Helga Tawil-Souri and Dina Matar (eds.), Gaza as Metaphor (Hurst, 2016), Forthcoming

15 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2015

See all articles by Nimer Sultany

Nimer Sultany

University of London - School of Oriental and African Studies; Harvard University - Law School - Alumni

Date Written: July 10, 2015


The Israeli onslaught on Gaza in the summer of 2014 left more than 2000 Palestinians dead. As we have seen these scenes before, the invocation of repetition comes naturally. This essay provides a brief examination of the meanings of repetition and its effects in a colonial setting. Part I starts with a brief examination of the different meanings of, and internal tensions within, repetition: sameness vs. complexity; context-emphasizing vs. context-erasing; tragic v. responsibility-highlighting; and rhetorical vs. structural. Part II connects the idea of repetition to structural features of the international laws of war that make them more prone to repetition, and hence facilitate war. These features are: the stipulation of formal equality between belligerents; the potential indeterminacy of the basic legal categories; and the reliance on state practice and enforcement. Part III and IV apply the discussion to the categories of civilians and retaliation. The legalization of warfare is accompanied with the demise of the former and the expansion of the latter. Finally, Parts V and VI enquire about the meaning of oppressive practices in colonial contexts for notions of peace, justice and morality. As the stronger colonial powers seek to appropriate moral and legal discourse — contra Nietzsche — the weaker natives are not likely to find refuge from politics and power in law. Throughout the essay I contextualize the question of Palestine in the wider context of colonial occupations and colonial wars.

Keywords: War, Law, Repetition, Morality, Justice, Peace, Israel, Palestine, Gaza

Suggested Citation

Sultany, Nimer, Repetition (July 10, 2015). Helga Tawil-Souri and Dina Matar (eds.), Gaza as Metaphor (Hurst, 2016), Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: or

Nimer Sultany (Contact Author)

University of London - School of Oriental and African Studies ( email )

Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square
London, WC1H 0XG
United Kingdom

Harvard University - Law School - Alumni ( email )

1563 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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