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. DJH says:

    A couple possibilities:

    1. They want public attention for their cause, and they view P.R. as strategically important enough to be worth the possible loss of secrecy of the specific tunnel(s) they’re delving.

    2. They’re flattered that a reporter is talking to them and are willing to spill their guts, and just aren’t thinking about whether or not it’s a good idea for them to do so.

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  2. John Neff says:

    It is just another way of saying “we will never be defeated”.

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  3. Burt says:

    Hey Frankenduf – Digging a tunnel to smuggle goods and weapons between the borders of two countries is a criminal activity, the last I checked.

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  4. John M. says:

    The Palestinians wouldn’t NEED tunnels if they would just stop their terrorism. The only reasons the borders are closed is to keep the suicide bombers out. And no, the suicide bombers are not just “responding to the occupation”. Gaza is not occupied. These are not “sympathy bombings” in support of the West Bank.

    Regarding the war, Israel has a right to defend itself. Targeting schoolchildren with Quassam rockets is not acceptable. We would not allow it if Canada rocketed Detroit, even if the casualties were few. Moreover, Israel takes INCREDIBLE measures to minimize civilian casualties, to the extent of PHONING people to evacuate a building before it’s hit. But Hamas insists on using innocents as human shields.

    The only POSSIBLE argument against any of this is if one claims Israel has no right to exist. Which is, no doubt, the view of many here.

    “Criminals swagger” is right on.

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  5. David says:

    Israel portrays the tunnels as a means of smuggling weapons and other “bad stuff” into Gaza. While this is true, the tunnels are also used for basic items such as food, fuel and medicine.

    By showing that the tunnels are not solely a mechanism of terrorism and rocket attacks, Gaza reduces the sympathy towards Israel.

    As a previous comment mentioned, it’s probably pretty clearthe tunnels are being repaired. What is left is to spin the message around the purpose of the tunnels.

    (I haven’t seen the reporting on the tunnels, but I’m assuming they aren’t saying “hey we’re importing rockets only to blow up Israeli school-children”…)

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  6. Susan says:

    Charlie asks ‘One thing confuses me about the so-called embargo. Why can’t Gazans bring in their legal goods via their border with Egypt? Is Egypt part of the embargo?

    Well, Charlie, and all you others who appear to know nothing about the situation, that is because Egypt closed its border with Gaza long ago. Closed as in closed to all movement of people and goods. Closed as in Egypt doesn’t want to deal with the problem of Gaza. Israel’s border with Gaza was open until Gaza started to bomb them. Israel sent lots of aid to Gaza, and provided lots of jobs in Israel to Palestinians in Gaza. Until the missles started to fly. Think about that for a while.

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  7. Travis L says:

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

    Kudos to you, Jeff — hysterical!

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  8. chuck 2.0 says:

    Gee, since Israel voluntarily left Gaza after pounding Hamas…no more rockets. And Israel opened the supply route so Gaza’s population could begin rebuilding.

    Then today, Hamas sets off a bomb in Israel, killing a soldier…now the border crossing is closed again. So…the tunnels are required only when Hamas is attacking Israel.
    Or if you are smuggling weapons, which Israel will not let through the checkpoints only to have them fired right back at their civilians.

    No other Country at war would stop firing 3 hours a day so humanitarian relief could go to civilians. Can you imagine that in Dafur or the Congo?

    Now that Hamas is elected in Gaza, Gaza has the government they always wanted… a government built upon destruction rather than rebuilding, and educating the next generation so they can have a better life than their parents.

    Every civilian killed strengthens Hamas’ public relations effort. No wonder they fire rockets from apartment houses and schools. It is a government whose goal is the martyring of it’s own population.

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