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Despite the tunnel, Israel is far from being an innocent victim

Israel announced on Sunday that it has discovered a tunnel under its border with the Gaza Strip. The end of the tunnel is about 300m inside occupied Palestine. Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon immediately announced that the government had stopped delivery of all construction material to Gaza, claiming that it is used for hostile actions against the occupying power. Israel has only just relaxed its ban on such imports following the closure of the Rafah Crossing by the Egyptians.


It was clear from Ya'alon's remarks that he wants to get a clear message to the Palestinians in Gaza that, in his government's opinion, they do not deserve to have such a facility if they are going to use the materials to build tunnels to attack Israelis. Like many things said by Israelis, however, this is a lie.

Such a tunnel would take months to build, but the Israelis only relaxed the border control 3 weeks ago. To use the existence of the tunnel as an excuse to close the border again is just that: an excuse, not a reason.

In any case, the construction materials allowed into the Gaza Strip do not meet even one-quarter of the demand. Remember, Israel caused massive destruction during its two wars on the people of Gaza in 2008/9 and 2012. The government's claim that it somehow lifted the siege by allowing some materials across the border is false. Gaza needs at least 400 truckloads of gravel, 200 truckloads of cement and 100 truckloads of steel every day just to rebuild what was destroyed by the Israel "Defence" Forces, never mind for new developments. Israel had "eased the blockade" to allow 70 trucks carrying a mixture of materials to enter Gaza. What kind of generous "facility" is that?

Israel claims that the tunnel which has been found was intended to allow "terrorists" to attack Israeli civilians. At just 300m inside Israel the tunnel fell far short of any populated areas, so it is not clear who the Palestinians were going to attack.

It should also be borne in mind that the Palestinians have never initiated any aggressive attack against Israelis; even the suicide attacks between 1995 and 2005 were responses to Israeli aggression. An objective study of recent history proves that this is the case. The first Intifada in 1987 began in response to the killing of four Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip. It even started peacefully but was met by lethal force against youthful Palestinian stone-throwers.

Al-Aqsa Intifada, which started in 2000, was a response to the desecration of Al-Aqsa Mosque by the former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Again, stones were met with live bullets and mass arrests.

In their 2008/9 brutal assault and invasion of Gaza, it was clear that the Israelis disrespected humanitarian and international laws s well as political, military and social conventions when its F16 aircraft bombed killed more than 400 Palestinian police officers in one devastating blow. It was clear who initiated the war, during which Palestinians used tunnels for the first time to restock dwindling supplies, just as it was clear that the Palestinians did not begin hostilities in 2012 when Israel pitched some of the most advanced military hardware in the world against Gaza's homemade rockets and largely civilian population.

In recent weeks, Israelis have escalated their violations of the sanctity of the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa in occupied Jerusalem. The Palestinian response has been relatively restrained, with calls for international action to stop the Israeli government's Judaisation policies. Under the Israeli-led siege Palestinians have died due to the lack of power to operate urgently-needed medical equipment; severe shortages of vital medicines have added to the difficulties. Despite this, the Palestinians in Gaza have not carried out any systematic and planned armed offensive against Israelis. Yes, there have been the odd rocket or two fired in frustration at Israel's frequent and murderous military incursions and attacks on fishermen, but nothing more.

If it is right for the Israelis to equip themselves with the latest missiles and military technology, what sort of logic dictates that the Palestinians are not justified in trying to defend themselves and their homes when they are attacked by the aggressive occupying power?

The Palestinians have good reason to believe that Israel has used depleted uranium in the Gaza Strip, but calls for an international investigation have been ignored. Birth deformities have increased considerably – and research proves this – since 2008/9, but the international community insists that only Israel has a "right to defend its citizens" and so calls for help from Gaza go unanswered.

As such, there is really no need for Israel to play the role of innocent victim when it discovers a tunnel coming under the border; Israel is lots of things but innocent isn't one of them. Given that none of the Palestinian factions has claimed responsibility for the tunnel it may well turn out to have been built by smugglers, and smugglers need people on the other side with whom they can do business. Israeli complicity cannot be ruled out. Despite the tunnel, Israel is far from being the victim in this asymmetric conflict.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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