The Ethics of Psychological Warfare–Lessons from Israel

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The start of the twenty-first century saw many changes in the way war was being conducted. Alongside war at sea, in the air, and on land, there is now psychological warfare (referred to as psywar), which has proven to be an extremely powerful military dimension. The power of psychological warfare is a result of the revolution in information and communication in the first years of the current century: the Internet, instant global communications, smartphones, and social media. All these channels have become arenas for warfare and powerful influencers on leaders, militaries, and entire populations. Historically, democracies have been reticent about employing psychological warfare for a number of reasons, but in recent years, they have been unable to ignore its existence and have increasingly been making use of it. However, in contrast with other forms of warfare for which there are international ethical rules, there is no ethical regulation of psychological warfare. This article assesses the challenges and dilemmas facing democratic countries in their use of psychological warfare and for the first time offers proposals for ethical rules toward that end by way of an Israeli test case: the long-term use of psychological warfare by the Israel Defense Forces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-210
Number of pages12
JournalDemocracy and Security
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Ethics
  • IDF
  • democracy
  • psychological warfare

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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