Hamas regards its October 7 attack on Israel as an act of jihad, a concept viewed by extremist Muslims as a holy war. This attack was marked by extreme violence which targeted civilians, including women, children, and the elderly. Such brutality has led even some secular Jews to perceive it as an extension of historical persecution, drawing parallels to the various attempts to eradicate Jews recounted in the Old Testament.
While political differences have been at the heart of past conflicts and wars between nations, these ideologies are often open to negotiation, and movements may lose influence over time, potentially defusing tensions. Conversely, conflicts rooted deeply in religious beliefs tend to resist negotiation. At the most uncompromising end of the spectrum, adherents consider any concession on the Word of God as a grave sin.
In the case of Israel, compromise is seen as an existential threat by Hamas, which believes it is mandated to eliminate all Jews and seize control of Israel.
According to the Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), issued in 1988, “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.” The covenant, a comprehensive manifesto comprising 36 articles, promotes Hamas’s goal of destroying the State of Israel through jihad. Article 6 frames this mission of destruction as a holy war: ”The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinguished Palestinian movement, whose allegiance is to Allah, and whose way of life is Islam. It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.”
Observers have interpreted a message from former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal as a call for jihad, when he urged Muslims in other countries to protest and join the Palestinian fight against Israel. Anticipating trouble, countries around the world, including the United States, are beefing up security, particularly in protecting their Jewish and Israeli residents and citizens. An employee of the Israel Embassy in Beijing was stabbed, a shocking occurrence in a country with draconian social controls. The fact that China has not condemned the Hamas attack on Israel almost raises suspicions that China allowed the stabbing to occur.
In the U.S., Jewish centers have been vandalized and have received bomb threats. Pro-Palestinian protests have been held on university campuses, attracting many irreligious liberals. The Democratic Socialists of America held a rally in New York’s Times Square to celebrate what they called Palestinian “resistance.” Meanwhile, according to the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism, since the Hamas attack on Israel, “calls for violence against Jews, Israelis, and Zionists on Telegram increased 400 percent.” The FBI has similarly confirmed a sharp increase in threats of violence against both Jews and Muslims.
The Hamas attack on Israel is rooted in a religious ideology of jihad. In contrast, both Jews and fundamentalist Christians view Israel’s right to self-defense and continued existence as based on Old Testament scripture.
Genesis 12:1-3 contains God’s promise to Abraham, one of the foundational figures in Judaism, that he will be given the land of Canaan, which is often equated with the land of Israel: “Now the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” The next verse can be interpreted as Israel’s holy right to defend itself: “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you, all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Another important promise to Abraham occurs in Genesis 17:7-8, reaffirming that the land of Canaan is an everlasting possession for his descendants. Furthermore, God’s intention to give the land of Canaan to the Israelites as an inheritance is stated in Exodus 6:8, “I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.”
Fundamentalist Christians also express strong support for Israel and share a religious perspective on the conflict. Romans 11:28-29 in the New Testament reinforces the belief that God’s gifts and calling to the Jewish people are unchanging: “As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Evangelical Christians have historically been among the most dedicated advocates for Israel. Notably, President Donald Trump signified his support for Israel by moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Many Jews view the recent Hamas attack as the latest chapter in a long history of suffering. Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) released a statement titled: “A War Crime, a Crime Against Humanity, and the Worst Mass Murder of Jews Since the Holocaust.” Referencing the Holocaust links this attack to historical persecution of Jews. He decried Hamas as “a terrorist organization which has openly targeted Israel…a new terror group fusing Nazi and Islamist ideas.” The World War II imagery is unmistakable.
Jonathan Bluestein, an Israeli citizen and former master sergeant in the police department, explained how the current Hamas attacks on Israel are similar to attacks on the Jews dating back to the Old Testament. “Hamas, they are like the Amalekites in the Old Testament. They were vicious and slaughtered the women and children. And God commanded the Israelites to eradicate the seed of the Amalekites to make sure that no Amalekites survived, so that people who are this evil would never plague the Israelites again.”
This attack “is evoking strong religious sentiment,” he said. “We remember the Amalekites, Philistines, Babylonians, the ancient Romans and Greeks, and everyone who ever attacked us, including the Nazis, are gone now. This is what is said at Passover, in every generation there is a Pharaoh that comes to destroy us and every generation we prevail.” He went on to explain this is why the Jews believe they are the Forever People. The Jews “always survive, but the groups that attack them do not.” The Amalekites, Philistines, Babylonian, the ancient Romans and Greeks, and Hitler’s Nazis are gone, but the Jews are still here and they still hold Israel.