Conceptual relics, mutual assured evilness and the struggle over Israeli public commonsense 1

Piki Ish-Shalom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Iran's imminent rise to nuclear power status raises reasonable fears about the Middle East stability. Having examined the discursive exchange of Mutual Assured Evilness (MAE) by Iran and Israel, some political commentators and decision makers express doubts over the workability of nuclear stability. That is because they question whether these countries can overcome their mutual hatred and find the requisite instrumental rationality for nuclear stability. Their fears are exacerbated when they regard Iran as a religious country and hence supposedly incapable of rational behavior. However, the discourse of evil is not only indicative of hatred. Evil it seems is a conceptual relic encased in religious metaphysics. It is a datum that enables us to expose the religious layers that exist alongside secularism. Israel's hyperbolic use of the term evil resonates as strongly as it does because of the religious metaphysics that coexists with Israel's supposedly secular belief system. Therefore, in some ways, Israeli society may be closer to Iranian society than Israelis generally allow themselves to believe and all the while the two societies are locked in a dance of hatred and fear, fueled, among other things, by MAE.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)543-560
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I would like to thank Viki Auslender and Or Israeli for their research assistance and for Anna Geis, Christopher Hobson and the anonymous reviewer for their very helpful comments. The research for this article was supported by the Israel Science Foundation, Grant Number 1548/11.


  • Conceptual relics
  • Evil
  • Iran
  • Israel
  • Mutual assured evilness
  • Religion
  • Secularism


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