Houthis save the world: Why New Zealand is on the wrong side of history

Jan 30, 2024
Sanaa, Yemen. 26th Jan, 2024. Protesters supporting the Houthis chant slogans during a rally against the U.S.-led strikes on Houthi targets, in Sanaa, Yemen.Yemeni Houthi launched a ballistic missile on Friday aimed at a U.S. warship patrolling the Gulf of Aden, the U.S. Central Command reported. there were no injuries or damage to the ship. Image: Osamah Yahya/ZUMA Press Wire/ ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News

The State of Israel can butcher thousands of innocents but New Zealand would not lift a finger to provide support to its victims. IDF soldiers can gun down old men and women waving white flags, shell lines of refugees queuing for aid and deprive hospitals of power and medicine – and all New Zealand does is a collective shrug. When, however, Yemen’s Houthis disrupt the passage of frozen meat, pizza bases and iPhones through the Red Sea, suddenly New Zealand goes on the warpath. We have declared war on Ansar Allah (the Houthis) and sent a strike force of six men and a dinghy to join Operation Prosperity Guardian, led by the USA.

I think New Zealand’s moral compass is pointing somewhere just south of Hell, while the Houthis, along with South Africa, in their own distinct ways, have become champions for human decency as they confront the genocidal state of Israel and its powerful enablers.

“New Zealand and other nations are suffering from the problems with the Red Sea and the inability to take cargo ships through there – and that is adding a lot of cost… that is affecting every New Zealander,” says Minister of Defence Judith Collins.

Collins had the chutzpah, the incredible cheek, to say she was concerned the Houthi’s actions were impacting people who depended on food imports. Sorry, Judith, that is outrageous hypocrisy at a time when the UN says 500,000 Gazans have already entered the famine stage of food deprivation.

The massive empathy gap between our government and the Houthis when it comes to the suffering of Gaza is simple. The Houthi have direct experience of a genocidal siege that, along with military strikes and disease, killed 400,000 people (please absorb that number) – the greatest humanitarian crisis on the planet from 2015 until recently. Saudi Arabia, supported by US and British intelligence, weapons and bombs, sought to control Yemen and inflict collective punishment on its people. During those years, according to the UN, hundreds of thousands suffered from cholera – a fate that awaits Gazans if Judith Collins and her ilk get their way.

The Yemeni – who rallied in the streets in their millions this month to defy the UK and USA – have empathy born of suffering. They have humanity; our government does not. Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, a spokesperson for Ansar Allah (the Houthis), says their goal is simple: stop the genocide and get fuel, food and medicine into Gaza.

“We cannot allow these crimes to be repeated,” Al-Bukhaiti told Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal this week. He went on to say: “Our war is a war of morality.” Interesting turn of phrase. People ignorant of history and geopolitics, like our own defence minister, can write the Houthis off as “pirates”. I don’t. Nor do people like the great American Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein who said this week:

“As a Jew I would have respected any government, any people in the world during the Nazi Holocaust who had done what the Houthis are doing.”

Finkelstein went on to say that what the Houthis have signalled is that there will be no business as usual in the shipping lanes while the US and Israel commit genocide in Gaza. That is a moral stance if I ever heard one. He reminded us that “No Business As Usual” was one of the slogans of the Vietnam War peace movement.

“No Justice, No Peace” was another slogan that echoed a similar sentiment – it first appeared in the USA in the 1980s in response to pervasive violence and discrimination against African Americans. Here in Aotearoa, “Ka whawhai tonu matou, ake, ake, ake” (We will fight on, for ever and ever and ever) originally a riposte to a call to surrender to the British and settler colonial forces at the battle of Ōrākau, was adopted by activists in recent decades as a challenge to the State to address injustice or face Maori resistance.

At Ōrākau, our white forces slaughtered Maori women and men as they attempted to flee – bayoneting the already-wounded as they lay defenceless, which I think helps partially explain the powerful speeches of solidarity I heard in Civic Square Wellington this week delivered by Maori in solidarity with Palestine. Like the Yemeni, like the Vietnamese, like the Palestinians, like the Aborigines, like African and Native Americans and others like we of Irish descent, Maori know all too well what siege, slaughter and famine mean.

We were also very disruptive during our confrontation with the New Zealand state when we opposed sporting contacts with apartheid South Africa. In 1981 we had a National Government fighting for the rights of both white supremacists and Kiwis who loved rugby but lacked human empathy when it came to black people. Now in 2024 we again have a National Government, again indifferent to the suffering of people of darker skin, a coalition government fighting for Jewish Supremacists (as the Zionists state is described by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem).

Today the moral compass points to South Africa and to Yemen. One route is navigated by the legal scholars of South Africa; the other, more immediate and muscular, by the Houthi who know all about the violence the powerful can inflict on them but chose to stand with the oppressed, not the oppressors.

I’ll give the last word to Ansar Allah’s Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti, because it’s so rare to hear these people unmediated by some US general or neo-conservative commentator:

“We know the story of David whose slingshot defeated Goliath. We don’t fear the weapons of the enemy. We believe a victory for Yemen will be a victory for morality and the highest values. We believe that a victory on the awareness front is more important than a military one – because the main cause of suffering from wars around the world is due to a lack of awareness.

We know there are a lot of good people around the world – if they found out the truth, their positions would change.”


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