Fancy restaurants and Olympic-size swim pools: what the media won’t report about Gaza

May 25, 2010

Above: the courtyard of the Roots restaurant in Gaza.


* While prominent Western media continue to lead their viewers and readers astray with accounts of a non-existent “mass humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza, fancy restaurants (video below) and an Olympic-size swimming pool open there

* Most Israeli towns don’t have Olympic-size swimming pools

* Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live a middle class (and in some cases an upper class) lifestyle that Western journalists refuse to report on because it doesn’t fit with the simplistic story they were sent to write

* If you drop into the Roots Club in Gaza, according to the Lonely Planet guidebook, you can “dine on steak au poivre and chicken cordon bleu” (video, photos below)

* UN-run summer camp for Palestinian children burned to the ground for being “un-Islamic”; UN staff there threatened with murder; UN Security Council fails to react

* It is quite something when the president of a country (Shimon Peres) sees the need to criticize a foreign newspaper, such are the depths that The Guardian sunk to yesterday


Above: A part of the restaurant’s 12-page menu, which includes a wide range of meat, poultry and seafood dishes. The restaurant is popular with Gazans holding weddings and other celebrations, UN and NGO workers, and foreign journalists.


Above: A Palestinian newspaper photo (May 18, 2010) shows Gazan children in the newly built Olympic-sized swimming pool which opened earlier this month, despite continuing claims by some Western journalists and NGOs that there are no building materials and a severe shortage of water in Gaza.


Above: Recent photos from Gaza’s fruit and vegetable markets, a cake shop, and a children’s clothing store and toy stand in Gaza City. Hardly the “World War II-era concentration camp” that some Western journalists have claimed Gaza resembles.



Thank you to all those commentators that have recommended reading this dispatch. It has also been referred to in a Jerusalem Post news article and editorial (paragraph 5), and in news articles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Spectator, and other publications.



1. The lies the media and NGOs tell about Gaza
2. Steak au poivre and chicken cordon bleu
3. Starved of water and building materials?
4. An industry of lies
5. Gaza’s Olympic-sized swimming pool
6. Who burned down the summer camp?
7. “A summer program of arts and sport” unacceptable to Islamists
8. “Teaching schoolgirls dancing and immorality”
9. Foreign governments and NGOs ignore Hamas’s worsening human rights record
10. Dozens more West Bank roadblocks to be dismantled
11. Shimon Peres attacks The Guardian’s blatant lies
12. Obama slowly paving the way for military strikes on Iran’s nuclear program?


[Notes below by Tom Gross]

In recent days, the international media, particularly in Europe and the Mideast, has been full of stories about “activist boats sailing to Gaza carrying desperately-needed humanitarian aid and building materials.”

The BBC World Service even led its world news broadcasts with this story at one point over the weekend. (The BBC yesterday boasted that its global news audience has now risen to 220 million persons a week, making it by far the biggest news broadcaster in the world.)

Yet the BBC and other media fail to report on the fancy new restaurants and swimming pools of Gaza, or about the wind surfing competitions on Gaza beaches, or the Strip’s crowded shops and markets.

No, this would spoil their agenda. Playing the manipulative game of the BBC is easy. If we had their vast taxpayer funded resources, we too could produce reports about parts of London, Manchester and Glasgow and make it look as though there is a humanitarian catastrophe throughout the UK. We could produce the same effect by selectively filming seedy parts of Paris and Rome and New York and Los Angeles too.

Of course there is poverty in Gaza. There is poverty in parts of Israel too. (When was the last time a foreign journalist based in Israel left the pampered lounge bars and restaurants of the King David and American Colony hotels in Jerusalem and went to check out the slum-like areas of southern Tel Aviv? Or the hard-hit Negev towns of Netivot or Rahat?)

But the way the BBC and other prominent Western news media are deliberately misleading global audiences and systematically creating the false impression that people are somehow starving in Gaza, and that it is all Israel’s fault, can only serve to increase hatred for the Jewish state – which one suspects was the goal of many of the editors and reporters involved in the first place.



If you drop by the Roots Club in Gaza, according to the Lonely Planet guidebook for Gaza and the West Bank, you can “dine on steak au poivre and chicken cordon bleu”.

The restaurant’s website in Arabic gives a window into middle class dining and the lifestyle of Hamas officials in Gaza.

And here it is in English, for all the journalists, UN types and NGO staff who regularly frequent this and other nice Gaza restaurants (but don’t tell their readers about them).

Please take a look at the pictures on the above website. They are not the kind of things you see in The New York Times or CNN or in Newsweek, whose international edition last week had one of the most disgracefully misleading stories about Gaza I have ever seen, portraying it in terms which were virtually reminiscent of Hiroshima after a nuclear blast.

And here is a promotional video of the club restaurant:

In case anyone doubts the authenticity of this video (which is up on the club’s own website), I just called the club in Gaza City and had a nice chat with the manager who proudly confirmed business is booming and many Palestinians and international guests are dining there.

In a piece for The Wall Street Journal last year, I documented the “after effects” of a previous “emergency Gaza boat flotilla,” when the arrivals were seen afterwards purchasing souvenirs in well-stocked shops.

And please see here for more pictures of Gaza’s “impoverished” shops.


The front of the Roots Club flyer reads:
Ambiance galore.
Beautifully designed buffets.
Every detail handled for you.



While Western media, misled by corrupt and biased NGOs, continue to report on a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports on the Olympic-size swimming pool that opened in Gaza last week. (Article below).

As reader Joy Wolfe of Manchester, England, a subscriber to this list, points out to me in an email: “How does an area that claims to be starved of water and building materials and depends on humanitarian aid build an Olympic size swimming pool and create a luxury lifestyle for some while others are forced to live in abject poverty as political pawn refugees?”

Another reader, Barry Shaw, writes from the Israeli town of Netanya:

“Gaza City recently opened an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Netanya does not have a municipal Olympic pool. Neither does Ashkelon, or Sderot. Gaza City is part of the Palestinian territory operated by the Islamic terror regime, Hamas. Netanya has been hit by repeated Palestinian suicide attacks, car bombings, and terrorist gunmen that have left over fifty of its citizens dead and more than three hundred injured. The Palestinians receive record amounts of international funding. The victims of Palestinian terror get nothing.”

Another subscriber, Michael Horesh, points out, “The Financial Times of London, a leading media beacon in international money matters and no friend of Israel, observes that ‘Branded products such as Coca-Cola, Nescafé, Snickers and Heinz ketchup are both cheap and widely available in Gaza… [as are] Korean refrigerators, German food mixers and Chinese air conditioning units.’”



While middle class Palestinians plead poverty and receive excessive amounts of international funding, elsewhere in the world (in places like Congo and Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) millions of children really are dying of starvation and disease, all but ignored by those very same governments and aid agencies that pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the Palestinian coffers.

Of course, there is a whole industry of people (UN and EU staff, NGO workers, journalists) who make their living and have a vested interest in continuing to propagate lies about Gaza and West Bank.

As the boats of “humanitarian aid activists” (including a number of European politicians and journalists) left Turkey on Saturday I wonder if they understood what the crowd was chanting.

Video below form Turkish TV:

The crowd shout:

“Intifada, intifada, intifada!

“Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews! The army of Mohammed will return!”



The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports (May 18, 2010):

“Gaza – Ma’an – Gaza’s first Olympic-standard swimming pool was inaugurated at the As-Sadaka club during a ceremony on Tuesday held by the Islamic Society.

“Gaza government ministers, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, leaders of Islamic and national governing bodies, as well as club members and athletes were among those at the opening ceremony, where Secretary-General of the Islamic Society Nasim Yaseen thanked the donors who helped realize the project.

“Yaseen praised the As-Sadaka club for a number of wins in international and regional football, volleyball and table tennis matches.

“As-Sadaka athletes performed a number of swimming exercises in the new pool to mark its opening.”



(No, it wasn’t a rampaging mob of American supporters of Israel on an AIPAC lobbying trip.)

A UN-run summer camp for Palestinian children was burned to the ground on Sunday and the UN staff threatened with murder. Tens of thousands of Gazan children were due to attend the camp this summer, as they have every summer in recent years.

This is a rare occasion when the international media did report on Palestinian-on-Palestinian violence, although most downplayed any criticism of Hamas or other Islamists in their reports.



The BBC reported online:

Masked gunmen have attacked a UN summer camp being set up for children in the Gaza Strip, UN officials say.

The attackers burned tents and destroyed other equipment after tying up a guard.

They also left a letter threatening the head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), John Ging…

“The armed men torched the camp, which contained recreational equipment and swimming pools, and completely destroyed it,” UNRWA spokesman Abu Hasna told journalists.

The camp is one of dozens of beach facilities set up by the UN offering a summer programme of arts, sport and other activities for some quarter of a million children in the Gaza Strip…



CNN explained that the Islamists of Gaza object to the fact that boys and girls were due to participate in activities together at the camp:

CNN began its online report: “A U.N.-sponsored summer camp in Gaza was burned Sunday hours before it was due to open, witnesses said, blaming Muslim extremists who apparently object to boys and girls going to camp together.”


Reuters also reported:

“About 20 men, some carrying assault rifles, tore up large plastic tents and burned storage facilities at the site, where tens of thousands of children are due to attend camp sessions…

“Two days earlier, a previously unknown militant group, The Free of the Homeland, issued a statement criticizing the camp’s organizer, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), for, ‘teaching schoolgirls fitness, dancing and immorality.’”


The Al-Jazeera report online adds:

“Dozens of armed attackers also vandalized bathrooms… and assaulted a guard and tied him up… the men also left a letter with four bullets, threatening the agency’s Gaza director and sending a chilling message to the camp’s organizers.”



In an editorial, The Jerusalem Post reflects on the atrocious human rights situation in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and notes that “an iron curtain of a strict theocracy is slowly descending on Gaza, but many human rights proponents still prefer to depict it as the embattled bastion of freedom fighters…

“Both foreign governments and NGOs, in their inaction, are signaling to Hamas that domestic oppression by its tyrannical regime is tolerable so far as the international community is concerned,” said the paper.



Following a meeting between IDF OC Central Command and Palestinian security officials yesterday, Israel has announced the further dismantling of 60 roadblocks and the easing of travel throughout the West Bank. Most West Bank roadblocks have been dismantled since the government of Benjamin Netanyahu assumed power in Israel last year.

The Israelis explained that the success of the Palestinian security forces in fighting terror led to the decision to ease restrictions.

The IDF pointed out, however, that it will “continue to operate firmly against terrorism while sustaining liaison and coordination with Palestinian officials, in order to maintain the life routine and security of all residents” of the West Bank and Israel.



Israeli President Shimon Peres yesterday accused the British paper The Guardian of telling blatant lies about Israel in a front page story that slandered Israel in general, and Peres in particular.

It is quite something when the president of a country sees the need to criticize a foreign newspaper for failing to maintain elementary journalistic standards – failing to ask for his response before publishing a massive defamation of him, for example. But such are the depths to which The Guardian sunk yesterday. (As I noted on this email list, The Guardian recently had to apologize for running a notorious organ trafficking libel about Israel.)

Additional Israeli government sources added that “documents that Guardian journalist Chris McGreal – who has a long track record of writing anti-Israel pieces – used to run his story are completely fabricated.” (The alleged documents come from a new book by a publicity-seeking anti-Zionist American researcher.)

The story concerned an alleged offer to sell arms, including nuclear warheads, by Israel to South Africa in 1975. Quite why The Guardian decided this is now lead front-page breaking news 35 years later, is beyond me, given how much real current news there is in the world.

Of course, The Guardian has nothing to say about the arms sales by Britain and many other Western countries to Apartheid South Africa in the 1970s. Could its continuous singling out of Israel perhaps be because Israel is a Jewish state?



Yossi Beilin, a former leftist minister, has also dismissed The Guardian’s article and the book on which it was based, as complete nonsense, as has Avner Cohen, the world’s leading expert on Israel’s alleged nuclear arms.

In an interview with the South African Press Association, Pik Botha, who served as South Africa’s foreign minister in the waning years of apartheid, also dismissed the article’s claims as untrue.

Nevertheless, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, and other prominent media today picked up and reported on The Guardian’s article, and The Guardian’s demonization of Israel continues to spread.

The Guardian has a whole news page and a lead editorial on the subject again today. To say that they are obsessed with Israel would be an understatement. More background here. (Note the Al Jazeera interview in that post.)

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.