My name is Fred and I am a gay conservative living in Ottawa. This blog supports limited government, the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, and tries to expose the threat to us all from cultural relativism, post-modernism, and radical Islam. I am also the founder of the Free Thinking Film Society in Ottawa (

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lattes in the world's biggest prison...

Peter Hitchens visits Gaza...
It is lunchtime in the world's biggest prison camp, and I am enjoying a rather good caffe latte in an elegant beachfront cafe. Later I will visit the sparkling new Gaza Mall, and then eat an excellent beef stroganoff in an elegant restaurant.

Perhaps it is callous of me to be so self-indulgent, but I think I at least deserve the coffee. I would be having a stiff drink instead, if only the ultra-Islamic regime hadn't banned alcohol with a harsh and heavy hand.

Just an hour ago I was examining a 90ft-deep smuggling tunnel, leading out of the Gaza Strip and into Egypt. This excavation, within sight of Egyptian border troops who are supposed to stop such things, is – unbelievably – officially licensed by the local authority as a 'trading project' (registration fee £1,600).
Tale of two cities: Gaza's sparkling new shopping mall offers a stark contrast to the images of slums we are used to

It was until recently used for the import of cattle, chocolate and motorcycles (though not, its owner insists, for munitions or people) and at its peak earned more than £30,000 a day in fees.

But business has collapsed because the Israelis have relaxed many of their restrictions on imports, and most such tunnels are going out of business. While I was there I heard the whine of Israeli drones and the thunder of jet bombers far overhead.

Then, worryingly soon after I left, the area was pulverised with high explosive. I don't know if the Israeli air force waited for me to leave, or just walloped the tunnels anyway.

The Jewish state's grasp of basic public relations is notoriously bad. But the Israeli authorities certainly know I am here. I am one of only four people who crossed into the world's most misrepresented location this morning.

Don't, please, accuse of me of complacency or denying the truth. I do not pretend to know everything about Gaza. I don't think it is a paradise, or remotely normal. But I do know for certain what I saw and heard.

There are dispiriting slums that should have been cleared decades ago, people living on the edge of subsistence. There is danger. And most of the people cannot get out.

But it is a lot more complicated, and a lot more interesting, than that. In fact, the true state of the Gaza Strip, and of the West Bank of the Jordan, is so full of paradoxes and surprises that most news coverage of the Middle East finds it easier to concentrate on the obvious, and leave out the awkward bits.

Which is why, in my view, politicians and public alike have been herded down a dead end that serves only propagandists and cynics, and leaves the people of this beautiful, important part of the world suffering needlessly.

For instance, our Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently fawned on his Islamist hosts in Turkey by stating Gaza was a 'prison camp'. This phrase is the official line of the well-funded Arab and Muslim lobby, who want to make sure Israel is seen by the world as a villainous oppressor.

Well, Israeli soldiers can and do act with crude brutality. Israeli settlers can and do steal Arab water and drive Arabs off their land. Israeli politicians are often coarse and insensitive.

The treatment of Israel's Arab citizens is one of the great missed opportunities of history, needlessly mean and short-sighted. The seizure of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 were blunders, made worse by later folly.

But if you think Israel is the only problem, or that Israelis are the only oppressors hereabouts, think again. Realise, for a start, that Israel no longer rules Gaza. Its settlements are ruins.

No Israelis can be found inside its borders. And, before you say 'but Israel controls the Gaza border', look at a map. The strip's southern frontier – almost as hard to cross as the Israeli boundary – is with Egypt. And Cairo is as anxious as Israel to seal in the Muslim militants of Hamas.

Gaza was bombed on the day I arrived in retaliation for a series of rocket strikes on Israel, made by Arab militants. Those militants knew this would happen, but they launched their rockets anyway. Many Gazans hate them for this.
Peter Hitchens by the rubble of a Palestinian ministry building destroyed by the IDF in the Gaza Strip

Peter Hitchens by the rubble of a Palestinian ministry building destroyed by the IDF in the Gaza Strip

One, whom I shall call Ibrahim, told me how he had begged these maniacs to leave his neighbourhood during Israel's devastating military attack nearly two years ago. His wife was close to giving birth.

He knew the Israelis would quickly seek out the launcher, and that these men would bring death down on his home. But the militants sneered at his pleading, so he shoved his wife into his car and fled.

Moments after he passed the first major crossroads, a huge Israeli bomb burst on the spot where his car had been. The diabolical power of modern munitions is still visible, in the ruins of what was once a government building.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gaza is a guilded cage. But you don't have to go to all the 'hi-lights' to get a gritty story do you? (real conservative)

3:22 PM  

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