Media appearances

The Hamas Death Cult and the Management of Savagery

Article by David Martin Jones, Director of Research, Danube Institute

Hamas’ devastating assault on Israel’s southern border over a holiday weekend in October has not only exposed a disturbing intelligence failure at the core of the Israeli security apparatus, it has also dramatically reconfigured the politics of the Middle East. Prior to the raid, and despite continuing reservations about Israeli settlements on the West Bank, the lineaments of an US brokered agreement between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to work together against the growing regional influence or Iran and its revolutionary guard had begun to emerge.

The attack and the inevitable, but disproportionate Israeli reaction, resulting in Palestinian casualties in the Gaza strip , has undermined any prospect of such a concord emerging any time soon .

The attack, launched by land sea and air by Hamas, and Islamic Jihad from Gaza and Hezbollah from Lebanon indicates a degree of coordination and planning that caught Israel’s Defence Force off guard. The timing, coinciding with a damaging constitutional crisis within Israel over judicial reforms, was impeccable. The inevitable beneficiary of all this is Iran and intimates its involvement, at some level, in the preparation of the attack.

The invasion and its brutal savagery also suggests that the nominally Sunni Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Shiite Hezbollah together with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have absorbed key lessons for the conduct of terror from Islamic State’s death cult playbook and its guide to jihad, The Management of Savagery .


 Thanatos unchained?


Before we too quickly assume the inevitable destruction of Hamas, we need to know more precisely what Islamic State (IS) then and Hamas now considers it achieves by an ultra-violent savagery. As early as 2004, in the wake of the Madrid bombings, Islamists everywhere defined the divide between a pluralist secular world order and their brand of apocalyptic millenarian caliphism, which Hamas and other Middle Eastern terror groups share, by the formula: ‘you love life we love death’. This slogan went through several mutations after 2004, with phrases like ‘The Americans love Pepsi, we love death’. In essence,  this eroticised death instinct defines itself against a secular, western, Enlightenment belief in life-graphically illustrated by Hamas’ Nukhba commando units brutally murdering the innocent revellers attending a  desert rave on 7th October.


As the Italian philosopher Umberto Eco observed, in a different ideological context, Fascism is political necrophilia evincing a taste for killing and martyrs. Contemporary Islamo-Fascism is similarly obsessed. It means, as the disturbing images on the Internet sickeningly demonstrate, adoring and serving death.


In fact, this beatification of violence, is as telling as the professed politically religious commitment. Indeed, to love death as Hamas and Hezbollah do is to say that it is beautiful to receive it and to risk it and that the most beautiful and saintly love is to distribute it. This putrid need for death is evident today across the Middle East. If that’s what jihadism at its fundamentalist core wants, it has certainly got it. It is a form of political religious nihilism made possible by the sacralisation of violence.


This species of revolutionary violence and the capacity of its version of Islam to play into the cult of death is not to desensitise youth to death but to sacralise it. Hence the recent tactical shift from somewhat passé decapitation to something even more transgressively vile and therefore stimulating, demonstrating once more the ‘attractiveness of evil.’[1]


Managing Savagery



Such cruelty and the addictive craving it elicits, at the same time, serves a broader ideological and strategic purpose. As Abu Bakr Naji explained in The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage Through Which the Umma Will Pass (2006)[2] the chaos of savagery represents the intermediate stage of state breakdown, which the revolutionary cadre must manage en route to the purified Islamist vision. As Naji explains, ‘if we succeed in the management of savagery, that stage will be a bridge to the Islamic state which has been awaited since the fall of the caliphate’. The strategy distinguishes between the stage of state breakdown characterised as one of ‘vexation and exhaustion’ where the failing state’s power, as in the Palestinian Authority, remains contested, the subsequent stage of ‘savage chaos’, essentially a Hobbesian state of war of all against all, where the people ‘yearn for someone to manage the savagery’. Management requires securing the region’s borders, providing basic food and medical treatment and establishing sharia justice, prior to transition to the final historical stage of the reformed caliphate. Stages 1 and 2 clearly conform to Mao’s understanding of guerrilla areas and base areas identified in On Guerrilla Warfare (1936) . As with Mao so with Hamas and Hezbollah the control of the people and the support of the masses achieves both unity and power ‘through armed struggle’. This Maoist strategy now serves not the liberation of the poor and blank peasantry, but the instrumentalisation of sharia justice and the destruction of Israel. To achieve this, ‘violence is crucial’ any backsliding or ‘softness’ will ‘be a major factor in the loss of the element of strength’.Moreover, even if Israel survives and the Caliphate is not achieved immediately, it is not the end of the matter. As Naji continues chillingly, ‘the more abominable the level of savagery is’, it is still less abominable than enduring stability under ‘the order of unbelief, nizam al kufir by several degrees’.


Savagery enters the Spider’s House

‘The likeness of those who take protectors other than Allah is like that of the spider, who takes unto itself a house; but truly the frailest of all houses is the spider’s house’ (Al Ankabut 29th Sura The Koran)

In its savagery management, the dedicated followers of the Islamic cause in Palestine can never overlook the importance of ‘political work’ and understanding the West’s ‘political game’. The spider’s house of the West is fragile and can fragment. The Management of Savagery distinguishes between the military strategy, the media strategy and the planning for the effects of these strategies, as, in the wake of a successful attack like that on Israel, to justify it. In particular the Islamist agenda exploits the West’s open borders, sympathetic media and multicultural tolerance to advance, pro Palestine and pro Islamist causes. Sympathetic fifth columnists  infiltrate the army, police, civil institutions but particularly the media and secondary and tertiary educational institutions. The media and higher education’s  woke embrace of the non-western ‘other’ render them particularly congenial to pro-Palestinian and anti-semitic manipulation.

 Thus as events in Israel and Gaza unfold a predictable narrative begins to take shape on what Bernard Henri Levy termed the zombie left. Almost as soon as news of the operation occurred, BBC World news trotted out an expert from Chatham House deploring the attack but nevertheless contending that Israel’s treatment of Palestine and the desperation of its inhabitants apparently left them with little alternative but ‘resistance’. The BBC, of course, eschews the use of the pejorative ‘terror’ to describe the savagery Hamas unleashed, In the ensuing days, it became something of a trope in the West’s mainstream media and eleemosynary institutions to opt for moral equivocation and a specious relativism. The attack soi-disant experts opined had little to do with  ideology, rather it demonstrated, perhaps too brutally, a necessary reaction to Israeli oppression which the West had for too long duplicitously condoned. Demonstrators appeared outside the Israeli embassy in High Street Kensington, London chanting Allahu Akbar. The Palestinian leadership of the SNP refused to raise an Israeli flag outside the Scottish Assembly in Edinburgh. In Sydney a gathering outside the Opera House chanted ‘gas the Jews’. Meanwhile across the Pacific more than 30 student organizations at Harvard University endorsed a letter shamelessly blaming Israel for the attacks.


We should recall that before critical race theory there was critical terror theory a perverse form of deconstruction that found the West, its colonialism, orientalism and islamophobia responsible for all the problems in the post-Cold war order. This particular species of western self-loathing first came to the fore in the aftermath of 9/11, but assumed prominence after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Over two decades it has undermined any objective study of terrorism on  western campuses from Aberystwyth in Wales to Queensland in Australia, taking in Harvard on the way. Sedulously promoted across the Anglosphere as a fashionably progressive take on terror that empathised with the misunderstood resistance of the non-West, critical terror theory now permeates not only academe but the mainstream media journalists trained in its discipline over the past twenty years.


Thus from its first appearance in April 2008, the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism announced its intention to reverse the conventional perception of terrorism and the methodology of terrorism research. As the editors, who went on to dominate the field of terror research in the UK and Australia over the next decade “acts of clandestine non-state terrorism are committed by a tiny number of individuals and result in between a few hundred and a few thousand casualties per year over the entire world” (original italics). Accordingly, United States’ and its allies’ preoccupation with terrorism is disproportionate to its effects.1 At the same time, the more pervasive and repressive terror practiced by the West and the US in particular has been “silenced from public and . . . academic discourse”. [3]The complicity of conventional studies of terror and political violence with the allegedly authoritarian demands of Western state  practice, together with the moral and political blindness of established historical analysis to this relationship forms the critical theorists overriding assumption and one that its core proponents that now dominate this field of  pseudo academic endeavour repeated ad nauseam over the next decade.

Since 2008 successive generations of undergraduates taking courses in terrorism and political violence have been inculcated in this morally deracinating ethical relativism posturing as emancipation, or as one of its leading advocates explained: ‘the gap between those who hate terrorism and those who carry it out, those who seek to delegitimize the acts of terrorists and those who incite them, and those who abjure terror and those who glorify it—is not as great as is implied or asserted by orthodox terrorism experts, the discourse of governments, or the popular press” . The gap “between us/them is a slippery slope, not an unbridgeable political and ethical chasm”. Thus, while “terrorist actions” might be in some sense ‘wrong’ they nevertheless “might be contingently excusable”. [4] From this ultimately demented perspective, gang raping a defenceless woman or beheading a baby, an act of terror on any critical or uncritical scale of evaluation, is, it would seem, wrong but potentially excusable.

Critical theory, then, embraces relativism not only toward language but also toward social action. Relativism and the bizarre ethics it engenders in its attempt to empathize with the other can only lead to the moral confusion on display nightly on the mainstream news channels coverage of Palestine. As Leo Strauss classically inquired of this relativist tendency in the social sciences, “is such an understanding dependent upon our own commitment or independent of it?” As Strauss explains, the value neutral expert goes through the process of empathetic understanding in order to reach clarity about commitment for only a part of me is engaged in my empathetic understanding. This means, however, that “such understanding is not serious or genuine but histrionic.”

This histrionic viewpoint wonderfully suits the needs of those who wish to weaken secular democracy  and support those like Hamas or various Islamic front organizations that adapt it to the purpose of  managing savagery. Given its progressive attachments, the western liberal media and a self-loathing academe proved eminently amenable to this latest ideological endeavour to make ‘lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind’.[5] The mainstream media, allied to the wider progressive concern with balance, impartiality and cultural sensitivity proved particularly helpful in disseminating this relativist perspective on the recent atrocity in Israel.

By endorsing such moral relativism, the purportedly neutral media failed to discriminate between a democratic opinion and a totalitarian practice. More worrying still, it is often only the apologists for politically motivated violence that are permitted a voice in the ethically responsible, progressive western press.

 As it evolved after 2003, a progressive academic, media and political orthodoxy, came to absolve jihadists or Hamas of responsibility for their actions, blaming it instead on contingent factors like colonialism, racism, poverty or, after a series of lone actor attacks across Europe between 2015-17, madness, generated by the anomie the perpetrator/ victim experienced in his western isolation. In this manner, the progressive mind came rationally to explain the murderous action, whilst at the same time empathising with it. In the process, it chose to ignore the somewhat inconvenient fact that most terrorists, did not turn to violence because of poverty, but out of choice, and for politically religious reasons.[6]Self-censorship, allied to an anti-secular relativism, reinforces religious and cultural taboos, making it increasingly impossible to offer any criticism of a minority identity (except, of course, Christian, Jewish or white male) that might give offence and be considered ‘hate speech’.

In this increasingly polarised environment, where to criticise Palestine or support Israel evokes the very real possibility of violence, secular liberal multiculturalists should perhaps attend to the thinking of a philosopher who understood the necessary conditions for maintaining an open society against its enemies. Karl Popper, a refugee from the Third Reich death cult, identified the liberal paradox that, ‘unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance’. In fact, he argued, that ‘if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them’. Popper further contended, that we need not ‘suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion’. Yet as Popper foresaw, ‘it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument’, but begin, as Islamists and their woke sympathisers  do, by denouncing all argument. They may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments with violence. In this context, Popper would advise that a pluralist democracy must claim ‘in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant’.[7] Indeed, a political democracy, characterised by deep pluralism, that does not comprehend this paradox cannot long survive.

Living in  Morocco in 1952, the  American novelist, Paul Bowles, wrote, ‘I don’t think we’re likely to get to know the Moslems very well, and I suspect that if we should, we’d find them less sympathetic than we do at present. And I suspect the same applies to their getting to know us’.   Bowles’ prescient insight is  on display daily in  West London and Western Sydney.

David Martin Jones, October 2023




[1] Eric Voegelin, cited in Barry Cooper, New Political Religions (Columbus, University of Missouri Press, 2007) p.106.

[2] Abu Bakr Naji (trans William McCant) The Management of Savagery: The Most Critical Stage Through Which the Umma Will Pass  Harvard, Harvard university press, 2006

[3] The editors   (2008) Critical Studies on Terrorism 1,1  p.1

[4] Ken Booth   ‘The Human  face of Terror’, Critical Studies on Terrorism, 1, 1, p.66

[5] George Orwell, ‘Politics and the English Language’, in Essays, London, Penguin 2000 p.137.

[6] Fourest Loc512

[7] See Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies vol. 2. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 2 vols. 1962, p.302.