Pop Culture Battles Fundamentalists in Gaza

Western imports ease daily stress, but fuel the fundamentalists' ire
By Kate Rockwood,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 7, 2008 3:34 PM CDT
A Palestinian holds up a photograph showing one of the lead characters of Turkish TV soap opera "Noor" , displayed for sale at a street corner in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, July 20, 2008.   (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – Culture is the quiet battleground in Gaza, where Jennifer Lopez pouts on CD covers beside religious paperbacks on store shelves, the New York Times reports. Combating daily food shortages and feeling isolated, Gazans escape with soap operas, sitcoms, and music—homegrown or imported from the West. But recent incidents—from a party host beaten for serving alcohol, to a theater director held at gunpoint—have heightened cultural tensions.

“The raid on us was about imposing a different culture,” the director said. “For the first time, I’m scared.” Hamas has brought security to the region, but also sparked anxiety by attacking art centers and pressing for a conservative agenda. Said one Hamas leader: “People are entitled to their behavior—so long as they do not harm this culture."