Gaza Strip's Chairman Arafat Gift Shop sells souvenirs that span the Palestinian political spectrum, even if there are no visitors to buy them.
• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.
When Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 it sparked the most serious political division in Palestinian history. But you might not realize that from a visit to Gaza City’s “Chairman Arafat Gift Shop.”
It is the only souvenir shop in the Gaza Strip and may be the only one in the world that sells both olive-wood rosary beads and scarves emblazoned with the logo of the militant group Islamic Jihad. Owner Tareq Abu Dayyeh says the eclectic shop has been around since 2000.
Some of his souvenirs are apolitical, but others demonstrate an equal opportunity approach to Palestinian politics, with neat rows of brightly colored T-shirts, banners, scarves, and headbands devoted to warring factions such as Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Mr. Dayyeh says he has never had a problem.
“Everyone comes in and shops and thinks it is all very funny,” he says, pointing to a poster of the deceased former leaders of Fatah and Hamas, Yasser Arafat, and Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, smiling in front of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. Mr. Arafat wears a checkered kaffiyeh while the sheikh wears a green baseball cap.
Most of the customers used to be foreigners or have lived abroad. But because of the three-year-long siege after Hamas took power, that crowd has been scarce. “I hope it will get better soon,” says Dayyeh.