Gaza: IDF tanks versus Hamas tunnels

Not a religious war

Daniel Lazare lumps Hamas together with the Zionists, argues Tony Greenstein. But socialists should unconditionally support the oppressed

The two recent articles by Daniel Lazare, ‘Class, culture and generation’ (November 30) and ‘Far from pacified’ (December 7), are a disgrace for anyone who calls themselves a socialist, let alone a Marxist.

At a time when the Palestinians of Gaza are experiencing genocide at the hands of the Israeli state, fully backed up by US and British imperialism, who does Lazare attack? Hamas. Does this faux socialist not understand, in a situation such as the present, when millions of people are mobilised against the horrors that Israel is perpetrating in Gaza (and in the West Bank), that the first duty of socialists is solidarity with the oppressed?

Lazare tells us that Hamas is “the so-called Islamic Resistance Movement”. Why? Is it not Islamic? Does anyone doubt that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are waging a bitter guerrilla war against the murderers in Israel’s army? Instead Lazare says that Hamas “is doing more to facilitate Gaza’s destruction than stopping it”. Forgive me if I missed it, but I thought that it was Israel, not Hamas, which was bombing Gaza into rubble and killing its people.

As background to what is taking place in Gaza, Lazare informs us that there were “proxy wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen”. Afghanistan may have started out as a proxy war but it soon morphed into a full-scale invasion. In Syria too the United States played and is still playing a direct role. Nor do I accept that Washington’s opposition to Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was simply about the “region’s unparalleled energy resources”. Afghanistan itself does not have energy resources. The United States’ opposition to the Soviet Union was about the Cold War.


Lazare shows his ignorance when he tells us that the purpose of the Abraham Accords “was to force China to back off” after it had enabled “a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement that established the people’s republic as a major diplomatic player in what the US had regarded as its exclusive preserve” and thus “return Saudi Arabia to the American fold, and reinforce Zionist hegemony too”. There is only one problem with this. The Abraham Accords were negotiated before the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

As for whether the Abraham Accords are effectively dead, this is a moot point. On this I agree, at least for the moment, although the treacherous, repressive and corrupt Arab regimes will do their best to put it back on track. Only Bahrain, of the four countries that established diplomatic relations with Israel, has recalled its ambassador, and the UAE is continuing to pursue ‘normalisation’. It is clear, however, that the establishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel is off the agenda.

Lazare echoes another Zionist myth: that Israeli Jews fled the Nazi holocaust. This is untrue. At most about one-third of Israel’s population in 1948 were holocaust survivors and many of them came to Israel because the Zionist movement did its best in the United States to close off other avenues of emigration.

Zionist colonisation of Palestine began in 1882 with the First Aliyah. One of the most effective of Israel’s propaganda lies is that Israel was created as a result of the holocaust. It wasn’t. If Lazare reads my book Zionism during the holocaust he will know that during the holocaust the Zionist movement concentrated on one thing and one thing only - establishing a Jewish state. It actually hindered and opposed the actions of those who tried to help and save those Jewish refugees who could escape the Nazi dragnet. In January 1944 it even tried to prevent the establishment of the War Refugee Board in the United States. The WRB saved over 200,000 Jews.

Lazare’s Jewish exceptionalism means that his main enemy is not Zionism but the resistance organisations thrown up by Zionist colonisation. You don’t have to subscribe to Hamas’s politics to recognise that it is in a life and death struggle with Israel. Instead Lazare indulges his obsessions, telling us that “Jihad is not merely a tactic … but a way of life” and that “war is the state, as far as Hamas is concerned”.

This is a typical imperialist lie. Hamas has repeatedly offered Israel a long-term ceasefire. It is Israel that has refused. It is Zionism which was born in blood and fire and which is wedded to war and expansion, not its victims. This racist reversal of reality is a reflection of Lazare’s social chauvinism.

Lazare quotes Ismail Haniyeh as saying, in 2014, “We are a people who value death, just like our enemies value life.” Likewise he quotes Ghazi Hamad: “We are called a nation of martyrs, and are proud to sacrifice martyrs.” The Zionists, too, are fond of reminding us that Hamas is a death cult. But there is nothing exceptional in such rhetoric, whether it is from Hamas or the young resistance fighters of Jenin. Irish republicanism also elevated martyrdom to an almost godly status. There is nothing unique about this in anti-colonial movements. It is how the oppressed of the earth turn the violence of their opponents into a weapon against them. It is the psychology of resistance. Just as the British painted the Irish Catholics as priest-ridden, so Lazare does the same to the Palestinians.

Shamefully Lazare concluded his December 7 article by comparing Hamas to fascists, telling us that “words like these cannot help but summon up memories of the Francoist battle cry, Viva la muerte (Long live death!), or Hitler ranting in his bunker”.

Israeli neo-Nazis

There are neo-Nazis and racial supremacists involved in what is happening today in Gaza - but they belong firmly in the Zionist camp: people like Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s police minister, who used to march to the chant of ‘Death to the Arabs’ and who has openly called for genocide even before October 7, or Bezalel Smotrich, who called for the “wiping out” of the Palestinian town of Huwara.

Lazare clearly has not seen the letter that Danielle Aloni, one of Israel’s captives, wrote to the ‘generals of Hamas’, praising them for their kind behaviour to her daughter Emilia “in spite of the difficult situation you faced”.1 Danielle wrote: “I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your extraordinary humanity shown towards my daughter, Emilia.” This doesn’t strike me as coming from Hitlerites. Of course the Zionists are doing their best to discredit this letter.

There is little doubt that Hamas miscalculated when it launched the October 7 action, hoping to free Palestinian captives. Clearly they misjudged Israel’s response, not least because they did not understand the changes in Israeli society.

Despite this, Hamas has set in train changes that, more clearly than ever, show that the Zionist project is now reaching its endgame. The Israeli state has fulfilled its historical role and is inherently unstable. The Middle East will never be the same after October 7. What it has demonstrated is the weakness of this Sparta by the Mediterranean. Without the support of the US in restocking its supplies of weapons, Israel would not have been able to mount its genocidal war.

It is also clear that Hamas has inflicted very heavy casualties on Israel’s forces in the ground war. By the first week of December over 5,000 had been wounded.2 Israel had previously tried to cover up its casualties but research by Ha’aretz and other Israeli papers showed that individual hospitals recorded receiving more casualties than the total number claimed by the Israeli army.

Historically, the ratio of wounded to dead is 3:1, although advances in medical science have reduced the number of fatalities. For example, in the Iraq War (from 2003) there were 7.3 wounded to every death.3 If the number of Israeli wounded today is 8,000, this would suggest something like 2,000 Israeli deaths - yet Israel is still claiming only 179 wounded as of January 1. Israel has military censors at every Israeli hospital to prevent the true casualty figures coming out.

Lazare quotes the Trotskyist Revolutionary Communist League, the Palestinian section of the Fourth International in 1948, and says that “the situation 75 years later is unchanged”. I disagree. The situation has changed a great deal, not least in Israel itself with the demise of Labor Zionism. The RCL was also wrong in taking a neutralist stance in 1948 because it saw the fight against the emerging Israeli state as being primarily a proxy war fought on behalf of Britain.

Socialists will ask why Lazare does not understand that when imperialism is on the attack one unconditionally supports the oppressed, even despite their backward or reactionary politics?

In ‘Class, culture and generation’ Lazare referred to the “homicidal tendencies on the part of Likud and Hamas” - like a bourgeois liberal, politically incapable of distinguishing between the nationalisms of the oppressor and the oppressed. As if the violence of workers, too, should be equated to that of the state. Lazare’s article is a shameful concession to imperialism.

Despite their demonisation by the Zionists, Hamas’s politics are not anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish. They hold to the traditional line of Islamic religious groups who make a distinction between Judaism and Zionism. It wasn’t in the Arab or Muslim world that the holocaust took place, but in Christian Europe. This despite the latter-day invention of a Judeo-Christian heritage.


There is no comparison whatsoever between the politics of the Palestinian resistance, including Hamas, which is waging a desperate fight for survival, and the genocidal Jewish supremacism of the far-right Zionist government led by Likud. This is understood by the vast majority of the Palestine solidarity movement, but not by Lazare. We unconditionally support the Palestinian resistance fighters in Gaza, including Hamas, against the Israeli army. There is no equation to be drawn between the oppressed and oppressor, as Lazare believes.

Lazare stated that “almost no-one celebrates the murderous October assault other than a few idiots in the Socialist Workers Party in the UK …” This is not true. Most Palestinians supported the October 7 attack, futile and hopeless as it was. Not because of the death of Israeli civilians but because it represented a fightback, by the oppressed, of the oppressed.

The October 7 attack was an audacious attack on the Gaza division of the Israeli army - and it is becoming clear that many if not most of the Israeli civilian casualties were caused by the trigger-happy murderers of the Israeli army.

It is also clear that the Zionists deliberately falsified what happened on that fateful day. There were stories of naked Israeli women being paraded in Gaza City, 40 beheaded babies and mass rapes. The portrayal of the indigenous population as sexual predators - which was a feature of the US Deep South - has become part of the Zionist propaganda mill.

If Hamas is ‘the great unmentionable’, that might be because the UK government has proscribed both its military and civilian wings as part of its own support of Israel’s genocidal government. The British government is criminalising support for the Palestinians.

It should be clear, even to the arch-chauvinist Lazare, that Hamas’s treatment of Israeli captives was in stark contrast to Israel’s treatment of Palestinian captives. Some Zionist apologists have accounted for the reaction of Israeli hostages by saying that they suffered from Stockholm syndrome. If so, then it’s strange that no Palestinian prisoners suffered from the same malady - but perhaps that is because they all suffered beatings, torture and food deprivation.

The reaction of fellow hostages towards Hamas fighters, whom they waved goodbye to and shook hands with, including the testimony of Yocheved Lifschitz, an 85-year-old woman who testified to her humane treatment, is in stark contrast to the reaction of Israel’s Palestinian hostages. The military correspondent for Israel’s Channel 13, Alon Ben David, said that he had spoken with some of the released captives. All said that the Hamas fighters had “gathered the members of each kibbutz together, which gave them a greater sense of comfort.”4 The hospital employee, Avi Shoshan, who arranged Yocheved’s press conference, is now facing dismissal for his actions in allowing the truth to ruin Israel’s false narrative of Hamas barbarity.

The behaviour of these Israeli captives stands in marked contrast to the spiteful and shameful bigotry displayed by Lazare, who refuses to let the facts get in the way of his concession to Zionist racism. Lazare needs to understand what basic international solidarity means at a time when the Palestinians are facing a second Nakba.

In December, Tony Greenstein was arrested on “suspicion of supporting a proscribed organisation”, Hamas, on the basis of a single tweet on October 15. His computer equipment has been seized and he is currently on bail whilst the anti-terrorism police investigate. He will learn whether he is to be charged with an offence on March 20

  1. www.trtworld.com/middle-east/israeli-mothers-letter-to-hamas-thank-you-for-extraordinary-humanity-16005866.↩︎

  2. Over 5,000 Israeli soldiers injured since October 7, with 58% seriously: Israeli media, Middle East Monitor, December 9 2023: www.middleeastmonitor.com/20231209-over-5000-israeli-soldiers-injured-since-oct-7-with-58-seriously-israeli-media.↩︎

  3. ‘Principal wars in which the US participated - casualty ratios’: stats.areppim.com/stats/stats_afghanxdeadxwound.htm.↩︎

  4. www.middleeastmonitor.com/20231128-israel-freed-captives-testify-to-being-treated-extremely-well-by-hamas.↩︎