Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday referenced a series of violent passages in the Hebrew Bible, confirming to the world his genocidal motivations.
It can be inferred that his insinuation of the Palestinian side as “Amalek’ was calculated. While seemingly hoping the comment would evade international scrutiny, it also appears designed to inflame extremist zeal domestically and grant himself a carte blanche for his massacres in Gaza.
For a while, it seemed like his plan was successful. The statements went largely unnoticed and unreported in major Western media outlets.
However, after the speech was translated and spread independently on social media, netizens familiar with Tanakh scripture pointed out the blatant call for the extermination of an entire race.
In response, a Wall Street Journal reporter hastily penned an opinion piece titled “Amalekite and Jihad,” with the subheading “Netanyahu comes under fire for using the former term as a metaphor. Hamas uses the latter term literally.”
This piece appears to be an attempt to defend radical Zionist views amidst concerns of shifting public opinion. The choice to highlight “jihad,” which linguistically means “struggle” in the Arabic language, seems to aim at evoking fears of “Islamic fundamentalism”.
This strategy of shifting focus isn’t unexpected, as some fringe Christian apologists and implicit defenders of Zionism have a recurring habit of pivoting the conversation towards Islam and Muslims when Judeo-Christian scripture is cited in contentious ways to justify violent onslaught.
The article should be regarded primarily and only as ‘damage control’. As many countries traditionally supporting Israel on the diplomatic front witness their populations uncovering deeper truths, key Zionist arguments, which frame Palestinians as an existential threat to justify ‘self-defense’ are being critically de-constructed.
Now how much does the average Westerner really need to know about Amalekites? And what has been said about them? The following lines will clarify:
Following the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, the Amalekites were a collection of now extinct desert-dwelling Levantine tribes believed to have targeted and ambushed the most vulnerable among them. This act cemented their reputation as relentless enemies. Consequently, a deep-seated animosity arose between the two groups, culminating in perpetual hatred and divine condemnation of the Amalekites .
Building on this sentiment, consider Exodus 17:14:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven.”
In his speech, Netanyahu referenced the Amalekites, stating, ‘We must remember what they did to us, as our Holy Bible recounts.’ But what exactly does the Hebrew Bible instruct concerning the Amalekites?
A particularly striking directive can be found in 1 Samuel 14:3, which commands the complete annihilation of the Amalekite bloodline. It reads as the following:
“Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”
This is exacerbated by the fact that the object of this command, King Saul, was ultimately dethroned and rejected by God for sparing the Amalekite king Agag, alongside a number of valuable sheep and cattle. In fact, the Amalakeite narrative has become so central in traditional Judaism that within the 613 mitzvot (positive and negative commandments of a Jew), three specific injunctions (598-600) serve to reinforce the mission to eradicate the Amalekites.
Recently, 45 influential Israeli rabbis signed a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials, asserting Israel’s right to bomb the Al-Shifa’ hospital in Gaza amid allegations of its use by Hamas – despite international law prohibiting attacks on healthcare facilities. Among the signatories was Dov Lior.
Lior, a prominent Rabbi and spiritual leader of Israel’s Minister of National Security, is someone that has perpetuated the Amalek theory in the political setting. Drawing from authoritative work R’ Chaim of Brisk by renowned Talmudic scholar Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, Lior maintains that Israel’s modern adversaries are tantamount to Amalek, a viewpoint he traces back to earlier rabbinical precepts.
It’s worth noting that the Israeli-American terrorist Baruch Goldstein, who opened fire on innocent Palestinian worshippers in the Ibrahimi Mosque during Ramadan in 1994, was a known disciple of Rabbi Dov Lior. The incident is known as the ‘Hebron Massacre’, the city of which Lior was Chief Rabbi. In his eulogy for Goldstein, Lior controversially described him as “holier than all the Holocaust martyrs”. The Zionist establishment actively fosters and seeks legitimacy from a milieu where radical religious clergy endorse violence through scripture. Therefore, Lior is not an outlier in this respect.
According to the Jerusalem Post In 2007, former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu conveyed in a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that all civilians in Gaza were collectively responsible for the Kassam attacks on Sderot. Eliyahu asserted that there was no moral restriction against indiscriminate civilian killings by the IDF.
He substantiated this stance using the biblical story of the Shechem massacre (Genesis 34) and Maimonides’ commentary (Laws of Kings 9, 14) as references, claiming that unhinged carpet bombing was in line with Jewish war ethics.
His son, then Chief Rabbi of Safed, doubled down on this sentiment claiming: “If they don’t stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand. And if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don’t stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop.”
While some will dismiss Netanyahu’s proclamations as merely metaphorical, his concurrent on- the-ground ground actions, specifically the disproportionate bombing of civilians by the IDF and intended desire to target Palestinians as a collective (see fellow Likud party member’s call to erase Gazans enmasse), make this postulation implausible.
The Israeli government or its supporters might also argue that when Netanyahu invokes the term “Amalek”, he is specifically referring to Hamas militants, not the broader Palestinian population.
However, such an argument becomes futile when considering the scriptural injunction against Amalek, which explicitly mandates the extermination of not just male combatants, but also women, children, and animals with no moral agency. Any attempt at such defences reeks of preposterous bias; Netanyahu’s statements will be engraved in the annals of history along with like minded war criminals.