Sunday, January 24, 2010

Darkness at the End of the Tunnel

Scarcely a year after the end of Israel’s military operation in Gaza to stop the daily barrage of missiles and rockets fired at Israeli communities by the thousands, a new war is raging involving the Palestinians and Gaza. But this time it’s a war of religious edicts (fatwas) between Palestinian factions that seek to ban and, conversely, justify, the digging and operating of smuggling tunnels under Gaza’s border with Egypt. This is just another chapter in the saga of the network of smuggling tunnels that have become a big and profitable business in Gaza, one that even the Hamas leadership “lisences,” taxes, and from which it profits. As a result, other problems have arisen relating to the tunnels, including groups calling upon Hamas to guarantee workers rights for those who dig and operate the tunnels. It seems that tunnel business can be dangerous and risky. What’s next, a Gaza Tunnel Diggers and Workers Local 101 union complete with a pension, health benefits and of course a hefty life insurance (martyr’s) policy? Maybe the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey should step in to offer expertise in management, maintenance, and an easy, efficient electronic toll collecting system with each worker wearing a transmitter around his neck to clock each time he passes a toll collection point and registering what his toll is at the end of the day. Regrettably, as much as these incidents expose a darker side of the tunnel digging industry, in no case – either the fatwas for or against the tunnels, or those brazen enough to fault Hamas for sanctioning the tunnels to begin with, yet not providing for the safety of the workers – none on the Palestinian side have come out and just said it’s wrong to use these tunnels for smuggling, especially of weapons, drugs, and women for prostitution. Until recently Egypt, whose territorial integrity has been violated daily by the tunnel operators and illegal traffic, commerce, and overt smuggling, didn’t say a peep. I could even make the case that Gaza’s residents may in fact be stuck between a tunnel and a hard place, and may be legitimately upset that Israel closes its border with Gaza to prevent the delivery of all but the most basic humanitarian needs. (This does not mitigate the fact that Israel fosters the shipment of literally tons of humanitarian supplies that do cross into Gaza all the time, or the regular flow of Palestinian patients from Gaza into Israel to be treated at Israeli hospitals.) But the proclivity to blame Israel for any Gaza problems raises two questions to which I have just not seen a good answer. If the humanitarian situation is indeed so bad there, why would Hamas allow the smuggling of drugs, weapons and prostitutes, as well as suitcases of cash and other wanted criminals and terrorists? Other than the inherent vice associated with these things that presumably contradict Islamic law, if the tunnels are indeed necessary to avert a humanitarian crisis, shouldn’t every tunnel be used exclusively to solve the humanitarian needs of their population? But of course, that would mean Hamas changing its MO and actually caring about the well being of the population under its iron clad extremist grip. Oh, and it would mean giving up its cynical blaming of Israel for all their problems, even when they fabricate a situation that is based on one lie building the foundation for the next. And whether the humanitarian situation is so bad or not, why is it Israel’s responsibility to open the borders to importing of any supplies into Gaza, especially when doing so often is a catalyst for terrorist attacks on the very convoys of food and other supplies that are being brought across. Of course this is not to mention the fact that Hamas, and Gaza especially under Hamas’ control, is a hostile enemy entity which seeks to terrorize and ultimately destroy Israel. Why must Israel prop that up and support it at all, let alone be considered the sole responsible party? Golda Meir once said that Israel and the Arabs will only have peace when the Arabs care more about the lives of their children more than they care about killing ours. Allow me a modern interpretation. Israel will only have peace, and the Palestinians under Hamas’ grip will only truly have freedom and prosperity, when the tunnels they dig have light and not darkness coming in from both sides, and the contents of goods and traffic through these tunnels are for the welfare of their own population, not to harm or delegitimize Israel’s. If the tunnels are indeed necessary, let them be used exclusively for good. If the world truly cares about the plight of the Palestinians in general, and those in Gaza in particular, let it clamp down to prevent the Hamas terrorist warlords who control Gaza from using the suffering of the residents of Gaza as an excuse for continued smuggling of weapons, drugs and human beings which are only associated with terror, vice, and crime. And let the people of Gaza end the fatwa wars, take control of their destiny by forcing Hamas out, and let them assert that the tunnel business and Hamas itself are bad for their well being. To borrow a phrase from the 1960s, let the world in general, and Palestinians in particular affirm that, “Smuggling and illicit tunnels are not healthy for Palestinians and other living things.”

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