Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Monday, May 18, 2009

Amalek

From the NYT, Jeff Goldberg:
....the prime minister’s preoccupation with the Iranian nuclear program seems sincere and deeply felt. I recently asked one of his advisers to gauge for me the depth of Mr. Netanyahu’s anxiety about Iran. His answer: “Think Amalek.”

Goldberg glosses this as
“Amalek,” in essence, is Hebrew for “existential threat.” Tradition holds that the Amalekites are the undying enemy of the Jews. They appear in Deuteronomy, attacking the rear columns of the Israelites on their escape from Egypt. The rabbis teach that successive generations of Jews have been forced to confront the Amalekites: Nebuchadnezzar, the Crusaders, Torquemada, Hitler and Stalin are all manifestations of Amalek’s malevolent spirit.

If Iran’s nuclear program is, metaphorically, Amalek’s arsenal, then an Israeli prime minister is bound by Jewish history to seek its destruction, regardless of what his allies think.

That suggests that Netanyahu wishes to destroy Iran's nuclear program, or possibly - it's an ambiguous usage - Iran. My recollection of the Amalek bit, though, is that it was rather more sweeping. Ah yes:
Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. 3 Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." (1 Sam. 15:2-3).

If Iran is Amalek, that's a commandment to kill every Iranian, on penalty of having the top Israelite (then Saul) attract the Vengeance of JVH and lose their job. Which Netanyahu presumably does not want. At the very least, I don't think that that comparison leads in the direction of minimising civilian casualties.

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