The Gaza “shopping mall”: reality and hasbara
When he came to Washington a few months ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was touting the multiplex cinemas and shopping malls that have supposedly sprouted up in the West Bank as evidence of the “economic renaissance” going on there. There is no such economic renaissance — it is a mirage promoted by Israel and its collaborators — under the rubric of “economic peace.” In fact, in large parts of the West Bank, people are poorer even than in Gaza, which is saying something given the wretched poverty and unemployment in Gaza.
Now, Israel’s supporters have leapt on a minor story — the opening of a shopping “mall” in Gaza — to perform a similar hasbara trick: ‘there is no poverty in Gaza, no siege, no hunger, no malnutrition. Just look at them, they are living better than we do!’ I have seen such messages on many right-wing and pro-Israel sites.
Israel’s Ynet reported:
While Hamas continues to demand a full lifting of the blockade, the Gaza market seems to be doing alright. Gaza Mall, the first ever shopping center in the Strip was opened last Saturday with masses storming the new attraction.
The two-floor compound, each stretching over roughly 9,700 sq. ft, offers international brands as well as much-needed air conditioning. Tens of thousands of shoppers from Rafah to Beit Hanoun have already visited the site within a matter of days, making the center Gaza’s new craze.
First, note that the reported size is about 20,000 square feet (1,850 square meters). To put this in perspective, the average size of a Wal-Mart store in the US is five times larger than the entire Gaza “mall”: 108,000 square feet (with the largest Wal-Mart stores going up to 185,000 square feet!).
Now I have received this eyewitness account from a source in Gaza:
“I found out about the Gaza mall. Yes it exists. The goods in there are very expensive and it’s not a real mall, barely bigger than a little supermarket. It has 4 sections, one sells vegetables grown in Gaza, the 2nd section sells clothes and shoes, a 3rd section is like a huge supermarket with things brought to Gaza through the tunnels, and the last sells electric materials, TVs, stereos… The owners are very rich people in the Gaza Strip. Most of the stuff being sold are either made in Gaza, or brought via tunnels. And there are no thousands visitors, when I went there, I saw about 15-20 people only.”
Gaza is a territory with 1.5 million people. They ought to have a normal life. That this small store is being celebrated as a major achievement shows just how hard the Israeli siege is biting. It also shows — as I reported in a previous blog post — that the siege is producing a small wealthy economic elite, while the vast majority suffers.