It’s boom not bombs in Gaza for Channel 4 documentary

Gaza City’s first five-star hotel, the Arcmed Al Mashtal —one of its many big-budget building projects

Gaza City’s first five-star hotel, the Arcmed Al Mashtal —one of its many big-budget building projects

The presenter of a Channel Four documentary about Gaza has said that the local population would not recognise the portrayal of the area in much of the UK media as war-torn.

Seyi Rhodes travelled to the Gaza Strip in February to film an episode of Unreported World, which airs tonight.

But rather than reporting on a region torn apart by conflict, the programme focuses on the property market and booming construction taking place there

Mr Rhodes said the experience confounded his expectations. "Before I started researching, I thought the region was destitute - people living literally hand-to-mouth on aid, with constant security threats. I took it for granted that people would be living in temporary accommodation provided by the UN."

In fact, he found "a growing wealth gap", with ordinary families struggling even to rent but new flats being sold for up to $3 million to wealthy Palestinians with money from abroad or from jobs with the Hamas government.

"As a left-wing student, I was given one view of Gaza/Palestine," said Mr Rhodes. "But I realise now that many of those representations were entirely politically motivated.

"Even Gazans wouldn't recognise the image that is portrayed of them sometimes. The woman crying over her dead son, the man throwing stones at tanks."

He added that such stereotypes were "frankly offensive as most of these people live their lives with the same concerns as you and me… getting on the housing ladder, educating your children. People didn't even talk about Israel unless I brought it up."

The programme also highlights the flourishing black market in Gaza, with 90 per cent of new constructions using materials smuggled in through the network of tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt.

Mr Rhodes emphasised that the property market is strong because most residents have no choice but to live in Gaza.

In his view, the blockade of Gaza was unsuccessful because it served to strengthen Hamas, but also turned the "old system of wealthy families and merchants with links to Israel on its head".

"Many of those people are now losing out to the Hamas tunnel economy," he said.

'Unreported World. Gaza's Property Ladder', Channel 4, Friday, 7.30pm

Last updated: 3:45pm, April 25 2013