According to Hamas, 30 Israeli citizens were killed as a result of the Gaza bombardment. In other words, Israel killed 30 of its own citizens. The state whose representative to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, raised the slogan “Never Again,” indicating that the tragedy of the Holocaust would not be repeated, sacrificed 30 of its own citizens to eliminate Hamas.
Ignoring discussions about the application of the Hannibal Protocol on October 7, the protocol that allows the killing of Israelis, both soldiers and civilians, to prevent their capture, we are faced with a clear and public change in Israeli sovereignty over its citizens. Leaving them to die and risking their lives simply means that Israel is no different from the surrounding Arab regimes that kill their citizens and threaten their lives to “fight terrorism.”
The change in the relationship between the Israeli citizen and political sovereignty is due to the fact that on October 7th, the presumed safeguarded Israeli body after the Holocaust was threatened. Images of this violated body spread, seen for the first time in decades as a refugee, fleeing, and dismembered.
The shock, or the attack, likened to the US’s September 11 attacks (and measured in the Israeli case by the percentage of casualties to the population, not the number as in the American case), subsequently launched a retaliatory campaign that can be described without hesitation as blind. This attack affected Israelis, as, also, their protection was no longer the government’s primary task. This is clearly demanded by the protesters in Israel who raised the slogan “Hostages First!” during their protests. But no, Israel is waging the “war on terror,” and as is often the case when using this term, “friendly fire” is involved, killing civilians for a more important goal – eliminating the existential “enemy” that threatens not only Israel but “Jews worldwide,” that is, if we were to adopt the narrative of Israeli propaganda.
However, violence has surpassed “fighting terrorism” towards annihilation, that is, the necessity to treat Gaza as a contaminated area, including Hamas, civilians, children, mothers, and the elderly. We are facing an enemy with which the traditional arsenal is not suitable. Israeli philosopher Yuval Noah Harari hinted at the possibility of using a nuclear bomb against Gaza to eliminate Hamas, as did the Minister of Heritage in the right-wing Israeli coalition government, Ayelet Shaked, who did not hesitate to say that “targeting Gaza with a nuclear bomb is not ruled out.” This statement was commented on by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, saying it is “garbage, irrational, and futile.”
Hamas in Gaza has become a threat of such magnitude that using a nuclear weapon against it is a terrifying possibility. The nuclear bomb is not a tactical weapon, and its harm cannot be confined; it extends in space and time, denying the “now” and the possibilities of “life” in the future.
Clearly from Israel’s perspective, 25,000 tons of explosives were not enough; there must be a weapon that negates any possibility of life in the besieged Gaza Strip, especially since the list of Hamas leaders killed, after each bombardment, has not ended. This implies that Gaza is nothing but the greater evil that must be annihilated, eliminating all possibilities of its presence in the region.
The pursuit of annihilation is not hidden in Israel’s official discourse, which contains elements of a narrative of “the end of the world.” Netanyahu himself likened Israeli soldiers to an extension of Joshua, the son of Nun, who, according to legend, stopped the sun from setting on Friday to reach Jerusalem. It was an exceptional biblical event that cannot be repeated, and this is precisely what can come out of the possibility of a nuclear bomb—an exceptional event that generates a new sun to eliminate enemies. The religious metaphor here may seem elusive, but the indication of the possibility of a nuclear bomb in numbers goes beyond that towards horror and a frightening desire to annihilate the other.
Can Gaza be destroyed?
In 2012, nuclear science and weapons historian Alex Wellerstein created a blog called “Nuke Map,” allowing any user to select the city they want to bomb and then learn about the results of this bombing, whether it is a nuclear or hydrogen bomb. After the selection, the blog provides information about the blast radius, its consequences, the number of casualties, and the potential damage. In other words, the simulation allows us to choose the place we want to destroy and then examine the results of this decision.
We do not know with certainty the types of nuclear bombs that Israel possesses, as it has not signed agreements to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Moreover, it has denied possession on many occasions. However, let’s try using a small nuclear bomb, the American W53 fission bomb developed in the 1950s, and drop it over the northern part of Gaza, specifically on Salah Al Din Street.
The simulation results of dropping the bomb indicate approximately 850,000 deaths and 720,000 injuries at the moment of the explosion. After 24 hours, there are about 2.5 million casualties within the first blast radius and a crater that goes 192 meters deep.
What is chilling in the image of the explosion is that the northern part of the Gaza Strip will disappear within the first blast radius, and the entire Strip within the second. The radiation will fill Gaza and its surroundings. There is no need to imagine what the destruction will look like; contemplating the numbers is enough. The question is, how will the lives of Israelis be protected? Assuming the complete annihilation of Gaza and its inhabitants, what about the at least half a million Israelis that will be killed in the process, assuming naively that the two million casualties from the bomb are Palestinians and Hamas members? The question here is whether sacrificing or risking the life of one Israeli for the sake of eliminating Hamas is a prelude to the death of others.
The possibility of a nuclear bomb leads us to reconsider the concept of “terrorism,” which supposedly deserves a nuclear bomb to eliminate it. New definitions must be established to justify not only the destruction of the entire sector but also the Israeli citizens and the contamination of the area with radiation, especially since a nuclear weapon has never been used against an armed militia. However, this obsession and desire for the annihilation of Gaza can be interpreted as a form of mania,”the desire for victory that achieves not only the annihilation of the other but of everything. So, is the price of eliminating Hamas the annihilation of the region?
Voices against the indication of Israel possibly using a nuclear bomb have not been heard, unlike when Europe suggested that Russia may use nuclear weapons against Ukraine. The tragic and ironic contrast here is that condemnation came from a source in the Assad regime’s foreign ministry, which pointed to the statements as confirming what Israel habitually hides about its possession of this weapon outside international monitoring systems.
Is there a “Sapian” after Gaza?
The echo of Theodore Adorno’s phrase “no poetry after Auschwitz” continues after every disaster or tragedy. In this context, the phrase is associated with artistic and cultural forms that must change. Adorno later explained that Auschwitz was an “exceptional” bureaucratic and administrative process of extermination that should not be repeated. The “world” and its “artistic forms” had to change afterward.
Here we ask Yuval Noah Harari, the author of the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which topped the bestseller list for months in 2014: If a nuclear bomb were used, can we say “no rational human after Gaza”?
We pose the question because the indication of the possibility of a nuclear bomb is a matter that cannot be ignored. It affects the entire region and threatens the “continuation of life” in it. It is a sign of the utmost irrationality, manifested in annihilation, that extraordinary event that sometimes rises to the level of “miracles,” such as delaying the sunset or capturing its flame in northern Gaza for the sake of victory. But most importantly, everyone is blamed for the “nuclear crime.” Harari himself says in his renowned book, “Producing a nuclear warhead currently requires the cooperation of millions of strangers from around the world, from workers in uranium mines… to theoretical physicists,” and if the bomb falls, all these “strangers” will be pointed at with blame, from the mine worker to the one who pressed the red button.
Reconsidering “animals” and “zero distance”
It is also necessary to reconsider the term “animals” used by the Israeli Defense Minister to describe the residents of Gaza. If we accept it metaphorically, we are facing a different approach to understanding what is happening in the region. Animals or monsters fall outside the scope of political sovereignty; they are not citizens nor colonizers. Here, we are talking about the civilian population of Gaza. Within the logic of monsters, they are unpredictable beings, and the only counterpart in their ability to escape political sovereignty and confront it is “the sovereign.” The classic definition of “the sovereign” is the one who determines the state of exception and how to deal with it.
If Israel is facing “monsters” to the extent of using nuclear weapons, the conflict is without laws and regulations. This is echoed when justifying “Israel’s right to defend itself.” No one has been held accountable for the number of lives that must be extinguished for “victory” or in response to danger. The answer always revolves around the goal of eliminating Hamas, with the human toll being inconsequential in the face of annihilation.
This monster versus sovereign interpretation also leads us to think about the technological nature used in war. The nuclear weapon assumes an existential enemy that must be paralyzed and annihilated. There is no objection to “sacrificing” citizens and taxpayers for their “extermination.” The use of nuclear weapons by America in response to the Pearl Harbor attack, carried out with planes and ships, resulted in the use of weapons of mass destruction over Hiroshima and Nagasaki—an exceptional weapon surpassing traditional technology. However, the goal was not the annihilation of Japan but halting the war machine it employed. Threatening with nuclear weapons usually aims at paralysis rather than extermination.
In the case of Hamas, the “terrorist enemy” deserving annihilation, the bomb would presumably eradicate it from the roots and neutralize its “weapons.” But what are these weapons that must be confronted—drones, light weapons, and adventures in close-range combat through videos of fighters wearing sportswear placing homemade explosive devices on tanks? We are faced with the trivial and everyday use of weapons, which can be outperformed by any Israeli rifle. So, why resort to a nuclear bomb?
Quoting Harari, “Humans are like sheep that possess nuclear weapons… and sheep that possess nuclear weapons are more dangerous than wolves that possess them… because sheep are more afraid.” Therefore, the nuclear weapon is a sign of fear, its invocation a manifestation of a moment of despair, and the goal is to annihilate the “monster” that cannot be tamed or incorporated into the legal system. Instead, it must only be killed, and its lineages must be annihilated, even at the expense of Israeli citizens themselves.