The mirage of Yahya Sarraj

The New York Times opened its opinion pages to Gaza City Mayor Yahya R. Sarraj. Sarraj’s op-ed column runs as “I Am Gaza City’s Mayor. Our Lives and Culture Are in Rubble.”

Not to disappoint Times readers, Sarraj gave them what they came for on Christmas Eve — a blast of pure Hamas propaganda. In this respect it bears some resemblance to the news pages of the Times, but this is naked.

Hamas appointed Sarraj mayor in 2019. He didn’t win office the old-fashioned way. In this respect he might even represent an offshoot of Our Democracy™.

As the Hamas-appointed mayor of Gaza City, Sarraj must be a senior official of a foreign terrorist organization, designated as such since 1997 pursuant to United States law. Accordingly, it’s illegal for Americans to render material assistance to it, but the Times is of course a law unto itself — as I have had the occasion to point out in years past.

Everyone knows that Hamas is dedicated to the mass murder of the Jewish people and the destruction of Israel. Indeed, it is still showing its stuff for anyone with eyes to see. The Times nevertheless thinks Sarraj has something valuable to contribute.

Sarraj’s column tends to belie the proposition that Gaza was an open-air prison before the current war. He decries the destruction that Gaza City has suffered as a result of the war. He seeks a return to the status quo ante, when everything was beautiful in its own way.

Reading the opening of Sarraj’s column, one can’t help but think of the tunnels Hamas built under Gaza City (and elsewhere) in Gaza with a single purpose in mind. See, for example, the December 21 Times of Israel story by Emanuel Fabian “IDF demolishes major Gaza City tunnel network hidden underneath ‘Palestine Square.’” Subhead: “Military asserts that senior Hamas officials Yahya Sinwar and Muhammad Deif hid in underground passages just below bustling commercial square during October 7 assault on Israel.”

However, Sarraj appears to have missed that. He walks down memory lane to revisit his teenage years:

As a teenager in the 1980s, I watched the construction of the intricately designed Rashad al-Shawa Cultural Center in Gaza City, named after one of Gaza’s greatest public figures, and its theater, grand hall, public library, printing press and cultural salon.

Students and researchers, scholars and artists from across the Gaza Strip came to visit it, and so did President Bill Clinton in 1998. The center was the gem of Gaza City. Watching it being built inspired me to become an engineer, which led to a career as a professor and, in the footsteps of al-Shawa, as mayor of Gaza City.

Now that gem is rubble. It was destroyed by Israeli bombardment.

As I say, one can’t help but wonder if he caught the tunnel construction taking place under his nose as the Hamas-appointed mayor of Gaza City. It undercuts his idyll and had more than a little to do with the rubble. Missing along with the tunnels are the hostages that Hamas is holding in them.

Sarraj addresses a few questions to Times readers, For example: “Why would Israel hit a U.N. school?” Anyone? Anyone? Anyone should in fact be able to answer the question, but it may remain a mystery to those who get their news from the New York Times.

The mysteries continue in Sarraj’s concluding paragraph: “Why can’t Palestinians be treated equally, like Israelis and all other peoples in the world? Why can’t we live in peace and have open borders and free trade?” As one respondent quoted by the Daily Mail put it: “It’s because your people raped, tortured and massacred your way across defenseless Israeli communities on 7 October, in barbaric scenes from hell.”

Well, yeah. Those are all good questions. However, Sarraj ought to look in the mirror — as should the editors of the New York Times. As Marc Thiessen put it on X: “But publishing Tom Cotton is a firing offense.”

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