The events of Operation Al Aqsa Storm on October 7th and Israel’s genocidal campaign on the people of Gaza has shaken the foundations of world politics. Imperialist plans for a new Middle East have been scuttled and the battle is on against neocolonialism and genocide in West Asia. A great moral question stands in front of humanity which will determine where the world goes.
Operation Al Aqsa Storm
Operation Al Aqsa Storm was launched on October 7th 2023. It was led by the Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, but included fighters from the organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as from two Marxist factions, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The attacks are a form of military resistance, something recognized under international law. The Israeli command collapsed as a result of the operation and chaos ensued. It is unclear how many Palestinians, including civilians, entered the Israeli territory from Gaza during this period. The Western media alleges atrocities by Al-Qassam and other Palestinians. Hamas denies its fighters intentionally engaged in any atrocities and is calling for an International investigation into what happened on October 7th. While Israeli soldiers as well as civilians were taken hostage, Hamas offered unconditional release of civilians if Israel stopped bombardment of Gaza, something which was only temporarily accepted by the Israeli government. At the same time Israel holds some 2,500 Palestinian civilians without charges. It has been revealed that the IDF used the Hannibal Doctrine, which directs the IDF to fire upon their own soldiers and civilians to prevent hostages from being taken. Dubious persolanities have been repeating baseless allegations of coordinated sexual violence against Al-Qassam forces in an attempt to sway public opinion in support of Israel’s war.
Some have asked whether Operation Al Aqsa Storm was justified given that it was known Israel would engage in violence in retaliation. Firstly, the Israeli war on Gaza as well as the ongoing occupation are both illegal under international law. Those occupying territory have no right to self-defense. Secondly, anti-colonial leaders have always asked their people to sacrifice to win their freedom. The leaders of Hamas have called for sacrifice comparable to that of the Russian, Algerian, and Vietnamese people.
All evidence indicates that on the ground Israel is failing to meet military objectives. A recent New York Times story cites anonymous Israeli commanders as saying Israel will not be able to release hostages through military means or debilitate Hamas. Available evidence indicates the armed resistance is defeating the IDF in ground engagements. The IDF has relied on indiscriminate aerial bombardment and by the most brutal ground attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure including and laying siege to hospitals.
The supposed logic for Israel’s genocidal assault on civilians is to restore deterrence by instilling fear in the Palestinian and wider Arab population after a historic humiliation on October 7th. Despite this, Western analysts sympathetic to Israel are admitting it is facing unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts. Netanyahu was in a politically precarious position to start with. Only the outbreak of the war ended the largest protests in Israeli history over Netanyahu’s planned judicial reforms to save himself from corruption charges. The success of Al Aqsa Storm has created a crisis of confidence in Netanyahu’s government as well as the defense establishment, who have traded blame for dereliction. Events since October 7th have put Israel under a historic degree of military and political pressure.
The behavior of the current Israeli regime emerges from an extremist shift in Israeli politics. This shift has been due to the failure of the Western and Israeli political class in fulfilling any just solution to the occupation of Palestinian territories under the framework of the Oslo Accords. Netanyahu during his various tenures as Prime Minister was central to this failure. In 2017, Netanyahu’s government passed the Nation-State Law declaring Israel the exclusive land of the Jewish people and illegal settlements in the West Bank as necessary. The growth in settlers has led to the rise of even farther right political figures, including from movements previously banned from Israeli politics, with whom Netanyahu has cut deals to ensure his own political survival amid myriad corruption scandals. His cabinet includes Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir, who has been previously convicted of terrorism in Israeli courts and whose party has conducted extreme violence against Palestinian civilians. The same Ben Gvir is in charge of security in the West Bank and leads rallies calling for the demolishing of Masjid Al Aqsa. Indeed one explanation for the collapse of Israeli defenses on October 7th is that the IDF was overstretched in protecting Ben Gvir and his thugs in their provocations in Jerusalem. It is no coincidence that Hamas named its operation Al Aqsa Storm, as it has aimed previous operations at stopping assaults on Masjid Al Aqsa. The vile nature of Israeli politics means that forces akin to the Nazis are in power. Their crimes in Gaza reveal a state that should be treated as a pariah state and has no place in modern civilization. Yet the West has been trying its hardest to force acceptance of the apartheid state on the world stage, especially in West Asia and the Global South.
A New Middle East
During the general debate at the UN General Assembly in September 2023, Benjamin Netanyahu held up an illustration of a new Middle East “at peace” with Israel including countries that had not yet recognized Israel such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Coming out of the Abraham Accords, this meant a capitulation of the Arab world to Israel, throwing the Palestinian people to the wayside. The accords succeeded in normalization with the UAE, Morocco, and Bahrain but the big prize was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Normalization and recognition by the Arab states has long been sought after by Israel. This is because opposition to Israel’s occupation of the holy sites of Islam in Jerusalem and its treatment of the Palestinians is something of a civilizational imperative in the Arab and larger Islamic world. Historically even pro-Western Arab and Muslim governments have refused to recognize Israel, as a way to maintain legitimacy in front of their own populations. The Biden administration sought to connect Saudi Arabia’s entry into the Abraham Accords with the EU-Middle East-India corridor, an initiative announced at the G20 summit in Delhi, to both ensure Israel’s normalization in West Asia as well as keep China’s Belt and Road Initiative out of the resource rich region. Due to West Asia’s role in the world economy this would have had a great impact everywhere.
Saudi Arabia’s independent-minded Prime Minister, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) had made a number of significant, sometimes contradictory moves in recent years. He had openly denounced the fundamentalist Wahabbi ideology promoted by the kingdom since the Cold War, embarked on radical reforms in Saudi society, and arrested much of the older leadership of the country. In foreign policy he embarked on a brutal war against the revolutionary forces in Yemen since 2015 with US support but also improved relations with Russia and China, and defied Biden administration pressure to cut oil production to hurt the Russian economy. At the same time he showed a willingness to support normalization with Israel but in 2023 also signed a China-brokered normalization agreement with longtime nemesis Iran, coinciding with a ceasefire in the war on Yemen. MBS being an independent actor was heavily courted by the US and Israel, and negotiations were ongoing including US support for a Saudi nuclear weapon.
Saudi Arabia’s war on the so-called Houthis of Yemen has an intimate connection to the current situation in Gaza. The Western media refers to them as Houthis, a reference to the Houthi tribe from which its founder Hussain Al-Houthi and his brother and successor hail. They are referred to as “Islamists” representing the Zaydi Shia sect, a subsect of Shia Islam different theologically from the Jafari Shia present in Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, which represents about 35% of Yemen’s population. The reality is that they emerged in the post-Cold War period out of the struggle against the imposition of Wahhabi ideology on Yemen by Saudi Arabia and against IMF structural adjustment policies and corruption imposed by the previous Saleh government.
They took de facto power in a relatively bloodless revolution in September 2015, in which the bulk of the Yemeni Army switched allegiance from the Saleh government to Ansarallah. The president and ministers fled to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis, fearful of losing lucrative oil deposits, organized a military intervention. Sadly, this brutal war received approval by the UNSC, with Russia and China supporting it, as well as multiple extensions since then. Ansarallah and their allies fight alone, and despite having de facto control of most of Yemen’s territory are recognized only by Syria and Iran. The war from 2015-2023 was brutal, even genocidal. The Yemeni people faced bombing, a Saudi invasion using largely mercenary troops, as well as famine. The West militarily backed Saudi forces to the hilt. Yet Ansarallah forces fought so tenaciously that an Australian commander compared them to the Viet Cong. The fighting only entered a ceasefire with the China-backed Saudi-Iran normalization agreement.
This makes the actions by Ansarallah entering the Israel-Palestine war even more significant. They have earned the direct military intervention of the US through their seizing of ships headed to the Zionist entity. Indeed after South Africa’s filing charges of genocide against Israel at the ICJ, Ansarallah has claimed their actions are under article 1 of the 1948 Genocide Convention. They act purely out of principle and ideological commitment to the ending of oppression. Ansarallah spokesperson Muhammad Al-Bukhaiti told American journalist Max Blumenthal that “a victory on the awareness front is more important than victory on the military front” citing the role of global public opinion as crucial to stopping war and genocide.
After Israel’s war commenced, Hezbollah similarly entered the battle through rocket strikes on targets in Northern Israel in solidarity with Gaza. Using missile strikes they have succeeded in keeping a significant amount of Israel’s military engaged on their northern front, away from Gaza. Similarly resistance groups in Iraq which are friendly with Iran and Hezbollah have also declared solidarity with Palestinian forces in Gaza. The Western media charge Iran with being an alleged mastermind behind these armed resistance groups. It is certainly true that it is Iran that has been an ideological, political, military, and financial center for what is called the Axis of Resistance. This is a concept coming out of the Iranian Revolution for a united front against Western imperialism and Zionism in West Asia. Qassem Soleimani, who was murdered in a US airstrike in 2019, played a major role in training resistance forces such as Al-Qassam, Hezbollah, the Ansarallah, and resistance factions in Iraq. This is a major reason why Iran is targeted by the West for sanctions and regime change. However, all of these forces act independently. This is not a war of realpolitik but an ideological one. The struggle between the forces of Zionism and imperialism against the Axis of Resistance is a military, political, and ideological struggle between the forces of neocolonialism and apartheid against freedom and civilization.
Crisis in the US
Meanwhile, within the Western World and in the United States in particular, extreme Zionists have targeted university presidents for failing to sufficiently repress student activism against Israel on campus. This infighting has revealed a great deal about the reality of US academia, with Harvard’s president Claudine Gay being revealed as a plagiarizer. Ironically, it was revealed that the wife of Bill Ackman, a Zionist banker who led the campaign against Gay, had also plagiarized as a professor at MIT. This infighting is threatening to reveal the reality behind the illusion of academic rigor at elite universities. This is a danger for the ideological power that these institutions exercise on behalf of US imperialism.
US President Joe Biden’s approval ratings have been in sharp decline since the Israeli war started. Specifically among young voters who are crucial to his reelection. Over 400,000 Americans marched for a ceasefire in the largest demonstration for Palestine in US history. This is a dramatic moment in US political history, with a movement against US and Israeli actions emerging on moral grounds. Unlike the movement against the War in Vietnam, where students march to stop being drafted, here the movement is purely for moral reasons. This is both heightening the crisis of the US ruling elite as well as creating conditions for a new peace movement in the US.
South Africa’s Stand and the Need for World Action
South Africa rose to take up the case of the Palestinian in international courts. Accusing Israel of genocide at the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. During the proceedings at the ICJ South Africa presented a well documented indictment of Israel’s intent to destroy the Palestinian people and called upon the court to act in good conscience by ordering Israel to stop. Yet the Western powers who supported apartheid in South Africa and the Israeli occupation through the decades continue to do so by opposing South Africa’s case.US Secretary of State called it “meritless”. Germany intervened on behalf of South Africa in the ICJ. This prompted an official statement from the president of Namibia, pointing out that Germany is yet to apologize for its genocide when it ruled Namibia at the turn of the century.
South Africa’s principled stand is a testament to the values of the anti-apartheid movement. The South African government is returning the solidarity it received from people of conscience all over the world. As Colombian President Gustavo Petro has said “The motto Liberty, Equality, Fraternity that was created by the French Revolution no longer has its place in Paris but in South Africa. That is the new reality."The ICJ delivered its ruling on January 26th, ruling that South Africa has made a plausible case for genocide, ordering Israel to take multiple measures to protect Palestinian life, and calling for Israel to submit a report on these measures within one month. Though this ruling fell short of a ceasefire order it is being hailed by South Africa as a victory and the Hamas leadership has called on the international community to pressure Israel to accept the verdict. It opens the way for the UN General Assembly to hold Israel accountable for legal violations and also gives a strong legal ground for the actions of the Ansarallah of Yemen. Yet this is only the beginning of what is needed. The Nazi-like Israeli leadership must face Nuremberg-like severe justice for their crimes against humanity. Their enablers in the West must also be held accountable.
We are witnessing the consolidation of forces that can end these crimes. Other states including Mexico, Chile, and Indonesia have lodged referrals and complaints against Israel for war crimes and occupation in international courts. The OIC, BRICS, and NAM and G77 have all called for a ceasefire. This indicates a divide between the neocolonial West and the states of the Global South. On one side is Israel’s genocide, which is in reality an intensification of many decades of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians which has been enabled by the West. Western hypocrisy on democracy is visible to all, as it supports an Israeli regime as vile as the Nazis. On the other side is a resurgent freedom struggle led by armed resistance fighters but consisting of the sacrifice of all levels of Palestinian society. The Axis of Resistance fights against the imperialist vision of a “New Middle East” in favor of an anti-imperialist West Asia. The role of the BRICS nations as well as the peace movement worldwide will be crucial in determining the outcome of this.
Jahanzaib Choudhry is a historian and a member of the Saturday Free School for Philosophy and Black Liberation.