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Netanyahu’s Reference To Biblical Genocide Is The Problem. But There Is Still Hope For Peace.

Netanyahu’s Reference to Biblical Genocide Is the Problem

After Hamas’ brutal attack in Israel on October 7 that killed 1,200 innocent Israeli citizens, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, invoked the Biblical name Amalek.

“You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible. And we do remember.”  

Amalek is an obscure reference in the Bible. Most Christians I know have never heard of Amalek.

But Netanyahu’s allusion to Amalek is incredibly dangerous rhetoric that can easily be interpreted as having genocidal intent.

The nation of Amalek was one of the great enemies of ancient Israel. As Israel left Egypt, the Amalekites tried to defeat Israel.

Biblical Genocide

The main chapter about the Amalekites that we need to examine is I Samuel 15. The Lord gave Samuel instructions and wanted Samuel to relay those instructions to King Saul.

Saul was the first king of Israel. He showed great promise early in his kingship. But then Saul made some mistakes. One major mistake concerned the Amalekites.

Samuel told Saul,

Thus says the Lord, “I will punish the Amalekites for what they did in opposing the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. 3Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

The “Lord” told Saul that Saul must kill all the Amalekites – all the men, women, and children, even the animals. The story is a divine call for genocide.

And Netanyahu invoked a story about genocide when referring to the Palestinians.

To make matters worse, Saul didn’t obey God’s orders to fulfill this divine call to genocide. He spared the King of Amalek and he kept the best cattle for himself. Apparently, Saul killed the other Amalekites.

God was not happy that Saul spared the king and a few animals. And so Samuel castigated Saul for his insolence in refusing to fully obey God’s demand for genocide. God was so upset with Saul for this act that God tore the kingdom from Saul and gave it to David

Does Netanyahu have Genocidal Intentions?

That’s why Netanyahu’s reference to Amalek is so dangerous. Amalek is a story about divine genocide and the punishment that will come if the political leader does not fulfill that demand. By referring to Amalek, Netanyahu planted the seed for full-on genocide of the Palestinian people.

Some have tried to interpret Netanyahu’s way out of his genocidal rhetoric. They claim that he was only talking about the enemy combatants that comprise Hamas. But the problem is that God’s command in I Samuel 15 to kill all the Amalekites made no distinction between combatants and everyone else.

And that’s where Netanyahu’s rhetoric about Amalek, along with the 28,000 Palestinians murdered since October 7, supports the case that he is acting with genocidal intent against Palestinians. Of course, I don’t know Netanyahu’s intentions, but if someone intended genocide, this is the rhetoric and these are the violent actions they would use.

But Netanyahu isn’t the only one using genocidal language against Palestinians. US Senator Lindsey Graham told Fox News, “We are in a religious war here. I’m with Israel. Do whatever the hell you have to do to defend yourself. Level the place.” The phrase “Level the place” makes no distinction between Hamas and Palestinian civilians.

In addition, Isaac Hertzel, the President of Israel, blamed all Palestinians for Hamas’ actions on October 7 when he stated, “It’s an entire nation out there that is responsible. This rhetoric about civilians not aware, not involved, it’s absolutely not true. They could’ve risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime.”

How Netanyahu Actually Supported Hamas

It may seem like an absurd paradox, but we know that Netanyahu has supported Hamas in an effort to pit Palestinian leadership against each other. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is the Palestinian party that leads the West Bank. The PA is a direct rival to Hamas. Netanyahu wanted to encourage that rivalry so that Palestinian leadership would remain fractured. He supported Hamas by allowing Qatar to send millions of dollars a year to Hamas. The PA was against this plan to support Hamas, but the Israeli Government supported it.

The Israeli government labeled Hamas a terrorist group long before October 7, yet allowed for its funding. And while the Israeli government rightly condemns Hamas’ murder of 1,200 Israelites on October 7, it refuses to take responsibility for its murder of 28,000 Palestinians since October 7.

The majority of people want peace in the region. But the methods of violence currently employed to gain that peace will not work. It will only doom us to further cycles of retributive violence.

What’s the Answer?

Yes, there are answers. One of those answers must be to address the injustices against the Palestinian people.

For generations the Palestinian people have lived in horrible conditions. Since 1967, the Israeli military has completely blockated the land in Gaza. No one can leave or enter Palestine without special permission from the Israeli Government. If a Palestinian travels out of Palestine, there is a good chance they will never be allowed back in. The Israeli Government controls the amount of food, electricity, internet, and medical supplies that enter Palestine. There has been a water crisis in Palestine for decades. This crisis is exacerbated by the increased Israeli military airstrikes since October 7. Because of these conditions, the jobless rate in Palestine has always been one of the worst in the world. “The jobless rate stands at 46%, and is higher still among youth at around 70%, latest data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics says.”

Palestinian land in the West Bank is also under threat. That land has been continually stolen from Palestinians by Israeli settlers during the past 40 years. According to United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “828 people, including 313 children, have been forcibly displaced from their lands due to settler violence or movement restrictions, while humanitarian actors are prevented from accessing these populations.”

Any solution to the violence in Israel and Palestine must address these decades long injustices against the Palestinian people. Any genocidal language from Hamas or the Israeli Government must stop and systemic injustices much be addressed if there is any hope for peace.

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Adam Ericksen

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