Yesterday the New York Times’s Jodi Rudoren and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer both did long reports on their visit to a tunnel in Israel just outside the border of Gaza. Neither reporter went on through to Gaza. Nope, both reports echoed Israeli fears of the tunnels and the mayhem they could unleash in Israel.
Blitzer’s report on the tunnels was promptly sent around by the Israel lobby group AIPAC, in a fundraising appeal about the “immense danger Israel is facing.” You can read the AIPAC letter below. (By the way, Blitzer once worked for AIPAC.)
Rudoren’s report, “Tunnels Lead Right to the Heart of Israeli Fear,” parroted fears about Israeli kindergartens first circulated by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a week or so back. Here’s what Netanyahu said:
Hamas used funds for kindergartens for Gaza’s children to build tunnels of terror to strike at Israeli kindergartens. pic.twitter.com/oU90yFWFQz
— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) July 22, 2014
And an Israeli cites that fear in Rudoren’s piece:
“We were feeling pretty safe before,” said Ma’ayan Barkai, 34, director of Kibbutz Be’eri, where one tunnel was found over the weekend. “We knew what to do with the missiles. The tunnels, it’s game-changing. We can’t do anything if the terrorists will come to our kindergarten. The tunnels, it’s very surprising, it can hit you don’t know where.”
Has Hamas struck at an Israeli kindergarten? No. Of course, Gaza forces have targeted Israeli civilians; and militants were apprehended in what Israeli officials said was a planned attack on civilians at a kibbutz called Sufa ten days ago. A graphic accompanying Rudoren’s piece cites that incident, among a half dozen other incidents involving tunnels.
But the Times graphic indicates at most four attacks originating from tunnels– not six, as the article asserts — and none have been actual attacks on civilians.
Rudoren’s Times piece is chiefly a description of the fears in the Israeli “collective psyche” stemming from those six purported attacks.
Far more than the rocket barrages that have sent Israelis scrambling for shelter throughout the bloody 21-day battle, the tunnel attacks — Monday’s was the sixth of the current conflict — have shaken the collective psyche and stiffened resolve to continue or even expand the fight.
Interviewed on a partner public radio show, The Takeaway, Rudoren said Israeli fears are legitimate, they’ve been “borne out” by events:
The [tunnels] that lead into Israeli territory… are … an increasing focus of this war. And those, the Israelis fear, and I think they’ve seen borne out over the last couple of weeks, Palestinian militants can come into Israel and attack either soldiers or civilians. The real fear is they’ll come to some kibbutz and spray the dining hall with machine gun fire. Or in one case, they found some tranquilizers and plastic handcuffs, so the fear is that they tried to kidnap people…
[Israelis] don’t seem to have an answer to the tunnel threat, and it’s totally freaking people out… The threat is really permeating the society.
As if echoing our post on Netanyahu’s tunnel propaganda, Todd Zwillich of the Takeaway asked Rudoren if the Israeli government wasn’t manipulating the tunnel story, to counter the images of civilian deaths in Gaza that everyone is seeing.
Rudoren said it’s true, you never hear an Israeli leader talking without mentioning the tunnels, it’s been their talking point. But she dismissed the manipulation charge, saying that the Israeli leaders’ concern is justified:
I think that they, probably rightly, feel like for all of the horrific images that people around the world are seeing of the devastation and death being wrought on Gaza, that there is a sympathy around the world for the idea that you know your enemy should not be able to tunnel into your territory and attack people. So yeah, they’re certainly pushing it. But I don’t think they’re pushing it in like some way that has nothing to do with something real. It really is what they’re afraid of.
I doubt that people around the world really feel that Gazans shouldn’t be able to attack Israeli soldiers. And do these stories really hold anything like the spiritual weight of what we are seeing in Gaza? Rudoren shows herself to be incapable of stepping outside the Israeli frame of mind. James North writes, “The Israeli irrational fear over the tunnels is actually displaced guilt for the occupation. Rudoren’s piece was important, without her even recognizing it, because she thinks like a guilty Israeli.”
Now here is the AIPAC fundraising letter sent out after Wolf Blitzer’s report.
Dear Friend of Israel:
I want to share with you a video that aired on CNN Monday night. Wolf Blitzer went into one of the Hamas terror tunnels with the IDF to see a 1.7 mile tunnel for himself.
In the tunnel, they discuss how the concrete and electricity used to construct the tunnel over the past two years was provided by Israel to Gaza to build schools, homes and hospitals. Instead, they were used by Hamas for their terror infrastructure.
Please watch this video, and share with friends and family so they can get a better sense of the immense danger Israel is confronting.
More than 30 of these attack tunnels have been found since Operation Protective Edge began, and Hamas fighters have infiltrated Israel through tunnels six times in the past three weeks, some with guns, rocket launchers and equipment to kidnap Israelis.
Israel now has the difficult task of destroying this extensive tunnel network. Some of the tunnels are 80 feet underground, and many intentionally built beneath homes, schools and mosques. To destroy these passages the IDF must first secure them and then carefully destroy them with the help of engineers, in order to avoid harming the infrastructure above ground.
As these and other threats against Israel continue to emerge and evolve, our community must grow stronger to ensure that America stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its ally.
For 60 years, AIPAC has worked to help make Israel more secure by ensuring that the relationship between America and Israel remains strong.
Your generous gift today will help to ensure we are able to continue working with our leaders in Washington at this critical time for Israel and America.
Thank you for your commitment to the safety and security of the Jewish state, and your generous support of AIPAC.
Director of Regional Affairs and Development