I have read few things more disturbing than this week’s media reports from Gaza describing full supermarket shelves offering a wide variety of choices. For if this is true, there is only one way to interpret all the previous years’ reports: as intentional collusion with Hamas on an anti-Israel smear campaign.
For years, the media bombarded us with reports on the grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza: people going hungry, children deprived of toys and schoolbooks, a population denied all the good things of life due to Israel’s cruel blockade.
But suddenly, now that Israel has agreed to end the blockade on most civilian products, we get reports like this one from the New York Times: “The store shelves were filled on Monday in Rafah and in Deir al Balah and Gaza City, the shops stocked with all kinds of supplies, stoves, refrigerators, fans, generators — most smuggled through tunnels dug deep beneath the border with Egypt.” People “said they were not starving” and that easing the blockade would improve their lives only “at the margins”: they would be able to buy soda in cans “that were not covered in sand,” or Israeli appliances instead of “low-quality Chinese goods.”
Or this report, from Haaretz: “The market is still full of items brought through the tunnels and it is possible that merchants will not immediately order ‘permitted’ items from Israel — because there are similar items from Egypt,” said economist Muhammed Skaik of the Gaza branch of Paltrade. And anyway, he added, “ketchup, snacks and mayonnaise, for example … are not essential items that will genuinely change the situation.” True, but isn’t that exactly what Israel claimed for years — to universal derision?
Indeed, the situation is so far from desperate that Hamas has announced it will bar many of the newly permitted products from entering Gaza altogether — such as Israeli cookies, juices, soft drinks, and salads. But has anyone noticed any media outcry lately against Hamas for depriving Gazans of the same products Israel was excoriated for withholding?
And then there is this interesting statistic: “An infant in Gaza has a life expectancy a year and a half longer than his Turkish cousin — 73.5 as compared to 72.” Anyone care to explain how, despite having been brutally starved by Israel for years, Gazans still manage to outlive residents of wealthy, peace-loving, democratic Turkey?
In reality, of course, none of this is new; reporters could have gone to Gaza anytime over the past few years and described the same full supermarket shelves and the same wide variety of products. But instead, they preferred to collude with Hamas in accusing Israel of causing widespread hunger and deprivation.
And the only reason they have changed their tune now is that Israel’s decision to end the civilian blockade makes it vital to update the smear campaign: to explain that Gaza is still a place of “limited options and few hopes for a better life” (to quote the Times), that easing the blockade will do nothing to change this, and that the misery is still, somehow, all Israel’s fault.