Murray Horton: Genocide in Gaza – let’s talk about Hamas


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ANALYSIS: By Murray Horton

The general consensus is that Gaza is this generation’s Vietnam. There are some similarities between the two wars — and a whole lot more differences. But it is true as far as the global protest movement is concerned. Even some of the chants are the same – substitute Biden or Netanyahu for Johnson in “Hey, hey, LBJ. How many kids did you kill today?” (The answer in both cases is an awful lot).

And the putdowns are much the same. If you were a critic of the Vietnam War, you were labelled “anti-American”. Today, if you’re a critic of the Gaza War or Zionism in general, you’re labelled “anti-Semitic”, which is just ludicrous.

I’m old enough to have actively participated in both Vietnam and Gaza demos. There is one conspicuous absence from the latter. In the Vietnam demos it was common for people to chant “Victory to the NLF” (National Liberation Front or the “Viet Cong” to the Western world) and to carry their flag — I have old photos of me as a callow youth with that flag.


A New Zealand ant-Vietnam War protest in Auckland
A New Zealand ant-Vietnam War protest in Auckland. Image: © John Miller/

But nobody is chanting “victory to Hamas” or carrying its flag. I can only speak from my personal experience of months of Christchurch demos but I have no doubt that if anyone was supporting Hamas at any NZ demo the media would be shouting it from the rooftops.

Why is this? Simply that people want to keep separate their outrage at Israel’s genocide in Gaza from any perception of support for Hamas. There are big differences between Vietnam’s NLF of half a century ago and Hamas today. One was communist and nationalist; the other is Islamist. I distrust all religious fundamentalists, regardless of which religion they are imposing on people.

Murray Horton in his younger protest days in 1969 . . . spokesperson for the Progressive Youth Movement (PYM). Image:

The same goes for ideological fundamentalists, so I put the Khmer Rouge in the same bracket as the Taliban (this country has been afflicted by capitalist fundamentalists in government at various times in recent decades, including among the present coalition).

Israel has only got itself to blame for the existence of Hamas. Israel defeated and ruthlessly repressed the previous secular Palestinian armed resistance, the one led by Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which fitted into the pantheon of global liberation movements of the day. That old guard ended up as Israel’s collaborators, the corrupt and powerless administrators (not rulers) of the Occupied West Bank.

It is no coincidence that the US wants to install them as administrators of a post-war Gaza, as sort of the reservation cops for what is already the world’s biggest outdoor prison and permanent free fire zone for the Israeli military.

The Palestinian people have made clear that they do not want this.

Peace Researcher editor and protester Murray Horton
Peace Researcher editor, Anti-Bases Coalition organiser and protester Murray Horton . . . “Israel will not achieve peace by military means – it will have to be a political solution (which has to be more than a ceasefire).” Image: Asia Pacific Report

Israel laughably conflates Hamas with ISIS, which everyone agrees is a terrorist organisation and ideology, with no redeeming features. I guarantee that if Israel does succeed in its murderous mission to exterminate Hamas, it will be replaced by something more extreme, maybe something actually like the ISIS fascists. That would be a very sad day but the Palestinian people are not going to lie down and lick the boots of their oppressors. They will continue to fight back.

The Hamas surprise attack into Israel in October 2023 was an impressive military feat, catching the arrogant and complacent Israeli military and intelligence machine completely off guard. But Hamas definitely committed war crimes by terrorising, murdering and kidnapping Israeli civilians. As for killing and capturing enemy soldiers, that is normal in a war (which Israel and Hamas have been fighting for decades).

Nor are the Israeli settlers innocent bystanders. Throughout history, and up until today, settlers are a common denominator in wars, land theft and dispossession. This applies across the world, including in New Zealand.

Ongoing colonisation of Palestine
Ongoing colonisation of Palestine . . . from David Ben-Gurion (1947) until Benjamin Netanyahu (2024). Image: Visualising Palestine Graphics

Hamas is routinely presented in the West as a terrorist organisation — in 2024 New Zealand has designated it, in its entirety, as one (previously NZ only designated Hamas’ military wing as a terrorist organisation). “Terrorist” is a very subjective term and it depends on who’s telling the story. In wartime it is usual to brand one’s enemy as terrorists. Thus, the Nazis branded the French Resistance as such.

“Our boys” who incinerated huge numbers of German and Japanese civilians in WW2 bombing raids were as much terrorists committing war crimes as were the Nazis who bombed British civilians during the Blitz.

There are politicians in office now whose organisations and parties were previously branded as terrorists — South Africa and Northern Ireland are two examples. Look no further than the history of Palestine itself — when it was part of the British Empire in the 20th Century, Zionist Jews waged a very effective terrorist campaign against their occupiers, featuring bombings and murders.

Hamas doesn’t seem to have thought far beyond that initial surprise attack into Israel in October 2023. Which brings up another similarity with the Vietnam War. In 1968, the NLF and North Vietnam took the US and its South Vietnamese puppets completely by surprise by launching the Tet Offensive right across South Vietnam and right into the grounds of the US Embassy in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City).

At the time, the West judged it to be a military failure, a suicide mission. The same with Hamas’ attack — deemed a suicide mission. But both Tet in 1968 and Hamas in 2023 were looking beyond the purely military. They were both making a political point, issuing a wake-up call, putting their struggle front and centre on the global agenda.

In both cases the impact was seismic. And there are other similarities. Tet finished the Presidency of Lyndon Johnson. 1968 was an election year — he announced that he would not run again.

This year, 2024, is an election year in the US. It remains to be seen what impact Biden’s “ironclad” support of Israel’s genocide has on his re-election. Here is an even stranger coincidence — the 1968 Democrat convention was in Chicago (the protests became a legendary event in the history of the US anti-war movement). The 2024 Democrat convention is also in Chicago, with this generation’s anti-war movement building up a head of steam in advance.

Important differences between the Vietnam and Gaza wars
Vietnam could count on the rock- solid support of its ideological allies, the Soviet Union and China, who armed it and enabled it to have some air defences that could shoot down the US bombers that waged a much more devastating bombardment on Vietnam (and Laos and Cambodia) than anything Israel has unleashed.

Gaza has no friendly next-door neighbours — Vietnam had China, Gaza has Egypt, which regards Hamas as a threat and an enemy. The Arab states sold out the Palestinians decades ago, after they lost several wars to Israel. It was no coincidence that Hamas launched its attack just before Israel was about to announce a normalisation of relations with Saudi Arabia, the most vicious of the regional dictatorships.

Hamas does not even have the support of the Palestinian Authority in the Occupied West Bank, headed by the people who lost the 2006 Palestinian election to Hamas and were subsequently driven out of Gaza by it. So, Hamas is basically on its own, apart from Iran and its allies in the region, such as Hezbollah and the Houthis, but they are all a long way from Gaza.

There are other differences with the Vietnam War. Hamas has no air defences and, although it has done a very good job of protecting its own ranks with tunnels, it has provided no network of air raid shelters for civilians.

It has effectively left its own civilian population defenceless against Israel’s genocide from the sky. And, unlike Vietnam, it seems to have done little or nothing to mobilise those civilians, either for defence or guerrilla war.

A striking feature of the Vietnam War was the military participation of women. Hamas appears to be an all-male military and political movement. Having said that, there is no sign of Hamas having lost popular support in Gaza. There has been no uprising or mass clamour to escape.

Indeed, Hamas has apparently increased in popularity in the Occupied West Bank, which is run by its Palestinian rivals. The reason why is obvious — it is the only organisation offering any kind of effective armed resistance to the Israeli occupation from within.

Ongoing massacres in Palestine
Ongoing massacres in Palestine . . . from the Nakba (“The Catastrophe”, 1947-8) until Gaza (2023-2024). Image: Visualising Palestine graphics

Murderers, liars, cowards
Which brings me to the other side in this one-sided war. If Hamas is a terrorist organisation, then Israel is a terrorist state. If one has committed atrocities, the other is committing genocide. The keyword here is disproportionality.

Yes, Israel is entitled to defend itself. But so is Palestine, specifically Gaza, which has been used as a real-world testing ground for Israeli weapons and surveillance systems ever since Hamas won that 2006 election.

The West is fed a constant diet of soothing noises about “surgical strikes” and “smart bombs”, which is all just so much bullshit. The world sees that the reality is massive death and destruction. If Israel really was “smart”, then it might have won the allegiance of some of Gaza’s people (there were never going to be cheering crowds throwing flowers onto Israel’s conquering troops).

But, no, it declared that its war was against all Gazans, that they are all the enemy, that they are sub-humans, and it is a war of annihilation. Despite their worst efforts, the Israeli military has still not won (at the time of writing) — whatever “won” means in this context.

Hamas has neither surrendered nor been exterminated. I would say Israel’s methods have guaranteed a fresh supply of Hamas recruits.

Because Israel can count on the unquestioning support of the US, other major Western governments and a supine Western media, it knows it can commit genocide with impunity. Mass murder in broad daylight and in plain sight.

It got such a fright from the successful Hamas attack that it reacted with an all-consuming blood lust, killing everyone in its path in Gaza. It has killed its own hostages, by accident or design; it has murdered record numbers of women and children; civilians; aid workers; health workers; journalists and UN staff.

It has weaponised the withholding of desperately needed humanitarian aid and deliberately induced mass starvation. It has systematically destroyed hospitals, schools, universities, mosques, homes, etc., etc; to make Gaza unliveable for the foreseeable future.

In some cases, it tried to concoct a cover story — “Hamas had a control centre and/or tunnels under this hospital”. It gave up on that because it realised it didn’t have to pretend – it could do anything it liked without consequences, provoking only the feeblest of tut-tutting from its Western allies who bankroll and arm it, to the tune of billions of dollars per year.

So much for “the international rules-based order” that they tiresomely, and lyingly, pontificate about.

It is plainly obvious that the Israeli military are mass murderers. They are also liars — they ordered Gazans to relocate to “safe zones”, which then made them easier to attack and murder. And their chosen method is to murder a defenceless civilian population from the air (a tactic favoured by their American accomplices in their various wars in recent decades).

That’s why I call them cowards.

US is the enabler of genocide
If Israel is the mass murderer, then the US is the enabler of that mass murder, providing vital military support and political cover at places like the UN. Minor US satellites like NZ follow the US lead.

Gaza is certainly not the only war at present, not even the biggest. Until October 2023 the West was fixated on Ukraine, whose war includes old-school features from both World War One (trench warfare) and World War Two (long-range rocket attacks), combined with modern features such as drones and cyber-warfare.

Syria has become yesterday’s story; the war between rival gangs of thugs in Sudan has been forgotten. The West has only ever taken passing interest in the Congo, Africa’s decades-long world war, one in which millions have died.

Gaza is not the only recent example of ethnic cleansing. Just the month before it started, Azerbaijan launched a victorious one-day long lightning strike into the Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in the exit of nearly 100 percent of ethnic Armenians.

This was one of the big stories in world news until Gaza wiped it out of global consciousness.

The world has been fed this myth of “plucky little Israel”, surrounded by enemies. Furthermore, we’ve been told it’s the only democracy in the Middle East. Maybe, but Israeli democracy is only for the occupiers, not the occupied.

It certainly has never accepted the result of the 2006 Palestinian election which brought Hamas to power in Gaza. It has barred international media from Gaza during the war and shut down al Jazeera in Israel.

Zionism: An inherently racist and terrorist ideology
In fact, Israel is a bully, both domestically and regionally. A heavily militarised bully which wages continual war, both internally and regionally. Armed to the teeth and politically sheltered by the US superpower, it recklessly tries to provoke a wider war with Iran in order to draw in the US and its Western allies.

A state governed by Zionism, an inherently racist and terrorist ideology, it is an apartheid state on the same model as the former white-ruled South Africa.

A state currently governed by the extreme Right and headed by a corrupt Prime Minister who is a literal criminal (in addition to being a war criminal), one who is keen to keep the Gaza War going indefinitely in order to postpone his various criminal trials. A lawless state which arms vigilante settlers and lets them rob, starve, terrorise and murder Palestinians with impunity.

Yes, Israel has got a problem neighbour in Hamas. Any country is entitled to defend itself against being regularly attacked by barrages of low-grade rockets. But Irael’s response has always been disproportionate and the most recent response is the most disproportionate of all.

Israel is modelling its response on Sri Lanka, which ended the decades-long separatist war with the Tamil Tigers by finally driving them, and a huge number of civilians, into a corner, then bombarding them all into death and defeat.

But Israel will not achieve peace by military means — it will have to be a political solution (which has to be more than a ceasefire. Korea has had one of those since 1953, and it’s not a good precedent).

Above all, Israel, the US and its fellow accomplices and enablers of genocide have to recognise that old truism: no justice, no peace.

Activist Murray Horton is editor of Peace Researcher, organiser of the Anti-Bases Coalition (ABC), and a contributor to Café Pacific. Republished with permission from Peace Researcher at the Converge website.

Cafe Pacific Publisher
Cafe Pacific Publisher
Café Pacific's duty editor.
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