This story has it all!
Where to begin?
NEVE DEKALIM, Gaza Strip (AFP) - Once the epitome of high-tech and worth millions in desperately needed trade, the greenhouses of Gaza have been stripped bare by their former Jewish owners and pillaged by the Palestinians.
Fitted out with sophisticated, computer-programmed irrigation systems, rich New York Jews forked out 14 million dollars to buy the hothouses from former Israeli settlers and donate them to the Palestinians.
Under the deal negotiated by James Wolfensohn, the international special envoy for the pullout, the glass houses and their annual crops of 75 million dollars, were to be handed over in good state to the Palestinian Authority
But pillagers, taking advantage of the chaos reigning over some evacuated settlements in the days since Israel left and ceded control of Gaza to the Palestinians, made a bee-line for greenhouses seen as gold dust.
According to Palestinian authorities, who have since ordered police and civilians to stop the ransacking of money-making structures so crucial to the future of impoverished Gaza, around 800 of the 4,000 greenhouses are unusable.
"Repairs cost 10,000 dollars per greenhouse," said Osama al-Farra, mayor of the closest Palestinian town, Khan Yunis.
"Part of the electrical circuits, irrigators and computers were taken by settlers, the rest by looters," he said.
Taking a quick tour of the ruins of the largest Jewish settlement bloc, Gush Katif, is enough to ascertain that if most of the greenhouses' metal frames are still in place, they are cavernous shells.
Electricity sub-stations have been gouged open and their wires yanked out, impossible to know whether it's the handiwork of settlers or looters.
Few greenhouses have even a pipe left as ripped tarpaulin flaps in the wind.
Next to one, a peasant from near Gaza City and three of his cousins bundle water pipes and tarpaulin into a pick-up van.
"An Israeli tank destroyed our farm," Hani offers by way of excuse.
"The Palestinian Authority talks but does nothing. The intifada ruined us: with this we can build again," he adds.
Outside Neve Dekalim, once the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza, Abdelaziz Ali Otman, 53, and colleagues drink tea. For 20 years they were employed in the enclave by a wealthy Jewish settler.
"It was us who did everything here so we know how to take care of it!" According to him, some owners stopped watering flowers, fruits and vegetables two months before the withdrawal, others carried on until the last day.
Otman and five colleagues were sitting down, unarmed, to protect the hundreds of hectares and put off looters. One civilian car skidded in front of them: "Guys, guys, come quickly, some lads are cutting the fence!"
Palestinian forces are now installed outside most of the greenhouses, but that doesn't stop the looters from continuing to carve out treasures.
Three pillagers were slicing through the fence when a police patrol orders them off the premises.
Suddenly a guard comes out from behind the bushes. Carrying pliers, he was helping the looters.
- AFP explicitly blames Jews for some of the equipment missing from Gaza without the slightest fact to back it up.
- AFP twice refers to Jews as "rich" or "wealthy". While in the case of the stupid American Jews who decided to throw away millions on Palestinians, they were in fact rich, the story could have easily said "by members of the American Jewish community" rather than bring up the stereotype of influential New York Jews. And what purpose is served by calling the Gaza greenhouse owner "wealthy" if not to again promote a stereotype?
- If it costs $10,000 to fix each of 800 greenhouses, that means that out of the $14 million gift, $8 million is already wasted. It also means that the true value of the greenhouses far exceeded $14 million (especially if the annual crop is $75 million) - a fact never mentioned in the media.
- Palestinian "police" joining in the looting is always a nice touch to any story from the territories!