Every nationalism contains a victimology and every victimology a nationalism.
From the RCA Artscroll Siddur (Jewish prayer book): The Torah commands that six events be remembered always. Consequently, some authorities maintain that the verses containing these commandments should be recited daily. #3 REMEMBRANCE OF AMALEK’S ATTACK (Deuteronomy 25:17-19): “Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, as you departed from Egypt, How he encountered you on the way and cut down the weaklings trailing behind you, while you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear God. It shall be that when HaShem, your God, lets you rest from your surrounding enemies, in the land that HaShem, your God, gives you as a heritage to bequeath; you are to erase the memory of Amalek from beneath the heaven. Do not forget.”
How is wishing the complete erasure of a group of people not a call for genocide? Why stir up hatred against a people for something their ancestors did?
I put “Amalek Palestinians” into Google and got 42,000 results. “Amalek” is a flexible term that Jews can use on their enemies.
I have no problem with this. I have no objection to Judaism. I have no objection to Jewish texts that say negative things about Jews and non-Jews. I have no objection to Judaism commanding us to wish every day to wipe out Amalek. My objection is when Jewish groups campaign to ban racial and religious vilification but never consider applying these rules to their own group. This is why I started Jews for Consistency, a group dedicated to monitoring Jewish groups to make sure they never seek for non-Jews anything different from what they seek for themselves.
Tonight at the Passover seder I’m going to get a good chuckle over the deaths of thousands of Egyptian first born (even as I dip ten drops of win in sympathy for their loss) because that’s what all strongly identifying in-groups do — celebrate the destruction of their enemies.
As an Orthodox friend comments about Haman from the book of Esther:
Let’s be honest for a sec.
He’s called “Haman Ha’Agagi”, right? That’s because he was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites who Shaul let live after conducting a genocide in which he attempted to kill all Amalekite men, women, and children. Still with me? Good.
Here’s the thing. Every single day in our prayers, Jews reaffirm our biblical obligation to “Wipe out Amalek from under the heavens”.
Every. Single. Day.
It’s clear that Haman was merely acting in self defense against an aggressor who’d already almost succeeded in killing off his entire ancestral people and stated publicly, every single day without fail for centuries, their intent to do it again and succeed. Right?
My friend Chaim Amalek says: “I always feel a bit nervous around especially joyous yom tovim like pesach and purim, as that is when Yidden are most apt to talk about killing me.
“I can think of no more self-defeating way for the memory and name of Amalek to be erased than by memorializing it in the Torah itself.
“The only way to erase Amalek from daily discourse is by excising it from the Torah itself. Of course, once you start doing that, who can say where the excisions stop? Maybe by putting the name ‘Amalek’ in the Torah and then repeatedly telling us to wipe out the memory of Amalek, Hashem was slyly commanding us to get rid of Torah altogether. That’s what my Rav thinks.”
A prominent 19th and early 20th century rabbi, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, claimed upon Kaiser Wilhelm’s visit to Palestine in 1898, three decades before Hitler’s rise to power, he had a tradition from his teachers that the Germans are descended from the ancient Amalekites.
Samuel’s words to Agag: “As your sword bereaved women, so will your mother be bereaved among women.” (Samuel 1:15:33) were quoted by Israeli President Itzhak Ben-Zvi in his handwriting in response to a telegram sent by Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann‘s wife pleading for clemency after he was taken to Israel and sentenced to death.
According to the Hebrew Bible, Amalek lived in Canaan:”Amalek dwells in the land of the Negev” (Numbers 13:29). The Israelites were instructed to kill all those who dwelled in Canaan: “thou shalt save alive nothing that breathes” (Deuteronomy 19:16) otherwise “it shall come to pass, that I shall do to you, as I thought to do to them” (Numbers 33:56). The Hebrew Bible ascribes Haman, who tried to commit a genocide of the Jewish people, to Agag, whom the Israelites, led by Saul, failed to kill. According to these verses Hitler may be seen as a result of this failure.
Palestinians as Amalekites
Nur Masalha has written that:
“Frequently Jewish fundamentalists refer to the Palestinians as the ‘Amalekites’ … of today… According to the Old Testament, the Amalek … were regarded as the Israelites’ inveterate foe, whose ‘annihilation’ became a sacred duty and against whom war should be waged until their ‘memory be blotted out’ forever (Ex 17:16; Deut 25:17-19)…. Some of the [modern] political messianics insist on giving the biblical commandment to ‘blot out the memory of the Amalek’ an actual contemporary relevance in the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The Palestinians have been associated with Amalek since 1974 when Rabbi Moshe Ben-Tzion Ishbezari of Ramat Gan made the association in a book. The equation began to circulate in Gush Emunim circles, and its full implications were spelled out by Rabbi Yisrael Hess in 1980. A former campus rabbi of Bar-Ilan University, Hess published in the university’s student paper in February 1980 an article on “The Genocide Commandment in the Torah”, in which he concluded that:
‘The day is not far when we shall be called to this holy war, to this commandment of the annihilation of Amalek.’
Hess’s reference to Amalekites was later taken in Israel to be an allusion to the Palestinian Arabs, especially since he spoke of a jihad.
‘Against this holy war God declares a counter jihad . .in order to emphasise that this is the background for the annihilation and that it is over this that the war is being waged and that it is not a conflict between two peoples. . God is not content that we annihilate Amalek -‘blot out the memory of Amalek’ – he also enlists personally in this war . .because, as has been said, he has a personal interest in this matter, this is the principal aim.’
‘In every generation there is an Amalek. The Amalekism of our generation finds expression in the deep Arab hatred towards our national revival in our forefathers’ land.’
In 1985 Uriel Tal, in his Foundations of a Political Messianic Trend in Israel, argued that Hess’s position is to be contextualised within a totalitarian messianic force, whose process he summed up as follows.
- Palestinians in the Occupied Territories were to be reduced to the halakhic status of resident alien.
- The promotion of Arab ‘transfer’
- The implementation of the commandment of Amalek, involving the ‘annihilation’ of Palestinian Arabs.
Ron Geaves also writes that ‘in settler circles, the Palestinians are likely to be identified with the Amalekites’, and citing the same pamphlet from the campus rabbi attached to Bar-Ilan University, adds that the message is passed on through ‘the religious schools where boys are taught that the Arab is Amalek.’ After Baruch Goldstein‘s massacre of Palestinians at the Mosque in Hebron, Rabbi Arthur Waskow argued that Goldstein had decided to ‘blot out the memory of Amalek’ by machine-gunning the Palestinian worshippers, and commented:
So then, in our generation, for some Jews the Palestinians become Amalek. Some Palestinians are terrorists? Some Palestinians call publicly for the State of Israel to be shattered? The archetypes of fear slide into place: all Palestinians are Amalek. And the fantasies of the powerless become the actions of the powerful. For in our generation, Jews have power.’
After the death of Yassir Arafat, a declaration was issued by 200 rabbis of Pikuach Nefesh asserting that the anniversary of the death of ‘this Amalek of our generation’ should be celebrated as ‘a day of rejoicing’.
Zionists as Amalekites
The anti-Zionist Haredi rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum denounced the proposed draft of Haredi men by the Israel Defense Forces by saying “the Zionists came from the seed of Amalek. There has never been such a sect that caused so much damage to the Jewish people.” A senior rabbi in Israel’s Shas party, Shalom Cohen, publicly labeled Religious Zionists as Amalek, but later clarified that his remarks were aimed only at The Jewish Home party, not all Religious Zionists. Another rabbi associated with Shas, Shimon Badani, referred to Finance Minister Yair Lapid and The Jewish Home party as Amalek.
The Neturei Karta are a Haredi group known for their radical opposition to the state of Israel and extreme wariness with regard to non-Haredi Jews. Historically, Neturei Karta equated Zionism with Amalek and Nazism. For some Neturei Karta rabbis the very word ‘amalek’ is read in gematriya to mean ‘politics’, which in their view is something pious Jews should never engage in, since politics for them constitutes galut, or exile.
- Herem (war or property)
- Judaism and violence
- New Chronology (Rohl)
A rabbi at the prestigious haredi Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem told students recently that the government is comparable to the Jewish people’s ancient enemy the Amalekites and that government officials should in theory be killed.
In March, Rabbi Nissan Kaplan was discussing the special Bible reading relating to the Amalekites and noted that Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the leader of the non-hassidic haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world, had said that the current government should be considered to be Amalekites.
“On Shabbat I spoke to my kids, and I said that Rabbi Shteinman spoke and said ‘practically speaking we have today Haman, Amalek, all of this government, and the way is to take knives and to kill them, like with the [ancient] Greeks,’” Kaplan said.
“So why aren’t we doing it? Because, he said, ‘I don’t know who the general is to run the war. If I would know who is the general we’d go out with knives.’ This is what Rabbi Shteinman said. There’s a war on religion.”
“I was talking with my kids, they were saying, Daddy, maybe you should be the general. My kid, six-years-old, tells me, ‘we don’t have swords in the house, maybe a hammer is also good?’ I was very happy, I gave him a kiss,” Kaplan said.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Kaplan said he did not mean what he said and that his comparison of the government to Amalek and his comments that government officials should be killed was a mistake.
He added that he has given three lessons to his students in which he said his words were wrong and that he had not meant what he said.
“I am completely against such words, they’re disgusting. I regret what I said and I am deeply sorry for using such examples. I am also sorry for hurting people’s feelings and I hope they can forgive me.”
He also said he had never actually had the conversation with his child he mentioned in his lesson and that he had not met with Rabbi Shteinman for over six months.
Asked how he could say such things if he did not believe them, Kaplan said that “it is hard for me to answer, I really don’t know,” and suggested that he had been carried away joking with his students.
There is rhetoric about Amalek and suchlike coming from much bigger players than someone regarded as a young entertainer of harmless Americans. While Rav Steinman’s spokesman denied that he said what Rav Kaplan attributed to him, there are other reports of Rav Steinman describing Lapid as Amalek and saying that the government should suffer in hell and have their names erased. It is true that Rav Steinman has explicitly qualified such statements by noting that the way to battle Amalek is by learning more Torah, but it is still a wrong and dangerous way to talk. And remember that Rav Steinman is a moderate compared to the likes of the Eidah Charedis, Satmar and Rav Shmuel Auerbach! (They have described Rav Steinman himself as Amalek due to his being too moderate, and one deranged follower attacked and nearly killed Rav Steinman)! Then there’s Rabbi Shalom Cohen, the new rabbinic leader of Shas, saying that Jews who wear knitted kipot are Amalek – which he later clarified as “only” referring to the leaders of Bayit Yehudi and their supporters. Unlike with Rav Kaplan, these statements have not been retracted.
The headline of Rabbi Slifkin’s blog post is: “It’s Time To Erase Amalek – From Daily Discourse”
How can Amalek be erased from daily Jewish discourse when Judaism commands Jews to repeat every day that Amalek must be erased?