As the world witnesses Israeli leaders deploying genocidal language and attacks against Palestinians in Gaza, much of the global Christian right is mobilizing its base in unilateral support for Israel. Many forefront Christian Zionist organizations are preaching a decades-old trope likening Hamas to “Amalek,” an archetypal enemy tribe of the biblical Israelites whom God promised to exterminate in order to bring Israelites “peace.”
This is not the first time that right-wing religious groups across the globe have invoked Amalek against those they oppose. For centuries, Christian leaders have used Amalekite language to justify genocide, including against Native Americans and against Tutsis in Rwanda. Right-wing Jewish groups have also employed the Amalek trope. Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers in the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994, likely influenced by Amalekite language employed by the far right Kahane movement of which he was a part. (Israel’s current minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, is also associated with this movement, which has largely dissipated but is still technically outlawed in Israel as a terrorist group.)
Now many on the Christian right, and some Jews as well, are continuing the tradition of employing Amalek language to justify genocidal tactics, this time employed by the Israeli state against 2 million Gazans, about half of whom are children.
Several Christian Zionist groups, such as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ), Capitol Hill Prayer Partners (CHPP) and Reformation Prayer Network (RPN) are directly citing biblical passages to overlay the biblical story onto the current reality.
The ICEJ — one of the largest global Christian Zionist organizations boasting organizational representation in 95 countries and a following spanning 170 countries — sent its supporters an email on October 14 claiming, “This attack is without a doubt rooted in the demonic realm as a manifestation of the Spirit of Amalek.” It referenced the Samuel 30:3 Bible verse that describes how in response, the Israelites “burned [the Amalekites’ city] with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives.” It’s a passage that echoes Israel’s current “collective punishment” strategy against Gaza’s civilians.
Numerous U.S. congressional leaders have echoed similar calls for annihilation, mirroring their right-wing counterparts in Israel. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted a clip in which he states: “We’re in a religious war…. Do whatever the hell you have to do to defend yourself. Level the place.” Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley — referring to Hamas — issued a call to “eliminate them.”
At least publicly, these leaders are calling for complete destruction of Hamas. Yet when congressmembers like Marjorie Taylor Greene equate anyone in solidarity with Palestine with being pro-Hamas, and when the Israeli government cuts off water, electricity and gas to Gaza’s civilians, the lines between eliminating Hamas and eliminating all of Gaza are blurred.
In an email on October 8, the ICEJ employs Amalek rhetoric to distract from Israel’s ongoing brutal repression in Gaza, saying:
This well-planned, Iranian-backed operation was not launched due to grievances over the Israeli “occupation” or any real dangers to the al-Aqsa mosque. Rather, it was driven by the ancient “Spirit of Amalek.”
Hamas’s attacks were brutal and devastating for Israelis and Jews. Yet the ICEJ’s interpretation leaves little room to examine any motive other than a projected indiscriminate hatred of Jews, or as ICEJ President Jürgen Bühler puts it, “Palestinian bloodlust against the Jewish people and nation.”
In its haste to defeat what it has deemed a modern-day Amalek, the ICEJ is echoing Israel’s wartime call, urging its thousands of followers around the world to “join in battle” with a “worldwide army of Christian leaders and intercessors.” Christians are not descending on Israel to take up arms against Hamas, but the ICEJ is encouraging its followers to pray for Israel every day “just as Moses prayed while Joshua was fighting Amalek on the ground.”
But Christian Zionists are acting on this ideology in more ways than just praying. In addition to urging its followers to partake in a “Global Fast of Esther” (referencing the biblical Purim story in which the Jewish heroine prevented a massacre of Jews by Haman, a notorious descendent of the Amalekites), the ICEJ is also compelling its followers to take political action, organize “pro-Israel solidarity rallies and marches” and mobilize their congregations.
The past two weeks have also been a crucial fundraising moment for Christian Zionist organizations. Christians United for Israel — the U.S.’s largest pro-Israel lobby group, with over 10 million members — has already sent $1 million in support to Israel.
To be clear, not all Christian Zionist organizations have invoked Amalek language this week, and many Christian Zionist organizations are instead focused on lending financial and volunteer support to Israeli families who lost friends and family members in the horrific attack by Hamas. Some Christian right groups even tack on a call to pray for innocent Palestinians in Gaza. But when these groups uncritically throw their weight behind Israel’s assault on Gaza, and especially when leading Christian Zionist organizations equate Hamas to Amalek, they do little to protect Palestinians caught in the crossfire, while also supporting conscription of Israelis in deadly battles.
For centuries, Christians have invoked the Amalekite language to encourage genocide, but now it is being used to conscript Israelis into battle against the civilians of Gaza.
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