The barbarism displayed by Hamas on October 7th horrified, the world, as well it should.
Who harms innocent non-combatants, women and children like that? Who takes innocents hostage? Who acts with such coarse brutality?
It is scary to see where humans can end up when lose touch with their own inner compass. It’s almost always some external idea that takes hold of a collective and causes them to lose their collective shit. More often this idea looks like a book, and more often this book was written by God.
Here are some gems from this book, where every word is holy, where people are named after its characters, where 10 year old are taught to read its verses 24 times.
In our current example the book happened to be written by Allah. But there is another book with some similar opinions, and that one was written by Hashem:
- Numbers 31:7,9 And they gathered upon the Midianites as God had commended and they killed every male… and the sons of Israel took the Midianite women and children prisoner, and they looted their animals and possessions.
- Deuteronomy 25:19 – ... you shall erase any trace of Amalek from beneath the heavens.
- Samuel I 15:8 – And Samuel captured (the Amalek) king live, and killed the rest of the nation by sword…
- Samuel I 22:19 – And Nov, the city of Priests (King Saul) killed by the sword; men, women, children, nursing infants, animals.
- Psalms 137:9 – ..blessed is the one who grabs your infants and shatters them against the rocks.
Apologetics time! Here’s the point where you explain that Amalek is a metaphor. That it pertains to enemies long dead. That practically you don’t do this kind of thing.
Here’s the thing with interpretations – anyone can interpret them as they wish. I was raised with the knowledge that Amalek was the Nazis. Now it’s Hamas. It’s an idea, representing “the enemy of the Jews” whoever that might be, and it can be applied to any people or ideology at will. And once applied, it justifies the indiscriminate killing of men, women, and children.
This is not just an abstraction. Here is the verse above written on an artillery shell being fired in Gaza. I can support bombing Gaza right now. I cannot support invoking the bible to justify doing so. To be fair, this was written by a random soldier, not a decision maker, but it’s an expression of an ideology that can, and is, making its way to the top of Israeli government.
Yes, we’re not at a point where Jews are indiscriminately killing babies for its own sake. Historically, over the last 2,000 years, we’ve been the victims, not the perpetrators. But it is these ideas, validated by a book, that causes people to lose their own sense of reason, their own moral compass.
It justifies fighting to the death on barren mountaintops, claiming ownership of land we haven’t lived in for 2,000 years, treating those who are not chosen by this book as second class citizens. And we see this in Israel on the daily – the more identified the people are with this book, the more outlandish their views of how they may to treat others.
As long as these verses are celebrated as cultural, historically significant, or the word of God, we create an opening for these words to be wielded at the hands of whatever fanatic currently has the the power.