Author Biography

Shmuel Nili is a Ph.D. student in Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. His research combines a core interest in liberal approaches to global justice with secondary interests in democratic theory and the practice of liberal societies. Nili's peer-reviewed publications range from the coherence between Rawls' domestic and global theories of justice, through the humanitarian intervention debate, to the connections between nationalism, globalization, and sports. His scholarly work has appeared or is forthcoming, among others, in Journal of Global Ethics, Ethics & Global Politics, and Global Society. Nili has also published several professional articles for the Israeli Democracy Institute on the relation between media and politics, as well as numerous newspaper articles on multinational democracies and sports. Nili performed his military service as Captain in the Israeli Defense Force's (IDF) Media and Communication Division.



Subject Area Keywords

Iran, Israel, Middle East, Nuclear weapons and nonproliferation, Sociocultural dynamics in security, Weapons of mass destruction


The main thesis of this article is that the Holocaust is indispensable for understanding Israel’s treatment of what it perceives as the greatest current threat to its security - the Iranian nuclear program. The Holocaust’s impact deviates in crucial ways from established teaching regarding balance of power in general and nuclear deterrence in particular. Mutually Assured Destruction, the distinction between capabilities and intentions, and even linkage politics - all of those basic concepts are profoundly altered in the Israeli case by the (often conscious) presence of the Holocaust. The Holocaust’s influence is evident in the Israeli belief that deterring Iran might be impossible: MAD does not apply to the Iranians since, like Hitler, their regime is considered mad: its commitment to destructing the “Zionist entity” is understood as trumping any standard realpolitik calculations. This perception of Iran generates the conviction that the Iranian nuclear project must be stopped at all costs: Israel must prepare for the possibility that the Jews will once again be left alone and, if need be, launch a strike against Iran to prevent a potential second Holocaust. There will not be time for “accommodation” to the threat.