Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gaza Travel Guidebook For Freedom Flotilla Pro-Hamas Cheerleaders

From "Mere Rhetoric" May 26, 2010, by Omri Ceren:

Dear Crazy People,

We’ve been given to understand that you intend to stage another media stunt, wherein you’re again going to float some ...ships ...in the general direction of the Gaza Strip. Your hope is apparently that your cameramen will capture the Israeli reaction and edit it into an overreaction or, failing that, simply reprint your feverish fantasies with slack-jawed credulity. Again.

Our problem isn’t so much that your goal involves obfuscating the millions of tons of food and aid we’ve delivered to Gaza civilians ...what we’re concerned about is that you suck at driving boats. Last time you only had one ship and you still managed to crash it  ...This time you’re bringing nine boats.  ...Given your obvious intention of creating a spectacle ...it’s pretty much inevitable.

If and when that happens, we’d like you to have at least some sense of how to survive in Gaza City.
So we’ve put together this Gaza Tourism Guide, complete with picture galleries, which we believe to be the most comprehensive ever assembled on the web....

WHERE TO SLEEP
Gaza City’s luxury hotels are located on the Gaza coastline in the posh district of Ramal ...Foreign officials are often found in the area, speaking about Gaza’s unbearable plight at the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights during the day, before retiring to the United Nations beach club at night. Top Hamas officials also congregate in the area, and can be easily identified during wartime as the ones hiding in the half-bunker/half-silo basement of the district’s Shifa Hospital. As can be expected the accommodations and eateries in Ramal are superb.

... the Grand Palace Hotel has a direct beach view  ...The building’s decadent Crystal Hall  makes it a much -desired banquet location for first weddings, second weddings, and martyrdom celebrations....

The Grand Palace’s sprawling facilities also make it a prime location for political and corporate events. When Fatah leader Nabil Shaath returned to the Gaza Strip in 2010, entering the territory for the first time since Hamas had violently seized control in a 2007 campaign that involved shooting out the kneecaps of Fatah-linked civilians, throwing them off roofs, and executing them in the streets – this is where Shaath met with his Hamas counterparts.

If you’re looking for a younger vibe you might want to check out the Marna House.  ...the blending of modern luxury with the ethos of anti-Zionist resistance has made it a favorite with college-aged ISM volunteers. Stable Internet means guests can – and do – blog about the savagery of targeted Israeli self-defense operations, tweet about the wonderful bravery of Hamas’s human shields ...it’s no surprise that past guests have set up a Marna House hotel & restaurant Facebook page so they can “share memories” of their bitter twilight struggle against Occupation...

The Al Deira hotel ...boasts 22 spacious rooms and a world-class staff – enough so that some regular Western European diplomats and anti-Israel human rights investigators actually prefer it to the Grand Palace  ...a shop in the lobby specializing in Middle Eastern works of fiction, historical biographies, and conspiracy theories demonizing Jews...

WHERE TO SHOP
Gaza’s markets are simply overflowing with goods supplied by hundreds of smuggling tunnels, from food and clothing to widescreen TVs and even live cows.  ...Tourists hoping for bargains may nonetheless find themselves disappointed, however. Gaza’s relatively healthy per capita income – higher than India’s as a result of being the world’s largest per-capita aid recipient – keeps demand robust and prices stable.

...Don’t be afraid to ask for tips, either from your hotel clerk or from the attentive Hamas-provided tour guides who will be accompanying you everywhere. If you’re lucky they might be able to track down one of the souvenir Goldstone headscarves, honoring brutal apartheid judge Richard Goldstone. They’ve unfortunately been selling out all over Gaza, so nothing’s certain. Much more common are open air swap meets filled with kids selling automatic weapons.

...If [the hustle and bustle of a market is] not your cup of tea, you can head over to Gaza’s professional and well-stocked supermarkets for the kind of experience that you would find in any American chain.

WHERE TO DINE
All of the major luxury hotels have food facilities, with the seaside terrace restaurant at the Al Diera hotel being a local favorite. It’s known for its view, its mezes (small Mediterranean-style dishes), and its fresh strawberry juice. Gazans will top the juice off with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, which is perfect for getting through the hot desert summer days.

If you’re looking to get away from hotels, you can’t do better than Roots. The well-known restaurant, part of the Cactus for Development Group’s family of fine dining restaurants – “new standards in the hospitality business in Palestine!!!” – emphasizes that you should call ahead for reservations. Their full blown interactive menu here.

Visitors are strongly cautioned not to drink tap water while in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians have severely overpumped Gaza’s wells, perhaps irreparably depleting the water table and leaving it open to mass contamination. Ground water is therefore not potable. Stick instead to bottled water, which is regularly supplied by Israel ...

WHERE TO PLAY
Gaza summers revolve around whatever Gaza beaches  ...Whether it’s relaxing with friends, exercising with a partner, or watching an AP stringer set up photo shoots in anticipation of captions about beach life being “the only escape available to Gaza children” – there’s always something interesting going on.

The beaches do get crowded, and the new mandatory Hamas dress code makes them somewhat drab, so at some point you may want to join other relatively wealthy foreigners at Gaza’s nearby, full-time luxury spa. There you’ll find a steam room, a sauna, a small gym and a beauty parlor that offers facials and massages.

WHERE TO DRINK
Unfortunately, the Hamas government declared a total ban  ...Stores and clubs that fail to adhere to the ban get bombed.

WHERE TO WORSHIP
Unfortunately, non-Muslims will find few options for worship in the Gaza Strip. The synagogues left by withdrawing Israelis were immediately desecrated and destroyed. Most Christian churches were long ago transformed into mosques. Visiters are also advised to avoid gathering in Christian bookstores, which increasingly get bombed, or around actual Christians, who increasingly get killed.

WHERE TO DANCE
Unfortunately, Hamas has banned women from dancing, as well as from wearing all but the most conservative outfits.

WHERE TO LISTEN
Unfortunately, music shops and performances have also been deemed un-Islamic in recent years, to the detriment of music shop owners and performers.

WHERE TO GET ONLINE
Unfortunately, visitors are advised to avoid Internet cafes because they get bombed.
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