Saturday, November 26, 2011

Starving Gaza eating grass? I dont think so. The making of a skeptic

It wasn't that long ago that we- the collective "we" of the west- were told that Gaza was starving,and that the precious children were forced to eat grass in an effort to sustain life.

There was skepticism about this claim- we'd been shown, over and over, photos of starving children from Africa, after all. Those photos were indelibly etched on our minds as we drank our bubble teas and complained about food in the school cafeteria. I did a quick image search for starving African children for photos to post here- but it was too heartbreaking to look at. It made me, and others wonder. Where were the photos of starving Gazan children?

There were never any photos of starving children in Gaza. Ever.

The skeptism grew as the flotillas began. We all saw the photos of Lauren Booth in a fine looking seaside hotel. We saw the photos of her shopping at a well stocked grocery store.

For me, the skeptism reached a crescendo when ISM activists brought in the headmistress of a Gaza school to talk on campus. The woman was virtually spherical, and when she spoke of the starving children in her school, all I could think of was that scene from Oliver Twist, where the children beg for more gruel. If the children of Gaza were starving, the reason was obvious- she was eating their food.

More and more information leaked out from Gaza- some of it was the inadvertant work of activists, posting their personal photos on their blogs and independent news sites. We saw beautiful malls , hotels and restaurants in Gaza. We saw modern parks and recreational facilities. We saw cafes with wide screen TVs, water parks, equestrian resorts

More information leaked out. We learned of acclaimed restaurants like Roots in Gaza, with a 14 page western style menu.

And still, not a single photo of a starving child of Gaza.

We're learned recently that the Palestinians are spending tens of thousands of dollars on American public relations agencies to "manage" their image in the mass media, social media, and amongst people of power and influence.

The Palestinians have been told that their eternal victimhood routine isnt working with the American public. Sell the Palestinians as a real people, they were told. Make this about a real people's search for human rights.

A real people, though, has history. Culture. Collective memory that goes back more than a few generations.

A real people has food culture. And I present to you what $30,000 a month buys- a photo essay on the food and the flavors of Gaza

"Hot chile and dill: This is the quintessential modern Gazan spice combination. Whereas Lebanese cooks have no tolerance for spicy heat, and cooks from other parts of Palestine use it in moderation, Gazans take pride in making you sweat, whether using fresh green chile peppers crushed in a mortar with lemon and salt or else filfil mat'houn, ground red chile peppers preserved in oil and sold as a condiment and ingredient, resembling North Africa's popular harissa. The ubiquitous tabikh bamia, okra stew with oxtail, and molukhiyya, mallow soup, are both served with green chile and dill seeds crushed with lemon, cutting their dark tastes with a blaze of brightness. Chiles are ground with meat to make kofta kebab and they are mashed, in the uniquely Gazan clay bowls called zibdiya, to make Gaza's signature tomato salad, dagga. Sun-dried, the same peppers are used in winter dishes such as maftul, the Palestinian version of couscous, in which the chile is called "the bride of the maftul" (arusit al-maftul) for the modest and delicate way it perfumes the grains as they steam. "

Nothing about Starving Gaza.

Mine is just a plea, after all, for more honest rhetoric. The lies dont serve the people of Gaza- they dont brighten the darkness or serve the cause of peace. There is no starving Gaza- and there never was.

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