An enormous shopping mall the Israeli army claims is in the Gaza Strip. (Source: IDF Blog)
In one of its periodic efforts to deny the devastating effects of its siege of Gaza, the Israeli occupation army published a blog post on 12 August claiming that Palestinians in Gaza are “out in force, enjoying themselves in sparkling new malls, beautiful beaches and hotels, and doing their shopping in pristine grocery stores and markets heaving with fresh produce.”
The “IDF blog” includes the impressive photo above of a shopping mall where Palestinians in Gaza are supposedly shopping for the latest imported fashions.
I showed the photo to The Electronic Intifada’s correspondent in Gaza, Rami Almeghari. His reaction: “I can assure you that there is no such mall in Gaza.” Rami is quite right.
If you do a Google Image search using the image from the “IDF” blog post, the same image turns up associated with the Metro Plaza shopping mall in Kolkata, India as well as several other places.
A Google image search turned up many examples, like this one, of the image associated with other malls.
Where is it really?
But the “Gaza mall” photo published by the Israeli army is actually an image of the Suria KLCC Mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as numerous user-generated photographs on the travel review site TripAdvisor.com attest.
You can also see many people shopping at the mall – in Malaysia – in this video:
Israeli army sources: anti-Palestinian, Islamophobic blogs
Before publishing it on 12 August on its English-language website, the Israeli army published the same post in French on 4 August.
It was then published by the anti-Palestinian website Tribune Juive the same day.
But some of the material had already circulated on many other Islamophobic websites long before.
For example, the same Kuala Lumpur mall photo, purportedly in Gaza, appeared on a virulently Islamophobic blog called “Barenaked Islam” in April 2012, and was disseminated on Facebook by “Geert Wilders supporters,” a page dedicated to the Islamophobic Dutch politician.
It also appeared on “Religion of Peace,” another anti-Muslim hate site.
It would appear that the Israeli army gets its information about Gaza from Islamophobic hate sites.
The Kuala Lumpur shopping mall is vastly bigger than any commercial facility anywhere in Gaza.
But another image, the supermarket shown on the “IDF” blog, appears to be the Metro supermarket in Gaza. I didn’t visit it, but I did visit the Abu Dallal supermarket in Nuseirat refugee camp.
I was told that Abu Dallal is one of largest supermarkets in Gaza. By American, European, or Jordanian standards it is not very big, smaller than an average CVS or Boots drugstore.
More important than its size, however, is that like other stores in Gaza, it is packed full of Israeli goods.
That’s one of the ways the Israeli blockade creates dependency: While Gaza industry and agriculture are devastated by the siege, Israel is happy enough to see its own companies profiting from people in Gaza, siphoning off what little income they have, whether from work, humanitarian aid or remittances abroad, by selling them Israeli goods.
Poverty and dependency are the real effects of siege
But Israel is much more restrictive when it comes to supplies that meet basic needs and could allow Gaza to move out of dependency. There is, for example, a shortage of 250 schools for Gaza’s children, which cannot be built due to the lack of building supplies.
And the reality is that while there is food in Gaza, “severe poverty has increased over years of closure and because of travel restrictions,” Gisha, an Israeli nongovermental organization that monitors the siege, noted in a recent factsheet.
More than 70 percent of the Gaza population receives some form of humanitarian aid, compared with one third in the year 2000.
For imports of raw materials and many basic goods, Gaza’s economy remains heavily dependent on underground tunnels to Egypt, as I saw myself during my visit, and as Gisha also documents.
Since the Egyptian military coup on 3 July, the Egyptian army, which works closely with Israel, has been instensifying its effort to destroy the tunnels.
Israel continues to crush Gaza’s export industries. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel has allowed a total of 94 trucks out of Gaza in 2013 – that’s about a dozen a month from a population of almost 1.7 million people. Insignificant.
By contrast, in 2007, the year before the siege began to bite, more than 5,000 trucks were allowed out of Gaza. In 2001 it was 15,000.
The Israeli army’s cynical propaganda is supposed to distract people from the fact that the vast majority of people in Gaza live in deep poverty and a very precarious economic situation, without electricity for 8-12 hours per day, and depend on humanitarian aid, due to Israel.
Gaza’s per capita annual GDP is just over $1,000 dollars. Compare that with $32,800 for Israel.
The lesson: learn the facts and don’t be taken in by Israeli army fabrications.
Update: 15 August
Following the publication of this post, the Israeli army removed the photo and told Israel’s Haaretz that it had been a mistake made in “good faith.”
It also tweeted out an acknowledgment that the photo was “incorrectly sourced” – though without noting that its source was an Islamophobic hate site peddling fabrications and anti-Palestinian propaganda.
Here is a screenshot of the entire “IDF blog” post before the Israeli army altered it.
With thanks to Twitter user @sallyidwedar who initially spotted “IDF” fakery, and Omar Ghraieb for answering my queries about Gaza’s supermarkets.