MEMRI has translated an article by Ashraf Abu Al-Houl about the growing recreation industry in Gaza and the low merchandise prices:
Journalist Ashraf Abu Al-Houl wrote in Al-Ahram: "I was last in Gaza in mid-February. Returning three weeks ago, I found it almost unrecognizable... and the greatest surprise was the nature of that change. I would have expected a change for the worse, considering the blockade – but the opposite was the case; it seemed as if it had emerged from the blockade.At the same time, the burgeoning recreation industry reflects the fact that wealth is now limited to a few groups in a way that did not exist previously:
"A sense of absolute prosperity prevails, as manifested by the grand resorts along and near Gaza's coast. Further, the sight of the merchandise and luxuries filling the Gaza shops amazed me. Merchandise is sold more cheaply than in Egypt, although most of it is from the Egyptian market, and there are added shipping costs and costs for smuggling it via the tunnels – so that it could be expected to be more expensive.
"Before I judge by appearances, which can be misleading... [I would like to point out that] I toured the new resorts, most of which are quite grand, as well as the commercial markets, to verify my hypothesis. The resorts and markets have come to symbolize prosperity, and prove that the siege is formal or political, not economic. The reality [in Gaza] proves that the siege was broken even before Israel's crime against the ships of the Freedom Flotilla in late May; everything already was coming into the Gaza Strip from Egypt. If this weren't the case, businessmen would not have been able to build so many resorts in under four months."
"The Gaza resorts paint a picture of prosperity enjoyed by only a few groups, most of which have become rich from the blockade, because they either own tunnels or else work for the many international organizations in Gaza, headed by UNRWA.An interesting point raised in the article is that besides the fact that Hamas shows little regard for the financial situation of the Gazans under its control, Hamas appears to have chosen an unusual location for some of these resorts:
"The Gaza resorts are divided into several [categories], each of which has its own price range. This is not like it used to be, when all the tables on the beach were for the use of all the residents... I noticed that most of the resorts set a certain price for the tables near the sea, and a different price for tables farther away. This is in addition to high fees to enter the resort – no less than NIS 20 – and each activity within the [grounds] has its own fee. In short, a family visit, with a sandwich for each child, can cost up to NIS 500.
"Several months ago, Gaza had only one luxury resort, Zahrat Al-Madain. Today, another one opens up every day, such as Crazy Water, Aqua Park, and Al-Bustan. Most of them are owned by members, or associates, of Hamas. In addition, the Hamas municipalities [also] charge high fees, in Gaza terms, for the use of public beaches."
Human rights activist and political correspondent Mustafa Ibrahim said, 'Building resorts in the north [of the Strip] is contrary to the most fundamental principles of investment, because they are in regions exposed to shelling and destruction, due to the unceasing Israeli threats.We already know that Hamas has in the past fired weapons from near hospitals and schools--is Hamas now pushing its exploitation of human shields up a notch, planning to use resorts for the same purpose?
Whatever Hamas is planning, it is clear that Hamas has benefited itself enormously from illegal trade and illegal drugs. Whatever the source of the funding, it is being used to benefit a few select groups.
For Hamas, the flotillas are just icing on the cake--propaganda that diverts attention from the scam these terrorists are running on their own people and on the West.
Technorati Tag: Gaza and Hamas.