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Monday, August 23, 2010

Perspective on the Gaza mall?

The New York Times' Ethan Bronner tries to put some perspective on the Gaza Mall (which he has seen and we have not).
The owners of the 10-shop complex here chose the name Gaza Mall in hopes of evoking the colossal consumer complexes across the developed world. Such places stretch endlessly with brand names and multiscreen cinemas, their floors linked by escalators surrounded by two-story fountains, the variety of edibles in their food courts matched only by the seductive mix of big-box stores and boutiques.

The Gaza Mall may seek to evoke such places, but it is not one of them. At 1,000 square meters, or a quarter of an acre, it is the size of a suburban residential lot in the United States and would fit in its entirety into a corner of any J. C. Penney. The stairs do not move. The piped-in music is Islamic. There are no appliances or electronics for sale, no movie screens, and exactly one fried-food restaurant. Its first floor is almost entirely taken up by a supermarket, a rarity in Gaza.

“We are about the size of one medium American store,” Salahadin Abu Abdu, the mall’s manager, acknowledged a bit sheepishly.

To the commentators who have never been here, certain points need to be cleared up. To those who contend the mall is proof that Gaza has construction materials: the building is 20 years old. To those who have described the mall as “gigantic” and “futuristic”: it is small and a bit old-fashioned. To Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, who wrote that the mall “would not look out of place in any capital in Europe”: it would.

But the broader point many of these advocates are making — that the poverty of Gaza is often misconstrued, willfully or inadvertently — is correct. The despair here is not that of Haiti or Somalia. It is a misery of dependence, immobility and hopelessness, not of grinding want. The flotilla movement is not about material aid; it is about Palestinian freedom and defiance of Israeli power.

“Gaza is not poor in the way outsiders think,” said Nida Wishah, a 22-year-old information technology student who was at the mall one recent afternoon. “You can’t compare our poverty with that of Africa.”
If you go to Turkey or mot of the Arab countries you will be told that Gazans are starving to death, an image that the Hamas leadership has promoted. Maybe if they told the truth - that no one is starving and that the Israeli blockade is aimed at stopping weapons and not food and at obtaining the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit - it might be possible to talk about ways to ease the blockade.

But don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Even when the mainstream media (rarely) tells the truth, it doesn't change the overall narrative. No one wants to hear it.


At 9:24 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

The overall narrative being that the Gazans' condition is a reflection of choices the Gazans have made to remain the objects of world pity and not to build a better life for themselves and that all their problems can be blamed on Israel.

Don't look for that narrative to change any time soon.


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