northern Ireland, it was just that: a bloody war between Catholicism and Protestantism.

    2. Dear Eliza,
      do you think that the world is really divided between Muslims and kuffar? Religion, even in the life of the most pious or zealous counts for a very low percent of actions and thought in everyday life. Nobody lives his or her life in full control of their religious rhetoric and an attentive observation will show an incredible number of contradictions between their religious beliefs and their decisions and behaviors. As many, included scholars, you see religion as a overpowering system of symbols which controls people minds and lives. Of course, this is not the case and we are more controlled by our biology (better neurology) of being humans than the byproduct ‘culture’.

  14. I used to be much more sympathetic to the Palestinians. But after years of watching the belligerent stupidity, the destruction of greenhouses, silly rockets etc. I wearied of their cause. They seem to want dead children.

    I became disgusted also with Islam and the muslims the more I learned about them. Am thankful for those who have abandoned it.

    The ethos of death is probably filling the world. it will be called World War 3.

  15. It is a barbaric act ! how can we kill 1100 innocent civilian in 20 days ? It is an unjust world, the extermination of 0.1% of the GAZA population, and you say self-defense ! you must be stupid to believe in it. F16, tanks, Apache and warship against children and women of Gaza. It’s unbelievable but true in 2009 !!!!

  16. Israel is showing to the civilised world:

    1) What the ‘western values’ really are.
    2) How murderous the judeo-christian traditions are.


    1. Han, writing here, is spot on. The Israeli government shows itself as no more than self-righteous, deluded thugs from the Stone Age, frothing at the mouth with their Old Testament yahweh-inspired hatred for the people of their ‘conquered’ lands. Curiously, a recent documentary on South African baboons springs to mind – except the fury arising from provoking a troupe of baboons cannot match that of F16-armed fanatics.

      Pity today’s children of Israel, who cannot imagine what their parents do to their would-be play-mates in their Gazan concentration camp. Interviews with Nazi war criminals often reveal no shred of remorse, no regret, nothing. It is all too easy to see the same cold hatred in the eyes and words of the Zionists since 1948. This indeed illuminates the true meaning of ‘terror’ – human tribalism at its very worst.

      Curiously, as an ardent atheist having travelled several times through Middle Eastern lands, I’ve never once encountered such hatred in people professing Islamic belief.

  17. Hi Gabriele, hope you had a nice Christmas and New Year by the way, my other half has now banned me from eating Pannettone!

    I disagree with you on many things and yet find myself enjoying this post. It is my intention on my blog to post tonight my views and support for democratic Israel and yet also I cannot deny the truth you write of the ‘ethos of death’. I fell this ethos has a much stronger hold over the Middle East than it ever did in Northern Ireland for instance.

    I will post some separate stuff on my blog shortly and yet with your kind permission will make reference to your piece here as it is simple, profound and all too sadly pertinent. Best Wishes Paul.

  18. Herr Professor,

    All the good is at arabian side and all the evil is at israeli side. It is too poor this thinking.
    -Jew people got from the nations assembly the right to have a “home territory” (Balfour declaration in the beg. last century).
    -The nations assembly defined two state, one for Jew and the other for arabs but these latest denied this solution
    -Israeli won the wars (they were attacked by arabs) but gave up the territories conquered.
    -hamas are terrorists bombing israeli land since 2000 without any israeli reaction
    If you support hamas you are a terrorist as well.
    You are fanatic and you are dangerous for the world peace in the same way than the jew lobbies in us and Arabian terrorism of al qaeda.


  19. isreal is protecting itself from the death religion of islam that will never accept what they call infadels in arabia. islreal has a right to fight back and must in the end destroy islam wherever it lives throughout the face of the earth. its time for another crusade and this time it has to wipe out the false religion of mohammed who created it from the teachings and beliefs of the very jews and christians his insane blind followers intend to destroy. mohammed had whatever vision needed from the false god allah to allow whatever hate filled perversion, murder and maiming he wanted to commit. Any intellegent human being can see by just reading his history and teachings that whatever he needed to have the false god say in order to allow him to do whatever perversion and violent crime, theft and deceipt was within his reach over night because he made them up to fit whatever crime he was considering to commit. Only stupid, sick, blind people can accept his being a prophet of a god who proposes for his followers to lie, cheat, steal, beat, rape, maim, murder and child molest in order to make his religion supreme throughout the earth. islam is the enemy of any and all that man could ever hope to do that is good, right and morale.

    1. Dear wileysnakeskins,

      surely, as many often do by burning flags, killing a symbol is still your right. Inciting to kill people is a crime. In any case, I see that for you symbols are more important than children and women. In this, your way of thinking is a perfect example of the ethos of death which is destroying the Middle East.


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