One of the most important strikes in the propaganda war for Israel in the last month was dealt by the New York Times and CNN when they ran long pieces giving credence to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that Hamas was building tunnels out of Gaza aimed at kindergartens in nearby kibbutzes.
Back on July 22, Netanyahu asserted– on the basis of this cartoon drawing he tweeted– that the tunnels were aimed at Israeli kindergartens.
In fact (and as we reported), the only Israelis attacked from the tunnels were Israeli soldiers. But a week after Netanyahu’s statement, both the Times and CNN took the prime minister’s claim at face value. The Times’s piece, “Tunnels Lead Right to Heart of Israeli Fear” gave priority to rumors over actual information, and reported that “one tunnel was found over the weekend” in Kibbutz Be’eri. The piece quoted a resident of the kibbutz saying,
“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.”
Now it turns out no tunnel was found in Kibbutz Be’eri.
The Israeli site +972 has blown that propaganda completely out of the water. A well-researched article in Hebrew that it translated from an educational worker near Gaza states that the tunnels do not appear to be targeted at civilians and they come out more than a mile from any kibbutz, let alone the kindergartens.
In short, the tunnels fear was hysteria, drummed up by the Israeli government to heighten war fever, and then purveyed by the New York Times and CNN.
The piece at +972 — which is headlined in part, “In reality, every tunnel so far has been used against military targets alone” — was published in Hebrew on “Local Call,” and written by Emanual Yelin, who lives in Be’er Sheva and is said to work near the Gaza border. Yelin is a full-on Israeli patriot, but he has no truck with the lies and propaganda disseminated around the tunnels.
Here are excerpts of the Q-and-A he asks and answers.
Q. Was Benjamin Netanyahu right in his national address when he said “we will not end the mission, we will not end the operation, without neutralizing the tunnels that exist solely to annihilate our civilians and to kill our children?”
A. No. It is certain that this is not their sole purpose, and probably not their primary purpose, either. We’ve already seen six instances in which Hamas was able to use the tunnels against Israel. Once when Gilad Shalit was captured, and the rest during the current operation. In all instances, Hamas’ target were IDF soldiers, not the communities….
Q. So what is the purpose of the tunnels?
Most likely to hurt IDF forces and capture soldiers. Little by little we are starting to hear military reporters saying this explicitly…
Q. So we can be certain that the tunnels will not be used for terrorism against civilians in the kibbutzim along the barrier wall?
A. No. We must not become complacent…
Q. But if they didn’t want to hurt communities, why did they dig tunnels under dining halls and kindergartens inside those communities?
A. Here’s the thing: they didn’t. It turns out that there were no tunnels into the communities. The tunnel into the Kisufim dining hall? That was an old sewer line [Hebrew] mistakenly identified as a tunnel shaft…
Q. So where do the tunnels go?
A. Probably just a few hundred meters from the barrier wall and a few kilometers from the communities. It’s hard to find accurate data about where the exit shafts are. But in all five instances of infiltration, the militants emerged 200-400 meters away from the wall, as can be seen on the maps in the IDF Spokesperson videos. For example, the alleged penetration into Kisufim was 1.5 kilometers away from the community. And actually, the tunnel’s exit point is just as close to Kibbutz Sufa.
Kibbutz Be’eri is nearly three miles from the Gaza border, according to Google Maps. Now the +972 report documents that the tunnel openings were within half a kilometer of the Gaza border– at least 2 miles away from Kibbutz Be’eri.
When can we expect the New York Times and CNN to publish updated articles pointing out the errors in their original reporting?