The NY Times and Israel’s “Terror Tunnel” Myth

Israel has leapt at the chance to legitimize its ground invasion of Gaza, asserting that it must destroy “terror tunnels” leading out of the strip into Israeli territory. The New York Times, true to its bias, has been quick echo this claim

In an editorial yesterday, Times editors wrote that Israel sent troops into Gaza “to keep Hamas from pummeling Israeli cities with rockets and carrying out terrorist attacks via underground tunnels.” A story today looks at how Gaza fighters have used these tunnels during the recent invasion, slipping into Israel and engaging in combat with military troops.

But soldier-against-soldier combat is not terrorism, and an earlier story in the Times made it clear that Hamas has refrained from using these tunnels to carry out terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

In an Oct. 13 article titled “Tunnel Found From Gaza Into Israel, Military Says” Isabel Kershner reports on a tunnel found last fall near Ein Hashlosha, a communal farm inside Israel. It was about a mile in length and built at a depth of some 60 feet.

The army said that the tunnel “had probably been constructed more than a year ago” and was the third of its kind discovered in 2013. This means that Hamas and other Gaza fighters had refrained from using this passageway to attack Israel for at least a full year, even though they had the opportunity to assault the nearby farm and other communities.

In charging Hamas with the intent to commit terrorist attacks inside Israel, neither the Times nor Israel has provided any examples of such attacks from one of the tunnels. They refer only to the capture of army lieutenant Gilad Shalit in 2006, another soldier-to-soldier affair that did not involve civilians. Shalit was taken during a tunnel incursion and kept in Gaza for six years before being traded for Palestinian prisoners.

The Oct. 2013 story notes that Hamas had “largely observed a cease-fire with Israel” since 2012, but Hamas officials said at the time that the tunnel was evidence that they “continued to prepare for the next round of fighting against Israel.” This appears to be just what has taken place now in the latest assault on Gaza.

In today’s story Jodi Rudoren quotes Hamas as saying that “12 fighters went ‘behind enemy lines’ and could have attacked civilian areas, but waited six hours to confront the army directly.” From the past history of Hamas actions, there is no reason to doubt this assertion. The talk of terror attacks can only refer to possibilities, the chance that civilians might be targeted.

Meanwhile, as Israel raises the alarm over tunnels that could possibly lead to terror attacks in the future, it continues to employ more lethal strategies against Gaza now: surveillance and assault drones, attack helicopters, warships, bombers, tanks and other sophisticated weaponry. Israel uses these to deadly effect even during periods of “calm,” but the Times sees no need to raise concerns about the effect of these armaments on the captive residents of Gaza. In the Times only Israel has a right to self-defense, and only Israeli security matters.

Barbara Erickson

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