Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.—Joshua 6:1
Several times I commented on the inevitable analogy between Israel and South Vietnam; both West-supported bastions had serious issues with their legitimacy.
“There is no question of your transferring power. Your power has crumbled. You cannot give up what you do not have;” these were the words said by Colonel Bui Tin from the Vietnamese army to Duong Van Minh, the last president of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975, in what became known as the Fall of Saigon.
One could imagine a parallel event in Jerusalem in the nearby future. I have seen many bizarre places; yet, few of them compare to the Cu Chi Tunnels near Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon is the First Quarter of this large metropolis). Narrow tunnels that served the North Vietnamese Army in its efforts to unify the country are now a chilling reminder of the Cold War.
Their Middle Eastern parallels are the tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt. About a year ago, Vietnamizing Israel analyzed the technologies used by Israel in its futile attempts to block Gaza’s main access point. In February 2013, the new Egyptian regime is tightening its collaboration with Israel in the blockade of Gaza.
Vietnam Cu Chi Tunnels Open Trap
Black April: The Fall of South Vietnam, 1973-75
It is remarkably easy to vilify the tunnels; Israel keeps presenting them as an apparatus of terror (see large image below) while purposely hiding the fact that the tunnels exist due to its imposed siege on Gaza, since Hamas came to power there in 2007. The list of items banned from being imported into Gaza is as ridiculous as it is worrying.
Gaza Tunnel 2013
The Twenty-Five Year Century: A South Vietnamese General Remembers the Indochina War to the Fall of Saigon
On December 31, 2012, Israel lifted its ban on the import of gravel for private use, providing an unforgettable example of its pettiness. Gaza is heavily scarred by the never ending Israeli attacks; building materials are essential for its reconstruction.
On June 17, 2010, the Israeli cabinet agreed to ease the restrictions on items permitted into Gaza, yet even “Plastic or composite beams more than 4 mm thick” are prohibited.
Dry food, ginger and chocolate are barred at times. The list can change without previous notice (blocking the possibility to prepare for the event).
Even UN agencies bringing goods into Gaza have their items approved or rejected on “a case-by-case basis;” the unpredictability of the Israeli administration has the importers—according to the BBC—”constantly attempting to guess what will be approved.” This is a type of torture. Imagine going to the grocery shop every morning without knowing if you would be allowed to buy bread or not.
One soon becomes a slave of the circumstances, unable to plan event the smallest things. Everything becomes subjugated to the capability of obtaining the tiniest things. Can you imagine living without access to safe water? This is state terror at its best.
Cu Chi, Gaza
In one aspect, the comparison between South Vietnam and Israel is wrong. Israel is tiny; the entire Gaza Strip is probably smaller than the area dug by North Vietnam in Cu Chi and related sites. Yet, the Palestinians are prolific. The Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty split the city of Rafah into two halves; between them is a buffer zone known as the “Philidelphi Corridor” which was under Israeli military control until 2005.
Following Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, the Philidelphi Corridor was placed under the control of the Palestine Authority after the Battle of Gaza in 2007. Since then, it has been administered by the Hamas administration, which after winning the general elections, controls Gaza. The difficulties in transferring goods across the border led to the creation of tunnels connecting the city parts.
They are dug by individual contractors from basements of houses or olive groves at depths of up to 15 meters, and reach up to 800 meters in length.
In 2009, Egypt began construction of an underground barrier to block existing tunnels and make new ones harder to make, but due to the turmoil in that country it has not been finished. Official estimates claim that about one thousand tunnels are active. They bring an estimated 30% of all goods that reach the Strip.
Following the fall of the Mubarak regime, the Egyptian army took direct control of the issue. At first, it looked as if Egypt had recognized Palestinian independence.
In the last week of April 2011, the Israeli Army Radio reported that the Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces General Sami Anan warned Israel against interfering with Egypt’s plan to open the Rafah Border Crossing with Gaza on a permanent basis, saying it was not a matter of Israel’s concern.
Soon afterwards, Egypt tightened its control of Sinai, including the introduction of military forces with Israeli permission and the carrying out of airstrikes in the peninsula for the first time since 1973. Yet, it seemed that they would allow Palestinians to overcome the Israeli siege on them, by allowing the regular transfer of merchandise into Gaza. Against all odds, the Islamist regime currently ruling Egypt, reversed the process.
Gaza has become an Egyptian colony; it depends on the goods passed through the tunnels. On February 18, Essam Haddad, National Security Adviser to President Mohamed Morsi told Reuters, “We don’t want to see these tunnels used for illegal means of smuggling either people or weapons that can really harm Egyptian security.” This was after Egypt flooded tunnels in an attempt to block them.
It is unclear how many people died in the ruthless process. Cairo claims that gunmen crossed into Egypt via the Gaza tunnels; this is denied by the Palestinians. Haddad emphasized that President Mohamed Morsi would respect the 1979 peace treaty with Israel and that daily cooperation with Israel continued as normal. “We want to strengthen our western border,” Haddad said, claiming that this was Egypt’s top security priority now.
It is remarkably easy to vilify the tunnels while making accusations that had never been proven; governments are expert in the latter. They believe they owe no explanations to the People. It is easier to have relations with another government, no matter how evil, than with the almost two million people oppressed by that government.
It is difficult for governments to respect basic human rights, like safe access to food, water and building materials; it is easier to drown unsuspecting humans than taking care of their access to safe water. Isn’t that so, President Mursi?
Mr. Tov Roy is one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.