When Victimhood Goes to War? Israel and Victim Claims

Tadek Markiewicz, Keren Sharvit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prominent sociopsychological approaches interpret collective victimhood as inseparable, central characteristic of societies involved in intractable conflicts. Victimhood is broadly perceived as an essential conflict-supportive belief also in other disciplines. In the context of Israel, there is a cross-disciplinary consensus that collective victimhood is the country's foundational identity. This project argues that states' employment of this theme changes and is context dependent. It discusses under what conditions Israel's political elites incorporate victim narratives towards armed conflicts. It examines public communication during the 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense (OPD) and the Yom Kippur war of 1973 (YKW). Employing a modified method of narrative conceptualization analysis, the research demonstrates that victim narratives were used almost twice as much during OPD than during YKW. The findings suggest that we need to differentiate between the role these narratives play for collectives versus states. For the latter, the presence of victim narratives is highly variable and reflects strategic developments. The project is the first systematic study exposing that victim narratives can be a challenge for governance. By conceptualizing victim narratives as claims, it captures the dynamic, contextual characteristics of collective victimhood in state affairs offering a theoretical tool for understanding the political dimension of this identification.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)111-126
Number of pages16
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • International Relations
  • Israel
  • conflicts
  • victimhood

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science and International Relations


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