Though it has long been debunked as outrageous propaganda, much of the international community still tends to speak of the “humanitarian crisis” Gaza. Even when its southern communities were being battered on a daily basis by terrorist missiles, Israel never cut off the flow of food or medicine to the Hamas-ruled enclave. But it did seek to enforce the blockade of the terror statelet in order to prevent the import of construction materials that could be used for military purposes. Due to international pressure, Israel relaxed that blockade to allow concrete into the strip that we were told was necessary for the rebuilding of structures destroyed during the fighting with Hamas. Like many other Israeli stands on security issues, most media outlets treated their complaints about letting supplies into Gaza as merely mean-spirited rather than rooted in a genuine peril.
But those who assumed that the concrete was being used to help the people of Gaza got a wakeup call today when the Israelis revealed the discovery of a tunnel they had discovered that Hamas digging under the border with the Jewish state. The structure was 18 meters deep and 1,700 meters long (including 300 that were underneath Israeli territory. Built with 500 tons of cement that had been allowed into Gaza for civilian uses, the purpose of the tunnel was clear: provide easy access into Israeli territory for terrorists to kill and/or kidnap Israelis. So will everyone who opposed Israel’s blockade of Gaza now realize they were wrong? Don’t bet on it.
Tunnel building is a big business in Gaza and most of the coverage of the topic centers on the way they are used to bring in consumer goods and other items in from Egypt, a practice that the military government in Cairo has made more difficult. But the main point that has been obscured by the often disingenuous attempt to hype concern for the people of Gaza is that the area is ruled by a terrorist group that seized power by violence and holds onto that control by the same means.
As the New York Times points out, the new terror tunnel is not far from the site of similar one that was used by Hamas in 2006 to infiltrate killers into Israel who proceeded to murder two Israeli soldiers and kidnap a third, Gilad Shalit. Shalit was helped prisoner in Gaza for five years before being ransomed in exchange for Israel’s release of over 1,000 jailed terrorists.
If Hamas is hoping to repeat that crime it is because it is under pressure from a number of sources. A split with its former Iranian patrons over the war in Syria resulted in a drop in aid to the terror government from Tehran that has not been fully replaced by its Turkish allies. The coup that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt is also a problem for Hamas even though the Morsi regime was not as supportive as they hoped. Just as important, their need to observe a cease-fire with Israel rather than face another Israel Defense Forces counter-offensive has lowered their standing in the eyes of Palestinians who see terrorism as a source of prestige.
All this has put Hamas in a corner but they hope to profit from the inevitable breakup of the current round of peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority. The new terror tunnel must be seen in the context of a recent upsurge in anti-Jewish violence in the West Bank. As much as Hamas has been weakened by events in Cairo and elsewhere, so long as the Palestinians honor those who attack Jews, it should be assumed that Hamas would seek to shed more blood.
Israel has sensibly re-imposed the ban on allowing concrete into the Strip after this incident but the discovery of the tunnel should be a moment for the international community and the media to reassess the way they think about Gaza. Rather than a place where wicked Israelis are oppressing trapped Palestinians, Gaza is a terrorist enclave whose only export is violence. That it is an independent Palestinian state in all but name is a reminder of what Israel can expect should it ever withdraw all of its forces from the West Bank as it did from Gaza in 2005. The rest of the world needs to draw similar conclusions.