It isn't about the tunnels

Omar Robert Hamilton

Israel's justifications for its assault on Gaza have shifted more than once since Operation 'Brother's Keeper' was launched on 12 June, supposedly in response to the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers. The rockets 'raining down terror' on Israel (they have so far killed three people, giving them a kill rate of 0.1 per cent) were the reason given for the launch of operation 'Protective Edge' on 8 July; the ground invasion of Gaza on 17 July was said to be aimed at destroying a series of tunnels leading into Israel.

The BBC, ever mindful of the approved Israeli lexicon, refers to them as 'attack tunnels'. They are, we are told, designed to penetrate Israel and kidnap Israelis. In 2006 Gilad Shalit, a soldier, was captured and held as a prisoner of war. He was released in exchange for 1027 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were rounded up again during Operation 'Brother’s Keeper'. No civilian has ever been abducted through the tunnels.

Their primary purpose is economic, a response to Israel's seven-year siege of Gaza. The tunnels along the Egyptian border weren't built by Hamas: it merely taxes the goods being moved through by the entrepreneurs that dig and run them. Israel talks of a 'terrorist organisation' that 'deliberately embeds its terrorist infrastructure inside civilian neighbourhoods'. In fact a system of loosely regulated capitalism governs the tunnel industry. If you live near the border you are likely to go into the tunnelling business because there’s nothing else to do.

Since the invasion, the tunnels have been used to attack Israel. Still, no civilian has been killed. Of the 59 Israelis killed in total, 56 have been soldiers, most of them in Gaza. More than 1800 Palestinians have been killed so far, 80 per cent of them civilians.

If the purpose of Israel’s operation is to destroy the tunnels, why has it cost more than 1800 Palestinian lives? There were thought to be at least 1000 tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, which the Egyptian regime – not known for its regard for human life – destroyed without killing anyone. There seem to have been no more than forty tunnels leading into Israel and the operation to destroy them has already taken two weeks.

The operation is not about the tunnels, and never has been. Just as it was not about the kidnapped boys or the ineffectual rockets. The tunnel operation will wrap up soon, so a new reason to continue the bloodshed will be needed. The frontrunner at the moment is 'disarmament'.


  • 4 August 2014 at 4:43pm
    stettiner says:
    One more "too-few-joos-killed" litany...

  • 5 August 2014 at 6:08am
    farthington says:
    An odious response from Stettiner, who chooses to ignore the logic of Hamilton's provided details.
    The point is that one can't believe anything that the Israeli authorities say.
    This is merely a sample of the Hasbara at work.
    The only plausible objective of Israel's mass murder is to reinforce the long-term Occupation (maintaining Abbas and his like as Quislings) and to continue to ethnically cleanse the Occupied Territories.
    This is a cleaning-up operation from the business unfinished in 1947.

    • 3 November 2014 at 7:50pm
      affinity292 says: @ farthington
      There was no mass murder. Just a response to Hamas starting and escalating an unprovoked war.

      Were any civilians killed? Sadly yes. A tragedy caused by Hamas.

  • 5 August 2014 at 9:18am
    stettiner says:
    The gruesome examples of Israeli ethnic cleansing:

    - in 1948, 150 000 Arabs stayed in Israel and became citizens, growing to over 1,2 millions today
    - the proportion of the Jewish population in Jerusalem fell from 74% in 1967 to 72% in 1980, and 65% in 2008. Conversely, the Arab population rose from 26% in 1967 to 28% in 1980, and 35% in 2008. According to the PA, 62% live in the parts that Israel redeemed in 1967. If that is true, that means that 38% of Jerusalem's Arabs live in the "Jewish" side of the city, which must be a sure sign of apartheid
    - in 1967, there was some 350 000 Arabs in Gaza. Israel successfully cleansed the area, so now some 1,6 millions Arabs live there
    - a similar success in Israeli ethnic cleansing efforts can be seen in the West Bank; from 600 000 Arabs in 1967 to 2,7 millions today

    Meanwhile, the Arab world, this beacon of co-existence, is practically judenrein.... And soon enough even Scotland; Yvonne Ridley with friends plans to make Scotland a "zionist-free zone"....

    • 5 August 2014 at 1:52pm
      Tom Stevens says: @ stettiner
      Nonsense from stettiner. Ethnic cleansing is not defined by the degree of success achieved in creating an ethnically pure space, just as genocide is still genocide when there are survivors. That many Arabs remained in Israel post-1948 is irrelevant. What matters is that 700,000 were forced out and 500 of their towns and villages destroyed in order to establish a Jewish-majority state.
      And the idea that subsequent population growth is in any way relevant is frankly bonkers.

      Within Israel, there are numerous laws that discriminate against Arabs. In the Naqab/Negev, tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins are being 'relocated'. In the Jordan Valley the rampant expansion of Israeli settlements is encouraged by state incentives, while Palestinians are prevented from further construction apart from in tiny enclaves. Palestinian wells were destroyed after 1967 and their use of water continues to be restricted. And that's even before we turn to Gaza, which the UN predicts could be uninhabitable by 2020 and where Israel's meticulous control of the borders was designed to keep the strip hovering on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe (as revealed in the wikileaks cables).
      The recent invasion has pushed Gaza over that brink. Hundreds of dead children, half a million displaced, ten thousand civilian homes demolished. The IDF used shells with a lethal radius of 150m (even without factoring in a margin for error in targeting), in one of the most densely populated places on earth, and struck refugee shelters, hospitals and ambulances.

      'Gruesome examples of Israeli ethnic cleansing' indeed...

    • 6 August 2014 at 3:14pm
      stettiner says: @ Tom Stevens
      Smart bunch, the Israel haters. They constructed a whole set of definitions that apply only to Israel. The "ethnic cleansing" is one of those. The official United Nations definition of ethnic cleansing is "rendering an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove from a given area persons of another ethnic or religious group." It sounds like removing Jews from Gaza in 2005, doesn't it? Or precisely what the Arab Legion (under British command!) did to the Jews in 1948 in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Mr Stevens seems to have no problem with Arab-only territories; it's the presence of Jews that bothers him.

    • 6 August 2014 at 3:23pm
      Harry Stopes says: @ stettiner
      Are you seriously suggesting that the decision of the Israelis to demolish their settlements in illegally occupied Gaza amounts to "ethnic cleansing" of Jews? You are beyond parody.

    • 6 August 2014 at 5:56pm
      losservatore says: @ stettiner
      Stettiner engages in semantic and arithmetic mischief.

      Israel greatly expanded the boundaries of Jerusalem, thereby incorporating large numbers of Palestinians, so of course the percentage of Jewish population declined. This is extreme intellectual dishonesty.

      More semantic mischief -- Israel "redeemed" land in 1967? The accurate word is stole. They stole it in a long planned war of choice, a fact confirmed by Menachem Begin, Moshe Dayan, and Abba Eban. They all admitted that 1967 was a war of choice.

      Going back before that there are the words of Ben Gurion who said tat "as soon as we are strong enough we will expand into all of Eretz Israel". What more precise definition of theft can there be?

    • 7 August 2014 at 4:20pm
      rupert moloch says: @ stettiner
      "Ethnic cleansing" is a provocative term. But "population transfer" is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. And population transfer has been Israeli policy from its foundation.

      Recent opinion articles in the Israeli Times & the Jerusalem Post have both called for the eradication of the Palestinian population of Gaza. Now, maybe you can explain to me how this can possibly square with any claim to the fundaments of human civility?

    • 3 November 2014 at 7:53pm
      affinity292 says: @ Harry Stopes
      Perhaps you are not aware that Palestinian Arabs ethnically cleansed every single Jew from the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem in 1948 and seized their property.

      The PA, in their internal documents leaked to al jazeera (google: palestinian papers land ownership) reveal that they admit amongst themselves that most of the land in the WB and Gaza is undeniably Jewish owned private property that was illegally seized by Arabs in 1948.

      Just because you ethnically cleansed every Palestinian Jew from the land in 1948 (and from Hebron in 1929 and from Sfad in the 1800s...) does not mean that allowing a single Jew to return to their own land is an act of war or that they are a "settler." So, yes, removing them to enforce the Jew free rule of the PA and Hamas IS ethnic cleansing.

    • 3 November 2014 at 7:54pm
      affinity292 says: @ rupert moloch
      That is quite false. The Geneva convention bans the forcible transfer of populations (and was written to specifically make the Nazi forced transfer of entire populations to concentration camps a crime in itself).

      Israel does not engage in any forced movement. Therefore it is not a violation of geneva conventions.

  • 5 August 2014 at 4:22pm
    Harry Stopes says:
    Stettiner, what do you make of Moshe Feiglin's plans for Gaza. Is his language acceptable, coming from the deputy speaker of a democracy? Does he advocate genocide? What do you make of his call for concentration camps for Arabs?

    • 6 August 2014 at 4:07pm
      stettiner says: @ Harry Stopes
      Even the right-wing Arutz 7 calles MK Feiglin a "maverick": "The maverick MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) spelled out his formula for solving the Gaza terror problem, in an event at Beit Shemesh Wednesday. Feiglin does not believe in going after rocket launchers or tunnels. Gaza should be retaken in whole, he said, by directly attacking the Hamas leadership and striving for victory, and doing so according to Jewish law, without sacrificing soldiers in order to save members of the local population, which voted Hamas into power.

      Once this is accomplished, the terrorists who fight Israel must be destroyed, he said, and the remaining population should be encouraged to leave through monetary compensation. Surveys show that 80% of Gazans would like to leave the Mediterranean coastal strip and move elsewhere in the world. The minority that decides to stay will be allowed to stay and gradually receive a status similar to the Arabs of eastern Jerusalem."

      I can't see any mention of genocide or concentration camps. Anyway, should MK Feiglin put this proposal to vote at the Knesset, it wouldn't survive the first reading. That's how democracy functions...

      Compare this to what the "moderate" (as he is often called in the MSM) "man of peace " (as Obama calles him) Mahmoud Abbas says: "In a speech in Morocco, Abbas defined Jewish history in Jerusalem as a “delusional myth” and claimed that Israel is trying to invent a Jewish history “by brute force.” (Official PA TV, January 17, 2014). To appreciate the significance of these words, one has to remember that although in the Oslo Accords in 1993 the PLO recognized the existence of Israel, the PA differentiates between recognizing that Israel exists and recognizing Israel’s right to exist. And there you'll find the core of the conflict: the Arab refusal to acknowledge Jews as national human beings and not just payers of jizya...

    • 6 August 2014 at 6:06pm
      Harry Stopes says: @ stettiner
      Invasion of a territory not part of the state of Israel in international law, conducted with disregard for civilian safety. Followed by "concentration" (his actual word if you read it, not a sympathetic summary in a right wing paper) of civilians in a few areas, followed by their forced transfer across international borders, and the settlement of the conquered territory by a select ethnic group. He's proposing a genocide, pure and simple. That you attempt to downplay this is incredible, even for you.

    • 6 August 2014 at 8:29pm
      losservatore says: @ stettiner
      No state has a right to exist! Repeat, No State has a right to exist. People have a right to exist! And most certainly, no state has a right to exist on the basis of preferential treatment of just a portion of its citizens. This is what Israel is demanding, the right to exist as a Jewish state that does and intends to continue favoring the rights of Jews over all others.

  • 6 August 2014 at 3:24pm
    Pennywhistler says:
    "The BBC, ever mindful of the approved Israeli lexicon, refers to them as ‘attack tunnels’. They are, we are told, designed to penetrate Israel and kidnap Israelis."

    Bitter, bitter, bitter.

    They ARE designed to penetrate Israel and kidnap Israelis. Just look where the tunnels exit -- under Israel towns and villages and army barracks. And I don't think the handcuffs and tranquilizers are designed to increase Palestinian economic efficiency.

    "a Palestinian militia document obtained by the news Web site al-Monitor said the objective of the underground network was “to surprise the enemy and strike it a deadly blow that doesn’t allow a chance for survival or escape or allow him a chance to confront and defend itself.”

    On Saturday, in what The Washington Post called an “audacious attack,” Hamas fighters wearing Israeli army uniforms slipped from central Gaza into Israel through a tunnel and attacked an Israeli army patrol, killing two soldiers. In a second attempt Saturday to enter Israel through their tunnels, The Post reported, the Israeli military discovered Hamas operatives carrying handcuffs and tranquilizers in an apparent attempt to kidnap soldiers; the militants were killed. Also Saturday, a militant climbed out of a concealed tunnel in southern Gaza and started firing at soldiers. - The Washington Post

    "Saturday's deadly militant raid began when Hamas fighters entered the country dressed in IDF uniforms through a tunnel leading into an agricultural field and set out toward nearby Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. They then reached a patrol jeep that they attacked with gunfire and antitank missile. Hamas said 13 fighters participated in the raid and one was killed. ... Hamas fighters entered Israel again later Saturday, this time with tranquilizers and handcuffs to abduct Israelis. - The Wall Street Journal

  • 6 August 2014 at 8:32pm
    mecklenburgh says:
    Doesn't matter which "side" you're on to catch the ideological nature of this discussion. Useless banter. Blah, blah, blah. Orwell got it right. He said that when he saw a union strike line up against a squadron of police, he sided with the union--and then he went and found out what it was all about, with his blinkers off.

    Can't anybody here do that???????

    Until we do, we'll never get solutions to complex problems, and we desperately need real solutions that will work.

  • 7 August 2014 at 1:21am
    BogusGuy says:
    The Muslim Brotherhood is Hamas, and Hamas had been digging tunnels in Gaza for decades. But it was only after the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 that it saw them as part of the route to ‘liberation’
    But who built those tunnels? The answer is Hamas, of course—using some of the same children who are now trapped under fire in Gaza. Further, by their own admission, Hamas Killed, whoops, "MARTYRED" 160 Palestinian Children to Build Tunnels, Their own The Institute for Palestine Studies published a detailed report on Gaza’s Tunnel Phenomenon in the summer of 2012. It reported that tunnel construction in Gaza has resulted in a large number of child deaths.
    These terrorist groups used child labor to construct underground network in Gaza. Outrage? War Crimes investigation?
    The author, Nicolas Pelham, explains that Hamas uses child laborers to build their terror tunnels because, “much as in Victorian coal mines, they are prized for their nimble bodies”.

    Human rights groups operating in Gaza raised concerns about child labor in the tunnels as far back as 2008. Hamas responded by saying it was “considering curbs.” Following Operation Cast Lead in 2009 Hamas softened its position and the Interior Ministry established the Tunnel Affairs Commission (TAC) which, “In response to public concern at a rising toll of tunnel casualties, particularly of child workers…issued guidelines intended to ensure safe working conditions.” No mention is made in the report of the conditions that would result for both Palestinian and Israeli children from building tunnels that would be used to launch terror attacks.
    Nor does it seem that Hamas paid much subsequent attention to ensuring the safety of the child workers that it used to build the tunnels that would wind up endangering the lives of many in Gaza. On a tour of the tunnels in 2011, Pelham noted that, “nothing was done to impede the use of children in the tunnels.”
    Not only are Hamas misappropriating much of the humanitarian aid supplied to Gaza—800,000 tons of cement were used to construct the terror tunnels into Israel—they are also directly exploiting and endangering Gaza’s youth in their construction and operation.
    As the IDF completes the work of neutralizing more than 30 “attack tunnels,” dug by Hamas under the southern border, the spotlight is also turning to the threat of subterranean terrorism originating from Hezbollah in the north.
    The Lebanese Shiite organization has used tunnels and underground bunkers in its guerrilla warfare against Israel ever since the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000. The heightened concern now is that Hezbollah may have expanded its network of internal tunnels inside south Lebanon, to enable attempts at offensive infiltration into Israel.
    Expect more of the same for years to come...

  • 7 August 2014 at 7:34am
    omar ibrahim says:
    The one and only decisive, determining crucial objective of ALL Israeli actions, reactions and practices, since inception, has been, still is, is its tireless attempts to erase from existence and universal consciousness the fact that there are Palestinians in existence who still adamantly reject and oppose the Israelization of Palestine!
    Those efforts range from the ridiculous, as denying that there is such a thing at all to the political as for its call to disband and cancel the UNRWA to stark physical annihilation of Palestinians as for Sabra and Chatilla recently and now in Gaza…. whenever an opportunity arises for that.
    Hamas, unlike Fatah who was anxious to settle from early on, has been a major, actually the major, obdurate and persistent nullifier of those attempts in the last two decades .
    If for nothing else then for its dynamic rejection of a Zionist Israel dominating Palestine, resort to armed struggle and its synchronicity with the rising militant Islamist movement all over.
    Post and since Oslo it has been the most effective resistance movement with massive public support
    To offset its popularity, which led to its electoral triumph despite Israel/USA/Fatah rabid opposition Hamas, particularly now with an arsenal of rockets not only revived the faith in armed struggle but equally brought to the Fore Palestinian resistance and that vexing reminder to Israel that Palestinians exist and did NOT submit.
    As such Hamas had/has to be obliterated by antagonizing the population that gave it support and sustenance.
    HENCE the deliberately indiscriminate mass massacres of civilians in Gaza, the huge toll of lives, blood and material and infra structures destruction and the prolongation of the encounter.
    Israel's, Arab officialdoms' and, of course the USA's, only hope to obliterate Hamas resides now in a public GAZAN insurrection against it in Gaza provoked by the trio's deliberate withholding of Reconstruction assistance in return of Hamas refusal to disarm.
    That is where the battle lines will be in coming few days: Hamas to disarm or no Reconstruction assistance.

  • 7 August 2014 at 8:23pm
    David Gordon says:
    No doubt Hasbara, sorry stettiner, will be able to explain why this is part of the process of destroying terrorist tunnels?

  • 8 August 2014 at 10:17am
    stettiner says:
    Katarina Mazetti, the author of Benny and Shrimp and self declared "democratic socialist", wrote once that if somebody wants to understand evil, a journey to Auschwitz is meaningless. Real evil can be found in the sanitary towels left behind by female IDF soldiers on a roof of an Arab house in Judea.

    My humble opinion is that the BS produced by the Guardian and CIF every day is far more dangerous to your health that any faeces from an Israeli soldier.

  • 8 August 2014 at 12:27pm
    David Gordon says:
    Given that a very large number of the responses published on the CiF section of the Guardian website are clearly written by hasbara trolls you may, in part, have a point. Their comments often make me feel quite sick.

    To quote from earlier in this thread "An odious response from Stettiner, who chooses to ignore..." my question.

  • 23 September 2014 at 6:49pm
    Omar Robert Hamilton says:
    This is an extract of a much longer piece that I just realised I should have posted the link to.

    So, a month and a half later, here it is:

  • 3 November 2014 at 7:49pm
    affinity292 says:
    Quite misleading. Hamas started the war and escalated it every step of the way.
    1. First Hamas called for kidnapping Israelis.
    2. Then, a hamas cell kidnapped (and killed) 3 Israeli civilians).
    3. AND Hamas urged Palestinians to block any investigation into the kidnappings and to destroy any CCTV footage that might be relevant.

    THEN Israel engaged in a police action.

    THEN Hamas increased rocket and mortar and missile attacks on Israel

    ONLY AFTER THIS did Israel begin firing rockets and bombs BACK.

    Still no ground invasion though.

    NEXT Hamas started a ground invasion of Israel, sending in two squads of troops dressed as Israelis through terror tunnels going into Israel.

    AFTER Hamas' two squads were found to have started a ground invasion of Israel through terror tunnels THEN Israel began a ground invasion of Gaza to find and destroy the tunnels.

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