Thursday, August 7, 2014

One Man's "Terror Tunnel" is Another Man's "Great Escape"

Stalag Luft III
Something keeps jarring me as Israel focuses on the tunnels in and out of Gaza.

At first I disregarded it, but when I noticed again and again that Benjamin Netanyahu keeps bringing the discussion back around to the tunnels, I started to think, "I don't think that means what he thinks it means."

Netanyahu is staking Israel's relationship with the U.S. and others on the proposition that Israel can keep killing Palestinians, with the tunnels as a pretext. (See "Netanyahu vows Israel will destroy Hamas tunnels 'with or without a cease-fire'" on

It occurs to me now that when Netanyahu talks about tunnelstunnelstunnels, he is playing to some connotation that the word "tunnel" carries for his home audience. Perhaps some kind of allusion to sub-human existence beneath the ground? (Unclean subterranean animals? Mice? Rabbits?)

Or is it somehow associated with the Israeli expression "mowing the lawn"?

Ironically, however, every time he says "tunnel," I think "great escape."

What I think of when you say "tunnel"

It is a fact of American culture that everyone of my generation -- certainly every boy -- was smitten by the movie The Great Escape.

I'm remembering a time before DVDs, before VCRs . . . a time when, in order to see an old movie, you had to catch it on the Million Dollar Movie or some other TV broadcast.  I can still remember watching my friends Jack and Mark and Kevin, on one of the days after the movie had aired, riding their Stingray bicycles in imitation of Steve McQueen in the heroic finale of the film.

The Great Escape told the story of a group of Allied POWs who, refusing to be cowed by the cruelty of their captors, set about carrying out an ingenious and daring plan to tunnel their way out of the prison camp.

And lest anyone missed the point -- brave, lovable, clever prisoners vs. craven captors -- the main plot of The Great Escape was repeated every afternoon on the TV show Hogan's Heroes.

I will even go so far as to say that I bet most boys, like me, set out at one point or another to dig their own tunnel.  And that, like me, they gave up in frustration when they realized how incredibly hard it is to tunnel even a few feet under ground.

So there are several thoughts that automatically come to mind every time Benjamin Netanyahu says "tunnel."

* the tunnels are like the ones under "Stalag XIII" (Stalag Luft III)

* the people who dug the tunnels are like the indomitable Allied POWs in WWII

* Gaza is like a prison camp

(As for what this makes the Israelis, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.)

Now, you can argue with the accuracy of these comparisons. But the point is, this is not operating on the American consciousness at the literal level. It's at the level of myth.

And it's not just the word "tunnel." The more I think about it, the more I realize that Zionist leaders are losing the war of words in their campaign to erase the Palestinians.

Related posts

When you think "earth moving equipment," think "Rachel Corrie."

(See Where were YOU on April 10, 1979?)

When you think "prison walls," think "West Bank barrier."

(See completed "Wall" sign boards - for Good Friday event (April 18th) on the Working Group on the Middle East, Metropolitan Chicago Synod, ELCA blog.)

When you think "terror" and "gaza," think "Boeing, Lockheed, General Dynamics."

(See USA: Proud Sponsor of T E R R O R in Gaza!)