Sunday, January 23, 2011

BREAKING: In Gaza, Sometimes People Surf a Lot

Omri Ceren
21 January '11

This update brought to you courtesy of Agence France-Presse, which yesterday published an article and uploaded to YouTube an accompanying video on the startling phenomenon. It’s a good thing they did too, because you might have missed the staggeringly critical geopolitical importance of Gaza surfing when it was covered in 2007 by the Los Angeles Times or in 2009 by Der Spiegel and ABC News or in 2010 by CNN and the Atlantic and the BBC.
In any case, make sure you revisit those pieces before tackling this one, both for deep background and because you wouldn’t want to miss exemplars of hard-nosed journalism like “the surfer paddled out from the shore. Lying on his battered board, he scanned the horizon. The turquoise water glittered in the midday sun … he caught a wave, effortlessly” and “dirt poor and mainly from refugee camps, they find joy riding waves, often on makeshift boards, in the green waters off Gaza’s beaches.” You can also prepare by watching ABC News’s 2009 YouTube video on the subject.
Gaza surfing, it turns out, is a hopelessly multivalenced topic. Sometimes the upshot is that Israel imposes insurmountable hardships on Palestinians. Sometimes the upshot is that Palestinians surmount Israeli hardships. Sometimes it’s both in the same story, with the Palestinians surmounting insurmountable Israeli hardships in the same way that the industrious and booming Gaza economy is perennially crippled by Israeli self-defense measures. But always, per the 700-plus-word BBC treatise on the subject, there is a fundamental lesson to be learned: “Palestinians are people like in any other country.” We love to surf, they love to surf, they’re just like us.
In Gaza, they also bomb Christian bookstores, turn hospitals into ammo dumps, create armies of suicide-bomber women and children, produce movies about how killing enemy Jews is the height of religious worship, hold summer camps to create child soldiers, stageschool plays demonizing Israelis, air children’s TV brimming with vulgar and violent bigotry, and fascistically regulate women’s bodies — all the while overwhelmingly supporting Iranian proxies bent on eradicating millions of Jews — but whatever. Gaza is just like Venice Beach, right?
Anyway — obviously — these stories aren’t so much journalism as they are agitprop. They don’t even cover actual issues about Gaza beaches, such as whether Hamas has loosened its “modest” beach dress code, a proxy for Gaza Islamism, or whether critically endangered sea turtles are still getting hacked up by grinning children and their beaming fathers. But why report on women in Islam or Mediterranean keystone species when there are clumsy and pathos-soaked odes to the indefatigable Palestinian spirit to be penned?

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