From the perception that: “state’s identity in international politics cannot be constructed at home alone- it is only in interaction with a particular Other that the meaning of a state is established” (Hopf 2002, p.288), the aim of this thesis is to describe how Israel’s most dominate sense of identity – the memory of the Holocaust - is represented in its interaction with a particular Other: the Islamic Republic of Iran. The collective memory of the Holocaust is presented in this thesis as an “essential trauma of Israeli society” (Bar – Tal & Teichman 2005, p.96) that tends to revive, in Israel, in circumstances of the extreme (periods of crises), implying, in return, on its significance to the understanding of Israel’s domestic realm and consequently, the understanding of Israel’s behaviour in the international arena.
This thesis has approached conflict analysis through focusing on the representation of constitutive Holocaust discourses (their meaning and their sociocognitive implications) in the Israeli political discourse, in relation to the international crisis with Iran. It has shown that the collective memory of the Holocaust has been associated with the Iranian issue to the largest extent, by all of the investigated political agents. Consequently, Zertal’s (2005) characterization that: “Auschwitz – as the embodiment of the total, ultimate evil – was, and still is, summoned up for military and security issues and political dilemmas … thus transmuting Israel into an ahistorical and apolitical twilight zone, where Auschwitz is not a past event but a threatening present and a constant option” (pp.3-4), is well validated in regards with the contemporary security issue with Iran. The investigated political figures most coherently associated the traumatic event of the Holocaust with the Iranian issue, validating, in return, my theoretical assumption concerning the cultural traumatic nature of the memory of the Holocaust in Israel.
This discursive tendency has assumingly been constructed as a respond to the most emotionally potent symbol evoked - Iran’s “Holocaust convention”. Iran is presented through emotional expression and portrayed as a threat to Jewish existent. Consequently, in accordance with Kaufmann’s (2001) theorization of the “myth-symbol complex”, the findings are implying on the destructive influence that ‘identity issues’ play in the communication between the two actors (Israel and Iran). They are implying on how hostile identities might escalate an already escalated security dilemma; and they are implying on how hostile myths might stimulate fear of group extinction, in the incited state.
This thesis describes the nature of some of Israel’s norms and identities; a collective sense of victimization that is rooted in the memory of the Holocaust and constructed, in contemporary frame of reference, by a political discourse, as a realistic “existential threat”. The association of a contemporary “nuclear threat” with an existential historical experience of total extermination shows how the Holocaust operates as “cultural trauma” (Alexander 2004), in Israel’s domestic realm.