Netanyahu invokes Genocide.
Prime Minsters Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Abbott, Turnbull, and Morrison have signed a statement drafted for them by the Zionist Federation of Australia in support of Israel. In doing so, were they aware that on Sunday, in launching the ground offensive into Gaza, Netanyahu invoked a genocidal precedent for his war on Gaza?
In describing this stage of Israel’s war, a “holy mission” he said: “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible”. His words reference a text which goes on to read: "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," (1 Samuel 15:3).
This statement frighteningly tells you all you need to know about the mindset and intention of Israel’s vengeful Prime Minister, and of the future that lies ahead for all Palestinians in the lands of their birth. What on earth possessed these six former prime ministers to lend support in terms drafted by the Zionist Federation of Australia. This is the political and nationalistic advocacy group that seeks possession of all these ancient lands. It is tragically consistent with their stated goals, not religiously, but politically and nationalistically driven. It is amongst the most aggressive and war like of all Hebrew sacred texts. They would do well to dwell on the writings of their ancient prophets who, in consistently condemning the words and actions of ancient Israel’s political leaders, call for peace, justice, and mercy; but no, these modern-day political power players seek justification in historical behaviours that their prophets condemn.
A little more about the Amalekites. According to Hebrew scripture and genealogy, they are descendants of Esau, the elder son of Isaac who had his birthright stolen by the younger, Jacob. So, they are genealogically related to Hebrews, to use contemporary language, they were Semites, like their Hebrew cousins. The similarities with today are obvious. Palestinians are also Semites. Language used by members of the Knesset who have referred to Palestinians as animals, dogs, less than human, is on the extreme end of ‘antisemitism’. Palestinians suffer cruelly from ‘antisemitic’ language uttered by Israeli leadership, which in turn encourages violence against them by the wider Israeli population. Most particularly this violence emanates from Israeli zealots who occupy the illegal settlements on the West Bank. Many Palestinians on the West Bank have lost their lives since October 7. Let there be consistency in the West’s condemnation of real antisemitism, not use it as a weapon to protect racist Israeli action from criticism.
There is another similarity. Amalekites appear not to have been a settled people such as the Edomites or even Canaanites, but nomads who grazed across lands, giving the impression the lands were not occupied. Although skirmishes with the Amalekites apparently occurred in the Negeb under Moses’ leadership prior to the occupation of Canaan, major confrontation occurred following Israel’s settlement. The catalyst would almost certainly have been loss of their grazing lands. You see the picture, in similar vein, Palestinian lands were never ‘unoccupied’ as the Israeli narrative claims; they were home to a living, thriving culture and people.
Amongst all Semitic peoples there is a strong sense of clean and unclean, what is permitted or not permitted. We understand these ideas through the words Kosher and Halal. In biblical Hebrew what is kosher, or clean, must be protected from what is unclean or foreign. Something unclean soils what is clean. What is unclean is not redeemed by what is clean. In the confrontation between Saul and the Amalekites, the Amalekites are declared ‘haram’ and must be destroyed, not simply as pay back for past incursions, but because their very presence is a threat. Saul is commanded to destroy them completely. On his return, he is asked by Samuel if he has completed the task. He claimed he has. Samuel asks: “what then is the bleating of sheep I hear in my ears?” In other words, the spoils Saul brought back, have the capacity to despoil the Hebrew kingdom. The text suggests this oversight, in not completing the full extent of genocide, was the reason he lost the kingship.
Netanyahu has invoked this narrative to justify his ‘mission’. But he is not alone in claiming authority from this and similar narratives. The settlers who in their hundreds of thousands illegally occupy Palestinian territories treat this ‘historical’ narrative as the foundation for their actions. The new speaker of the US congress, a right-wing evangelical, Christian gives unconditional support for Israel because he sees in this narrative the working of God. Does one group’s sacred text override international law, and international compacts of acceptable behaviour? Does Israel have the right to occupy land, drive out those who have lived there for generations, keep 2.2 million Gazans in an open prison, many in view of the land and homes they used to occupy, and refuse to give Palestinians the same rights as other citizens, because of a 3000-year-old narrative?
Christians also need to answer an equally important question. Do we believe ‘biblical’ text in its minutiae wields such power and authority, because it is biblical text, that it overrides contemporary understandings of truth and moral judgement.
Modern day Israel is not a continuation of the northern nation state of the same name that disappeared and was absorbed into the Assyrian Empire in 720 BC. Nor is it a continuation of the southern State called Judah which disappeared in 586 BC absorbed into the Babylonian Empire. On the other hand, it is true that Jewish people have cultural, religious, and ancestral ties, along with many other peoples, with this land for 3000 years.
Modern Day Israel was not created by fiat of the Divine. It was created through an act of partition by the United Nations in 1948. This partition was infamously preceded by the Balfour Declaration of 1917. That Palestinians were not jumping for joy in being told from afar they were about to lose 50% of their ancestral lands, is not surprising. In fact, they have lost 78%. Apparently, Israel considers 78% to be insufficient.
You six prime minsters who have signed a statement prepared for you by those who demand not 78% but 100%, will you issue another statement which clearly articulates the state of play which you believe should exist post the ‘war’, setting out your moral and legal arguments to support what you think should be the ‘new normal’?