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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 50 December 9, 2023

Savagery of the “Civilized” | Arup Kumar Sen

Saturday 9 December 2023, by Arup Kumar Sen


In the context of America’s war against Islam in the wake of 9/11 attacks, the eminent critical voice of our time, Arundhati Roy, raised a fundamental question in her article, ‘The Algebra of Infinite Justice’, carried in The Guardian (2001). Roy asked:

So here we have it. The equivocating distinction between civilisation and savagery, between the “massacre of innocent people” or, if you like, “a clash of civilisations” and “collateral damage.” The sophistry and fastidious algebra of infinite justice. How many dead Iraqis will it take to make the world a better place? How many dead Afghans for every dead American? How many dead women and children for every dead man?...

The recent savage attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza strip, unleashed by Israel in the wake of Hamas-led attacks, remind us of Arundhati Roy’s critique of America’s declaration of war against Muslims.

According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israel’s brutal attacks from October 7 to November 10, 2023. Most of the dead are women and children. The United Nations has described Gaza as “a living nightmare” and “a graveyard for children.” (

A recent article published in The New York Times (November 25, 2023) observed: “While wartime death tolls will never be exact, experts say that even a conservative reading of the casualty figures reported from Gaza shows that the pace of death during Israel’s campaign has few precedents in this century.”

Borrowing Arundhati Roy’s language, Israel’s repeated brutal attacks on the Palestinians should be called savagery of the “civilized”.

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