Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair, has been roundly mocked on dozens of blogs that have shown a copyrighted wire service photograph of her buying Snickers candy bars and soft drinks in a well-stocked food store in Gaza. She has called the region a "concentration camp" that is "under siege" by Israel's having restricted crossings due to continuing terrorist attacks against Israel.
Pro-Arab activists and Hamas leaders have insisted that restricting shipments into Gaza to trucks with humanitarian supplies have created a severe food shortage, a situation contradicted by the photograph.
In an interview with an Israeli newspaper last week, Booth said that conditions in Gaza are worse than those in Darfur and compared the area with Nazi concentration camps.
Booth said that conditions in Gaza are worse than those in Darfur and compared the area with Nazi concentration camps.
Booth is among 10 pro-Arab activists who remain in Gaza after having sailed to the beach as part of the "Free Gaza' Movement" publicity stunt that symbolically broke Israel's sovereignty over coastal waters. The government declared before the withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza three years ago that it would maintain control over the sea and air space around and over Gaza until the Palestinian Authority can show it is fighting terror.
Hamas wrested control from the rival Fatah party last year and has continued to smuggle massive amounts of advanced weapons and explosives.
Meanwhile, Booth has been unable to leave the area because Egyptian and Israeli authorities have not allowed her to enter their countries. She probably will leave Gaza if and when the next Free Gaza boats again try to break Israeli sovereignty next week.
Although Booth is Blair's sister-in-law, the two are barely on speaking terms. "I am related to Tony Blair--a fact that makes neither of us happy today, I can tell you that," she said at a rally against the war in Iraq two years ago.
In an interview with Canadian-born free-lance journalist Lisa Goldman, who blogs at On the Face and lives in Tel Aviv, Booth claimed that "high up sources" told her that Israel pressured Egypt not to allow her to cross the border at Rafiah.
Goldman wrote in her blog that she is against Israel's closing the Gaza crossing but that she has no respect for Booth. The writer said that when she identified herself as a reporter from Tel Aviv, Booth "launched into a tirade that was characterized by a mixture of hectoring, self-righteousness, drama and the occasional falsehood."
Booth confirmed that she had said that the situation of "concentration camps" in Gaza received less media attention than the situation in Darfur. Goldman then wrote, "I did a search on Google news for 'Darfur,' where 400,000 people have been killed over the past five years, and received 13,912 results. A search for 'Gaza,' where, according to B'Tselem, 810 Palestinians were killed in 2006-2007, brought up 17,605 results.
Booth also has claimed that Israeli solders threatened to shoot her when she tried to cross into Israel. "There were Israeli soldiers on the Gaza side of Erez?" Goldman asked. "Oh, I don’t know what they were. They were uniformed men with guns, all right?" Booth replied.
When the reporter replied that the gunmen apparently were Arabs and asked Booth if they had stopped her, she answered, "The Palestinians advised me not to cross, but I walked right into the tunnel and started walking. I was nearly at the Israeli side when a Palestinian man came running up behind me, holding a mobile phone and shouting that the Israelis had told him they would shoot me if I took another step."
Goldman pointed out that the likelihood of an IDF soldier shooting at her is extremely low. "The entrance to Israel via Erez is practically impenetrable," Goldman explained. "It is a maze of turnstiles that lock automatically, bulletproof glass, closed circuit cameras and disembodied voices that issue instructions via the public address system. One does not see an Israeli soldier until one has passed through security, which is remotely controlled."