US media takes unusual interest in Najib’s visit to Gaza

Najib hugs Haniyeh during a cornerstone placing ceremony in Gaza City January 22, 2013. – Reuters picNajib hugs Haniyeh during a cornerstone placing ceremony in Gaza City January 22, 2013. – Reuters pic

NEW YORK, Jan 26 – The US media on the east coast has been reporting extensively on the recent visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Many news reports carried pictures of Najib, attired in a light dark-coloured jacket, and beige coloured trousers but without a tie, arriving at the Gaza Strip to get a first-hand assessment of the situation in the region.

However, many of the media reports suggested that Najib’s visit was used by Hamas to project it as a “stand against Israel”.

Indeed, the New York Times captioned its report as “Hamas Paints Malaysian Premier’s Visit as a Stand Against Israel”, using a picture showing Najib getting out of the car as he arrived in the Gaza City.

The New York Times said that while Najib called his visit to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip a humanitarian mission, Hamas sought to portray it as a “defiant stand” against Israeli restrictions on Gaza.

“This is an Islamic declaration for breaking the Israeli siege on Gaza,” said Ismail Haniya, the prime minister of Hamas, who received the Malaysian premier, his wife and his foreign minister at the Rafah crossing point between Gaza and Egypt.

Although restrictions have been recently eased a bit, most exports from Gaza are still banned and this has, invariably, caused difficulties in its external trade.

Najib’s visit was also reported by other publications such as the World Politics Review, a Washington DC based foreign policy website.

The general tenor of the US media coverage suggests that while Najib embarked on what he described as a humanitarian trip, his hosts tried to project it as a case of unflinching support for Hamas.

Najib’s visit also took place at a time when Israelis were busy with voting in the parliamentary elections.

Haniya described Najib’s visit as a “Palestinian, Arab and Islamic response” to a visit last Tuesday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Western Wall in Jerusalem, according to the New York Times report.

Haniya was quoted as calling the Western Wall, known to Muslims as Al Buraq, as an “Arab and Islamic wall”, adding that “Jerusalem is Islamic”.

During his five-hour visit to Gaza, Najib laid the cornerstone of an industrial college which Malaysia is financing and also signed an agreement with the Hamas government to rebuild the prime minister’s office, destroyed by Israel in November during an armed battle with Hamas.

The US media also reported Najib’s call to the Palestinians to reconcile, saying he hoped that a recent thaw between Hamas and Fatah, the rival Palestinian faction that controls the West Bank, would lead to a unity government. – Bernama



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