In this July 30, 2015 photo, Palestinians enjoy themselves at a swimming pool of the Blue Beach Resort in Gaza City. (AP/Adel Hana) (AP/Adel Hana)
Gaza luxury

Why are foreign correspondents covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ignoring the greener pastures in the Gaza Strip?

By Bassam Tawil, The Gatestone Institute

The Palestinian terror group Hamas has warned Palestinians in the Gaza Strip not to publish photos from the Gaza Strip on social media platforms.

In a June 9 statement, the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Interior claimed that “Israeli intelligence agencies have been asking residents of the Gaza Strip — through social media — to use their mobile phones to take pictures of various places in the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas warned Palestinians against complying with the alleged Israeli request and claimed that Israel was using social media accounts to “recruit collaborators and obtain information.”

Hamas added that its security forces were monitoring Israeli and Palestinian social media accounts and would take “legal measures” against Palestinians who interacted with the purported Israeli intelligence agencies.

Is Hamas actually worried that the Israeli security authorities would use the photos to “recruit” informants or that Palestinians might take pictures of its tunnels and rockets? Not exactly.

Hamas is worried that the photos and videos taken by Palestinians would reveal to the world a different reality of the situation in the Gaza Strip — a reality that runs contrary to all the stories and images of “poverty,” “misery” and “suffering” of Palestinians there.

What Hamas seeks to conceal from the world are the shopping malls, supermarkets, fancy restaurants, sleek coffee shops and modern clothing stores that have sprung up in the Gaza Strip in recent years.

Such images are excruciatingly embarrassing for the leaders of Hamas, who want to continue lying with impunity about Palestinians in the Gaza Strip suffering as a result of Israel’s “blockade” on the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave. These images are also an embarrassment to anti-Israel propagandists seeking to portray a completely different reality of life in the Gaza Strip as part of their campaign to delegitimize Israel and demonize Jews by holding them fully responsible for the “suffering” of Palestinians.

The Hamas warning came after several photos and video clips depicting the good life of many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip appeared on a number of social media platforms, particularly Twitter.

One popular Twitter account called, @Imshin, has been disseminating videos, blog spots, and news from the world of the middle-class and wealthy of the Gaza Strip that never makes it into the mainstream media. Relying on videos and photos taken by Palestinians, the account provides unique insight into the comfortable life of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as they engage in shopping sprees and enjoy their outings at swimming pools, upscale restaurants, luxurious hotels and beach resorts.

On June 2, the account featured a post about the Royal House Chalet, south of the University of Gaza — one of the most modern and lavish resorts in the Gaza Strip, fully equipped with an impressive swimming pool and state-of-the-art suites.

Another post features the Viola Restaurant and Café, a popular spot in the Gaza Port famous for its variety of desserts and snacks.

Palestinians planning a barbecue for Thursday night (the last day of work in the week) are invited to purchase all their barbecue supplies at the Care4Mall in the Gaza Strip. Located in the Tal al-Hawa suburb of Gaza City, the mall includes stores for home appliances, food stores and a fast-food court. “We provide all goods and services the citizen needs,” the shopping mall says on its Facebook page. “We strive to achieve customer satisfaction and appreciation by providing competitive prices.”

Ironically, the shopping mall also boasts that among the goods it provides is the Israeli instant coffee brand, Elite’s “Namess”. Apparently, Hamas and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have not heard of (or do not seem to care about) the anti-Israel campaign to boycott Israeli products and manufacturing companies, including the large food company Elite.

In other videos posted on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, the children of the Gaza Strip are documented purchasing mobile phones and enjoying the taste of various flavors of ice cream and slushies.

One of the popular ice cream businesses is the Kazem Ice Cream shop in the neighborhood of al-Rimal in the Gaza Strip, home to a number of Hamas leaders. Smartphones, including the iPhone 11, the most recent version of Apple devices, are available for sale in supermarkets throughout the Gaza Strip, as recently announced by Metro Market, one of the largest supermarkets in the area.

A few weeks ago, one of the Gaza Strip’s fanciest shopping malls was inaugurated in Nusierat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The new Al-Danaf Hyper Mall includes a large supermarket where shoppers can purchase various imported goods that are often not even available in Israeli markets.

Making Hamas Nervous

Earlier this year, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip celebrated the opening of the Deux Fashion clothing store, located on Ahmad Abd al-Aziz Street in Gaza City. The large store offers various clothing brands, mostly imported from Turkey and other countries. “The best place to buy men’s clothes, online or offline, with the highest quality for the best price,” reads the advertisement published on the store’s Facebook page.

These are only a handful of images from the Gaza Strip that make Hamas nervous. How can Hamas continue begging for financial aid from the United Nations and other international humanitarian aid organizations when Palestinians are posting photos families on shopping sprees and children eating ice cream and buying smartphones?

How can Hamas and its supporters around the world continue to complain about poverty and misery when new shopping malls and supermarkets filled with clothes and various types of luxury goods are being opened every few weeks in the Gaza Strip?

Why are foreign correspondents covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ignoring the greener pastures in the Gaza Strip? Why are Palestinian journalists based in the Gaza Strip dumping photographic documentation of these sunny, positive developments in the Gaza Strip into the dustbin? It is because such images do not fit their anti-Israel narrative and agenda.

The foreign and Palestinian journalists are complicit in the Hamas coverup: they want to continue blaming Israel for everything negative that Palestinians encounter. Given the latest Hamas warning, it is only a matter of time before one hears about Palestinians being imprisoned or killed for “betraying” the Palestinian cause by posting photos of the Gaza Strip’s newest version of “the Ritz” and children gleefully licking their multicolored ice-cream cones.

Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.

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