Is the Gaza Strip the world’s largest prison, as we are told by countless news agencies “covering” the stories in that tiny, undoubtedly troubled region of the Middle East?
Can anyone think of a siege in human history, from Syracuse to Leningrad, where the shops of the besieged city have been full of Snickers bars and Chinese motorbikes, and where European Union and other foreign aid projects pour streams of cash (often yours) into the pockets of thousands? Once again, the word conceals more than it reveals.
The “refugee camps” are political pawns allowed their perpetual existence by a handful of elite Arabs controlling the political and military demagoguery going on in the Strip. While they luxuriate in extravagance, sometimes having multiple abodes there and in Dubai, the subjects they claim to represent and be fighting for languish in poverty.
Siege? Not exactly. What about Gaza’s ‘refugee camps’. The expression is misleading. Most of those who live in them are not refugees, but the children and grandchildren of those who fled Israel in the war of 1948.
All the other refugees from that era – in India and Pakistan, the Germans driven from Poland and the Czech lands, not to mention the Jews expelled from the Arab world – were long ago resettled.
Unbelievably, these people are still stuck in insanitary townships, hostages in a vast struggle kept going by politicians who claim to care about them. These places are not much different from the poorer urban districts of Cairo, about which nobody, in the Arab world or the West, has much to say.
It is not idle to say that these ‘camps’ should have been pulled down years ago, and their inhabitants rehoused. It can be done. The United Arab Emirates, to their lasting credit, have paid for a smart new housing estate with a view of the Mediterranean.
It shows what could happen if the Arab world cared as much as it says it does about Gaza. Everyone in Gaza could live in such places, at a cost that would be no more than small change in the oil-rich Arab world’s pocket.
But the propagandists, who insist that one day the refugees will return to their lost homes, regard such improvements as acceptance that Israel is permanent – and so they prefer the squalor, for other people.
Something needs to be done to turn around the smokescreen applied to this situation by the world’s journalists. Someone needs to step forward, gird their journalistic integrity, and report on what’s really going on in a very public way. Peter Hitchens is a pioneer.