Terror Tunnels

The Israeli Army claims to have destroyed 35 terror tunnels (otherwise known as “tunnels”), and yet, remarkably few verifiable photographs have emerged to demonstrate the truth of their claim.

No independent journalists have been escorted into Gaza to view the tunnels as they were being destroyed, which means we only have the word of the wittily-named IDF.

Anyway, in this post, I’m not going to argue about terrorists or Islamists or even Zionists.  I won’t allow myself to be sidetracked by the handbook of spin.

No indeed.  In this post, I’m simply going to ask about the details of how terror tunnels, aka tunnels, are constructed and destroyed.

I’ve only seen a few photos of what the Israelis called a terror tunnel, so you’ll forgive me for not having much information to go on, which is surprising when you consider how technologically advanced Israel is compared to the rest of the world.  You’d imagine they’d at least send in a crack team of anti-terrorist photographers to show the world what the Palestinians have been getting up to in their compound.

I promised not to get political in this, so I won’t suggest that tunnelling is a natural thing for people trapped behind a fence by occupying forces.  I won’t even make a comparison with the Warsaw ghetto where people did exactly that.  Instead, I’ll just concentrate on the details of tunnelling.

As I said, I’ve only seen a few photos of the (terror) tunnels, but that’s fine.   We can take a guess at their dimensions.

My estimate is that they’re about 2 metres high and about a metre wide.  Roughly.  We won’t argue about minor details.

Therefore, a tunnel of let’s say 1 kilometre in length requires the excavation of 2,000 cubic metres of soil, but we’re told by the Israeli military that the tunnels reach right into Israel, perhaps even under the houses of the people in Sderot, for the purposes of kidnapping them, so let’s call it 10 km.

That tunnel would produce 20,000 cubic metres of soil, enough to create a hill 8.5 metres high by 100 metres in diameter.   For old-fashioned people like me, that’s about 30 feet high and 330 feet across.  Quite a mound.

It’s probably reasonable enough to assume that they didn’t dump any of this in the Israeli-occupied area outside the fence, so they had quite a problem getting rid of it.  A 30-foot-high hill is hard to miss, especially if you’re being watched by the most sophisticated surveillance operation in the world.

How did they achieve this feat of covert engineering without being observed?  Did they put the earth in their pockets and walk around a football pitch, whistling nonchalantly and shaking their trousers as the guards watched from their towers?

Now, that’s just one (terror) tunnel, but these extremist militant terrorist people somehow managed to build 30, or was it 35, (terror) tunnels, according to the Israeli Defence Forces.

That’s a lot of football fields, a lot of trouser-shaking and a lot of whistling, without the world’s most sophisticated intelligence service noticing a thing.

Well and good.  Now here’s the second point.

How do you destroy a 10 km tunnel in a week?

Do you systematically travel along its entire length, blowing it up and letting the top cover fall into it?  Does that actually work if the tunnel is deeper than, say 5 metres?  And doesn’t such subsidence leave a clearly-visible trace at the surface?

Surely the IDF would be delighted to produce aerial photographs showing the precise tracks of the destroyed tunnels, based on the surface subsidence?  Wouldn’t that be a major propaganda coup against the terrorists?

Apparently not, since photos of the tunnels before and after demolition are lamentably rare.

If the IDF knew where the tunnels were, why did they not simply close them off wherever they entered Israel, without the need to invade Gaza?  After all, tunnels inside the ghetto were never going anywhere.

Just one final point.  When people are hemmed into a ghetto by overwhelmingly-superior military force, isn’t that what they do?

Dig tunnels?

The children of the Warsaw ghetto survivors should know all about having to do that.




Favourites Murder war

Israel, Gaza and the Big Lie

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

—- Josef Goebbels


As I write this, US Secretary of State John Kerry is telling the world with a straight face that Israel is under siege from Hamas, thus proving that the technique of the Big Lie is not dead.

The Big Lie went to work with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, when the US public were told North Vietnamese forces had attacked a US warship, and as a result, the USA ended up in a full-blown Vietnam War.  What a great success that was.

The Big Lie  went to work when Dick Cheney in his public speeches tirelessly associated Saddam Hussein with the attacks on the World Trade Center, even though Hussein was an implacable enemy of Al Qaeda.  The invaders, absurdly named the Coalition of the Willing, smashed Iraq and ended up with a country full of Islamists where none had existed before.  What a great success that was (provided you happen to be Cheney’s company, Hallliburton).  The invasion achieved nothing apart from destabilising an entire region, yet to this day 40% of Americans believe Saddam had something to do with 9-11.  What a success that was.

The Big Lie went to work when Hitler told the German people that Jews were responsible for their country’s woes.  The German people believed it, as did the many other people in Europe who wished to demonise the Jews — Hungarians, Austrians, French, Polish, Italian, Romanian — and as a consequence, six million human beings went to their deaths at the hands of Nazi murderers and their accomplices.   What a gigantic success that was.

The Big Lie went to work when Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines mobilised the Hutus of Rwanda to murder their Tutsi friends and neighbours with knives and clubs, killing up to a million people in 100 days.  Another great success.

You see, the Big Lie is a thing that finally consumes those who utter it.  It’s the ultimate curse, the darkest summoning up of the worst demons that lurk on the seabed of the soul and, once summoned, these presences are not easily banished to the depths when their work is done.

On my television right now, I can see  the Israelis bombing what they call “terror sites”.  Before that, they were searching for “terror tunnels”.

What next — terror olive groves?

Who could forget George W Bush’s ludicrous War on Terror?  As if the world was full of Marvel and DC baddies — one-dimensional characters devoted to Terror, just like the Joker, the Penguin and Lex Luthor.  Is it a coincidence that generations of simplistic American comics and movies should finally have manifested themselves in the form of a president whose grasp of international nuances extended no further than the pages of a comic-book?  And how ironic that Bush himself had an evil Grand Vizier in the shape of Cheney looking over his shoulder and pulling his strings where necessary.

Who could forget Robert Fisk’s pitiful lament, Terrorists, terrorists, terrorists?  In Pity the Nation,  his account of the Lebanon conflict, Fisk wearily repeats the words.  Terrorists.   Terrorists.   Terrorists.  Every time the Israeli airforce bombed an apartment block in Sidon or Tyre or Beirut, killing dozens of civilians, the attack was immediately followed by a spokesman explaining that the building was used by terrorists.

When Fisk’s own car was strafed as he and fellow journalists drove up the coastal highway, Israeli media reported it as an engagement with a vehicle containing terrorists.

Terrorists.   Terrorists.   Terrorists.

For Fisk, it was as much a comment on the paranoid mental prison in which the Israelis  find themselves as anything else.

Even moderate Ireland becomes demonised in this paranoid and dishonest rant from the wife of the Israeli ambassador, Nurit Tinari Modai, an outburst filled with half-truths and contempt for her husband’s host country.

nurit tinari modai.


When you live in a society where paranoia becomes internalised, any level of  atrocity seems acceptable, provided you first dehumanise those you wish to be rid of.  This is a lesson we learned over the centuries, most recently in the Balkans when the Chetniks attempted to wipe out the Bosniaks and those who thought of themselves as Yugoslavs.  We in Ireland are not immune to that sort of thinking, as we saw with the treatment of the inmates in the Magdalene laundries, though I do believe our society has been permanently scarred by our Famine.   I doubt if we would deliberately inflict such suffering on a population, in the way that Israel has brought about the Gaza ghetto, which many of them sneeringly refer to as Gazastan.

Let’s not forget that when Hamas first emerged, Israel saw it as a means to destabilise Arafat’s PLO, which was a secular, non-sectarian organisation, whose aim was to achieve a Palestinian homeland.  And lets not forget either where these Palestinians in Gaza came from.  These are the people who were thrown off their land by invading Israeli forces from 1948 onwards, and who were shoved into the ghetto, because it wasn’t politically possible to simply kill them and be done with the problem.

Hamas is Israel’s friend in every way.  Supported by Mossad, it did everything its puppet-masters required, including firing militarily-insignificant rockets into Israeli territory, and Israeli-occupied Palestinian lands.

In doing so, Hamas helps to perpetuate the Big Lie that Palestinians are part of the comic-book terrorist narrative.  How much easier it is to condemn an Islamist movement than a bunch of agnostics, atheists, Christians and Muslims who simply want to be given back some of the land that was stolen from them by force.

That’s why Arafat and the PLO had to be crushed and that’s why they had to be replaced by cartoon villains like Hamas.

In parallel, the hugely-diverse world of Islam had to be reduced to a cartoon quality.  It was necessary, especially in the minds of the American public (never noted for its political subtlety) to portray all Muslims as crazed, ideological killers.  Never mind  the fact that Islam is as diverse as Christianity, with devout believers and carousing drunken bons viveurs in its ranks, just as there are many non-observant Jews.

In a world whose sensibilities have been well prepared by incidents ranging from the 9-11 attacks to the ludicrous Jyllands-Posten controversy about depictions of the Prophet, we are now arrived at a point where people will believe anything about the enemy as long as that enemy is either  terrorist, whatever that is, or Muslim, whatever that is.

Back in the 1940s, the US public was just as easily persuaded to incarcerate its Japanese-American population in concentration camps, based solely on their facial appearance.  No German-Americans were shoved into places like Manzanar.  No Italian-Americans.  No Hungarian-Americans.  Just Japanese-Americans.

Who did they put in charge of the D-Day landings?  A man called Eisenhauer, with the spelling slightly anglicised.  No prison camp for him.

That’s how easy it is.

And so we arrive at our current pass, where the children cowering within Gaza are jeered at by thugs on the hills of Sderot, the same thugs who squat in the houses of the people they now bomb with their American-funded missiles and F-16s.

Just a few miles up the coast from Gaza, the people of Ashkelon will sleep more easily in their beds after the current onslaught completes its mission.   Unlike in Gaza, no naval patrol boats machine-gun their fishermen when they try to cast their nets.  Nobody shells their beaches.   These law-abiding Israeli citizens enjoy all the amenities of the beautiful Mediterranean port that their forces rolled into on the 5th November 1948, expelling all 11,000 Arabs.

What does that remind you of?

Terrorists.  Terrorists.   Terrorists.






Favourites Politics Scandal World

Gazastan, Israeli Ghettos and the New Apartheid

I mentioned earlier that I intended to have guest postings on various subjects, and this is the first in what I hope will become a series.

James Carr is an Irish professional whose work has taken him to many disturbed parts of the world, and here’s his assessment of the dreadful events now taking place in Gaza.

— Bock


It is reported that Israeli citizens have taken to labelling the Gaza Strip somewhat sneeringly as Gazastan suggesting that it belongs more to the supposed backward (and predominantly Muslim of course) steppes of Central Asia than on the borders of a modern progressive ˜Western’ state like Israel. While such attempts to ridicule and diminish one’s enemy are by no means unusual at times of conflict, this appellation may be more revealing than might seem at first sight. Long before the dissolution of the USSR led to the proliferation of unstable and conflict-ridden ˜stan’ states, there was another notorious type of ˜stan’.

In 1970 the sanctions-beleaguered apartheid state in South Africa tried to polish up its ˜western’ democratic credentials and at the same time achieve the democratically impossible feat of ensuring that four million whites could continue to dominate a population of 26 million. Very simply, they created ten self-governing black homelands which they planned to be declared in time as independent states. In the event only four homelands – Transkei, Bophutstwana, Venta and Ciskei –  achieved full ˜independence’ between 1976 and 1981. The Apartheid Government planned to transfer the great majority of the African population to these homelands on the basis of their tribal origin. Naturally these people were now no longer considered South African citizens and naturally therefore could not vote in South African elections. These unrealistic and non-viable states were termed ˜bantustans’, initially in a parallel to the partition of the Indian sub-continent, but later increasingly as a term of derision. Just as the outrageous Bantustan experiment highlighted the fundamental contradiction in the concept of a ˜white’ South African state, Gazastan is an unavoidable counterpoint to the miracle in the desert, the modern state of Israel.

The Gaza Strip has a population of more than 1.5 million in a total area of 320 sq km giving a population density of 4688 per sq km, one of the highest in the world. However only about one third of the land is arable and most of the population is packed into the major urban concentrations of Gaza City, Khan Younis and Rafah making the real density much higher. Israel controls almost all the borders of Gaza, its maritime waters and its airspace, which is not very relevant anyway since the Israeli Air Force bombing destroyed the runway at Yasser Arafat International Airport in December 2001. Israel returned control of the narrow southern border to Egypt in 2005 but the single crossing at Rafah has rarely been open due to a number of factors including the withdrawal of EU monitors in the aftermath of the Hamas election victory in 2006.

I worked in Gaza during the innocent days of the first Intifada when 10 casualties a day was considered appalling. At the time the entire strip was under Israeli occupation, as it had been since 1967, and living conditions, although far better than today, were still grim for the Palestinian population, with high unemployment, food and fuel shortages, constant intimidation and often arbitrary arrests, beatings and killings.

Supporters of Israel consider the use of the term concentration camp in relation to Gaza an outrageous parallel to the Nazi era, but of course concentration camps were not invented in Germany.  They were invented in in British-run South Africa during the Boer war — another interesting parallel. So let’s not use the term. Just look briefly at some of the facts. About 1 million or 70% of the population are refugees or descendants of refugees from what is now southern Israel. Gaza was part of Mandate Palestine in 1948 and although administered by Egypt from 1948 to 1967 the population were never given Egyptian citizenship. The entire population is effectively stateless living in an entity whose legal status is highly ambiguous. Israel claims it no longer has the responsibilities of an occupying power since its withdrawal in September 2005. Since then, however, it has used the enormous powers at the disposal of a modern state to control virtually every aspect of life in Gaza. Especially after the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Legislative Elections, Israel has used this power to impose what is effectively collective punishment on the entire population of Gaza, declaring the strip ˜a hostile entity’, restricting fuel and food supplies and restricting movement between Gaza and the outside world including the West Bank. All Gaza electricity is supplied from Israel. You will remember the many TV appearances of Irishman John Ging, Director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, pleading with Israel to permit the entry of essential humanitarian supplies.

So Gaza is not really a concentration camp. The Guards do not patrol  inside the area. They do allow the population to arrange much of their own lives. However, people are generally not allowed to leave or to develop a reasonable economy, and the basic necessities of life are withheld at the whim of the invisible controlling power. The perimeter of the zone is patrolled by an aggressive military force. No, it is not a concentration camp. It is much more like the large urban zones established in the early 1940s by the occupying German authorities in places like Warsaw and Riga into which a demonised and disempowered ethnic group were ruthlessly corralled, contained, dehumanised and controlled.

Gaza is a ghetto.

Demonisation is a very important weapon in modern conflict and one of the most potent agents of demonisation is the word ˜terrorist’. Hamas is a ˜terrorist’ organisation; Gaza which it controls is a ˜terrorist’ entity and everything within the entity, whether human or infrastructure can be presented as a legitimate target.

But back in 1988 it was very different. Then the secular, non-sectarian Fatah was the ˜terrorist’ organisation and a new religious organisation called Hamas which means ˜zeal’ in Arabic was considered a suitable target for Israeli support. It was facilitated in the receipt of foreign funding and assisted by Mossad in establishing itself as a force in the occupied territories to fragment the united PLO-led front during the first intifada. When Arafat supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990-91 Gulf conflict, the wealthy Gulf states switched their funding from the suspiciously progressive Fatah to the religiously conservative Hamas. In 1992, in another slightly weird parallel with South Africa, Arafat attacked Hamas as being the Zulus of Palestine comparing their activities to certain Zulu leaders who supported the apartheid Government against the ANC. Of course much has changed since the early 1990s. But however unwittingly, Hamas have served the long term strategic interests of the more right-wing elements in Israel quite  well over that time, transforming the image of the Palestinian cause in the West from a populist national liberation struggle to an alien, fanatical and frightening fundamentalist jihad.


This demonisation of Gaza certainly distracts attention from the basic reason for Gaza’s existence. It exists primarily as a place to incarcerate the original inhabitants of what is now southern Israel without actually having to exterminate them or to give them any of the rights extended to the citizens of a state. It is also a place where  Israel can continue to intimidate its neighbours by regularly venting its military power on an entity that possesses none of the protections of a state. It provides a fig-leaf of justification for the massive wall built by Israel within the Palestinian West Bank and it also helps us to ignore the outrageously disproportionate distribution of casualties, where 300 deaths is seen as a reasonable response to the mere threat of death to one’s own citizens. There is here of course an insidious racism that Israeli Jews are really European just like us, and of course their peace of mind and freedom to maintain a western standard of living are more important than the lives of the alien demonised Palestinians, who are clearly not like us. Yet I wonder how we would view the situation if we were imprisoned in an impoverished overcrowded ghetto where our living standards were constantly diminishing and our lives and those of our family and friends were constantly hostage to the arbitrary whim of an invisible foreign power?

Remember Warsaw and Riga and those marvellously panoramic movies celebrating the resistance and fortitude of their doomed inhabitants. And remember Human Rights are universal. Political crisis and rhetoric should never be accepted as an excuse for selective application of these universal principles.


Also on Bock :-

Israel Murders 200 People in Gaza

The Ghetto Slaughter Begins


Elsewhere :-

Salem News

Richard Falk

The People’s Voice