Sunday, November 14, 2010

(BLOG) Lorne Gunter: A Water Park In Gaza? Do Hellholes Have Water Parks?

"Spiegel Online International reports that Hamas is tightening its grasp on power in the Gaza Strip. According to the German newsmagazine, the radical Islamist government is particularly targeting 'fun,' clamping down on recreational facilities that permit women to smoke water pipes. (OMG, not water-pipe smoking women! Allah would never go for that.)

Apparently after the Crazy Water Park (CWP), just south of Gaza City, ignored three warnings to stop hukka-sucking mommas from indulging on its premises, several dozen armed thugs operating under orders from Hamas (or at least with its tacit approval) broke into the park in the middle of the night in September and set fire to several deck chairs, a lawnmower and, more importantly, the building housing the water pumps and controls.

The riding club next door was also closed down for three days for the same offence.

Hey, wait a minute – a water park in Gaza? Haven’t we been told again and again by Western journalists reporting from the Middle East that Israel’s blockade of the Strip has turned it into a wasteland of unrelenting misery and destitution? And a riding stable! How did that get in there?

More practically, haven’t we been told that Israel’s cordon has caused so much suffering in large part because it is preventing building supplies such as concrete from reaching the Palestinians so they can fix their crumbling apartments, homes, schools and hospitals?

But water parks need a lot of cement for raging-river rides, patios and buildings housing water pumps and controls. Since CWP opened just this past May, where did the concrete come from if Israel is doing such a nasty job of keeping construction materials out of the territory?

Admittedly, all the coverage of the park torching points out that CWP was intended for use by elite Gazans; the wealthy will always find a way around the discomfort being felt by ordinary people. But the point is, the Israelis cannot be solely responsible for the denial of critical building materials to poor Gazans. The supplies are getting through. It’s just that at some point in the relief and aid process, Gazans in positions of authority are confiscating these supplies and diverting them to water-park construction. And riding-club building. And the erection of new malls, restaurants, resorts and spas.

(This is nothing new, of course, in Gaza. When Yasser Arafat was running the Strip, he and his cronies operated a kleptocracy, diverting hundreds of millions in international aid into their private bank accounts and posh seaside villas.)

Israel doesn’t cause all the damage and oppression in Gaza; far from it. Yet Western readers and news viewers would be forgiven for assuming they did. After all, when Israel invades Gaza to stop Hamas and Islamic Jihad from firing rockets into nearby Israeli towns and farms, the international press is there instantly condemning Israel for its aggression. Yet aside from a few brief news items buried on the back pages, the oppression of Gazans by Hamas – their own government – has gone largely unreported, presumably because it doesn’t fit into the Western media’s preconceived notion of Israel bad, Palestine good.

According to The Guardian, which had a surprisingly lengthy article on Hamas’ new hardline policies, Hamas has imposed 'restrictions on internet cafes, the closure of beach-front restaurants over the summer … and a prohibition on the display of lingerie in shop windows. Head teachers have been told they may impose Islamic dress codes on girls, and men have been banned from teaching in girls’ high schools.' Some women have even been reprimanded for sitting with crossed legs in public.

Earlier this year, Hamas also began denying women the right to inherit property and money from their fathers and husbands.

Image if Israel were doing all these things in Gaza, the world media would be hyperventilating with moral indignation and sputtering with outrage. Yet, by comparison, Hamas gets off very, very lightly, even though it appears every bit as much responsible for Palestinians’ misery as Israel – very likely more responsible." (source)

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