(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected claims that his comments invoking Amalek, an enemy people of the ancient Israelites, suggested genocidal intent in Israel’s war on Hamas.
South Africa quoted Netanyahu and other Israelis officials in bringing genocide charges against Israel at the International Court of Justice this month. In particular, its charging document singled out Netanyahu for his statement as Israel prepared its ground invasion on Oct. 23.
“The Prime Minister invoked the Biblical story of the total destruction of Amalek by the Israelites, stating: ‘you must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible. And we do remember’,” the charging document said. It also quotes I Samuel 15, in which King Saul is instructed to “spare no one” in attacking Amalek.
Netanyahu’s office said Tuesday that the charge was one of a number of “absurdities” aired at initial hearings last week at the International Court of Justice at The Hague. “This false and preposterous charge reflects a deep historical ignorance,” it said in a statement.
“The Amalekites mercilessly attacked the Children of Israel after the Exodus from Egypt,” the statement said. “The comparison to Amalek has been used throughout the ages to designate those who seek to eradicate the Jewish people, most recently the Nazis.”
The statement from Netanyahu’s office noted that the phrase “Remember what Amalek has done to you” appears at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum, and is inscribed on a memorial to Dutch Jews murdered during the Holocaust at The Hague, where the court sits. “Obviously neither reference is an incitement to genocide of the German people,” the statement said.
Malcolm Shaw, the British barrister who leads the team defending Israel at The Hague, noted during last week’s testimony that Netanyahu makes clear in the fuller quotation that he is identifying Amalek with Hamas, not with Palestinians generally.
“We are now entering the second phase of the war, which its objectives are clear: destruction of the military and governmental capabilities of Hamas and the return of the hostages back home,” Netanyahu said. “In the last couple of days, I have met with our soldiers in the bases, in the field, in the north and in the south. Remember what Amalek has done to you. We remember, and we are fighting.”
“There is no need here for a theological discussion on the meaning of Amalek in Judaism, which was indeed not understood by the Applicant,” Shaw said.
The South African charging document also misattributed the source of Netanyahu’s quote, inaccurately suggesting he was referring to I Samuel 15. Netanyahu, however, did not quote that passage; instead, “Remember what Amalek has done to you” is from Deuteronomy 25, and refers to how God saved the Israelites from the peril posed by the Amalekites in the desert. In the context of Deuteronomy, the phrase appears among a litany of commandments and is seen by Jewish scholars as a commandment to remember that God is with the Jews even in times of peril.
“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt,” the passage reads, “how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear. Therefore, when your God grants you safety from all your enemies around you, in the land that your God is giving you as a hereditary portion, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!”
The phrase as it appears in Deuteronomy has repeatedly been used since the Holocaust as a call to witness; Yad Vashem features the phrase on a banner, and its archives include letters between European Jews during the Holocaust in which they plead with one another to bear witness should they survive. Commentators said the calls to spare no Amalekites or to blot out their memory were to be understood metaphorically, not literally.
Netanyahu’s appeal came weeks after Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7, murdering some 1,200 people and brutalizing thousands more. Since Israel launched counterstrikes on Oct. 8, more than 23,000 Palestinians have been killed, including thousands of children, spurring the genocide charges. Israel says approximately a third of the dead are combatants.
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Rashida Tlaib Votes ‘Present’ on US House Condemnation of Hamas’ Use of Sexual Violence
The US House of Representatives passed a resolution on Wednesday condemning Hamas’ use of sexual assault as a weapon of war during its October 7 terrorist attack — in which it killed 1,200 Israelis and took almost 250 more hostage — in a near-unanimous vote, with a single exception.
The one “present” vote came from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), who argued that she could not vote in favor of the resolution because it does not also accuse the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) of using sexual assault as a weapon of war.
By a vote of 418-0-1, the House passed a resolution that “condemns all rape and forms of sexual violence as weapons of war, including those acts committed by Hamas terrorists on and since October 7th.” It also “calls on all international bodies to unequivocally condemn” Hamas’ actions.
Tlaib has emerged as the most outspoken anti-Israel member of the House in recent months. She has accused Israel of committing genocide and has appeared at events with people who celebrated Hamas’ October 7 attack.
Michael Dickson, Executive Director of the pro-Israel group StandWithUs, reacted to her vote, saying, “Rashida Tlaib is so racist she cannot bring herself to condemn the brutal rape of women used by Hamas as a weapon of war… because the women that were raped were Jewish Israelis. A new low. Most American women – and men – will recoil in horror at her vote.”
The former US Deputy Special Envoy to Combat Antisemitism, Ellie Cohanim, wrote that Tlaib “is the ONLY member of Congress who refuses to condemn Hamas’ rape. What an absolute sicko.”
However, in a speech on the floor of the House, Tlaib said, “While the resolution on the floor rightfully denounces any sexual violence by Hamas, I am disturbed that it completely ignores and erases any sexual violence and abuse committed by the Israeli forces, against Palestinians, especially children.”
She cited an article from Haaretz about an incident in October where settlers and soldiers detained three Palestinian men in the West Bank, had them strip to their underwear, and beat them. The piece notes that there was even “an attempt to penetrate one of them with an object.”
The article notes that, in response, the IDF dismissed the force commander and opened an investigation into the incident. Later, five additional soldiers were dismissed for their role in the abuse.
Since October 7, numerous independent investigations have found that Hamas engaged in widespread sexual and gender-based violence against Israelis, including rape.
After the resolution passed, Rep. Louis Frankel (D-FL), who introduced the bill, wrote, “Our resolution makes it clear: Rape & sexual assault are not acceptable tools of war.”
CEO of the American Jewish Committee, Ted Deutch, applauded the passage of the resolution but added that “The international community’s utter failure to adequately condemn and address Hamas’ use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war on and since October 7 is not merely disappointing – it is a dereliction of duty for all who claim to stand for human rights and humanity.”
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‘No Reward for The Murderers’: Israeli Officials Bash US Plan To Recognize Palestinian State
A chorus of Israeli officials spoke out against a reported peace plan being pushed by the United States and several Arab states that would include the recognition of a Palestinian state on Thursday.
The proposed plan, as detailed in The Washington Post, calls for “the withdrawal of many, if not all, settler communities on the West Bank; a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem; the reconstruction of Gaza; and security and governance arrangements for a combined West Bank and Gaza.”
In order to attempt to force Israel’s hand, the report says, “U.S. officials said the menu of actions under consideration include early U.S. recognition of a Palestinian state — even as elements of political reform, security guarantees for both Israel and the Palestinians, normalization and reconstruction are being implemented.”
“In my speech yesterday in Berlin, I warned against the dangerous plan that is taking shape for unilateral international recognition of a Palestinian state,” said MK Gideon Sa’ar, who is not part of the government coalition – but part of the war cabinet coalition – National Unity. “This plan will not only not resolve the conflict but will make it intractable. The Palestinians will receive state recognition without paying the the price of compromise and they will continue the conflict from an upgraded position that will harm Israel’s right to self-defense.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been clear that he is opposed to a Palestinian state, and that Israel will maintain security control over the Gaza Strip once the war ends.
“1,400 murdered and the world wants to give them a state. It won’t happen,” tweeted National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. He added in an interview with Israeli media “The intention of the US, together with the Arab states, to establish a terror state alongside the State of Israel is delusional and part of the misguided conception that there is a partner for peace on the other side… While we are in the government, no Palestinian state will be established.”
Education Minister Yoav Kisch added “We are only concerned with winning in Gaza. There will simply be no reward for the murderers.”
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also tweeted against the plan, saying “We will in no way agree to this plan, which actually says that the Palestinians deserve a reward for the terrible massacre they did to us: a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. The message is that it pays very well to massacre Israeli citizens. A Palestinian state is an existential threat to the State of Israel as was proven on October 7, Kfar Saba will not be Kfar Aza!”
He further called on the cabinet to issue “a clear and unequivocal decision stating that Israel opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state and the imposition of sanctions on over half a million settlers. I expect clear support from Prime Minister Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Gadi Eisenkot and all the ministers.”
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‘Explosion of Hate’ Antisemitism in United Kingdom Reached Unprecedented Level in 2023, New Report Says
More antisemitic incidents occurred in the United Kingdom in 2023 than any year in the history of recording such data, according to a new report issued on Thursday by Community Security Trust (CST), a nonprofit that offers security services and training to the country’s Jewish community.
The report, titled Antisemitic Incidents Report 2023, said that 4,103 antisemitic incidents happened in the country in 2023, an increase of 147 percent from 2022. They included physical assaults, hate speech, threats, and cases of what the nonprofit described as “damage and desecration” of Jewish religious symbols and houses of worship. CST noted that over 2,000 other incidents reported to its offices were not included in its official statistics, noting that some “were not deemed to be antisemitic” while others involved “suspicious activity” and other potential threats to physical safety.
“British Jews are strong and resilient, but the explosion in hatred against our community is an absolute disgrace,” CST chief executive Mark Gardner said in a statement. “It occurs in schools, universities, workplaces, on the streets, and all over social media. Our community is being harassed, intimidated, threatened, and attacked by extremists who also oppose society as a whole. We thank the government and police for their support, but this is a challenge for everyone and we condemn the stony silence from those sections of society that eagerly call out racism in every other case, except when it comes to Jew hate.”
CST’s data shows a massive uptick of antisemitic incidents immediately after Hamas’ massacre across southern Israel on Oct. 7, which resulted in hundreds of murders of civilians, abductions of the young and elderly, and numerous sexual assaults of Israeli women. Between January and September, there were fewer than 200 incidents but 1,303 in October alone, over 1,200 in November and December. From Oct. 7 until the end of the year, CST added, its offices received an average of 31 reports per day.
In that span of time, CST recorded its highest single-day and single-week totals of antisemitic incidents, indicating “that it was celebration of Hamas’ attack, rather than anger towards Israel’s military response in Gaza, that prompted the unprecedented levels of antisemitism across the country.” Additionally, the report added, perpetrators signposted their anti-Zionist hatred in 43 percent of incidents, saying Zionist, Zionism, or “Free Palestine!” while committing an offense. In 955 others, they alluded to Adolf Hitler and Nazism, both of which they often connected to Hamas and anti-Zionism.
“Perpetrators either glorified Hamas’ act of terror as a repeat of the Nazis extermination of the Jews during the Holocaust, or lamented Hitler’s failure to eliminate world Jewry entirely,” CST explained, adding that others expressed being motivated by Islamic-antisemitism, viewing the conflict between Israelis and Hamas as part of a larger conflagration between Jews and Muslims.
Antisemitism on social media also proliferated after Oct. 7, appearing the most on X/Twitter, where CST found 704 examples of it, an increase of 249 percent. X users often based their antisemitism on conspiracies and other extreme political ideologies.
“The figures noted in CST’s Antisemitic Report 2023 should be a reminder to British civil society of the serious nature of antisemitism and the impact that it has on the Jewish community,” Lord Mann, His Majesty’s Government’s Independent Adviser on Antisemitism, said in a statement on the report’s findings. “As we have seen over the years, when tensions rise in the Middle East there is an increase in antisemitism around the world. However, this scale is unprecedented and is, for the first time ever, widespread across every police region in the United Kingdom.”
Mann continued, “This country will not tolerate the abuse or intimidation of any of its citizens and I will continue to make sure that it remains a safe place for our Jewish community.”
Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.