The Desire of the Other and the Genocide of the Palestinian People in Gaza

By Euclides Mance*
March 2, 2024

During the Second World War, a Jewish soldier who acted as an interpreter for Russians and Germans was taken prisoner and sent to a Nazi concentration camp in Hannover. He remained there from 1940 to 1945. Born in Lithuania but naturalized as a French citizen, his name was Emmanuel Levinas.

In this condition and circumstance, he formulated the basic theses of a book published in 1947 titled From Existence to the Existent.

In it, Levinas argues that the existent, which gives meaning to the beings included in its world, would be in an impersonal, arid, neutral condition, which could be overcome only by being-for-the-other, as an ethical moment of respect for otherness.

In fact, in the existential project of any person, people or State, when one converts the other into a thing and transforms him into a means to achieve some purpose, one is already violating ethics. Therefore, an existence, even an authentic, autonomous and rationally founded one, may lack ethicality.

Years later, in Totality and Infinity (1961), Levinas states that the force which moves ethical conduct is not reason, which gives meaning to what is seen on the horizon of the world, based on some project as its foundation. Rather, it is the desire of the other in its otherness; desire that leads to the proximity of the human being, face-to-face with another human being.

Desire for the Invisible, because the other is never limited to what we see of him. Desire for the Infinite, because the other reveals himself infinitely other in his freedom. Metaphysical Desire, because no human being is reduced to the materiality of his body.

Levinas reports in an interview with François Poirié (1987, p. 21) that when the prisoners returned daily from their day of forced labor to the concentration camp barracks, the Germans saw them from the windows, in silence. There was no swearing or insults, but they did not see them as human beings. They saw them as Jews.

The one who recognized them as human beings was a dog, who welcomed them jumping, barking happily, and wanting to play: “For him – it was indisputable – we were human beings,” states Levinas (2006, p. 234).

Today, television screens and cell phones serve as windows on what is happening in Gaza, and the world watches the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people, displaced from their homes and jobs by the military forces of a Zionist State.

We see hungry, desperate people running in search of humanitarian aid killed by soldiers who were simply following orders, carrying out their work in the best possible way, as the Nazi Adolf Eichmann argued, when he was tried in Jerusalem for the crime of genocide, as Hannah Arendt (2014) tells us in The Banality of Evil.

Just as no one should forget the images of the genocide of the Jewish people, no one should forget the images of Israeli soldiers killing unarmed people who were running in search of food. For Israel’s Minister of National Security, the soldiers “acted excellently against a Gaza crowd that tried to harm them” (UOL, 2024).

For his part, the Israeli ambassador to Brazil stated that describing as genocide the actions currently carried out by the State of Israel, which victimize thousands of innocent civilians in Gaza, is “spitting in the face of the Jews” (DW, 2024).

What the ambassador perhaps hopes is that we will stand silently at the window, watching more than a million people being swept from their homes to the border with Egypt; Palestinians being shot by Israeli soldiers for running from one place to another and crowding themselves around trucks in search of food; or being killed by the constant bombings of Israeli armed forces. These bombs leave behind them a trail of complete destruction in the evacuated territories.

What the ambassador hopes, with his coercive speech, is that we remain silent in the face of the slaughter of thousands of defenseless women and children and more than a hundred journalists and doctors who heroically lost their lives in the line of duty.

In short, what he hopes is that we remain silent in the face of the war crimes and ongoing genocide perpetrated by the State of Israel against the Palestinian people.

It is necessary to reaffirm, once again, what we have already stated on other occasions: just as we clearly condemn Hamas’ terrorist attacks against the people of Israel and call for the immediate release of the Israeli hostages, we also condemn the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people by armed forces of the State of Israel. We call for an immediate ceasefire, the release of Palestinians imprisoned over the years by Israel in clear violation of international law, and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Palestinian territories, which it has illegally occupied for decades.

As Levinas taught, human beings cannot be seen from windows – or through drone cameras – as things, like insects to be crushed, reduced to means that can be eliminated if the totalitarian project of any State requires it.

We call on the governments of all nations to stand openly, through public statements, against continuing the genocide in Gaza and to take political and economic measures that force the United States to approve a resolution for an immediate ceasefire.

That Israel abandon all Palestinian territories it occupies, assuming as its country’s borders the limits established by UN resolution 181, which created the State of Israel in 1947, and recognize the territories of the Palestinian State, defined in this same resolution in part II, section A.

That there be reciprocal recognition of the Palestinian and Israeli States in a peace agreement that allows their peoples to live and prosper peacefully in their territories, being able to establish, in reciprocal respect for their autonomy, East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State and West Jerusalem as the capital of the Israeli State.

We also call for all allegations of crimes committed by both parties to be subject to rigorous investigation and fair trials at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.


ARENDT, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem: a report on the banality of evil. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2014

D.W. Mauro Vieira rechaça críticas de ministro israelense a Lula. 02/21/2024. Available at: Ministro-israelense-a-lula/a-68313621. Accessed on: 03/02/2024

LEVINAS, Emmanuel. De l’existence à l’existant. Paris: Vrin, 1947

LEVINAS, Emmanuel. Totalité et infini. Essai sur l’extériorité. La Haye: Martinus Nijhoff, 1961

LEVINAS, Emmanuel. Nom d’un chien ou le droit naturel. In: LEVINAS, Emmanuel. Difficile liberté: essais sur le judaïsme. Paris: Albin Michel, 2006

POIRIÉ, François. Emmanuel Lévinas – Qui êtes-vous?, Lyon, La Manufacture, 1987

UN. Resolution Number 181/1947. Available at: Accessed on: 03/02/2024

UOL. Após mais de 100 mortes, ministro de Israel defende fim de ajuda a Gaza. 02/29/2024. Available at: Ministro-israel-defende-fim-de-ajuda-a-gaza.htm . Accessed on: 03/02/2024

*Euclides Mance, philosopher, is one of the main theorists of the solidarity economy and the philosophy of liberation in Latin America. He is also Co-founder of the Institute of Philosophy of Liberation – IFiL and General Coordinator of the International Solidarius Network, which works to support the organization of solidarity economic networks and circuits.

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