That was quick. No sooner had Israel announced it was easing the blockade on
Gaza, in the wake of the flotilla affair, than the poor starving residents we’ve
all heard so much about opened a shopping mall. Talk about conspicuous
The mall was apparently a work quietly in progress for more
than a year – many UN debates and European Union statements on the “humanitarian
crisis” ago – but it officially opened only last week.
Putting things in
proportion, the shopping center, covering roughly 9,700 sq. ft., is only on two
stories, does not have an escalator and, according to Palestinian journalists,
does not come even close to the style of an American mall. Or even Israeli
malls, for that matter.
On the other hand, as an Israel Television
reporter noted, neither does it need to have armed security guards and metal
detectors at the entrance. Unlike Israeli malls, the Hamas-sanctioned shoppers’
paradise is not likely to be the target of Palestinian suicide bombers using it
as a stop on the way to jihadi heaven.
I read several different reports
of the mall launch – for obvious reasons, I could not personally check this out
even if I were a consumer culture fan.
None mentioned whether the Gaza
shopping center is equipped with missile- proof shelters. No new buildings in
Israel – from malls to housing projects – are built without them. That’s because
just about every Israeli in the North and South of the country knows what it’s
like to come under attack – it’s only been four years since the Second Lebanon
War, after all, and Gazalaunched missiles still land in the Negev now and again
(and again), even a year and a half after Operation Cast Lead put an end to the
massive 80-rockets-a-day bombardments.
The new mall is equipped with
airconditioning, adding to its obvious attraction – in the summer heat, it’s
either there or Gaza’s beautiful beaches.
But this just fuels my
suspicions that the much-publicized Gazan energy crisis (blamed like everything
else on Israel) is not quite as severe as the Hamas leadership, dramatically
photographed working by candlelight, would have us believe.
the shopping center claim that most of the goods were smuggled into Gaza through
the tunnels from Egypt because of the Israeli blockade.
equally concerned with the ramifications of Hamas control in Gaza, also imposed
an embargo, which is often overlooked.) Still, it seems huge quantities of
cement and metal must have entered the Strip after all. It makes you wonder
about the amount of arms that got through.
Altogether, the mall requires
a mind shift. Looking for photos, the first images that popped up on the search
engines were of a homeless family still living in a tent after Israeli forces
reportedly bulldozed their house during Cast Lead – in an area from which Hamas
was launching missiles among its human shield population.
strange that Gazans can build a shopping mall for those who can afford to shop
(or afford to dream) before rebuilding the homes of those who lost them in the
AS FAR as I know, none of the Israelis whose homes were
destroyed by Palestinian missiles are out on the streets – which probably goes
to show why Israel over the past six decades or so has successfully absorbed
millions of immigrants and refugees while the Palestinians are the only people
who have managed to perpetuate their refugee status for more than 60
If bombed-out Israelis thought that the government was encouraging
the construction of shopping malls before replacing their apartment buildings,
they would move into protest tents, not shacks.
Not, of course, that all
Israeli construction has gone smoothly. As I have noted before, in all the
brouhaha created by the extreme haredim over the construction of new emergency
rooms on the site of ancient graves at Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center, it
was easy to overlook the fact that the main reason for the new wing is that it
would be missile-proof. We’ve become so used to the thought that Israeli
hospitals can be (and have been) hit by rockets that it doesn’t seem unusual
anymore. Just the same as Israelis traveling abroad are surprised by the lack of
security checks at the entrance to foreign malls, not targeted by Islamist
suicide bombers (heaven forbid).
Israeli hospitals also have security
checks. Who would purposely attack a hospital? Well, some people are so
ungrateful. Just look at the arrest publicized last week of a Hamas-affiliated
gang of terrorists operating in the West Bank and responsible for killing
policeman F.-Sgt. Yehoshua “Shuki” Sofer in a roadside ambush on June 14, just
three months ahead of his wedding.
Two weeks before the attack, a leader
of the terror cell accompanied his daughter to the Ein Kerem campus of
Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Medical Center where a tumor was removed from
her eye in surgery reportedly funded by an Israeli aid
Shopping might provide some form of escapism for those who
(unlike me) enjoy that sort of thing, but there is still a war going on out
there. Actually, there is still a war raging in my e-mail inbox, which is daily
bombarded with messages about Israel’s “war crimes.” While writing this piece,
for example, I found among my incoming mail a screed from a Danish-based group
called The Palestinian Information Center, whose anti- Israel message is
obviously outdated, although sadly not unfashionable.
“Stop Israel’s War
Crimes in Gaza,” its logo screamed; among the alleged crimes: a humanitarian
disaster, torture, home demolitions and illegal detentions.
proclaims “Gaza on Fire.” If I suggest that they use the water from Gaza’s
Olympic-size swimming pool to put it out, I wonder what the group’s next e-mail
will say. But I would like to remind them that Hamas controls Gaza, not Israel.
And as they brought up the subject of illegal detentions, it wouldn’t kill Hamas
to let Gilad Schalit go four years after he was abducted.
thing: The group should drop the photo of Ariel Sharon.
He’s been out of
the picture since he became comatose following his stroke in January
Sharon’s name did come up this month, however, as members of the
Jewish communities expelled/evacuated from their homes in Gush Katif began
marking the fifth anniversary since disengagement. While not exactly refugees,
many of the 7,000 former residents have yet to move into permanent homes. And I
have yet to find the person who lived there – even those who have rebuilt their
lives – who can’t say “told you so” regarding the increased shelling from Gaza
that followed the pullout.
Still, there is something comforting about the
thought of Gazans building a mall – any hint of economic improvement brings with
it a hope for peace and quiet.
News of the mall opening, however,
coincided with reports of the latest Hamas-imposed restriction. On July 18, the
Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry issued an order banning women from smoking
nargilas in public places in the Gaza Strip, saying the practice “violated
social norms and traditions.”
Who would have thought that the consumer
culture symbolized in shopping malls would be considered more acceptable than
smoking a water pipe in public? It goes to show that the customer does not
always have rights.
The writer is editor of
The International Jerusalem