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In a recent video, the Israeli Prime Minister referenced biblical texts and mentioned the Amalekites, which has raised concerns about whether the Israeli government is calling for the genocide of the people of Gaza. The Amalekites were a biblical tribe associated with calls for genocide in specific passages. This issue is significant because it brings attention to the potential implications of such rhetoric and its troubling history.
The video features the Prime Minister stating, “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible.” He also mentions the Israeli troops joining a chain of Jewish heroes that dates back 3,000 years to Joshua. This raises questions about the Amalekites, who they are, and the historical context tied to their genocide.
To shed light on this matter, let’s turn to the book “Laying Down the Sword: Why We Cannot Ignore the Bible’s Violent Verses” by Philip Jenkins, a distinguished historian from Baylor University’s Institute of Studies of Religion. Jenkins provides expert analysis of these passages, which are deeply troubling for both Christians and Jews who may not be aware of them.
Jenkins compares the Bible and the Quran, noting that while some in the West perceive Islam as promoting violence in contrast to their cherished scriptures, the Bible itself contains violent verses that have troubled faithful readers for centuries. These passages have been used throughout history by Christians and Jews to justify and command genocide.
One such passage is from 1 Samuel 15:1-3 where Saul is commanded by God, through the prophet Samuel, to exterminate the Amalekites, sparing no one, including men, women, children, and even animals. Saul’s failure to carry out this genocide led to his rejection as king.
Jenkins highlights that Christians and Jews have used these verses to justify acts of violence and slaughter throughout history. He cites historical examples where biblical texts were used to justify atrocities, such as the massacre of Irish royalists by Scottish Protestants in the 17th century or the genocide in colonial Southwest Africa by a Bible-influenced German administration.
The author further emphasizes that many generations of Christian and Jewish readers have had no qualms about applying these genocidal biblical commands to contemporary contexts. This history includes not just isolated extremists but also prominent theologians, who have had a profound influence on the justification of violence and extermination.
It is important to note that the Palestinians of today have ancestral ties to the ancient Canaanites, who were targeted by biblical heroes such as Joshua. The parallel between the past genocidal acts and contemporary references to the Amalekites raises concerns about the rhetoric employed by the Israeli Prime Minister and its implications.
While there may be a distinction between rhetoric and reality in practice, the question remains whether the Israeli government is advocating for the genocide of the Palestinian people. This question must be critically examined, challenged, and addressed by governments, media outlets, leaders, and society. Genocide must be unequivocally condemned, and a genuine dialogue about the situation is essential in seeking a just and peaceful resolution.