Egyptian Journalist Describes ‘Absolute Prosperity’ in Gaza: With Hamas telling tales of deprivation and suffering in Gaza, Egyptian journalist Ashraf Abu al-Houl has added his report to others who were surprised to discover a “prosperous” Gaza in which prices are low and luxury businesses are booming. Al-Houl’s story of his trip to Gaza and his realization that “in actual terms, Gaza is not under siege” was published in the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram.
“A sense of absolute prosperity prevails, as manifested by the grand resorts along and near Gaza’s coast. Further, the site of the merchandise and luxuries filling the Gaza shops amazed him,” he reported. Concerned that his initial impression of prosperity may have been misleading, He toured the new resorts, most of which are quite grand, as well as the commercial markets, to verify his hypothesis. “The resorts and markets have come to symbolize prosperity, and to prove that the siege is formal or political, not economic,” Al-Houl stated.
Gaza’s markets are filled with a “plethora of goods,” he wrote. Prices on many items, particularly food, are much lower than they are in Egypt. With goods entering Gaza from both smuggling tunnels to Egypt and humanitarian aid shipments coming in via Israeli crossings, “supply is much greater than demand,” he stated.
The evident prosperity is not enjoyed by all of Gaza’s residents, according to Al-Houl. The problem is the vast differences in the distribution of wealth. The luxury resorts and wide range of consumer goods are enjoyed by “only a few groups,” he stated, primarily those who own smuggling tunnels to Egypt and those who work for international organizations such as the United Nations’ UNRWA and who do not include or aid the rest of the population.
Most of the new resorts “are owned by members, or associates, of Hamas,” he reported. “In addition, the Hamas municipalities charge high fees, in Gaza terms, for the use of public beaches,” he added. Al-Houl quoted political activist Mustafa Ibrahim as saying that while Gaza’s rich invest in the leisure industry, 80% of residents rely on UNRWA, and unemployment is approximately 45%. “This creates a distorted picture,” Ibrahim explained.
Hamas continues to enforce its stringent interpretation of Islamic law in Gaza. In its most recent ruling, the organization has laid out a list of rules that must be followed by stores selling women’s clothing. Women’s clothing stores are not allowed to have dressing rooms.
Stores also cannot have tinted windows, and cannot have cameras inside the shop. Any mannequins shaped like women must be dressed in modest clothing. The new set of rules is aimed at maintaining “public morality,” according to a Hamas spokesmen.
Hamas has taken other restrictive steps toward enforcing Islamic law (Sharia) in Gaza.
It has banned women from riding motorcycles, required men to wear shirts while swimming in the sea, and has ordered female attorneys to wear a headscarf while in court. Earlier in the month Hamas declared that women and teenagers are no longer permitted to smoke hookahs in public.
The Islamic terrorist group may be spurred by the opposition it faces from Salafi Muslim organizations, which claim to represent an estimated 11,000 residents of Gaza. Salafi extremists have accused Hamas of failing to enforce Islamic law enough, and have carried out bombings targeting music stores, Internet cafes, and even United Nations camps in which boys and girls are allowed to mingle.