Israelite David versus Palestinian Goliath? Imagined Community and Israeli Missile-Defence Systems

The creation of a modern state of Israel was prompted – in large part – by the imagined community of modern Jews with an imagined ancient “Israel”. Conversely, as Keith Whitelam pointed out in The Invention of Ancient Israel, “the discourse of biblical studies has imagined an ancient Israelite state that is remarkably similar in many aspects to the modern state” (p. 129). This imagined ancient state of Israel even has its own enemies which it supposed to have defeated when Israel became, under David, a mighty empire. These were the Philistines, who were a repeated threat to Israel until the time of Saul. Yet, under David, “the Philistines are, interestingly, confined to the southern part of the maritime plain, the modern Gaza strip” (p. 137).

Shift forward to 2012, and history repeats itself – so long as new peoples can be identified with old legendary peoples. This from Associated Press:

Israel’s newest missile defense system, designed to provide another layer of protection against enemy fire, is on schedule for deployment in 2014, defense officials said Tuesday.

The “David’s Sling” system, named after the famous weapon in the biblical David and Goliath story, is part of a multi-layered defense against incoming rockets and missiles….

Over the past decade, militants in the Gaza Strip have fired thousands of rockets into Israel….

“Israel prepares new missile defense system”, Fox News, 13 November 2012

David’s Sling (קלע דוד‎) is a joint military project between Israel and the U.S., funded by U.S. Government financial aid to Israel. It is being developed by the same two companies involved in the development of the Iron Dome defence system, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems and Raytheon.

David's Sling (קלע דוד) missile
David’s Sling (קלע דוד) missile

The rhetorical identification of Israel with David facing a Palestinian/Philistine Goliath takes advantage of the rhetoric of “the underdog” to deny Israel’s military aggression against and military superiority over Palestinians and other neighbouring countries in the area:

In modern usage, a “David and Goliath struggle” is proverbial for a seemingly unequal contest between an overpowering opponent and a small but courageous contender…. The David and Goliath metaphor has frequently been employed to provoke sympathy for a heroic Israeli underdog against a surrounding Arab coalition – despite Israel’s overwhelming military superiority since 1948.

– DG, “Goliath”, Dictionary of the Bible and Western Culture, edited by Mary Ann Beavis, Michael J. Gilmour (Sheffield Pheonix, 2012), p. 189


2 thoughts on “Israelite David versus Palestinian Goliath? Imagined Community and Israeli Missile-Defence Systems

  1. Great piece. Love the Noam Chomsky quote — SO true! I wish more Americans could get this straight and help bring it to a stop. Thanks for doing your part putting it out here!


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