As It Formally Accuses Israel of Genocide, South Africa Condemns Netanyahu’s Amalek Reference

The biblical reference was widely seen as justification for killing Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, wears a protective vest and helmet as he receives a security briefing with commanders and soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip, on Monday

Avi Ohayon/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Lawyers representing South Africa on Thursday said that Israeli soldiers interpreted a biblical reference made by Benjamin Netanyahu during a November speech to troops as a justification to kill Palestinians. The claim, which specifically called out Netanyahu’s invocation of Amalek as well as footage showing IDF soldiers chanting “wipe off the seed of Amalek,” was made during the first day of public hearings at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, where South Africa formally accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza. 

“This refers to the biblical command by God to Saul for the retaliatory destruction of an entire group of people,” Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, a member of South Africa’s legal team, said, Al Jazeera reports.

Netanyahu’s use of Amalek, a rival nation to Israel in the Old Testament, and to “remember” it as Israeli troops invaded Gaza sparked international outrage. As my colleague Noah Lanard wrote at the time, the rhetoric was widely seen as an open call for Israeli soldiers to kill Palestinians in response to Hamas’ brutal attack on October 7. “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible,” Netanyahu said during the broadcast. “And we do remember.”

The biblical context of Netanyahu’s speech from Noah:

As others quickly pointed out, God commands King Saul in the first Book of Samuelto kill every person in Amalek, a rival nation to ancient Israel. “This is what the Lord Almighty says,” the prophet Samuel tells Saul. “‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'”

Since October 7, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health estimates that Israel has killed at least 23,200 people in Gaza. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday called the civilian death toll “far too high,” though he reiterated the US’s support for Israel as the country fights to ensure that another October 7 “never happens again.” Meanwhile, in The Hague, South African officials are urging United Nations officials to take action and completely end Israel’s military presence in Gaza.

Israel will have a chance to respond to South Africa’s accusations on Friday.

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

AN IMPORTANT UPDATE

We’re falling behind our online fundraising goals and we can’t sustain coming up short on donations month after month. Perhaps you’ve heard? It is impossibly hard in the news business right now, with layoffs intensifying and fancy new startups and funding going kaput.

The crisis facing journalism and democracy isn’t going away anytime soon. And neither is Mother Jones, our readers, or our unique way of doing in-depth reporting that exists to bring about change.

Which is exactly why, despite the challenges we face, we just took a big gulp and joined forces with The Center for Investigative Reporting, a team of ace journalists who create the amazing podcast and public radio show Reveal.

If you can part with even just a few bucks, please help us pick up the pace of donations. We simply can’t afford to keep falling behind on our fundraising targets month after month.

Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery said it well to our team recently, and that team 100 percent includes readers like you who make it all possible: “This is a year to prove that we can pull off this merger, grow our audiences and impact, attract more funding and keep growing. More broadly, it’s a year when the very future of both journalism and democracy is on the line. We have to go for every important story, every reader/listener/viewer, and leave it all on the field. I’m very proud of all the hard work that’s gotten us to this moment, and confident that we can meet it.”

Let’s do this. If you can right now, please support Mother Jones and investigative journalism with an urgently needed donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate