Media Ignores Pro-Obama Merchandise in Hamas-controlled Gaza

While President Obama's Middle East policy has alienated many Israel supporters, he seems to be generating quite a fan base in the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip. Posters, mugs and other products plastered with doctored photos of Obama in Palestinian garb have recently been filling the shelves of gift shops in the Palestinian territory, according to New York Post columnist Amir Taheri.

But while the media exhaustively covered the Obama-themed memorabilia that blanketed gift shops in countries like Japan, China, Trinidad and Tabago, and India, the implications of this Obama-mania in Gaza have been ignored by most of the major newspapers and network news programs. After the New York Post column ran on Thursday, the story has only been picked up by the Fox News Channel and political blogs.

At the Chairman Arafat gift shop, mugs depicting Obama in a Palestinian headscarf are decorated with the phrase: “Abu Hussain, Palestine Loves You” – Abu Hussain being a poorly-spelled reference to Obama's middle name. The store also sells Obama dolls festooned with vests, swords, grenades and guns.

Amidst the Obama merchandise are replicas of the headbands worn by Palestinian suicide bombers, posters of Saddam Hussein and dancing Osama bin Laden toys.

The Chairman Arafat shop has served as a barometer of acceptable public opinion in the Hamas-controlled territory for years. Some of the store's previous kitschy merchandise has included “Goldstone”-inscribed scarves – in reference to Judge Richard Goldstone, the author of an anti-Israel UN report – and mugs poking fun at the 2007 Annapolis peace conference. “[I]n the case of the conference's failure you are only asked to break this mug,” was written on the ceramic.

According to New York Post columnist Taheri, some of the Obama-themed memorabilia was “produced by the Palestinian Hamas movement. Taheri also reported that the phrase “Abu Hussain, Palestine Loves You” was featured on the front pages of several major Arab newspapers this week.

“That the most radical Palestinian faction has declared its love for the president may be bad news for the stalled Middle East peace talks, which Obama has promised to help restart before the end of the year,” wrote Taheri in the Post. “Pressuring Israel may look good to 'Abu Hussain' and his Hamas admirers. But it may reduce the chances of agreement on the creation of a Palestinian state.”