A nice new shopping mall opened today in Gaza: Will the media report on it?

July 17, 2010

Above: a new mall that opened today, July 17. If there “are no building materials allowed into Gaza” how did they build this shopping center, or the new Olympic-size swimming pool and water park pictured below?


Will the Western media show these images?
All notes below by Tom Gross

Please scroll down below for photos of the new shopping mall that opened today in Gaza. I have also attached new photos and film of Gaza’s hotels, beauty spas, swimming pools, beaches and street markets -- images the BBC, New York Times and others refuse to show you.

Meanwhile, Hamas are deliberately leaving some Gazans in plastic tents, in order to fool gullible Western journalists and politicians who are brought to Gaza to witness a staged “humanitarian crisis.”

As I note below, this doesn’t, of course, mean that there isn’t poverty in Gaza too, just as there is in most places in the world. But the misrepresentation by the media of the situation in Gaza is shocking. When Time magazine reports “Please spare a thought for the starving Palestinians of Gaza. There are 1.5 million of them, most of them living hand to mouth” - or when former U.S. President and Nobel peace prize laureate Jimmy Carter says “the people in Gaza are literally starving” - these are just blatant untruths.


Two days ago the EU pledged tens of millions of EU taxpayers’ euros to add to the hundreds of millions already donated to Gaza this year, much of which has been misused to procure arms.


UPDATE, Sunday July 18, 2010:

Fox news producers who subscribe to this website contacted me for an interview about this story and are now running a report.

Some journalists who subscribe to this list have asked me for a quote. You are welcome to use the following.

Political and media commentator Tom Gross said:

“On a day when (because EU Foreign Policy Chief Baroness Ashton is in Gaza) the BBC and other media have featured extensive reports all day long on what they term the dire economic situation in Gaza, why are they not mentioning the new shopping mall that opened there yesterday?

“When leading news outlets mention the so-called humanitarian flotillas from Turkey, why do they omit the fact that life expectancy and literacy rates are higher, and infant mortality rates are lower in Gaza than corresponding rates in Turkey? Have they considered that perhaps the humanitarian flotillas ought to be going in the other direction, towards Turkey?”



Last year, this website revealed to a Western audience pictures of the bustling, crowded food markets of Gaza that the Western media refuse to show you. Earlier this year, I reported the new Olympic-size swimming pool of Gaza (no shortage of building materials or water here) and the luxury restaurants, where you can “dine on steak au poivre and chicken cordon bleu”. (Over 300,000 people have viewed photos on that webpage since May, according to my website monitor.)

Now I want to draw attention to the fact that this morning, on the day that the EU again criticized Israel (but not Egypt) for supposedly oppressing Gazans, on a day when the BBC TV world news headlines again lead with a report about how “devastated the economy in Gaza is,” an impressive new shopping mall opened in Gaza (photos below, followed by a selection of other photos from Gaza).

Will those Western journalists who write stories about “starvation” in Gaza and compare it to a “concentration camp” report this?

Instead of reporting on the mall opening, the British-based international satellite broadcaster Sky News reported today “The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire.”



Photos from Saturday, July 17, 2010:

More photos here.

Here is a news report in Arabic on the opening of the mall from today’s Palestine Times. (Click on each of these thumbnails to view the full photos.)

This is the official website of the Gaza mall. (UPDATE July 22, 2010: Warning note: Some browsers have reported that there may be a virus attached to the Gaza Mall site if you open it, but many others, including mine, have not found this to be the case. In any event, so many people have been directed to the Gaza mall website -- www.gazamall.ps -- from this website that the mall’s website’s bandwidth has been exceeded so currently you will be unable to access the site in any case if you open it. I have posted a screenshot below, translated from Arabic.)


UPDATE, July 20, 2010

More pictures of the mall here, here and here from The Palestine Times.

And this video of the mall has today gone up on YouTube. (The captions that have been added to this video are not mine, nor do I approve of all of them.)

The mall is being widely featured in media throughout the Arab world, for example here (courtesy of AP), but why the continuing silence from Western media who subscribe to AP and who continue to cover “the situation in Gaza” day after day without mentioning the economic progress there?

The mall includes a supermarket, international clothing stores, a food court, beauty products, a children’s playground, a restaurant, an underground carpark, and much-needed air conditioning. The mall is not only for Gaza’s elite. Tens of thousands of shoppers from Rafah to Beit Hanoun have already visited the site within days of its opening, according to Palestinian press reports.

“There are international firms such as Adidas and Lacoste and Paris’ top selling perfumes,” said the head of the mall’s board of directors, Salah a-Din Abu Abdo. “Nevertheless, the local traders and businessmen are those running the business. I hope that in the future we’ll get merchandise from other foreign chains wanting to open branches here.”


UPDATE, July 21, 2010

Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest newspaper, whose editors subscribe to this email list, has now covered the mall.


UPDATE, July 21, 2010

The National Post, one of Canada’s largest newspapers, almost alone among Western media has run a comment piece about the Gaza mall. It also refers to this (Tom Gross media) webpage.


UPDATE, July 21, 2010

Glen Beck today showed the mall on his show on Fox. He said that the media will gladly show you a “Palestinian with a bloody face but won’t show you the Gaza shopping mall.”

Fox News Host Sean Hannity has also now featured the Gaza mall and this page is linked to from his website, as has the Drudge Report.

It is fine that Fox have featured the mall, but why aren’t the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, NPR, PBS and others interested in a balance, rounded approach to covering Palestinian issues?


UPDATE, July 22, 2010

While almost all Western journalists based in the Middle East are continuing to refuse to report on the Gaza shopping mall (or the new Gaza children’s water park, or the new swimming pools and restaurants and resorts), this dispatch has now been linked to in several prominent blogs, among them that of former U.S. presidential speechwriter David Frum, Stephanie Gutmann at the (London) Daily Telegraph, Mark Krikorian and Jonah Goldberg on National Review’s The Corner, Melanie Phillips on the website of the British magazine The Spectator, Tim Montgomerie at Conservative Home (under “more here”), Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs and Miriam Shaviv at The (London) Jewish Chronicle.


UPDATE, AUG. 23, 2010


At the top of this page, I suggested that The New York Times – the world’s most influential paper – show pictures of the mall and write about it. Today, the paper finally did so (on page A7) and linked to this dispatch (in the sentence “How did they build a mall if no building materials are permitted into Gaza?”)

As The New York Times writes: “‘Gaza is not poor in the way outsiders think,’ said Nida Wishah, a 22-year-old information technology student who was at the mall one recent afternoon. ‘You can’t compare our poverty with that of Africa.’”

(The New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune also ran this story together with the photo of the shopping mall I had used in this dispatch, on page 2 of the IHT August 24 edition.)

Since the existence of cafes, restaurants, crowded food markets, swimming pools, water parks, riding stables for children and other signs of prosperity in Gaza, have been revealed, there has been a noticeable and dramatic reduction in the number of newspaper reporters and commentators talking of a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza, let alone of “starvation”.

Obviously, the political problems of Gaza remain, but that is another matter.


UPDATE, SEPT. 7, 2010


Today, The Guardian became the latest paper to mention the Gaza shopping mall, as well as the riding club on the edge of Gaza City where, it said, “young women wearing brightly-patterned headscarves and high heels order ice cream and fruit cocktails”.

“The Faisal riding club hosted its first showjumping tournament in July,” The Guardian’s relatively new correspondent Harriet Sherwood reports, adding that it has been open for five years and has been “doing rather well.”

“Next door is the Crazy Water Park, a swimming center with chutes and slides, [alongside] a burgeoning number of seafront cafes,” she adds.

Sherwood’s piece is a long way from the impression of dire poverty and “prison camp” conditions that The Guardian has been putting out for many years.




Before I draw attention to other photos below, please let me restate again my overall position since several other commentators have misrepresented it recently:

I have consistently supported the creation of an independent Palestinian Arab state alongside Israel since I first became interested in politics. But to be viable and successful it is not only a question of what Israel will give the Palestinians, but of the Palestinians themselves engaging in good governance. There is no point in creating a new Palestinian state if it will be used as a launching ground for armed attacks on Israel, which would in turn only likely lead to a much bloodier war between Israelis and Palestinians than anything we have witnessed in the past.

In order to make sure any Palestinian state is peaceful, and respects human rights for both its own citizens and its neighbors, it is crucial for Western policy-makers not be misled into making bad policy (as they have so often done in the past) in part, at least, as a result of believing the distortions of Western journalists, who greatly exaggerate the suffering of Palestinians and consistently cover up for the misdeeds of Hamas and Fatah.

Of course, one should not forget that the media is full of stereotypes and mistakes about other issues. Yet when every allowance has been made, the sustained bias against Israel is in a league of its own.

I am not for one moment suggesting that Israeli misdeeds should not be fully and unsparingly reported on -- and indeed Israel being a vigorous democracy, such misdeeds are widely reported on in the Israeli media itself, and debated in the Israeli Knesset. But propagating the falsehoods of Fatah and Hamas propagandists has done nothing to further the legitimate aspirations of ordinary Palestinians, any more than parroting the lies of Stalin helped ordinary Russians.

Such bias, I believed, is not only wrong in itself but seriously detrimental to international efforts to bring about peace between Palestinians and Israelis.



These are some of the photos previously carried on the dispatch “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.

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.

Here are more pictures of the restaurant. (Also see more pictures of Roots further down this dispatch.)



Whereas the restaurant above is one of those popular with wealthier Gazans, the pictures below show life for ordinary people in Gaza.

These photos of Gaza are from the November 26, 2009 edition of the Hamas-controlled Gazan newspaper, Palestine Today. It is hardly the “World War II-era concentration camp” that some Western journalists and commentators have claimed Gaza resembles.

Fruit and vegetable markets

Sweets on sale in an outdoor market

A cake shop and a bakery

A children’s clothing store

Tom Gross adds: As I have written before, of course there is poverty in parts of Gaza. There is poverty in parts of Israel too. But 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?

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 U.K. We could produce the same effect by selectively filming seedy parts of Paris and Rome and New York and Los Angeles too.



In Turkey, life expectancy is 72.23 and infant mortality is 24.84 per 1,000 births.

In Gaza, life expectancy is 73.68 and infant mortality is 17.71 per 1,000 births.

Turkey has a literacy rate of 88.7% while in Gaza it is 91.9%. (It is much lower in Egypt and other Arab countries where Israel did not establish colleges and universities in the 1970s and 1980s.)

Gaza’s GDP is not as high as Turkey’s but it is higher than some other places in the Arab world, and it is much, much higher than most of Africa that gets 1,000th of the aid per capita that Gaza gets from the West.

(Source for above info: CIA World Factbook)

World hunger organizations report that 10-15 million children below the age of 5 die each year, and 50,000 people die daily. One-third of all deaths in the world are due to poverty.

While famine kills millions of children in Africa, India, and elsewhere, life expectancy for Gaza Arabs, at 72 years, is nearly five years higher than the world average. In Swaziland, for example, life expectancy is less than 40 years, and it is 42 years in Zambia.

Meanwhile Western governments, misled by Western media, continue to pour more and more money into Gaza for people that don’t need it, while allowing black Africans to starve to death.

As the correspondent for one of Japan’s biggest newspapers said to me last week, “Gaza and the West Bank are the only places in the world where I have seen refugees drive Mercedes.”

Photo above: India, where hundreds of millions live in poverty.

Photo above: A beach in Gaza.



(Repeat item from May 2010 dispatch.)

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 that made it seem 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.



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


Repeat item from May 26, 2010 dispatch:

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 in mid-May 2010 (i.e. before all the recent kerfuffle about humanitarian flotillas sailing to Gaza).

“Gaza, (May 18, 2010): – 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.”



Most Israeli towns do not have an Olympic-sized municipal swimming pool. Cities like Netanya – which have been hit by repeated Palestinian suicide attacks, car bombings, and terrorist gunmen that have left over fifty Israeli residents of the town dead and more than three hundred injured – do not have such a pool.

Nor, for example, do the Israeli towns of Sderot or Ashkelon which have been hit by thousands of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza in recent years, have an Olympic-sized municipal swimming pool.



(This is a repeat item from the dispatch of September 14, 2008.)

In an appalling insult to Holocaust survivors everywhere, British journalist Lauren Booth said last week that the situation in Gaza was just like a “concentration camp,” and added that the “humanitarian crisis in Gaza is on the scale of Darfur.”

Booth’s brother-in-law, Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair, does not share her views. Her sister, Tony Blair’s wife Cherie Blair, once made comments appearing to justify Palestinian suicide bombs against Israeli school buses, but later apologized for the remarks.

Lauren Booth was recently issued a Palestinian passport by Hamas. Here is a photo from AFP (Agence France Presse) of Lauren Booth shopping in a grocery store in Gaza a few days before she made her Israeli “concentration camp” comments. Does it look like Auschwitz, or Darfur?

Here she is again in Gaza last week (i.e. Sept. 2008).

And here she is meeting Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who presents her with a special Palestinian “diplomatic passport”.

Booth writes for several British newspapers, including the Daily Mail, New Statesman, Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times, and is often a guest on the BBC.



(Photos, June 2010)

Here are some more Palestinian websites from Gaza:

* The Islamic University of Gaza

* The Gaza Grand Palace Hotel

* The Al Deira Hotel

(Above: The Deira hotel lobby)

(Above: The Deira hotel exterior)

This is just one of several such hotels in Gaza - a territory compared to a “concentration camp” in supposedly respectable European newspapers.

Arab journalists are more honest than some Western ones. Journalist Ashraf Abu Al-Houl reported from Gaza in the leading Egyptian paper Al-Ahram this week:

“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.”



A facial runs from $20 to $75, a one-hour massage is around $40 and a monthly gym membership is around $35 at the “Rosy spa” (above) in Gaza.



(Film shot, June 2010)

More images of the horrendous situation in Gaza that you won’t see on the BBC.



Never mind the economic crisis in Spain, Greece and elsewhere in the EU.

On July 14, 2010, the EU announced increased financial support for the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reports:

The European Commission has agreed an additional financial package worth € 71 million for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, topping up the € 224 million already allocated by the EU in the 2010 European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, as well as a reinforcement of humanitarian aid for Palestinian refugees.

[All notes above by Tom Gross.]

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