The Oldest Hatred Resurges
“The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.’” —Exodus 17:8-9
“Come,” they say, “let us [the Amalekites and their allies] destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.” —Psalm 83:4 (NIV)
The Psalm of Asaph and the passage from Exodus quoted above are more than 2,500 years old. Though the wave of hatred unleashed against Jews since the pogrom committed by Hamas in Israel on October 7th has been horrifying in scope and character, exterminationist hatred of Jews is not new. Hatred of the Jewish people because they are Jews—the people of the covenant with YHWH—began almost from the moment that Jacob changed his name to Israel.
In commentary on the mass rapes and mass murders perpetrated on October 7th, the spirit of Amalek has been invoked—by international Christian ministries, Israeli politicians, and Jewish political commentators—as the wicked animus behind the attacks. It certainly seems that something demonic and inhuman in its cruelty fueled the attacks, the sheer barbarity of which has horrified the civilized world. But this hatred is not new, as the Bible quotes demonstrate. The hatred of the chosen people began almost as soon as they were called out of the desert. As Bari Weiss wrote in The Free Press (in a transcript of a speech she gave at the Federalist Society), that motive was obvious and undeniable:
The easy answer is that the human beings who were slaughtered on October 7 were Jews. And that antisemitism is the world’s oldest hatred. And that in every generation someone rises up to kill us. “They tried to wipe us out, they failed, let’s eat,” as the old Jewish joke goes.
Weiss goes on to discuss what was new in the hours, days, and weeks following the attacks on Israel: the vile and shocking explosion of Jew-hatred from university groups, professors, and prominent figures in the media all over the globe. Cries of “Gas the Jews” were heard in Sydney, praise of Hitler heard on the streets of London, and the Nazi flag flashed at pro-Hamas demonstrations in New York and elsewhere.
And none of them are one-off events. This past week, an attack on a synagogue in Melbourne, Australia, led an Australian Jewish columnist for The Times of Israel to pen a column with the despairing title, "Dear diaspora Jews it's over." The “it” here that is now “over” is the comforting sense that your non-Jewish neighbors down the street and your police might actually try to stop the people screaming “Khaybar, Khaybar, Al Jehud,” for example, from really lynching you and your entire family. This slogan is in fact a call to exterminate Jews, and it has been heard recently in London, Moscow, and New York, and not just in Islamic nations such as Turkey. Another such genocidal slogan heard at such rallies has been “From the River to the Sea,” which is very much in vogue on college campuses (more about that below). The spirit of Amalek is not just alive, lamentably, but active and effective in multiple supposedly civilized nations where Jews have lived in relative peace and security until just hours after the monstrous attack of October 7th.
Where did such appalling cruelty and vile Jew-hatred come from? From the mind of Satan, of course, but leaving the spiritual forces in the unseen realm out of the equation for a moment, there are more imminent, this-world forces behind both the atrocities of Hamas and these outbursts from their western sympathizers. If nothing else good comes of these events, they have certainly given the world a dramatic object lesson in the power of bad ideas.
Which bad ideas?
The history of Christian-Jewish relations has been lamentably marked by mutual distrust and rejection since the late second century AD. And since the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who ended persecution of Christians but codified into law an enforced division between Christians and Jews, there have been long periods where the two religions endured a cold, tense co-existence and where adherents to what became the majority religion in Europe and Asia Minor, Christianity, persecuted, often violently, adherents of their older parent religion, Judaism.
What developed out of the theological rejection of Judaism was a social condemnation of Jews. This anti-Judaism was and remains a blatant violation of Paul’s directives in Romans 9-11, of Jesus’ own words in the Sermon on the Mount (“Do not think I have come to overthrow the law and the prophets…I have come to fulfil them”), and of his words in the Gospel of John (“Salvation comes from the Jews”). Instead, the church, and then churches, of late antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the renaissance, developed a teaching that Jews had been rejected by God and should be punished by men in perpetuity.
The latest excrescence of this defect in Christendom can be seen in some branches of the church that express sympathy for the terrorists of Hamas and condemnation for Israel. This inability to discern between a Jewish state (the only one) that seeks to live in peace with its neighbors and neighboring groups whose expressed wish is to wipe Jews off the face of the Earth is not a new sign of moral rot in some Christian denominations. It has been “in process” for decades, and those same denominations have notably been splitting on other moral questions as well. But in the weeks since October 7th, it is a sign that significant religious bodies have embraced thinking about the Jewish people and Israel that is incontestably immoral.
Islamist Jew-Hatred Rebranded
One of the slogans I referred to above, “Khaybar, Khaybar, Al-Jehud,” is a reference to Mohammed’s massacre of the Jews at the Oasis of Khaybar (also spelled “Khyber” in some sources), the decisive incident in the break between the then-nascent Islam and Judaism in AD 628. The incident has been invoked by Muslims over the centuries whenever the aim of local Muslim officials or imams was to incite violence against Jews.
That is to say, hatred of Jews was part and parcel of Islam from the beginning. In more modern times, Islamist Jew hatred was the poisonous idea behind the alliance between Haj Amin el-Husseini (the father of “Palestinian” nationalism) and Adolf Hitler during the Second World War. And more recently, the same exterminationist hatred of Jews has been rebranded as “decolonization” or part of the “diversity, equity, inclusion” agenda of the campus left in the United States. That campaign to normalize hatred of Jews in the guise of “anti-Zionism” has also been long in the making and has been engendered and nurtured through a network of campus activist organizations funded by both Islamists and their gullible Western dupes.
Reporting in Jewish Journal, Gary Wexler describes his first encounter with it in the person of Ameer Makhoul (since arrested by Israel as a spy for Assad’s Syria):
Just like you were a Zionist campus activist, we will create, over the next years, Palestinian campus activists in America and all over the world. Bigger and better than any Zionist activists. Just like you spent your summers on the kibbutz, we will bring college students to spend their summers in refugee camps and work with our people. Just like you have been part of creating global pro-Israel organizations, we will create global pro-Palestinian organizations. Just like you today help create PR campaigns and events for Israel, so will we, but we will get more coverage than you ever have.
Makhoul then boasted about how his organization would become more adept and successful at spreading Anti-Zionism than campus Zionists had been about spreading Zionism. And in the last 25 years, judging from the massive spikes in campus anti-Semitic incidents, they have been. How? Wexler explains:
People of color, particularly antisemitic Black groups like BLM, were organizing to identify with the Palestinians. Many organizations representing people seen as oppressed were moved to identify with the Palestinians. Students of every variety were swayed. I could see the commonalities of language creation and transfer—my field—being applied to the Jews. Many of them were old antisemitic tropes into which new life was being breathed.
Israel and Jews are colonialists just like other white oppressors around the world. Israel is an apartheid society, the same as South Africa was.
Jews have white privilege, even though more than 50% of Jews are dark-skinned people from the Arab world, Iran and Africa.
Jews hold power in media and banking, making them the enemy.
That is to say, anti-Israel activist organizations in the U.S. and elsewhere have spent decades teaching college students to hate Jews—not Israelis, not Likudists, nor Zionists, but Jews—and lying about the historical record to engender and nurture the crop of violent hatred we have seen erupting on streets in Western capitals for 50 days now.
Thankfully, the public beyond university campuses is starting to notice, and donors are withdrawing support from institutions that have indoctrinated a generation of students into thinking the Holocaust was a pretty good idea (when they aren’t denying it happened).
Fighting Amalek, Protecting Jews
As I write this, the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas has entered its second day. Another round of hostages has been released, but both Israel and Hamas have stated that the war will resume once the four-day truce and the morally asymmetrical exchange of kidnapped hostages for convicted murderers and terrorists is complete.
It is important to recognize that the military response of the secular State of Israel (which biblically speaking is not the same as the covenanted Chosen People) has become an excuse for hatred against members of an ethnic group—anyone of Jewish blood, wherever they may live. (Even many Jews are protesting aspects of Israel’s response, but they do not, obviously, support anti-Semitism or sympathize with Hamas.) It is also important to note that Hamas is not identical with the Palestinians, many of whom have themselves suffered under Hamas and are now caught in the crossfire between a secular government’s response to a brutal terrorist incursion against its citizens, and that among the Palestinians are also Palestinian Christians, including Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants.
In the weeks and months to come, Jews, those non-Jews who love the people of the first covenant, and those who would defend the “Judeo-” part of “Judeo-Christian” civilization will need to pray, support one another in word and act, and not lose sight of the clear moral line between those who committed the barbaric atrocities of October 7th and those who are committed to bringing them to justice.John D. Martin
is a professional translator, missionary, and writer living in Germany, where he works with several different ministries, and lives in a Christian intentional community. He has written academic articles on medieval literature and culture and has published essays in Salvo, First Things, and Boundless. He is a native of Indiana.• Get SALVO blog posts in your inbox! Copyright © 2024 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/post/hamas-in-light-of-history