ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Continuity and Divergence over Half a Century

Hanoi (1965-68), Gaza (2014)

The parallels between Hanoi (1965-68) and Gaza (2014) are chilling. Yet, while the Vietnamese liberation fighters, through similar trials and tribulations, could emerge victorious after two decades of fighting (1950-70), why are the Palestinian liberation fighters, with an equally heroic record of struggles and sacrifices spanning more than four decades of armed struggle (from the 1960s till now), still limping towards their goal of a homeland, suffering disastrous defeats at every stage?

Comparisons do not always imply parity, but also disparity – especially in historical contexts. The present tragedy in Gaza tempts us to compare it with what happened in Vietnam some half a century ago. The chilling similarities – encirclement of a civilian population and cutting them of essential commodities and services, shelling of their homes, killing of thousands of innocent women and children – recall the plight of the citizens of Hanoi, when in February 1965, the US President Lyndon B Johnson decided to launch Operation Flaming Dart to bomb North Vietnam. It was followed next month by the use of napalm to destroy fields and human beings. Over the next years, the US flew 3 million sorties and dropped nearly 8 million tonnes of bombs over Vietnam – four times the tonnage dropped during all of second world war. Apart from killing and maiming thousands, it resulted in the displacement of at least 3 million civilians due to the destruction of their villages.

The replication of this military strategy in Gaza today by Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, should alert us (who are living in the much celebrated “post-colonial” era) to the continuation of the old colonial policy of expanding territorial control through predatory violence (in the tradition of the Western colonists, and their later US successors), as evident from Israel’s attempt to gobble up lands in Palestine today. But we must also recognise the differences between the politics of Vietnam and Palestine – which should also explain the divergences in the strategy and tactics of resistance, and the asymmetry in global public responses to the two situations.

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