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March 23, 2016 6:33 am

US Professor Amazed at Wealth in Gaza City; Notes 900 Mosques, Only 2 Libraries

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Gaza. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Gaza. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A professor at the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle visited Gaza City for six hours a few weeks ago, and he was astonished that after reading years of propaganda about how poverty stricken Gazans are, they really aren’t.

 I was flooded with impressions as we drove into the old city of Gaza. The first was, unexpectedly, that it looked nothing like India. Given the severe poverty, even humanitarian crisis, that Gaza as a whole is experiencing, I had expected the obvious and wrenching poverty that I had seen in some Indian cities or many other Third World countries, for that matter—collapsing infrastructure, rickety shacks, a surfeit of beggars, children in rags, adults sleeping on the sidewalks. At least in this part of the city and others that I saw later in the day, none of that was visible. Instead, I saw hordes of children going to school, university students walking in and out of the gates of the two universities—both the children and the university students reasonably dressed. I observed morning shoppers buying vegetables and fruits from stands, shopkeepers opening their shops, and people walking purposefully to wherever they were going for the start of the day. There were cranes and construction workers everywhere, with lots of uncompleted buildings being worked on. A garbage truck, with a UN sign on it, was making its rounds.

There was the occasional bombed out building, from the 2014 War. One had the entire top of the building, several stories, simply blown off. But other than those, most buildings were in decent shape, and some apartment buildings were downright nice. There were definitely some junkers on the road, but most of the cars looked like late-model varieties. Some of the side streets were pocked and broken up; the main thoroughfares, though, were in good shape. There were almost no traffic lights, and traffic was a bit chaotic. I must add again that I was in Gaza City (both the old and new parts of the city) only and did not go to some of the outer areas and refugee camps where the bombing in the 2014 war was the heaviest and where, I understand, destruction was massive.

People were certainly not in rags. Men were mostly in chino-type pants and button-down shirts. With very few exceptions, women were covered with the hijab and burka. Perhaps 10-20 percent of them were in black with their faces totally covered. Incidentally, this sort of veiling was not a traditional practice in Palestinian society; it is very much a product of the “new fundamentalism.”

The fascinating people I met during the day actually related to Israel in what I considered a very interesting fashion. In conversation after conversation, there was a kind of by-the-way acknowledgment of the destructiveness of Israel’s policies and, for sure, a general hatred for Israel. But what was striking was how everyone quickly went on from those sorts of almost off-handed comments to criticize how the Hamas government or the people themselves are also responsible for the state of affairs. There was no obsessing about Israel, which I found interesting. Indeed, there might even be a general acceptance of Israel in terms of realizing that Israel will long be part of their future.

Even a professor of international studies had no idea that Gaza didn’t look like the most poverty-stricken parts of Third World countries. The power of anti-Israel propaganda and one-sided media coverage is immense.

And Hamas is building….lots of mosques.

 …My final meeting was with a fascinating character, Atef Abu Saif. Atef holds a Ph.D. in political science from the European University Institute in Florence, having worked with a friend of mine, Professor Phillipe Schmitter. Atef is also a novelist. He now teaches political science at Al-Azhar Gaza University and writes frequently, including for the New York Times and Slate. An open member of Fatah (although critical of the Fatah leadership), he has clashed with Hamas on a number of occasions, landing him in jail for short stints.

Atef’s main contention is that there are actually two Gazas. One is the one run by Hamas and includes its supporters. He noted, for example, that there has been a mosque-building binge, leading to a total of 879 mosques in the Strip by 2014, as compared to two public libraries. In his words, “Gaza has become one huge mosque.” The second Gaza consists of the Palestinian public in Gaza, engaged in all sorts of cultural and social activities outside Hamas’s orbit. If not quite a civil society, he intimated, there is a lot that goes on beneath the radar.

My guess is that those libraries were built when Israel controlled Gaza.

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  • Matt Pryor

    Even if that’s true, the “medieval civilized world” was a long time ago, and they seem to have gone backwards since then.

  • pamelalevene

    and don’t forget the most important:to brainwash,to incite hatred and to encourage violence.

  • J.Nybergh

    Migdal is important witness to the true state of conditions in Gaza and shows how deep anti-Israel propaganda really is, which by the way is just continuation to the age-old anti-Jewish tendencies in Christian/post-Christian Western world.

  • ScienceABC123

    Of course Hamas is building lots of mosques. They need them to hide their weapons in, dig tunnels from, and hold secret meetings in.

  • AtheistDude

    900 Mosques; 2 Libraries.

    I wonder how many books (and what kinds) are IN the libraries (anyone wanna wager Korans, Korans, and more Korans?)…

    It’s like a virtual blueprint for mass mental illness!

    And to think that I used to make fun of American’s latest propensity to build more banks and churches than schools, libraries, and hospitals…

  • Bo

    ‘ THANK YOU”
    This is most educational! AND VERY GOOD T OSEE


  • It is interesting to note that rarely do we see any photos of Gaza proper. I suspect that if the world actually saw Gaza as the author of this piece has, support for the “invented people” may possibly wane. I truly believe that if there was no Hamas or it was “disabled,” we would see a vastly different outcome between those “palestinians” who want a realistic peace with Israel, and realize that their fates are intertwined. The media doesn’t do the world any favors, by publishing only half the story filled with bias and vitriol.

  • Laurie

    “Even a professor of international studies had no idea that Gaza didn’t look like the most poverty-stricken parts of Third World countries. The power of anti-Israel propaganda and one-sided media coverage is immense.”

    A telling observation considering this professor is Jewish, and specializes in the Middle East.

  • Francis Figliola

    Our tax dollars at work!

  • Laura Burkhart

    This is from being there. I am always amazed…how propaganda is circulated globally. The USA has many lying journalists, like the one who recently called a terrorist killed ( rightfully) a graphic designer.
    Maddening…that Israel can’t always be the victim of lies.
    But…like this Professor…good for him, for seeing the truth…and revealing His findings. While he does this, Obama goes to Cuba, and makes deals with Iran. Meshugot meod

  • Judith Levine

    The PR of Hamas is brilliant. They have convinced the world that Israel is responsible for everything wrong in Gaza. They neglect to mention that Israel left Gaza completely 12 years ago. Other than the regular patrol of their border with Gaza, Israel has no governing power of any kind in Gaza. As to the borders which Hamas complains about, would you let a porous border exist between you and a territory that’s Charter specifically says it wants you destroyed and all Jews murdered? Of course not.

    Hamas continues to be heavily funded by Iran and many other international sources. Instead of using that money to create a viable infrastructure and governing body for an independent country in the future, it wastes the money building terror tunnels-which often collapse killing their own people- and buying bombs and missiles. And lots and lots and lots of mosques. G-D forbid they use the money to buy real books and teach their children how to live in peace with all their neighbour.

  • Myron Slater

    As usual, the media ignores the truth about Gaza!

  • Richard E Sherwin

    im glad to hear that there are at least 2 gazas… i only wish there were one, without Hamas and only 400 new mosques and 400 new libraries (well stocked). the moslem brotherhood has a lot to answer for corrupting and imprisoning contemporary middle eastern islam. it may be too late to reverse this, but one would hope the UN and Arab League would get off their comfortable chairs and do something to redirect islamic fundamentalisms. even if only one or two useless but universal protest votes against something other than israel!

  • Eric R.

    And I bet those libraries have 5,000 copies each of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf, and they are all checked out with long waiting lists.

  • Batyah

    Gene — what would be MORE interesting than the condition of the libraries…is “what will be the reaction” by this professor’s peers when he informs them that what they have been peddling was mere propaganda!

  • mark mandeles

    The mosques are arms caches, and are linked by (booby-trapped) tunnels, fiber optic cable, security cameras; Hamas probably also stores water and food in the tunnels connecting the mosques. The goal is to survive a siege and inflict damage to IDF ground forces in ambushes.

  • Mickey Oberman

    These brainwashed,insatiably greedy idiots are not, can not, be partners for peace with Israel.

    I wonder how many of those 879 mosques are, in reality, arsenals packed with weapons and ammunition.

  • Bryna Weiss

    So what is the name of the Professor who told of this visit to Gaza?

  • Mohammad Firoze

    Gaza could have been much better, had it not been for Hamas’ s obsession with “Death to Israel”. Hamas has destroyed a generation of young men with war and terrorism who could have been nation builders.

    The UN the West and the Qataris have pumped money into Gaza to keep Hamas alive, who build tunnels and mosques instead of schools and libraries

  • Lia

    Not bad, Sir! Pity all US prof.s cannot see what you saw.

  • Moshe Akiva

    And if they were not digging tunnels and buying weapons the situation would be even much better. Actually, it could be better than Singapore.

  • SteveHC

    Of COURSE Gaza’s not financially “broke” – they just have absolutely horrendous spending priorities. Like on building terrorism tunnels and buying armaments instead of schools, food, etc.

  • Charles Martel

    I remember seeing some pictures of food stands in Gaza a few years ago. I could not believe the abundance of fruits and vegetables, sweets and other foods, carefully displayed in the stalls. The city in the back looked like any other city in the world. Like the good professor, that is not what expected from Gaza! But of course, I am not a professor of International Studies in a US university, and therefore I may be excused for my ignorance. Not so the professor.

  • Gene

    It would be interesting to see what condition the libraries are in. I suspect they aren’t that impressive and the few people use them.

  • Telh

    Muslims are totally deluded. I don’t think there is any hope for them to ever fit into the civilized world while they follow Islam.

    • Steve Zupcic

      Same goes for many American right-wing fundamentalist Christians living in states that under-fund public education.

    • Sharon

      Telh, there are millions who follow Islam and fit into your so called “civilized world”. Throughout history, all religions and non-religions have had so-called radicals who did not measure up to the norms of civilization. You have made little use of the library.

    • Alex

      They don’t need to fit into the civilized world. They will outbreed civilized people and then take over their civilizations. What happens after that will not be pretty.

    • Goodie

      Absolutely right.

    • J.Nybergh

      The medieval civilized world used to be islamic so this statement is inaccurate.