Restraint, Reaction, and Penal Fantasies: Notes on the Death Penalty in Israel, 1967–2016

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12 Scopus citations


What role does the death penalty play in contexts of protracted political violence? What does it symbolize for its opponents and proponents in such contexts? Can it survive as a potent topic of political life even without actual executions? Since 1967, the death penalty has been a lawful sanction in Israel's military courts, which have jurisdiction over Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Though it has never been carried out, it has been intensely debated throughout this period and the topic has retained major political, cultural, and judicial significance. I argue that both sides in these debates use the topic mostly symbolically, rather than as an issue of public policy. For opponents, refraining from using the death penalty has become a symbol of restraint, used in self-legitimation. For proponents, death penalty advocacy serves as what I term a penal fantasy, an outlet for frustration, symbolizing defiance against the image of restraint.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)862-888
Number of pages27
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Law


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