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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Baking a crisis

I mentioned yesterday Palestinian Arab press reports that Hamas forced the bakeries of Gaza to be closed even though they had a month of supplies. I wrote on Sunday about similar reports that Hamas was stealing fuel meant for hospitals.

Today, a PA official confirmed these stories:
A top PA official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that Hamas was "holding more than 1.5 million Palestinians hostage" in an attempt to rally the Arab and Muslim masses against the PA and Israel.

"Of course, we strongly condemn the Israeli measures against the residents of the Gaza Strip, but Hamas is also responsible for what's happening there," he said. "Unfortunately, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are paying a heavy price for Hamas's irresponsible actions."

The official also accused Hamas of ordering owners of bakeries to keep their businesses closed for the second day running to create a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. "Hamas is preventing people from buying bread," he said. "They want to deepen the crisis so as to serve their own interests."

The official said that contrary to Hamas's claims, there is enough fuel and flour to keep the bakeries in the Gaza Strip operating for another two months. "Hamas members have stolen most of the fuel in the Gaza Strip to fill their vehicles," he said.

From Hamas' viewpoint, it is all worth it as long as they can get their stooges at AP and Reuters to file pictures such as these:

Palestinians queue to buy bread from a bakery in Gaza City, Monday, Jan. 21, 2008.

And credulous reporters from major newspapers shamelessly parrot Hamas propaganda as they look for that "human angle":
Four days into an Israeli blockade that has cut off food and fuel to the Gaza Strip, residents of the strip contemplated Monday how long it would be until disaster hit. One family of 13, shivering in the cold, counted its eight remaining candles. A bakery that normally feeds thousands had three days' worth of flour.

Hospital generators with enough fuel for three days and no spare parts powered incubators in which twin boys born 2 1/2 months prematurely were being kept alive, their thin chests heaving convulsively.
Because, after all, if reporters have a nice juicy story of cute babies in imminent danger that can be conveniently blamed on Israel, or they have to dig a little to find what is really going on, which story will they choose?

As the Jerusalem Post's Khaled Abu Toameh reports, Hamas has convincingly won a PR victory with staged photos and stories such as these.