I’m not a great fan of Peter Hitchens but he has provided what is probably the most balanced view of the realities of life in Gaza.
He actually went there and reported his findings in a MailOnline article a few days ago.
It is lunchtime in the world’s biggest prison camp, and I am enjoying a rather good caffe latte in an elegant beachfront cafe.
And so it begins with a statement we don’t quite know how to take. Is he being ironic about the ‘prison camp’ thing? Is this a reference to David Cameron’s infamous statement in Turkey a few weeks ago? or does he really mean it? And if he does mean it, how come he is enjoying coffee in style on the beach. Is it a ‘prison camp’ or a holiday camp?
Later I will visit the sparkling new Gaza Mall, and then eat an excellent beef stroganoff in an elegant restaurant.
What’s he saying? Can Gaza have this sort of normality? Didn’t the Israelis raze it all to the ground? Are the people not all living in rubble? Hold on, that comes later.
I would be having a stiff drink instead, if only the ultra-Islamic regime hadn’t banned alcohol with a harsh and heavy hand.
That’s a bit strong, isn’t it. After all, Gaza is part of the Muslim world and alcohol is against their religion. Oh, I see the point now, it’s not the banning, it’s the way they have banned it. ‘Harsh and heavy’. Who? Hamas? That same Hamas so beloved by George Galloway and Lauren Booth and those nice flotilla chaps? Steady on Peter. Are you are Zionist stooge? Aren’t you Jewish? I seem to recall… Well, never mind, we’ll move on from such thoughts as Lauren Booth is actually more Jewish than you are.
Now we hear about how the intrepid Peter found a 90ft deep ‘smuggling tunnel’ (There he goes again – it’s a vital humanitarian lifeline, you Zionist fraud)
This tunnel was dug near the Egyptian border without a problem, apparently.
unbelievably – officially licensed by the local authority as a ‘trading project’ (registration fee £1,600).
It was until recently used for the import of cattle, chocolate and motorcycles (though not, its owner insists, for munitions or people) and at its peak earned more than £30,000 a day in fees.
£30,000 a day! That’s more than the Iranians pay La Booth in a month! To what noble causes is all this wealth put, I wonder.
But business has collapsed because the Israelis have relaxed many of their restrictions on imports, and most such tunnels are going out of business.
Oy! Those terrible Israelis again ruining the Gazan economy.
While I was there I heard the whine of Israeli drones and the thunder of jet bombers far overhead.
Then, worryingly soon after I left, the area was pulverised with high explosive. I don’t know if the Israeli air force waited for me to leave, or just walloped the tunnels anyway.
The Israelis wouldn’t attack a Zionist stooge like you, Peter. They knew exactly where you were.
But the Israeli authorities certainly know I am here. I am one of only four people who crossed into the world’s most misrepresented location this morning.
At least we now see some of the reality of daily life for Gazans. The Israelis just will not allow them to smuggle arms and explosives in peace so they can fire them at Israeli schoolchildren. How inhumane can you get!
Don’t, please, accuse of me of complacency or denying the truth. I do not pretend to know everything about Gaza. I don’t think it is a paradise, or remotely normal. But I do know for certain what I saw and heard.
Wouldn’t dream of it, old chap (Stooge!!)
There are dispiriting slums that should have been cleared decades ago, people living on the edge of subsistence.
Sounds par for the course for much of the Middle East apart from the Zionist entity. I think you are referring to the UNWRA refugee camps for the great great great grandchildren of people who say they used to live in the Zionist entity. Can’t get rid of them, old thing, John Ging would be out of a job and many photo opportunities would be lost.
There is danger. And most of the people cannot get out.
Danger from whom? Israelis? Certainly. Hamas? Definitely. People can’t get out? Now you are stretching the imagination too far, stooge. Don’t the evil Zionists take thousands of people a year to be treated in Israeli hospitals at Israeli tax-payer expense? Can’t anyone get out of the tunnels? Isn’t there a border with Egypt? Why don’t they let the Gazans out and sod the Zionists?
What? They don’t like Hamas? Fear of Islamists? Where’s their compassion! They are behaving like.. like Zionists!
… politicians and public alike have been herded down a dead end that serves only propagandists and cynics, and leaves the people of this beautiful, important part of the world suffering needlessly.
Cynics? Is he talking about me? Yes, there is suffering. Caused by all sides, and a lot of this suffering in Gaza and the West Bank is not needless, because it serves a purpose: to vilify Israelis by preserving obscene conditions, by not settling refugees and their distant descendants and keeping them in camps . So it is not needless at all. It is rather a good trick and one which is actually believed by many people.
… our Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently fawned on his Islamist hosts in Turkey by stating Gaza was a ‘prison camp’. This phrase is the official line of the well-funded Arab and Muslim lobby, who want to make sure Israel is seen by the world as a villainous oppressor.
Ah, so Peter has not fallen for it after all. I’m warming to Hitch junior.
Well, Israeli soldiers can and do act with crude brutality. Israeli settlers can and do steal Arab water and drive Arabs off their land. Israeli politicians are often coarse and insensitive.
But the Israelis have all to be perfect. We cannot have a Jewish state where every citizen behaves impeccably. Israeli politicians ‘coarse and insensitive’? Now where did he get that idea from? After all, when the entire world appears to be against you, when your neighbours have wanted to annihilate you for a hundred years, when other nations want to see you erased from the map of history, when rockets rain down on your country daily, how dare you be coarse and insensitive. I don’t know. These Jews have a massive chip on their shoulder. Persecution complex I think. As if they have any reason for it.
The treatment of Israel’s Arab citizens is one of the great missed opportunities of history, needlessly mean and short-sighted. The seizure of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 were blunders, made worse by later folly.
Did I say I was warming to you, Peter? I take it back. ‘Mean and short-sighted’ and that word, ‘needlessly’ again. Perhaps they have been a bit mean to provide their Arab citizens with full voting rights, health care, a greater life-expectancy than their neighbours, a lower infant mortality rate than their Arab brethren in other Middle Eastern countries, access to a university education, freedom of worship, free speech, a free press. How mean can you get!
And Israel, having been attacked by Jordan and Egypt from the West Bank and Gaza which both countries illegally occupied, and having defeated said countries, they should have handed it back and let bygones be bygones. And when Jordan and Egypt withdrew any claim to the West Bank and Gaza which they held for 19 years without creating a Palestinian state, Israel should have just allowed these areas to come under PLO control so they could murder more Israelis. Sounds sensible to me. If you are a complete suicidal imbecile.
‘Later folly’. Now there he may have a point.
Now back to the Hitch I like, you know, the Zionist stooge version, not the journalist with opinions, some of which I disagree with.
But if you think Israel is the only problem, or that Israelis are the only oppressors hereabouts, think again. Realise, for a start, that Israel no longer rules Gaza. Its settlements are ruins.
Good point, Pete.
No Israelis can be found inside its borders. And, before you say ‘but Israel controls the Gaza border’, look at a map. The strip’s southern frontier – almost as hard to cross as the Israeli boundary – is with Egypt. And Cairo is as anxious as Israel to seal in the Muslim militants of Hamas.
That’s exactly what I said. Good on you, mate. (Why have I gone all Australian. Must be that Daphne dame I keep reading)
Hitchens tells us how Gaza was bombed by Israel the same day he arrived in retaliation to a rocket strike by ‘Arab militants’. Wha!? Unguided rockets aimed at civilian targets is militancy, is it. Get a grip Hitcho. That’s terrorism in anyone’s book.
He tells us that many Gazans hate these ‘militants’ because they know Israel will retaliate. Is he saying Israel targets civilians? They target the tunnels and this is why Hamas is not liked. Not because they are murderous bastards, but because it hurts them and their nice little earners.
We segue back to Operation Cast Lead two years ago and Hitch tells us of an interview with ‘Ibrahim’ (good choice, ‘Mohammed’ would have been a bit too obvious.) This ‘Ibrahim’ (why does Peter think that he has to use a different name for the storyteller to his actual name; does the guy have such an unusual first name that Hamas will immediately seek him out and do something nasty?)
Anyway. This ‘Ibrahim’ begged Hamas to sod off out of his house during Cast Lead and not launch rockets from his roof. Did they comply? Did they ‘eck as like. (Now I have gone all Corrie)
… you can begin to understand how complex it is living here, where those who claim to defend you bring death to your door.
Is he saying Hamas broke the Geneva Convention and common humanity by using human shields? He clearly has not read the Goldstone report. Hamas were largely innocent, don’t you know.
Hitch draws some pictures for us of Gazans behaving quite ‘normally’, some with ostentatious wealth.
the ‘prison camp’ designation is a brain-dead over-simplification. If it is wrong for the rich to live next door to the desperate – and we often assume this when we criticise Israel – then what about Gaza’s wealthy, and its Hamas rulers?
I think he means the desperate of the West Bank where squillions of dollars, euros and pounds have been poured for decades only to be filtered off by Arafat and his cronies and successors and put into Swiss bank accounts whilst they maintain many of their people in 3rd world conditions.
Thankfully, some of that is now changing in the West Bank, but a refugee camp is not for life, it’s for eternity in the Palestinian and Arab world.
Hitch does not mention the persecution of Palestinians by Jordanians or the Lebanese or the Syrians. Palestinians with all their problems, are still better off than their counterparts in Arab countries.
Now we are back to the Hitch beloved of Zion:
Then there is the use of the word ‘siege’.
Can anyone think of a siege in human history, from Syracuse to Leningrad, where the shops of the besieged city have been full of Snickers bars and Chinese motorbikes, and where European Union and other foreign aid projects pour streams of cash (often yours) into the pockets of thousands?
Err… let me think (Jeremy Paxman: ‘Come on, come on’)
(Stentorian voice off camera): Liverpool, Cook!!
(Paxo) ‘Correct. Now three more questions on the history of sieges…’
(Hitchens Pythonesque, as Alan Whicker):
In Gaza’s trapped, unequal society, a wealthy and influential few live in magnificent villas with sea views and their own generators to escape the endless power cuts.
Gaza also possesses a reasonably well-off middle class, who spend their cash in a shopping mall – sited in Treasure Street in Gaza City, round the corner from another street that is almost entirely given over to shops displaying washing machines and refrigerators.
At last, Hitchens is catching up with me:
What about Gaza’s ‘refugee camps’. The expression is misleading. Most of those who live in them are not refugees, but the children and grandchildren of those who fled Israel in the war of 1948.
All the other refugees from that era – in India and Pakistan, the Germans driven from Poland and the Czech lands, not to mention the Jews expelled from the Arab world – were long ago resettled.
Unbelievably, these people are still stuck in insanitary townships, hostages in a vast struggle kept going by politicians who claim to care about them. These places are not much different from the poorer urban districts of Cairo, about which nobody, in the Arab world or the West, has much to say.
It is not idle to say that these ‘camps’ should have been pulled down years ago, and their inhabitants rehoused. It can be done. The United Arab Emirates, to their lasting credit, have paid for a smart new housing estate with a view of the Mediterranean.
It shows what could happen if the Arab world cared as much as it says it does about Gaza. Everyone in Gaza could live in such places, at a cost that would be no more than small change in the oil-rich Arab world’s pocket.
But the propagandists, who insist that one day the refugees will return to their lost homes, regard such improvements as acceptance that Israel is permanent – and so they prefer the squalor, for other people.Those who rightly condemn the misery of the camps should ask themselves whose fault it really is. As so often in the Arab world, the rubbish-infested squalor of the streets conceals clean, private quarters, not luxurious and sometimes basic, but out of these places emerge each day huge numbers of scrubbed, neatly-uniformed children, on their way to schools so crammed that they have two shifts.
I wish I was sure these young people were being taught the principles of human brotherhood and co-existence. But I doubt it. On a wall in a street in central Gaza, a mural – clearly displayed with official approval – shows an obscene caricature of an Israeli soldier with a dead child slung from his bayonet.
Didn’t I just say all that? Ok, maybe not as well.
I’ll continue with the rest of Peter Hitchens’ informative article in my next blog where he discovers that Christians in the West Bank are not being persecuted by Israelis, as the boycotting Methodists believe, but by Muslims.