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The Only Democracy? » Discrimination » Gourmet in Gaza

Gourmet in Gaza

By Jesse Bacon

As a food snob, I immediately think what restaurants are nearby when planning any excursion. Even if its to a beseiged war zone that Israel forbids from rebuilding. So it’s good to hear from the Israeli government that if by some chance they let me into Gaza there would be a gourmet restaurant waiting for me! No coriander allowed, but I am sure that leads the creative cooks into all sorts of Iron Chef-like challenges.

I learned of this latest outrage from Lisa Goldman’s new to me, but excellent-looking blog.

It’s true that foreign correspondents with expense accounts can afford to eat beef stroganoff made from tunnel-smuggled ingredients at the Roots Club. So can a tiny percentage of Gazans who still have money – reporters and fixers who work for the international press, for example. But, given that 80 percent of Gazans live off international aid, and 1.1 million (out of 1.5 million) live with “food insecurity,” I’m guessing that not many can afford the beef stroganoff or the cream of spinach soup at the Roots Club.

The thing is, I don’t really understand the government’s message. It’s confusing!  On the one hand they’re telling us that things are not that bad in Gaza (which could be true if your measure for comparison is Zimbabwe or Congo, I suppose), even though they neglect to tell us that the smuggling tunnels are pretty much all that’s standing between COGAT and a full-blown humanitarian crisis. But on the other hand, they tell us that the siege is imposed in order to make the situation so bad that Hamas will be forced to surrender power and release Gilad Shalit. But if the situation is really as wonderful as the government claims, then how do they expect to bring Hamas to its knees?

And here’s Gisha’s latest Gaza Gateway which speculates that Israel’s eagerness to avoid looking too controllling of Gaza stems from the upcoming arrival of the Free Gaza international relief flotilla.

At a time when Israel’s security officials should probably be focused on this week’s extensive home front security drill, it seems that that most of their attention is being paid to the flotilla of ships on its way to the Gaza Strip, laden with humanitarian supplies. Frantic consultations between officials and the prime minister’s top military chiefs of staff have taken place, an urgent meeting of a forum of senior government ministers was held, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has engaged in extensive activities, and an urgent press conference was held at the Erez border crossing. In particular, the Israeli government’s public relations machine has been mobilized with the intent of persuading the public that there is no need for the flotilla, due to the fact that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is fine, the Strip’s markets are abundant, and its gourmet restaurants are thriving.
Of course, an initial question comes to mind – if there is such prosperity, then how exactly is the closure policy promoting Israel’s goal to weaken the Hamas government? But beyond that, the government’s message is likely to be confusing to the layperson. For example, if the economic situation in Gaza is so magnificent, as stated in the cynical message distributed by the Government Press Office yesterday – why does another public statement by the State of Israel proudly declare that 738,000 tons of humanitarian aid were transferred to the Gaza Strip last year? How, the reader might also ask, are these statements of prosperity compatible with the contradictory information frequently released by international organizations (organizations with whom Israel proudly declares itself to be cooperating)?

A final Gaza note is that a recent attack on a UNRWA children’s camp shows the perils of trying to overthrow someone else’s government. I don’t think Hamas is going to be overthrown anytime soon, but it’s worth remembering they are not the worse people who could be running Gaza. Hamas condemned the attack and made arrests. However, they did ban protests against the destruction.

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JESSE BACON (Philadelphia) is a freelance activist and father. He has a Masters in teaching from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He is an observant progressive Jew, and is trying to be a good ally for Palestinians and all dispossessed peoples, while staying true to the best traditions in Judaism. He visited Israel and Palestine in 1996, 2001, and 2002. He served for three years on the local steering committee of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, and one year on the board of Pursue the Peace in Seattle. Read his posts here.

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