Why Do Gazan Tunnel-Diggers Talk to Reporters?

INSERT DESCRIPTIONA Palestinian in a tunnel between Gaza and Egypt. (Photo: Moises Saman/The New York Times)

A pair of recent articles — one in The New York Times and the other, a McClatchy report, in The Seattle Times — describe in close-up detail how Palestinians living in Gaza have gotten back to work digging tunnels that lead into Egypt. These tunnels, through which weapons and all other sorts of goods are smuggled, were one of the main targets of the recent Israeli assault on Gaza.

I understand why the Gazan tunnel diggers have gotten back to work. What I can’t understand is why they so openly describe and show this work to reporters working for American newspapers.

What is the upside in admitting it? Why publicize a secret activity that your enemy has sworn to punish? If I had just gotten out of jail for a certain crime, I wouldn’t invite a reporter to accompany me on my rounds as I tried to re-establish my criminal enterprise.

So what are the Gazans thinking? What are they trying to accomplish? To whom are they trying to send their strong signal of resistance? And what will be the ramifications?


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  1. Mike says:

    I think the tunnel diggers are trying to expose what they perceive to be an injustice. If Gazans cannot transport goods across their borders freely, then “illegal” smuggling becomes a necessary evil. So I’m not sure the “criminal enterprise” analogy is a good one, at least not to Palestinian ears.

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  2. frankenduf says:

    the tunnel diggers are dependant on the media to let the world know how the Palestinians have been suffering under apartheid- literally driven underground for effective commerce- the Palestinians only hope of creating a functional state is for world opinion to force Israel to obey the rule of law- so the irony is that the only hope for a tunnel digger to escape his plight and become something better is if the whole system is exposed as suffering, and a more meaningful existence is allowed the Palestinians in the light of day- and don’t get it twisted- digging a tunnel is not a “criminal enterprise”- bombing them is

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  3. Student says:

    A few suggestions:

    1: If there are journalists in the tunnels there might be less risk of it being bombed. Killing journalists is not a good thing for israel.

    2: The tunnels have been the only way to supply a majority of the goods to gaza for a long time. It’s not as much a criminal enterprise as it’s the major import route for everything from food to fuel to weapons to medicin in the area. The local people views the attacks on the tunnels more as an extend of the try to starve them to death than as a legitimate attack.

    3: People do stupid things. They speak to journalists even when it’s not in their best interest, simply as they want to tell their side of the story.

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  4. Charlie says:

    I would imagine the Gazans are just happy to get any sort of sympathetic coverage in American newspapers.

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  5. Michael says:

    “‘They can destroy as much as they want, but the tunnels will just come back,’ Mr. Abu Adnan said. That spirit of defiance is at the center of the Gazan psyche.”

    It sends two important messages: that the Gazans won’t let the Israelis break their spirit through embargo and military action, and that the invasion was more about punishing and killing the Gazans than it was about achieving any legitimate military objectives.

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  6. Jonathan Katz says:

    Defiance and morale building, to show they were not defeated. Criminals swagger.

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  7. Caleb says:

    I have to agree with mike. The underground railroad might be a better example. It’s a message of hope.

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  8. Jeff says:

    That would be like a gang leader letting a grad student follow him around. Insane!

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