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August 23, 2010
NYT spins anti-Israel story in Gaza shopping mall coverage
In recent weeks, a new, bustling two-story mall in Gaza City has been discovered by various media (AT over a month ago - editor), which have pointed out that this shopping mecca doesn't quite fit the standard cliché of Gaza as one of the world's most miserably impoverished places in the world.
Now comes Ethan Bronner, the New York Times' Jerusalem bureau chief, with an article acknowledging that there's something "slightly bewildering" to see shelves full of Israeli hummus and jars of Israeli honey in a Gaza mall ("Amid Colonges and Chips, Mall Seeks to Make Statement of Resolve" page A7, August 23)
Bronner, however, has his own personal agenda and views the thriving Gaza mall through his own ideological lends. He takes great pains to deconstruct the view of "Israel's fiercest defenders," who argue that the mall gives the lie to incessant Western media reports that made Gaza "famous for its misery" and who contend that aid flotillas are headed to the wrong place.
Bronner will have none of that. Definitely, don't ever put Bronner in the same camp as Israel's "fiercest defenders."
The Gaza mall, he reports, may evoke American shopping malls "but it is not one of them." It's just a puny, little mall -- "the size of a suburban residential lot in the U.S. that would fit in its entirety into a corner of any J.C. Penney." And while it stocks a lot of other things, it doesn't sell appliances or electronics. In sum, "it is small," Bronner emphasizes.
Still, what's all this widespread perception, fostered for years by the NY Times, of Gaza as a hell-hole of "despair and misery"? Bronner insists there's still plenty of misery, but it's a "misery of dependence, immobility and hopelessness, not of grinding want." So the flotilla movement to breach Israel's blockade, which claims to be a humanitarian effort to bring badly needed supplies to Gaza, isn't anything of the sort. Now it's given a quite different role by Bronner. "The flotilla movement," he avers, "is not about material aid; it is about Palestinian freedom and defiance of Israeli power."
Which is of course the propaganda line of the fiercest Hamas supporters. Accordingly, Bronner sums up his piece with a quote from one of the mall's saleswomen that "by opening the mall we broke the siege. And we will keep challenging Israel in other ways. We are strong people."
Several observations about Bronner's article:
For starters, this "small mall," as Bronner describes it, is not the only sign of a better-off Gaza than he and the Times usually depict it. Automobile traffic in Gaza City is as busy as downtown traffic in many American cities. Gaza also sports chic boutiques and modern salons. Bronner somehow overlooks this well-off panorama of Gaza that goes far beyond the "small mall" he zeroes in on.
Even more important are overall living standards of Gazans, which Bronner also skips. According to the CIA World Factbook, the bible for such statistics, infant mortality rate in Gaza is 17.87 per thousand babies -- a better showing than can be found in more than 100 countries. In fact, Gaza has a lower infant mortality rate than Turkey, where more than 24 out of every thousand babies die in infancy.
Yes, Turkey, which organized its own flotilla to bring aid packages to Gaza, has greater needs when it comes to living standards than Gaza. Ditto when you look at life expectancy. Again, Gaza's life expectancy is a respectable 73.68 years -- a better showing than more than that of 100 countries that trail behind Gaza. And Turkey again also lags behind Gaza with a life expectancy rate of 72.23 years.
Bronner, however, ignores these basic statistics about life in Gaza. He's more interested in developing his new thesis that Gaza's misery is one of "dependence, immobility and hopelessness" -- with Israel, of course, as the responsible party. Which fits nicely with Hamas's propaganda that whatever problems there are in Gaza, they're all Israel's fault.
Thus, again, there's no mention that thousands of Gazans requiring special medical care are far from being trapped in "immobility" in Gaza. Instead, they are admitted into Israel and welcomed in its hospitals where they get cutting-edge medical care. Bronner, however, is not interested in chronicling their "mobility" across the border with Israel. He's more intent on falsely painting Gaza as completely isolated from the rest of the world.
Finally, Bronner suggests that Gazans generally are in sync with Hamas, as he blames only Israel for Gazans having to put up with Israel's sea blockade and the joint Egyptian-Israeli land blockade. There's not a word in his article about the thousands of rockets fired by Hamas into southern Israel -- the very reason for whatever "dependence, immobility and hopelessness" exist in Gaza.
What Bronner also conspicuously omits is that polls consistently show a slide in Hamas's approval ratings, which are lower in Gaza where residents know Hamas best, than in the West Bank.
But that's also an inconvenient fact for Bronner, who lets Hamas off the hook and aims his fire only at Israel.