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October 22, 2009
Distorted picture of Gaza imports in NYT
In its Oct. 22 edition, the New York Times publishes an article by its Gaza correspondent, Taghreed El-Khodari, about the lively commerce that moves into Gaza from Egypt via smuggling tunnels, which are designed to overcome an economic embargo by Cairo and Jerusalem against the Hamas-ruled territory ("Goods Flood Gaza's Tunnels, Turning Border With Egypt Into a Shopping Mecca" page A10).
The article, with accompanying map and photos, is spread across half a page. It enumerates in great detail the wide variety of goods that move through the tunnels -- many foodstuffs, but also many big-ticket items in huge quantities like motorcycles, and flat-screen TV sets.
In one respect, the story provides an important corrective to the usual media reports about a grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In this particular dispatch, we are told that tunnel business is so vast that its owners and operators have become millionaires and that Gazans have plenty of cash to buy stuff at inflated prices.
But in one other significant respect, the article does a great disservice to Times readers by failing to give them a complete picture of where Gaza-destined basic and other supplies come from.
For example, Khodari reports that a local merchant opened a 24-hour grocery store that caters to Palestinians from throughout Gaza. And he then adds: "Only the milk and the yogurt come from Israel. The soft drinks, beans, chocolate cookies and cooking oil come in consignments from under the ground (from Egypt)."
This is the only reference in the entire article that some goods actually are reaching Gazans from Israel.
Except that shipments from Israel provide Gazans with far, far more than just milk and yogurt.
What's grievously missing from this coverage is that thousands of tons of a vast variety of goods reach Gaza every week through several border crossings from Israel.
These include dairy goods, meats, grain, fruit, canned goods, sugar, rice and other kinds of food. In addition, Israel sends ambulances and a wide range of medicines into Gaza, including vaccines.
Gazans, in addition, receive from Israel sufficient gas for all their domestic-use needs. Plus heavy-duty diesel from Gaza's power station. Plus blankets, wheelchairs, fodder for livestock, to name but a few other non-food products that move into Gaza from Israel on a regular basis.
Unlike the one-way traffic through the tunnels form Egypt into Gaza, Israeli border crossings see a lively two-way traffic all the time. Scores of seriously ill Gazans are admitted into Israel and treated in its hospitals just the way Israelis are. Sometimes, Israeli doctors even tend to Gaza patients while under attack by Gaza-launched rockets.
In additon, Israel actually tries in some ways to strengthen Gaza's economy by allowing Gaza carnation growers to export their flowers to Europe via Israel.
In sharp contrast to the Times' extensively detailed report on what moves from Egypt into Gaza via tunnels, the Times has yet to publish a similar-size article about all the goods that move from Israel into Gaza -- or anything even approaching that.
To give readers a complete picture, the Oct. 22 article should have been twinned with a similarly comprehensive report about all the traffic that moves through Israeli border crossings into and from Gaza.
It easily would have required the other half of the page.
So, will the Times finally give readers one of these days "all the news that's fit to print"?
Here's one reader still waiting for such a miracle.