Rethinking Amalek in This 21st Century
“Remember both of you what Amalek did to us. The Nazis callously slaughtered us, undisturbed by feelings of guilt. I observed them as I stood among them when many thousands of men, women, children, and infants were sent to their deaths. How guilty [the Germans] ate their morning’s bread and butter, how they mocked our martyrs. I saw them on their return from the killing rounds, drenched in the blood of our loved ones. Remember this and do not forget it all the days of your lives. Pass it on as a holy testament to the generations to come.”Elhanan Elkes1
We remember Amalek by recommitting ourselves to the biblical prohibition against forgetting Amalek, or more specifically, by recommitting ourselves to the somewhat paradoxical command to not forget to eliminate the memory.
The ancient Amalek has appeared and reappeared in Jewish history in many forms and guises: he wore the signet ring of the king as Haman; the royal crown as Antiochus; the general’s uniform as Titus; the emperor’s toga as Hadrian; the priestly robe as Torquemada; the cossack’s boots as Chmielnitzki; or the brown shirt as Hitler. All of them had in common their hatred of Jews and Judaism, and they all failed in their objective to crush the faith and people of God.
Rabbi Abba, who was the son of Rabbi Kahana and who lived in the Roman administrative capital of Caesarea, declared that so long as the seed of Amalek exists, it is as if God’s face is concealed, but that when the seed of Amalek will be uprooted from the world, the face of God will be revealed.
“Do you know how my father would try out a new pen?” the Jewish Communist in Warsaw asked her American visitor in the early 1970s. “My father was a pious man, so he would dip the nib in ink, write ‘Amalek’ in Hebrew on a sheet of paper, then cross it out with a single black stroke.”
This is how traditional Jews settled historical scores with their enemies—biblical Amalek being the tribe that attacked the weak rear guard of the Israelites on their flight from Egypt. But the daughter’s point was that “history” teaches only what we are already inclined to learn from it, and that Jews had not yet drawn the right conclusions from theirs. Her father’s symbolic strike at injustice had not prepared his generation for a century of real Amaleks.2
Some settler leaders see in the Palestinians the modern-day incarnation of the Amalekites, a mysterious Canaanite tribe that the Bible calls Israel’s eternal enemy. In the Book of Exodus, the Amalekites attacked the Children of Israel on their journey to the land of Israel. For this sin, God damned the Amalekites, commanding the Jews to wage a holy war to exterminate them. This is perhaps the most widely ignored command in the Bible. The rabbis who shaped Judaism could barely bring themselves to endorse the death penalty for murder, much less endorse genocide, and they ruled that the Amalekites no longer existed. But Moshe Feiglin, the Likud activist, told me, “The Arabs engage in typical Amalek behavior. I can’t prove this genetically, but this is the behavior of Amalek.”3 When I asked Benzi Lieberman, the chairman of the council of settlements—the umbrella group of all settlements in the West Bank and Gaza—if he thought the Amalekites existed today, he said, “The Palestinians are Amalek!” Lieberman went on, “We will destroy them. We won’t kill them all. But we will destroy their ability to think as a nation. We will destroy Palestinian nationalism.”
2. Amalek in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
The Lord said to Moses: “Write this in a book to be remembered, and tell it to Joshua: I [God] will completely blot out any memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar, called it Adonai nissi, [The Lord is my banner.] and said, “Because their hand was against the throne of God, the Lord will fight Amalek generation after generation.”[Ex. 17:14–16; emphasis added]6
“Remember what Amalek did to you on the road as you were coming out of Egypt, how he met you by the road, attacked those in the rear, those who were exhausted and straggling behind when you were tired and weary. He did not fear God. Therefore, when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies in the land the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance to possess, you [Israelites] are to blot out all memory of Amalek from under heaven. Don’t forget!”[Deut. 24:17–19; emphasis added]
1 O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God. 2 See how Your foes rear their heads. 3 With cunning they conspire against Your people; they plot against those You cherish. 4 “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.” 5 With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against You—6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab, and the Hagites, 7 Byblos, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. 8 Even Assyria has joined them to reinforce Lot’s descendants.[Emphases added]
Fundamentally, the idea of Amalek is an attempt to make some theological sense of recurring historical evils. While such theologies are potentially dangerous, they also serve a purpose by helping communities survive and explain troubling historical events. In Judaism, the theological idea that massive historical evils perpetrated by individuals and groups who harbor an irrational hatred of Jews and Judaism are part of a larger cosmic pattern has helped the community make sense of tragedies and thus continue to survive.(Kaminksy 2017) [Emphasis added].
3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.[Emphasis added.]
- What precedents and parallels are there among other peoples of antiquity for the command of genocide, including women, children, and animals; and what unique elements are there in the genocide of the Amalekites?
- What significance is there in the birth and origin of Amalek?
- Whose responsibility is it to eliminate the Amalekites?
- What are the grounds that are said to justify such a command?
- Which of the Amalekites are included in the command to have them destroyed?
- To what extent do Philo, Pseudo-Philo, and Josephus, the earliest systematic commentators on the Bible, raise the question of divine morality and to what degree do they regard Amalek as merely a symbolic concept?
- How do these writers treat Saul’s and David’s campaigns against the Amalekites?
- To what degree should the alleged Jews’ hatred of Gentiles be seen as the background for God’s everlasting war with Amalek? [Emphasis added]
- What significance is there in the equation of Esau, Edom, Amalek, and Rome?
- To what degree can parallels to the genocide of the Amalekites be seen in God’s destruction of life in the great Flood, the divine decision to obliterate Sodom and Gomorrah, the divine annihilation of the first-born Egyptians in the tenth plague?
- To what degree are there parallels in the seeming brutality of the Israelites toward non-Jews in avenging the rape of Dinah, in the annihilation of the nations of Sihon and Og, in the annihilation of the inhabitants of Jericho, and in the annihilation of the priests and other inhabitants of Nob?
- To what degree is there a parallel in the divinely approved zealotry of Phineas in putting to death Zimri and his consort?13
3. The Weaker and Stronger Sides of History
…it is well known among scholars of rabbinic Judaism that the image of Amalek was highly malleable in the imagination of the rabbis and that they commonly identified their adversaries with the ancient enemy, whoever they might be. In the first centuries, Amalek was the Roman Empire, while in the medieval period was Christian Europe. This tendency has continued in the modern period. Many Jews identified the Nazis as Amalek, and in modern day Israel, some right-wing religious Israelis have done the same with the Palestinians.16 Certainly, up until recent times, the consequences of this phenomenon have been limited because the rabbis had no power to act on their hatred of Amalek. However, as [Elliott] Horowitz has argued, Jews were surprisingly forthright in the medieval period in openly ridiculing and insulting Christians and Christianity. Much more serious and troubling is that in the modern period, Jews have regained political power, and the propensity of right-wing Israeli settlers to identify the Palestinians with Amalekites has sometimes had deadly consequences. The commandment to exterminate the Amalekites was therefore preserved by the rabbis, and for that reason it remains a potential source of violence
…throughout the centuries, it was not uncommon for Christians and Jews to view their enemies as Canaanites and Amalekites…William Gouge, the seventeenth-century English Calvinist used texts about Amalek to justify war against Catholics. Cotton Mather drew on the image of Amalek in his diatribes against Native American Indians. And Martin Luther and his student Johannes Brenz even identified Amalek with the Jews!
4. Today’s Palestinians as Amalekites
Many of our children are being indoctrinated, in religious schools, that the Arabs are Amalek, and the bible [sic] teaches us that Amalek must be destroyed. There was already a rabbi in Israel [Israel Hess]22 who wrote in the [student] newspaper of Bar Ilan University that we all must commit genocide, and that is because his research showed that the Palestinians are Amalek.
Clearly for Hess, Amalek is synonymous with the Palestinian Arabs, who have a conflict with Israeli Jews, and they must be “annihilated,” including women, children, and infants. His use of the Arabic term jihad [See note 27.] leaves no doubt as to whom such a war of ‘annihilation’ should be waged against.
As to the Arabs—the element that now resides in the land is foreign in its essence to the land and its promise—their sentence must be that of all previous foreign elements. Our wars with them have been inevitable, just as in the days of the conquest of our possessions in antiquity, our wars with the people who ruled our land for their own benefit was inevitable… In the case of the enemies, who, in the nature of their being, have only one single goal, to destroy you, there is no remedy but for them to be destroyed. This is ‘the judgment of Amalek.
For many settlement leaders, particularly those religious figures and extremist rabbis, the ideological conflict with the Palestinian Arabs, had its roots in biblical injunctions, regarding the Amalekites … At least some leading rabbis interpreted this biblical injunction to justify not only expulsion of local Arabs but also the killing of Arab civilians in the event of war.24
5. What Then Is to Be Done?26
For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean [conduct] themselves as good citizens.[Emphasis added]
The Palestinians of today are not the Amalekites of the past, despite those shrill voices who falsely label them as such—any more than 2017 is 1938 or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (b. 1956) or the late Yasir Arafat (1929–2004) are or were the incarnations of the Nazis of the Second World War and the Holocaust/Shoah. Using these false equivalences, biblically based as they would at first appear, strengthens only the hands of the warriors, not the peacemakers. As Alastair Hunter would have it: “Until those involved can become sensitive to each other’s pain, it seems likely—sadly—that this biblical legacy will continue to impose its harsh inheritance as both Jews and Palestinians use the etymology of the past to undermine any hope for the future.” (Hunter 2003) The stakes in both the present and the future are far more important for Jews, Palestinians, Arabs, Christians, the State of Israel, the United States, and the Middle East not to conclude Zeh maspeak bamakom/”It is enough [of this injurious, hateful, and always potentially violent rhetoric]31 in that place!”
Conflicts of Interest
- Abel, Richard L. 1998. Speaking Respect, Respecting Speech. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. [Google Scholar]
- Adwan, Sami. 2001. Schoolbooks in the Making: From Conflict to Peace: A Critical Analysis of the New Palestinian Textbooks for Grades One and Six. Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture 8: 57–69. [Google Scholar]
- Adwan, Sami, and Dan Bar-On. 2004. The Prime Shared History Project: Peace-Building Project Under Fire. International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society 17: 513–22. [Google Scholar]
- Adwan, Sami, Dan Bar-On, and Eyal Naveh. 2012. Side By Side: Parallel Histories of Israel Palestine. New York: Prime. [Google Scholar]
- Brennan, William. 1995. Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives. Chicago: Loyola University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Cohen-Almagor, R. 2012. Is Law Appropriate to Regulate Hateful Speech and Racist Speech. Israel Studies Review 27: 41–64. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Cromer, Gerald. 2001. Amalek as Other; Other as Amalek. Qualitative Sociology 24: 191–202. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Crowley, Sharon. 2006. Toward A Civil Discourse: Rhetoric and Fundamentalism. Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press. [Google Scholar]
- Daniel, Bar-Tal, Lily Chernyak-Hai, Noa Schori, and Ayelet Gundar. 2009. A sense of self-perceived collective victimhood in intractable conflicts. International Red Cross Review 91: 229–77. [Google Scholar]
- Diana, Lipton. 2003. Remembering Amalek: A Positive Model for Dealing with Negative Scriptural Types. In Reading Texts, Seeking Wisdom: Scripture and Theology. Edited by David F. Ford and Graham Stanton. Grand Rapids and Cambridge: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, vol. 153. [Google Scholar]
- Eisen, Robert. 2011. The Peace and Violence of Judaism: From the Bible to Modern Zionism. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 104–5. [Google Scholar]
- Elliot, Horowitz. 2006. Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, pp. 2–3. [Google Scholar]
- Eugene, Korn. 2006. Moralization in Jewish Law: Genocide, Divine Commands, and Rabbinic Reasoning. The Edah Journal 5: 2–11. [Google Scholar]
- Feldman, Lewis H. 2004. “Remember Amalek!” Vengeance, Zealotry, and Group Destruction in the Bible According to Philo, Pseudo-Philo, and Josephus. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Gabbay, Shaul M., and Amin N. Kazak. 2012. One Land Two Stories. New York and London: Livingstone Publishing House. [Google Scholar]
- Hacohen, Malachi H. 2017. Jacob & Esau Today: The End of a Two Millennia Paradigm? In Encouraging Openness: Essays for Joseph Agassi on the Occasion of His 90th Birthday. Edited by Nimrod Bar-Am and Stefano Gattei. Berlin: Springer International Publishing, pp. 171–72. [Google Scholar]
- Hunter, Alastair G. 2003. De-Nominating Amalek: Racist Stereotyping in the Bible and the Justification of Discrimination. In Sanctified Aggression: Legacies of Biblical and Post-Biblical Vocabularies of Violence. Edited by Jonneke Bekkenkamp and Yvonne Sherwood. London and New York: T & T Clark International, vol. 98. [Google Scholar]
- Jacobs, Steven Leonard. 2012. Two Takes on Christianity: Furthering the Dialogue. Journal of Ecumenical Studies 47: 508–24. [Google Scholar]
- Joshua, Cohen. 1994. The Remembrance of Amalek: Tainted Greatness and the Bible. In Tainted Greatness: Antisemitism and Cultural Heroes. Edited by Nancy A. Harrowitz. vol. 294, p. 299. [Google Scholar]
- Kaminksy, Joel S. 2017. Yet I Loved Jacob: Reclaiming the Biblical Concept of Election. Nashville: Abingdon Press, vol. 116. [Google Scholar]
- Knight, Henry F. 2012. Coming to Terms with Amalek: Testing the Limits of Hospitality. In Confronting Genocide: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Edited by Steven Leonard Jacobs. Lanham: Lexington Books, vol. 230. [Google Scholar]
- Lewis, Jeff. 2005. Language Wars: The Role of Media and Culture in Global Terror and Political Violence. London and Ann Arbor: Pluto Press. [Google Scholar]
- Littman, Sol. 1998. War Criminal on Trial: Rauca of Kaunas. Toronto: Key Porter Books, vol. 182. [Google Scholar]
- Martin, Jaffee. 2011. The Return of Amalek: The Politics of Apocalypse and Contemporary Orthodox Jewry. Conservative Judaism 63: 43–68, Emphases in original. [Google Scholar]
- Masalha, Nur. 2000. Imperial Israel and the Palestinians: The Politics of Expansion. London and Sterling: Pluto Press. [Google Scholar]
- Masalha, Nur. 2007. The Bible & Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology and Post-Colonialism in Israel-Palestine. London and New York: Zed Books. [Google Scholar]
- Moshe, Anisfeld. 2014. Rashi’s Midrashic Comments are Supported by a Broad Range of Biblical Texts. Jewish Bible Quarterly 42: 147–48, 150–51. [Google Scholar]
- Norman, Lamm. 2007. Amalek and the Seven Nations: A Case of Law vs. Morality. In War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition. Edited by Lawrence Schiffman and Joel B. Wolowelsky. New York: Yeshiva University Press, vol. 214. [Google Scholar]
- Nurit, Peled-Elhanan. 2012. Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education. London and New York: I. B. Tauris. [Google Scholar]
- Plaut, Gunther W. 1981. The Torah: A Modern Commentary. Edited by W. Gunther Plaut. New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, vol. 514. [Google Scholar]
- Podeh, Elie. 2002. The Arab-Israeli Conflict in Israeli History Textbooks, 1948–2000. Westport and London: Bergin & Garvey. [Google Scholar]
- Porat, Dina. 1992. Amalek’s Accomplices’ Blaming Zionism for the Holocaust: Anti-Zionist Ultra-Orthodoxy in Israel during the 1980s. Journal of Contemporary History 27: 695–729. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Riggins, Stephen Harold, ed. 1997. The Language and Politics of Exclusion: Others in Discourse. Thousand Oaks and London: Sage Publications. [Google Scholar]
- Rotberg, Robert I., ed. 2006. Israeli and Palestinian Narratives of Conflict: History’s Double Helix. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Rowland, Robert C., and David A. Frank. 2002. Shared Land/Conflicting Identity: Trajectories of Israeli & Palestinian Symbol Use. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Sa’di, Ahmad H., and Abu-Lughod Lila, eds. 2007. Nakba: Palestine 1948, and the Claims of Memory. New York: Columbia University Press. [Google Scholar]
- Saul, Berman. 2001. The War against Evil and Ethical Constraints. Sh’ma 37: 2. [Google Scholar]
- Shalom, Carmy. 2007. The Origin of Nations and the Shadow of Violence: Theological Perspectives on Canaan and Amalek. In War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition. Edited by Lawrence Schiffman and Joel B. Wolowelsky. New York: Yeshiva University Press, pp. 173–74. [Google Scholar]
- Steven, Leonard Jacobs. 2010. Archaeology as Antisemitism. Journal for the Study of Antisemitism 2: 323–41. [Google Scholar]
- Tannen, Deborah. 1998. The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words. New York: Ballantine Books. [Google Scholar]
- Wisse, Ruth R. 2008. How Not to Remember & How Not to Forget. Commentary Magazine, January 1. [Google Scholar]
- Yehuda Kirtzer, Shuva. 2012. The Future of the Past. Waltham: Brandeis University Press, vol. 5. [Google Scholar]
- Yitzchak, Blau. 2000. Ploughshares into Swords. Tradition 34: 56. [Google Scholar]
- Young, John Wesley. 1991. Totalitarian Language: Orwell’s Newspeak and Its Nazi and Communist Antecedents. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press. [Google Scholar]
- Zev, Garber. 2012. Amalek and Amalekut: A Homiletic Lesson. In Jewish Bible Theology: Perspectives and Case Studies. Edited by Isaac Kalimi. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, vol. 150. [Google Scholar]
Letter of Dr. Elhanan Elkes (1879–1944), Chair of the Jewish Council in the Kaunas (Kovno) Ghetto, Lithuania, to his children [Joel, 1913-2015, & Sara, 1924–2015], 19 October 1943. (Littman 1998).
(Wisse 2008) [Emphases added].
A variant of this ritual is also found in the comment by Diana Lipton:
Feiglin, a member of Israel’s Knesset (Parliament) from the Likud Partry, a right-wing consolidation, continues to be something of an agent provocateur. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) for March 4, 2013, he and some of his followers continued, and continue to, attempt entry into the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount (site of the ancient Judaism’s Holy Temple), the holy site where Muslims believe Mohammed (570–632) ascended into Heaven. In October, December, 2012, and January, 2013, he attempted to lead a minyan (prayer quorum) before being arrested by Israeli police and continues such provocations today.
Horowitz, however, does disagree with Goldberg in two important respects: Firstly, that, for him, the ancient Amalekites “are neither Canaanites nor mysterious”, and, secondly and more significantly, the claim that the rabbis did not “endorse genocide” is …patently false. Not only did the “rabbis who shaped Judaism,” that is, the Talmudic sages, never made such an assertion, but even Maimonides [1135–1204], in his great twelfth-century code, clearly suggested—as many commentators noted—that unlike the “seven nations” of ancient Canaan, who were also doomed to extermination by biblical command, the Amalekites were still alive and kicking (Elliot 2006).
Martin Jaffee agrees with Horowitz and writes:
Norman Lamm suggests that, according to Moses Maimonides (1135–1204), in Hilchot Melakhim [Laws of Kings] 5:5, “The traditional interpretation of this injunction is ‘Remember—by word of mouth; do not forget—out of mind, that it is forbidden to forget his hatred and enmity” See (Norman 2007).
Joshua Cohen notes:
Rabbi David Brofsky of Midreshet Lindenbaum, Jerusalem, notes importantly in his Torah commentary on “The Laws of Remembering Amalek” that “the mitzvah (commanded act) to remember Amalek is not necessarily linked to the mitzvah to wage war against Amalek.” (www.vbm-torah.org).
As Moshe Anisfeld notes “Both Rashi [Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki, 140–1105] and Rashbam [Rabbi Samuel ben Meir, 1085–1158] interpret this verse [Exodus 17:14] interpret this verse as an instruction for Joshua to blot out the name of Amalek”. Going further into Rashi’s comments and his use of various midrashic texts, he also notes that, in addition to the Amalekites attacking the rear of Israel’s defenseless rear of old people, women, and children, were (1) “defiling the Israelites with homosexual rape”, and (2) “mutilating the sexual organs of Israelite males” (Moshe 2014, pp. 147–48, 150–51).
Professor Emeritus Zev Garber of Los Angeles Valley College notes, however:
As Gerald Cromer (2001), puts it: “Unable to defeat their enemies, they had to make do with demonizing them.” “Amalek as Other; Other as Amalek: Interpreting a Violent Biblical Narrative,” Qualitative Sociology 24(2): 192.
Lewis Feldman, however, draws our attention to a little cited passage in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 96 b, which reads:
And thus indicating that Haman’s descendants, unnamed, did become converts to Judaism. Other places in the Babylonian Talmud where Amalek is referenced are Sanhedrin 20b, Baba Batra 21a–21b, Megillah 7a, Yoma 22b, and Sandhedrin 105b–106b.
(Feldman 2004, pp. 1–2). Rabbi Gil Student in his blog posting “Hihurim—Musings” entitled “Amalek and Morality” (March 11, 2012) notes that “while we can no longer identify Amalekties, the obligation [to kill any Amalekite who crosses one’s path, citing earlier Jewish textual formulations and interpretations] still presents theoretical moral difficulties.” To this list perhaps, the words of Numbers 33:52–53 must also be added: “Drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their vast idols, and demolish all their high places. Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess, as too easy an example of those who would, contemporarily, justify and legitimate violence against all non-Jews in the Land of Israel.”
As Elliott Horowitz writes in Reckless Rites:
With some trepidation, however, Joel Kaminsky suggests that “unlike the anti-Canaanite polemic directed solely against Israel’s neighbors in the land, the condemnation of Amalek acquires within biblical tradition an aura that may vaguely recall certain features of genetically based Nazi racism, even though Israel’s policy toward Amalek falls short of Nazi policies and has an altogether different character.” Yet I Loved Jacob, 115.
Eugene Korn, commenting on two of the major Orthodox thinkers of the 20th century, writes:
A similar reference is also found in (Shalom 2007; Saul 2001). Norman Lamm (2007), however, devotes several pages to contesting the Soloveitchiks’, both father’s and son’s, reading of contemporary Amalekut [“Amalek-ness”] based on the Holocaust experiences of the Second World War. (Norman 2007), and concludes, “Hence, with most respectful apologies to the revered Rabbis Soloveitchik, father and son, I find it difficult to accept their thesis.”
See (Horowitz 2006, pp. 137–46), Specifically “Amalek in the Twentieth Century.
The classic text is that of Isaiah 10:5 where God says that the nation-state of Assyria is the “rod of my anger,” that is, using Assyria to punish Israel. The “law of unintended consequences,” by implication and not fully thought through by these thinkers, would, thus, appear to be that the Nazis, all up and down the chain of command, would, in the process of their destructive acts, become agents of the Divine against the people of Israel. See (Porat 1992).
Almost as disturbing to be sure was the column by Professor of Journalism at Columbia University Samuel Freedman entitled “In The Diaspora: The Amalek Syndrome” in The Jerusalem Post (February 8, 2007), wherein he challenged Professor Alvin Rosenfeld’s publication “Progressive” Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism (New York: American Jewish Committee, 2006, 30 pgs.) as “an effort not to eradicate our external enemies but to invalidate, delegitimize and disenfranchise the supposed traitors within.” The seriousness of the internal Jewish debates regarding the State of Israel and its policies is thus reflected in these two pieces as well as Bernard Harrison’s subsequent publication Israel, Anti-Semitism, and Free Speech (New York: American Jewish Committee, 2007, 47 pgs.), as well as his prior text The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and Liberal Opinion (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006). Somewhat similar yet different is the fact that, for some right-wing Orthodox Jews, secular Israeli culture as well has been labeled as Amalek, according to Gerald Cromer:
Gerald Comer (2001) writes: “many on the left of the political spectrum reject the comparison between Israel’s Arab enemies and Amalek. They contend that the analogy exaggerates the dangerousness and/or depravity of current foes. In doing so, it leads to a deepening of Jewish-Arab hatred, and, in turn, to an exacerbation of the conflict between them.” (Cromer 2001, p. 199).
In a rather telling article entitled “Ploughshares into Swords: Contemporary Religious Zionists and Moral Constraints,” Rabbi Yitzchak Blau writes:
One rather unsettling example would be that engraved on the tombstone of the American-Israeli medical doctor Baruch Goldstein (1956–1994) who killed 29 Palestinian worshippers and wounded 125 others at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on February 25, 1974:
At the time, February, 1980, Rabbi Hess was a campus rabbi and wrote in the student newspaper an article entitled “The Genocide Commandment in the Torah,” where he stated:
Subsequently Rabbi Hess resigned his post, and the article was pulled from the newspaper and its online access. See (Masalha 2000, pp. 130–32). for his reading of l’affair Hess. Martin Jaffee notes the difficulty of now obtaining a copy of Hess’s article:
Subsequently and contemporarily, among the latest “flaps” is the question of how both Israelis and Palestinians portray each other and their stories in their own school textbooks. See, for example, “’Victims of Our Own Narratives?’ Portrayal of the ‘Other’ in Israeli and Palestinian School Books” (February 4, 2013). Initiated by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, which critiques both communities for their portrayals, and which has come under fire by both Israeli governmental agencies and American defense organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League. See, also, (Adwan 2001; Adwan and Dan 2004), and expanded in (2006), “Educating toward a Culture of Peace” (Information Age Publishing), Chapter 19: 309–24; (Daniel et al. 2009; Nurit 2012; Podeh 2002). Further, on the complicated question of dual narratives and the differences in Israeli and Palestinian readings of their intertwined past, see (Adwan et al. 2012; Gabbay and Kazak 2012; Rotberg 2006; Rowland and Frank 2002; Sa’di and Lila 2007).
(Masalha 2000). However, the accuracy of his earlier assessment, one must seriously question his misreading of these rabbinic leaders as “leading.” In truth, they are leaders only to their relatively small constituencies and in no way speak for other Orthodox Jews, other Orthodox rabbis, and, to be sure, other Jews either in Israel or world-wide. In fact, the opposite is the case: they are, indeed, viewed as extremists, and, thus, by and large, rejected along with their interpretive understandings of the Jewish past and present as well their readings of primary classical Jewish texts—Hebrew Bible and Babylonian Talmud—as well.
Consistent with this position is the comment by Malachi H. Hacohen:
Henry F. Knight, Keene College, NH, problematizes the difficulties theologically in terms of the issue of hospitality:
It is important to state here that those who justify their potentially violent reactions/responses to the Palestinians and do so by the citing of numerous biblical, Talmudic, and midrashic sources—interpreted through their own narrow lenses—are, overall, smaller than the clear majority of Jewish, especially in Israeli itself, who strongly disagree with them. However, their continuous repetitions, making use of various media possibilities (books, articles, lectures, Internet, and social media), accords and affords them disproportionate legitimacy in the eyes of those inclined to agree with them. While, objectively, their overall impact is difficult to engage, and the examples cited tend to be anecdotal, as well as their reportage, further fuels this ongoing dangerous proclivity and potential.
On the misuses of language, see (Abel 1998; Brennan 1995; Crowley 2006; Lewis 2005; Riggins 1997; Tannen 1998; Young 1991).
See, for example, (Cohen-Almagor 2012), especially his comment that “we should not ignore repeated calls for murder that have the effect of legitimizing violence” (47).
See, for example, (Jacobs 2012).
As Nur Masalha would have it:
© 2017 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Share and Cite
Jacobs, S.L. Rethinking Amalek in This 21st Century. Religions 2017, 8, 196. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8090196
Jacobs SL. Rethinking Amalek in This 21st Century. Religions. 2017; 8(9):196. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8090196Chicago/Turabian Style
Jacobs, Steven Leonard. 2017. "Rethinking Amalek in This 21st Century" Religions 8, no. 9: 196. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8090196