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. Avi Rappoport says:

    Anyone who thinks there’s an easy answer, or even an easy question for Gaza is not paying attention.

    Some militants, with more or less agreement from some or other parts of Hamas and the people of Gaza have been shooting rockets into Israel to endanger and kill civilians. The Israeli army has been retaliating against those people, knowing they will endanger and kill civilians. Both sides feel justified.

    It’s a tragic feedback loop and incredibly hard to break. Even when there are cease-fires, one provocative act can make the whole thing explode, and the fanatics on both sides know it. Somehow there has to be a solution, but I don’t know what it is.

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  2. Tzipporah says:

    Because Gazans are just as addicted to publicity as they are to self-sabotage.

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  3. nancy says:

    to really understand these things you have to fall quite a bit further from grace and completely avoid thinking with your head… just your heart.

    It’s how i constantly stay under observation by someone either near or dear or feared.

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  4. Ethan says:

    Why do terrorists place calls taking responsibility for an attack? Isn’t that the same – what is the upside in admitting it? Why publicize a secret activity that your enemy has sworn to punish? Why did the IRA, the Weather Underground, the FLQ and ETA call to take responsibility for bombings that they took pains to hide before the fact?

    It’s to gain street cred and to let your enemy know that you are alive and well and aren’t a force to be trifled with.

    To my mind, a more interesting question would be how do the tunnel builders choose which reporters they decide to share secrets with and which ones they don’t. I don’t think anyone from the Wall Street Journal or from Fox News has been invited to see any tunnel building. My unscientific guess is that only sympathetic reporters (like ones who use the term “militant” or “fighter” rather than “terrorist”) get the invite.

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  5. dd says:

    Because people do stupid things.

    Not nearly as stupid as Palestinians spending generations trying to destroy Israel instead of trying to build a society.

    To paraphrase Abba Eban, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

    Or to paraphrase Golda Meir, there will be peace when Hamas will learn to love their children more than they hate Jews.

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  6. anonymous says:


    That’s pretty much the basis of their movement anyway. And who can blame them. Certainly not the Israelis, who espouse similar feelings towards their own state.

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  7. marc says:

    I presume you have correlated this activity of digging a tunnel with criminality in order to get some activity on this blog…

    the israeli army has geo therm equipment and an annual budget of in excess of $15bn.. do you really think a couple of pictures comprise “new intelligence” that can be news to such a well resourced outfit.

    I dont need to remind anyone that caging and segregating humans like rats in a 10 mile city square has been tried before in the last century….but in open defiance such as publishing these pictures ….there is a declaration of hope ……..an declaration which is far more powerful when shared

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  8. Philip Pappas says:

    The Gazan situation is an tough thing. It has been documented that many of the Gazan parents teach their children that they will grow up and take back and blot out the Israelis. Which is unfortunate and not a winning strategy. A nonviolent movement would be much more successful and would put worldwide favor in the Gazans hands. But, as it is, The Gazans target civilians and Israelis target military targets.

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