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September 10, 2008

Story on Culture Clash Ignores a Culture Clash

In his Sept. 6 New York Times story "Watching 'Friends' in Gaza: A Culture Clash," Michael Kimmelman claims that "Gaza has not had any movie house since the last one burned two decades ago during the first intifada." (The piece was also published the following day in the International Herald Tribune.)

How strange to make such an error — and to assert only that the theater mysteriously "burned" — in a piece that's ostensibly a thorough exploration of the tensions between Islamist and Western cultures in Gaza.

The last movie house burned down not during the first intifada and its Palestinian-Israeli clashes, but on November 19, 1994 — after the end of the first intifada — during intense fighting between Palestinian factions in Gaza. What is especially strange about Kimmelman's assertion, though, is that he fails to note the theater "burned" because it was set alight by Islamists during clashes between Arafat's secular self-rule government and Islamic groups such as Hamas. In a piece about the culture war, why would this detail be left out?

Read on for an excerpt from the Nov. 20, 1994 Washington Post about the movie theater.

In Gaza City, however, there is no movie theater left. The young militants burned the Nasser, the only one in the city, Friday night, and came back today to finish the job. Reel by reel and yard by yard, they added the surviving celluloid to bonfires on the pavement outside.

"They are playing movies like this one with unclothed women!" exclaimed Mohammed Sorour, 16, holding a frame to the light of the afternoon sun. It appeared to be a beach scene, with a matron of 40 or so in a one-piece bathing suit. "We want to let the [Palestinian] Authority know that it is forbidden in Islam to open a new cinema."

Jihad Abu Zayed, 27, watched from a safe distance. "These are bad people, uneducated people," he fumed. "This is a cultural center, and they are destroying it. ... Somebody should stop them, but the Authority doesn't want to be in more clashes today.

Posted by GI at September 10, 2008 04:28 PM

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