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Emet m'Tsiyon

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Good Life in Gaza -- The Dolce Vita in the World's Largest Prison

UPDATED at bottom 8-21&23-&10-20-2011

What most of the MSM won't tell you. The rich in Gaza live the Dolce Vita. Here is a recent report from Il Sole-24 Ore, an Italian business/financial daily . Close observers of matters in and concerning Gaza have been aware for a few years now that those with money in Gaza have places to spend it, what with a new shopping center, gourmet restaurants, chic hotels, including the newly opened Al-Mashtal, as described by Francesca Marretta. Meanwhile, other reports have shown the abundant supply of food in Gaza for those who may not have the means to enjoy Roots, the local gourmet restaurant, or other bourgeois locations for mundane pleasures.

Here is Francesca Marretta's report in partial translation:

Five Menus, Fitness Room, and Pool for Men Only: Even in Gaza, It's la Dolce Vita on Ramadan Evenings
"With five menus . . . and as many dining halls, even the most refined palates find satisfaction. If the fish carpaccio as antipasto . . . is suited for those who want to keep their figures, those inclined to the sin of gluttony can choose Pizza Mamma Anna with shrimp, tomato, turkey salami and olives or the Don Nabil [= Arab name] with tomato, mozzarella, olives, anchovies, basilicum and olive oil. For eat and run, but still in slow food style, it is advisable to consult the sandwich menu, decidedly cheap when compared with the opulence of the place.
The air conditioning "a go go" is deceptive as is the marble flooring, the oak furniture, the multilevel pool faced by the terrace. It's hard to believe you're in Gaza, a place where 70% of the population officially lives below the poverty line [but poverty is much worse in Egypt--Eliyahu]. . . .
The structure was finished in 2006 when the management was in the hands of Movenpick which, however, left Gaza when Hamas took over in 2007. . . .

In these Ramadan evenings, the al-Mashtal's restaurants are thronged with customers who arrive at the chic night club to celebrate the iftar.. . . The hotel building is owned by the Palestinian Padico, a consortium also supported by capital from the Persian Gulf. Padico is headed by the Nablus magnate and suitable candidate for prime minister of the PA, Munib al-Masri.
. . . The Western customer not used to the usages and customs of Hamas' Gaza might be misled by the elegant long-stemmed goblets placed on the tables. It is useless to ask for the wine menu. No palestinian law blocks the consumption of alcohol. But the Islamist govt of Gaza does not allow it, not even for foreigners.

. . . Beyond the quiet guaranteed by the absence of hotel guests, a stay at the al-Mashtal, located at Soudania, presents several advantages compared with other chic hotels in Gaza, such as the Aldeira that faces the boardwalk [OR seaside promenade] at Rimal or the very new and elegant al-Matal, near the archeological museum. At equal prices, the five star managed by Spaniards [ArcMed Group], besides super-sized beds, has a fitness room with a tread mill, exercise bike, and weights. Schedule for men: 1100 h to 1300 h and 1700 to 2100. For women: 900 to 1100 and 1300 to 1700.

The sauna and Turkish bath are rigorously separate too.. . . In the summer heat, barely alleviated by a sea breeze, the hotel's strong point appears to be the multilevel pool, surrounded by palm trees, lounge chairs, and small tables. It is no use to ask for the schedule that assigns access for men and for women. Bathing and lounging in the sun are permitted only to gentlemen. Ladies may dip only if they are below the age of twelve.
---by Francesca Marretta, in Il Sole-24 Ore, 14 August 2011--

In another article, Francesca Marretta points out that
In Gaza, food is not lacking but liberty is. Not only because of the closure of borders imposed by Israel as well as by Egypt. The Palestinians of the Strip live under the magnifying glass of Hamas. In order to leave the Strip not only is a permit needed from Israel or from Egypt, but from the Islamic government too. . . . Food items of all kinds are coming into Gaza. [Il Sole-24 Ore, 14 August 2011]
A Gaza non manca il cibo, ma la libertà. Non solo per effetto della chiusura dei confini imposto da Israele, come dall'Egitto. I palestinesi della Striscia vivono sotto la lente d'ingrandimento di Hamas. Per lasciare la Striscia non serve solo il permesso israeliano o quello del Cairo, ma anche quello del governo islamico. . . . A Gaza entrano beni alimentari di ogni genere. [Il Sole-24 Ore, 14 Agosto 2011]
- - - - - - - - - - - -
8-21-2011 New York Times report confirms Francesca Marretta's picture of tight Hamas control over the lives of Gazans [here]
8-23-2011 Even the US-based Associated Press has noticed middle class prosperity in Gaza, in an article picked up by HaArets, believe it or not [here]. But workers in Gaza are often paid very low wages by their employers, fellow Muslim Arabs. "Many employed Gazans are paid miserly wages, keeping them struggling. They include the seamstress Nisrine, who is paid 5 dollars a day, money that her family keeps. Baker Sami Awad, 27, earns 9 dollars a day to support his five siblings and his sister's two children."
10-20-2011 The al-Mashtal Hotel had the dishonor of hosting terrorist mass murderers released in the trade for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was held by Hamas for more than five years under illegal and cruel conditions in violation of international law.
A pix of the pool at the al-Mashtal.
An AP article on the al-Mashtal avoids mentioning the many prosperous Arabs who do patronize the hotel, as Francesca Marretta described.
Hunter Stuart, an originally pro-PLO, pro-Arab, anti-Israel reporter, who let reality change his mind about the Middle East situation. Stuart deserves credit since most journalists do not let reality change their minds [here]:
When I visited the Gaza Strip a few months later, I again saw the difference between how journalists portray a place and reality. Reading about Gaza in the news, you’d think the whole place was rubble, that it looks more or less like Homs or Aleppo. In fact Gaza is no different in appearance from anywhere else in the Arab World. During eight days in the Strip, I didn’t see a single war-damaged building until I specifically asked my fixer to show me one. In response, she drove me to Shujaya, a neighborhood of Gaza City that’s a known Hamas stronghold and is still visibly damaged from the 2014 war.
Was the destruction in Shujaya shocking? Yes. But it was very localized, and not at all indicative of the rest of Gaza. The rest of Gaza is not so different from many developing countries: people are poor but they manage to provide for themselves, and even to dress well and be happy most of the time. Actually, there are parts of the Strip that are quite nice. I went out to eat at restaurants where the tables are made from marble and the waiters wear vests and ties. I saw huge villas on the beach that wouldn’t be out of place in Malibu, and – right across the street from those villas – I visited a new, $4 million mosque.
Do Gazans endure some incredible hardships? You bet. Are most of them living in destroyed buildings, open to the elements, as news outlets often portray them? Absolutely not. I don’t begrudge them their marble tables or their beachside villas. Like anyone else, they want to be comfortable, to enjoy life. But I find it odd that once in awhile, foreign news organizations wouldn’t see fit to run an article about Gaza’s wealthy neighborhoods or million-dollar mosques.

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