Critics are accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of using “genocidal” language in a dramatic speech on Israel’s war with Hamas in which he invoked the name of an ancient enemy of the Israelites from the Bible.
During a press conference Saturday in Tel Aviv in which he announced the commencement of an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza, Netanyahu said the military’s objective remains the “destruction of Hamas’ military and governing capabilities; and returning the hostages home.”
The prime minister said both the government’s war cabinet and security cabinet decided unanimously to launch the delayed ground invasion of Gaza, warning that this latest phase of the war could determine the fate of the state of Israel.
The invasion follows the launch of retaliatory airstrikes in response to the Hamas terrorist group’s Oct. 7 attack that killed over 1,400 civilians in southern Israel.
After quoting Ecclesiastes in his opposition to calls for a ceasefire, saying, “The Bible says that there is a time for peace and a time for war … this is a time for war,” Netanyahu invoked the biblical name of Amalek in his address to the nation.
Amalek is one of Israel’s archenemies in the Old Testament.
“You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible,” Netanyahu said, echoing the words of Deuteronomy 25:17, which states: “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along your way from Egypt.”
Amalek, the 13th son born to Esau, the twin brother of Jacob, and his descendants are depicted in the scriptures as longtime rivals of the Israelites. In 2021, some military analysts speculated the war against the Islamic State terror group in Egypt was a reenactment of an ancient biblical confrontation between Israel and the Amalekites.
They also played a role in one of the more famous scenes from the book of Exodus when the Israelite army, led by Joshua, was attacked by the Amalekites while Moses, Aaron and Hur watched from a nearby hill. Moses noticed that when his arms were raised the Israelites gained the upper hand, but when they were lowered, the Amalekites prevailed (Exodus 17:8-13).
In 1 Samuel 15:3, God tells the prophet Samuel to instruct King Saul to “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.”
Last week, Netanyahu raised some eyebrows when he claimed the mission to defeat Hamas would go towards helping “realize the prophecy of Isaiah.”
“It is now a time to come together for one purpose, to storm ahead and achieve victory with joint forces in a profound belief in our justice, a profound belief in the eternity of the Jewish people,” said Netanyahu.
“We shall realize the prophecy of Isaiah. There will no longer be stealing at your borders, and your gates will be of glory. Together, we will fight, together we will win.”
These biblical parallels have not only been invoked by Israeli government officials but also pro-Israel Christian ministries as well.
Earlier this month, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), which represents “Christians around the world who stand with Israel and the Jewish people,” called for an international “Esther Fast” to support Israel in what the organization described as a “battle against the genocidal spirit of Hamas terrorism.”
Calling the Oct. 7 surprise attack by Hamas “without a doubt rooted in the demonic realm as a manifestation of the Spirit of Amalek,” the ICEJ cited the book of Esther in which King Haman, an Amalekite, planned to annihilate the Jewish people only to be thwarted by unceasing prayer and fasting.
The ICEJ wrote, “This is a time when the Church is called to ascend to our spiritual vantage point and join in this battle, just as Moses prayed while Joshua was fighting Amalek on the ground! This is the time to call for an Esther Fast to approach the throne of God on behalf of His beloved people.”
Critics of Israel and its Gaza invasion have compared the Amalek language to a declaration of “holy war.”
Middle East Monitor accused Netanyahu of “calling for ‘a holy war of annihilation’ against the Palestinian people in the besieged Gaza Strip after he invoked the ‘Amalek,’ a nation in the Hebrew Bible.”
Muslim apologist and author Hamza Tzortzis tweeted, “If it was not obvious from the carpet bombing, use of white phosphorus and indiscriminate killing that the Zionist government of Israel have clear genocidal intentions, then the following reference to Palestinians as Amalek in@netanyahu’s speech describing his plans for Gaza should be enough to convince you.
“The Biblical reference to Amalek is genocidal. The Bible commands to wipe out Amalek, including women, babies, children and animals.”
On Tuesday, Israeli troops attacked underground compounds in the northern Gaza Strip and battled Hamas militants, The Associated Press reports.
The Hamas-run Palestinian health ministry states that 8,300 people in Gaza, including around 3,000 minors, have been killed since Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes began. Another 21,000 have been wounded. Hamas’ figures don’t differentiate between combatants and civilians.
The United Nations estimates that nearly 1.4 million Gaza residents have fled their homes.
Despite United Nations calls for a ceasefire, Netanyahu said Monday night that calling for a ceasefire is akin to asking Israel to surrender to terrorism.
“I want to make clear Israel’s position regarding a ceasefire. Just as the United States would not agree to a ceasefire after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or after the terrorist attack of 9/11, Israel will not agree to a cessation of hostilities with Hamas,” Netanyahu said during a press conference.
“After the horrific attacks of October 7, calls for a ceasefire are called for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism, to surrender to barbarism. That will not happen.”
Free Religious Freedom Updates
Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.