It began with an innocent trailer on YouTube -- a plug for a club called "Roots." The scene showed well-fed women wearing traditional Muslim head coverings but otherwise garbed in chic clothing enjoying themselves at the club's "fine dining restaurant, banquet hall and terrace cafe." What was startling was the club's location: in the heart of Gaza City.
Gaza, the territory which, to judge from international news media reports, is the most impoverished place on the planet earth. Gaza, which is supposedly suffering from such terrible shortages that "activists" from around the world have no choice but to ram blockades to bring in desperately needed goods. Gaza, which has managed to capture the sympathies of the United Nations, Europe - and even the White House.
The YouTube image of plump, fashionably garbed Gaza women enjoying a night out on May 10, made many people wonder if perhaps all those news media accounts of Gaza poverty were not quite accurate.
And then people started asking: if the Arabs of Gaza are starving, as the news media have suggested, how is it that not a single resident of the territory has died from malnutrition. Not one! How do we know? Because you can be sure that if even one Gaza Arab died of starvation, it would be front page news around the world, for starters.
But leave it to the New York Times to (inadvertently) blow the lid off the entire myth of Gaza's poverty. In its June 13 "Week in Review" section, the Times featured six "slice of life" photographs from Gaza - and in its online version, a full twelve. The contrast between these photos and what the UN and the news media have been claiming for years is startling.
We see a traffic snarl. Several of the cars appear to be late-model BMWs. In the background one can see modern, colorful stores.
A family at the beach. Nobody starving here. Smiling women, children in clean, modern clothing, a table with a platter of food.
Gaza fishermen at work. In rowboats? Homemade rafts? Hardly. They clearly have relatively modern fishing trawlers.
A couple emerging from a mall in what the caption calls "a wealthy neighborhood of Gaza." There are wealthy neighborhoods in Gaza? Noboy at the White House seems to know that.
The caption to photo number nine announces: "The opening of a new shop in Gaza City selling wedding and engagement dresses." In the windows, one can see some very fancy wedding gowns. In Israel, brides often cannot afford to buy a wedding dress and have to borrow from what is known as a "gemach," a community charitable society.
Maybe it's time for a flotilla of aid for poor Israeli brides.
And on and on it goes, with each photo providing more evidence that the dramatic claims about impoverished Gaza, which are routinely used to bash Israel and justify billions in Western aid to Gaza are, at the least, vastly overstated. See for yourself