SCENES FROM GAZA (which would be real paradise if not for the Israeli blockade, no?)
The slim owner of Gaza City's Gallery cafe has sharp eyes and a sharp tongue. It's easy to imagine him conversing with artists and actors — he is also a theater director — far into the night. But he crossed a line. He allowed female patrons at his cafe to smoke hookah pipes and to talk with men. He ignored demands by plainclothes police to rein in "immoral" behavior. In early May, police interrogated and accused him of having extramarital affairs. To persuade him to confess, they beat him with a 2-inch-thick, leather-covered bamboo rod for 50 minutes, and later forced him to stand on one leg for two hours.Keep reading.
The blockade of the Gaza Strip — brought into focus by Israel's deadly interception of blockade-busting ships May 31 — is not the only problem faced by that territory's besieged and impoverished population. As Human Rights Watch documented during a trip to Gaza in May, severe violations of personal freedom and repression of civil society groups that defend that freedom appear to be sharply on the rise. The Hamas government, trying to shore up its image as an Islamic reform movement in the face of challenges from more radical Islamist groups, is consolidating its social control by upping its efforts to "Islamize" Gaza.