Political Assassinations by Jews

A Rhetorical Device for Justice

By Nachman Ben-Yehuda

Subjects: Israel Studies
Series: SUNY series in Deviance and Social Control
Paperback : 9780791411667, 527 pages, November 1992
Hardcover : 9780791411650, 527 pages, November 1992

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Table of contents


List of Cases


Part 1: Theoretical Background and Methodology

Chapter 1 Theoretical Orientation, Plan of the Book and Main Findings

Chapter 2 Political Assassinations: Theoretical Background

Chapter 3 Methodology and Research Experience

Part 2: Actual Cases

Chapter 4 Historical Background

Chapter 5 Political Assassinations by Jews in the Bible, The Sicariis, and in Europe

Chapter 6 Political Assassinations by Jews in Palestine between 1882-1918—The Turkish Period

Chapter 7 Political Assassinations by Jews in Palestine between 1919-1948—The British Period

Chapter 8 Political Assassinations by Jews in Israel between 1949-1988—The Israeli Period

Chapter 9 Political Executions

Chapter 10 Political Assassinations, Terror, and Tangential Cases

Part 3: Analysis, Discussion, and Summary

Chapter 11 The Criminological Pattern of Political Assassinations in a Comparative Perspective

Chapter 12 Political Assassinations as Rhetorical Devices: Patterns, Reasons, and Interpretations

Chapter 13 Integrative Summary






Ben-Yehuda presents an in-depth inquiry into the nature and patterns of political assassinations and executions by Jews in Palestine and Israel. Extensive empirical evidence is used to analyze the social construction of violent and aggressive human behavior, using a sociology of deviance perspective. Political assassinations and executions are placed within their particular cultural matrix to describe how this specific form of killing has been conceptualized as part of an alternative system of justice.

"The taking of a human life is generally regarded as the ultimate evil. Given this fact, it is important to examine and understand how it is explained, justified, and cloaked in a 'vocabulary of motives. ' Such acts are, in the author's words, 'socially constructed and interpreted,' dependent on the observer's location in a specific 'symbolic-moral universe. 'Moreover, such acts (political assassination specifically) are manifestations of struggles that represent attempts to legitimate these world-views, rhetorical devices that serve to define 'boundary-markers' between such universes — moral crusades that attempt to validate one view vis-a-vis another.

This general approach to political assassinations is original. Its application to assassinations by Israelis is original. The fact that the book is empirical marks it off from many speculations on the subject. A number of the author's findings make a distinct contribution.

Nachman Ben-Yehuda is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at The Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He is the author of The Politics and Morality of Deviance: Moral Panics, Drug Abuse, Deviant Science, and Reversed Stigmatization, also published by SUNY Press.


The fact that nearly all of the assassinations studied were the work of an organization and not a lone individual has momentous implications — both comparatively and for criminological theory. The contrast with what's known about criminal homicide/conventional murder is worthwhile. " — Erich Goode, State University of New York at Stony Brook

"This book is grounded in a theoretical perspective that is emerging as an extremely important contemporary approach to deviance, largely as a result of the author's work in the area. " — Ronald A. Farrell, University of Nevada, Las Vegas