The following piece is a comment on an article published in The New York Times’ front page under the provocative title: “As Hamas Tunnels Back Into Israel, Palestinians Are Afraid, Too” on the 20th of May 2016. In an attempt to justify the Israel bombing of civilian areas, the article argues that the “terror tunnels” are the main and only causative of the misery of Gaza.
By MUHAMMAD SHEHADA
Put on lots of makeup, wear hot tight jeans, speak so cutely with a crispy voice to some unmarried sexually-deprived men from a conservative Gaza community. Then, travel to one of the most illiterate and marginalized communities in the Gaza Strip and give a homeless, poor old lady twenty dollars.
The men and women are now primed to say whatever pleases your ears.
It seems, this is how a dishonorable Gazan journalist manages to amuse New York Times readers by unprofessionally interviewing some poor illiterate people from Khuza’a and Beit Hanoun, who are already notorious for their gossiping and exaggeration.
It seems this journalist (who was once a strong advocate of the Palestinian voice) has managed to defame Gaza yet again in her fictional Times writings. “How else would she appear in the Times?“, a friend of mine asked rhetorically. The young open-minded Bedouin journalist didn’t only fabricate a story based on rumors and gossip coming from bribed story-tellers, but also generalized that picture to make it the overwhelming public opinion of the entire Gaza Strip.
As an engineer, I can safely say that this journalist made claims that conflict with basic facts about sound transmission.
First and foremost, the journalist claims that the people of Khuza’a could hear the dreadful sounds of the tunnels’ being drilled and dug, which tragically troubles the community. In fact, Israeli reports conclude that Hamas tunnels are being dug in an average depth of 25 meters (75 feet). And due to Israeli drones and surveillance, no bulldozer can go about digging. The Hamas tunnels are just being dug slowly with small equipment like shovels and mattocks.
So, If a guy on the 7th floor of your building is hammering a nail, would you hear it from the ground floor? I personally believe it’s total gibberish and some badly written entertainment.
But to make sure, I called a friend from Khuza’a, Abu Ahmed, to ask if the journalist’s claims were right. He answered, “A poor person of Khuza’a is surely amenable to please your ears if you pay him 20 bucks. Of course, we cannot hear the tunnel-digging, but we can hear electrical generators on the ground, of which Khuza’a people speculate that it’s used for building tunnels.”
So, why does this journalist write such nonsense?
Today, I met up with a relative of this journalist who also happens to be a friend of mine. He asked to remain anonymous, since he’s afraid to use his name for fear of reprisal from the thuggish PA, Israel or the journalist’s angry siblings. When I conveyed to him her fairytale story, he responded angrily “Of course she’d say that when she’s driven by her blind hatred of Hamas. She has no other option when her father, Prof. Fathi, was recently assigned as a judge to the new Constitutional Court of the corrupt PA. She needs to prove her loyalty to Abbas, and to show good intentions to the IDF in order to obtain Erez authorization to the West Bank when she desires.”
The journalist might be correct that the thousands of displaced people are disaffected from Hamas, but undoubtedly they are more disaffected from Israel, Fateh, Dahlan, Mahmoud Abbas and the entire universe. What could a desperate homeless person feel in such a situation of hopelessness?
But what would be truly despicable, adding insult to injury, is a young journalist narrating one side of the story to justify and calm down guilty consciences in the West. “Israel’s doing the right thing,” she effectively tells Times readers. “Hamas is selfishly working against their people–squeeze the people more and they’re likely to overthrow Hamas.” This isn’t journalism; it’s propaganda.
Undeniably, the tunnels are troubling some people, and might be causing them a great deal of insomnia. But it’s not because of the tunnels themselves, it’s the fear of becoming a target of Israeli airstrikes that killed 1,700 civilians in the last war.
If the Israeli government is really worried about those “terror tunnels”, then is wiping out entire neighborhoods and killing entire families the only solution? Can’t Israeli destroy the tunnels from its side? Is Israeli technology incapable of destroying a bunch of tunnels without causing mass destruction and targeting civilians? Can’t it follow the example of the Egyptians that was praised by Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinetz? Of course the Israeli government can seal, flood or destroy the tunnels from its side, but why should it, when they can be exploited to legitimize the strangulation and destruction of Gaza?
But Hamas must also share some blame. Except as a means of evacuation and hidden movement, and to frighten Israeli combatants while increasing the morale of Hamas members, ten years of tunneling building hasn’t achieved very much.
But I don’t want to lecture starving tunnel workers when Israel is not showing any signs of good faith, and all other peaceful attempts have disappointed. Instead of blaming the thousands of unemployed Gazan civil engineers who are desperately tunneling their way out to freedom when all the other alternatives have proven futile, just give them something worth living for, and they’re more likely to build up a sustainable economy instead.
By the end I would like to argue that since we’re both relying on anonymity and unsubstantiated hearsay, my comment is no more unbelievable than her article, and her article should be no more believable than my comment. What she has done is not professionalism, her articles are fictional writings. Public opinion could be measured professionally with surveys and polls, not with desperate, bribed story-tellers. Because otherwise, next time I visit Khuza’a, I’ll bring back stories of aliens and star wars, and tiny giraffes fighting pinking penguins on unicycles.