The Abuse of Amalek

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Matt Duss asks why I didn't mention, in my op-ed on Bibi and the Iranians, that right-wingers, especially the messianists of the settlement movement, often invoke the specter of Amalek  -- and the (thank God widely-ignored) biblical commandment to wipe out Amalek -- as a way of demonizing all Palestinians:

Interestingly, as Goldberg himself has reported in the past -- but for some reason neglects to mention in his article -- invocations of "Amalek" are a feature of extremist Israeli settler propaganda against Palestinians and Arabs, something which I'm sure is not lost on Israel's more right-wing American supporters. In a 2004 New Yorker article on the Israeli settler movement, Goldberg asked Benzi Lieberman, the chairman of the council of settlements "if he thought the Amalekites existed today." Lieberman responded:

"The Palestinians are Amalek!" Lieberman went on, "We will destroy them. We won't kill them all. But we will destroy their ability to think as a nation. We will destroy Palestinian nationalism."

The shorter answer to the question of why I left out this aspect of Amalek in the op-ed is lack of space. The longer answer is, I should have included it. The existence of Amalek is empirically true: Hitler certainly filled the historical role of Amalek. But the idea of Amalek can be abused, as I have noted. In the case of this op-ed, I was trying to provide a window into the thinking of Netanyahu and his people. But I should have mentioned the danger of what we could call, for lack of a better term, Amalek-abuse. In the case of Ahmadinejad, by the way, I think the analogy is appropriate. He preaches of a "world without Zionism," which means, essentially, a world in which Jews are not granted their right to exist as a nation. 

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward, and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

His book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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