Hamas to build Hollywood-style media city in Gaza
Though its people are struggling to make ends meet, Hamas officials are busy worrying about raising funds for the ambitious project to turn Gaza into a movie-making emporium. First in the production order is a film based on a novel penned by hardliner Mahmoud Zahar
It's a tale worthy of its own movie script: The Gaza Strip's isolated and cash-strapped Hamas rulers plan to build a $200 million media city and movie production house that will be part tourist attraction and part effort to cement control of the territory it seized by force in June.
So far, though, the Islamic group has raised only a tiny fraction of the money it needs for its own Hollywood, at a time when the Gaza economy has ground to a standstill and its people are struggling to feed themselves because of Israeli and international sanctions against Hamas.
Even so, Hamas envisions a glittering facility with production and graphics studios, satellite technology, gardens, water ponds, a children's entertainment area and an array of cafes and restaurants, said the Felasteen daily, a Hamas paper.
It will even feature mock towns and villages similar to those that Palestinians fled or were forced out after Israel's creation in 1948, the newspaper reported, quoting Fathi Hamad, a Hamas lawmaker and head of the project.
Hamad said the project's directors have raised $1 million, a small fraction of the $200 million price tag. He said he was confident the group could raise the rest from local donations and from Palestinians living abroad.
Hamas launched a satellite channel last year, offering bearded young men reading the news, and Islamic music layered over footage of masked militants firing rockets into Israel. Hamas loyalists also run at least five news Web sites, two newspapers and a radio station.
Some previous Hamas productions have generated unflattering headlines. In one show last year, a high-pitched Mickey Mouse lookalike called Farfour preached Islamic domination to children. After an international outcry, Hamas had the character killed off - by an actor playing an Israel security officer.
The mouse's replacement, a bee called Nahoul, was condemned by animal rights activists after the character swung cats by their tails to demonstrate how not to treat animals.
'Hamas understands importance of media'
Hamas officials did not return phone calls seeking comment about the new media project.
Talal Okal, a Palestinian political writer close to Hamas, said finding the money would be difficult, but not impossible, because of Hamas' network of supporters in the Arab world.
He said the announcement was an important first step toward obtaining full control over the media. "Hamas realizes the importance of the media,'' Okal said.
Under Hamas, press freedom is limited in Gaza.
Hamas officials refuse to speak to Palestinian journalists who have not applied for Hamas press cards, and the group often harasses reporters who are not loyalists.
On Tuesday, Hamas police stormed the house of reporter Hisham Sakallah, an editor of a local news Web site, and confiscated his computer and archives.
The first movie Hamas plans to shoot will be based on a novel by one of its hard-line leaders in Gaza,
Mahmoud Zahar, the report said. Zahar has written seven novels, including a 1980 romance called ''Beautiful Woman.''
A movie is also planned about Izzedine al-Qassam, an admired preacher who led Palestinian riots in the 1930s against the British and Jews in Palestine. Hamas' military wing is named for the charismatic leader.