Martyr vs. Martyr


This paper attempts to capture the violence and immediacy of current events by applying semiotic analysis. The mutual cruelties acted out by Israelis and Palestinians is analyzed in terms of the growing usage of words from religious contexts to legitimize violence and to attach powerful collective emotions to it. The focus is on the use of the term“martyr” to refer on the one hand to Palestinian victims or suicide bombers, on the other hand to Israeli victims. A concise historical

analysis of the word “martyr” in Jewish sources points at its contingent changes in various situations. In the twentieth century the vocabulary of death has radically changed in European discourse, but probably specifically in Jewish discourse. The analysis points to mechanisms of appropriation of individual lives and deaths as a result of the application of the term “martyr”. The analysis of such language use hopes to contribute to some better understanding and greater tolerance.

How to Cite

Hasan-Rokem, G., (2003) “Martyr vs. Martyr”, Ethnologia Europaea 33(2), 99-104. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Galit Hasan-Rokem (The Hebrew University)



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