Gaza plans media fun park, no kissing allowed

If you believe the building plans, “Media City” will be a Disneyland fused with Hollywood and the CNN Centre on the shores of the Mediterranean.There’s only one catch: it’s in the Gaza Strip.

Workers at this ex-Jewish settlement go in fear of Israeli air strikes, while there is a blockade on building materials.

And the Hamas Islamists backing the site — envisioned as a combined amusement park, movie studio and hub for international journalism all in one — say foreign filmmakers will be welcome, as long as their works don’t show people kissing.

But those setbacks and the reality of Hamas rule and Israeli sanctions have not discouraged Gaza Media City’s backers, inspired by Arab examples in Dubai and Egypt that have drawn foreign investment and created jobs.

They have started work on landscaping in the hope that one day the project will feature a zoo and film lots that recreate among other things, the Palestinian villages of a century ago and today’s Israeli settlements.

“We are aware of the closure problems and the obstacles in bringing cement and other equipment but we have decided to begin the work,” said Abdel-Salam Naser, the project’s engineer.

CONFLICT HISTORY

Hamas politician Fathi Hammad said it could cost $20 million — a bargain compared to the sort of projects seen in Gulf states away from the Middle East conflict.

But it must be tackled in stages, with funding from Arab countries and non-governmental organizations abroad, he said.

Media City’s organizers will produce television shows and movies about Palestinian history and the conflict with Israel, and have planned small scale set models of Palestinian refugee camps and Israeli settlements.

“Everybody should learn about the 60 years of Jihad by the Palestinian people against the (Israeli) occupation,” Hammad said, referring to the conflict between Palestinians and Israel since the Jewish state was founded in 1948.

Hamas leaders have offered a long-term truce with Israel in return for a viable Palestinian state, but it is shunned by Israel and its allies for refusing to renounce violence. The Islamist group continues to say it does not recognize Israel and its 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in June after fighting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah faction.

Since then, Israel has declared the territory an “enemy entity” and tightened border restrictions, although it has pledged to keep humanitarian supplies flowing.

Given Israel’s ban on importing construction materials, organizers of Gaza’s Media City have started with low-key work such as building fish ponds and planting citrus trees.

If and when construction on Media City does start, workers will make buildings from clay and wood to save costs — in case they are destroyed by Israeli air strikes, its organizers said.

Keen to rally support among Gazans struggling under the boycott, Hamas has frequently turned to the media — including its own satellite TV channel, radio station and newspapers — in its power struggle with Fatah.

Media City will be available for use by foreign production companies, but output will be strictly vetted.

“Certainly, a scene of some man kissing a woman cannot be allowed on the soil of this city,” Naser said.

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