Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Cards

Greetings Everyone

From what can only be termed a wet cold and miserable day here in the Unholylands, it has been belting rain for the last 24 hours, thunder and lightning that is driving Molly scared.

OK so I have to admit that this year is for the first time a xmas card free event in the sense that we did not get our act together to (A) find any xmas cards (B) write in them and (C) deal with the situation at the local post office. Now I do have an excuse in that I have been in Iraq for the last two weeks helping establish democracy in the elections and learning how to shoot a M16 rifle and Browning 9mm pistol (you will be glad to know that the Marine Instructor gave me a "good to kill" rating after my time on the range)

I would like to say that democratic elections were the highlight of the trip but the best time of the trip was being holed up in the Outpost in the Middle of Ramadi for 24 hours listening to IEDS exploding and gunfire, plaese note this was on Election Day.

Now what has this to do with forgetting Xmas Cards , nothing but at least I have an excuse, now there are some of you out there who did send cards and they are in pride of place in Chateau James as you walk in the door.

I should also add that even between the members of the James family, Myself, Cheryl, Louise and Brittany that we did not give one card to each other, I will check email later no doubt one of those really personal e cards will be announced in my inbox. I sign of the times no doubt, my thoughts are for thiry years time when Lou and BJ are sitting around with their families will cards even been remembered.

From all of us here to all of you there, may you enjoy the day with family and friends and do not forget the blog site where the daily trials and tribulations of the Unholyland are chronicled

Merry Christmas
Ho Ho Ho
Unholyland 2005

Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Morning in Downtown Ramadi Iraq

Ramadi Iraq
Saturday December 10 2005

If you have ever attended your child’s pre school and had to sit on one of those small chairs they use, where the legs are eight inches off the ground and the back comes up less than a foot, well then you have met the man who designed the seats that they use in Military Humvee’s. Now take this seat put it in a cold car, with a heater that blows dust at hurricane force, add complete Military body armor including a Kevlar helmet and find yourself in the car park of the Government Center in Ramadi at four AM, our next live shot is an hour away and welcome to another day on the road with Ollie North and Producer Greg Johnson.

The advice from a Marine was that when you cross this piece of ground between building A and the actual offices “ It is advised that you move swiftly, Sir “ there have been Snipers in those buildings.

Life on the road in Ramadi is anything but dull. Everything is coordinated and planned because as things get better in some ways they can become more dangerous in other ways. You lock the doors on the fully armored humvees when you travel around the city, not for security but safety. The reason being that if a roadside bomb, known as an IED, “Improvised Explosive Device” goes off next to you it can literally blow the door off the vehicle. We all wear earplugs whilst traveling again in case a bomb goes off and the as always you are rolling the camera again in case a bomb goes off, by the end of this trip we will of shot endless hours of video of just driving thru the streets.

This is our fifth trip back to spend time with the forces based here for an extended period, and what is scary is that we actually now know the streets of Ramadi. Its like being in a city where you jump in a cab and start to question the cab driver as to why he is taking such and such way when you could of gone this way. Only here, the “cab drivers” are heavily armed and we change routes for security so if we go the back way it is normally for a good reason.

I had had no sleep for nearly thirty six hours apart from trying to curl up in the frozen humvee for an hour, it had got so cold that I had in fact managed to get my arms inside my flak jacket to try and save body warmth. After filming the dawn breaking over the city from the roof and the Marines on guard, I found an old lounge sofa in a hallway and was trying to catch some sleep before we were scheduled to move back to our Camp.

One of those times when you are asleep but not asleep, when suddenly standing over me is a Marine saying in the great way they do, when an order is an order but in a nice way shaking me out of my half sleep with a “James , Col North wants you on the roof NOW”.
Now when traveling with Ollie that means only one thing, something is happening and happening now. Slinging on the flak jacket and Kevlar helmet grabbing the camera and going thru the mental checklist as you run out of the door, the sound of heavy machine gun punched thru the air.

An IED had just blown up a U.S. military truck carrying 300 gallons of gas 500 yards away down the road outside the offices on the main road and the Marines were now firing to keep the Insurgents from throwing more bombs at the smoking vehicle as they tried to get the gas to explode and destroy the truck which sitting there damaged but still recoverable.

Ollie and I ran the last few yards of open ground on the edge of the compound and scrambled up into the outpost looking down the road at the scene. People often think fighting a battle is chaos, when in fact it normally a very controlled and calculated operation. The Lieutenant and the Machine Gunner plan and execute everything down to the last detail, three other Marines watch observe and work together backing up everything, there are ten eyes on the objective and these guys can observe something as small as a water bottle being thrown from a side alley from 500 yards.

For the next half hour bunkered up in the outpost we filmed the Marines of Kilo Company take control and when the Machine Gun fires the air is almost sucked out of the lookout, the first few times you instinctively jump and the camera moves. Just like the Marines have standard field procedures Ollie and I too work as a team to co-ordinate the filming we shoot different angles to ensure that not do we see the firing of the gun but also what it is being fired at. This is no movie set with unlimited space and time to ask for another take, but full combat and there are no second takes, it is cramped and you film thru gaps in sandbags and behind Marines, you cannot ask someone to move to get a better angle to film from because they have a gun trained down the road.

We hear on the radio that a convoy is moving back to the Camp where our transmission is based from and we have to leave, once again “now” and saying a quick goodbye to the guys we scamper down and running across the courtyard we jump into the humvee’s and head back out onto the streets of Ramadi to run the gauntlet to get back and send the pictures to New York, just another morning in Iraq.

Alone in my thoughts

Wednesday Dec 7 2005
18:06 local Baghdad Time

“ Flying Alone “

It is like sitting in the belly of the beast, just Jonah must of felt like in the belly of the whale. There is nothing comfortable or relaxing about the inside of a C130 Transporter Plane. It is a rattling noisy machine with four large propellers that have somehow managed to find the optimum pitch with which to vibrate the entire frame of the plane.

You sit in webbing like hammocks that stretch down the two sides and another two back to back in the centre. If you need to go to the toilet there are two pipes and funnels down the back by the ramp and in extreme times there is what is called the “Honey Pot” but since it cannot be emptied or flushed anywhere there a consensus that if possible hang on, because we all do not want to share the aroma of a bucket of the preverbial.

You sit alone in your thoughts as conversation is impossible over the noise and you are wearing earplugs, these are not fashion accessories but a reality. So for the hour and half it takes to fly from Kuwait to Al Asad Airbase North West of Baghdad you are totally isolated in your own world.

I use this time to reflect and plan, and not to think too much of what is to come in the next fortnight. Being scared of hypothetical scenarios is silly at times like this you need your wits and intuition, You mentally rehearse in your mind how to handle the day to day operations of gathering and transmitting News from the war zone.

We are scheduled to arrive in Al Asad and then hopefully later tonight get a chopper flight into Ramadi, the capital of the largest province in Iraq Al Anbar. There is a lot of insurgency and from all accounts it does not look good. Last week ten US Marines were killed whilst out on a foot patrol in the city and many others were injured when a IED bomb went off, Improvised Explosive Device.

This will be my third trip into Ramadi with Ollie North and Producer Greg Johnson, we have seen plenty off action and have filmed everything from full running street battles to exploding cars, on the first trip I was actually inside a armored humvee when it was hit by a roadside bomb. I can only hope that, that will be the last time I have to experience that sort of mayhem. It happens so fast that you do not realize what has happened only to think back later and count your lucky stars.

The main reason for this trip is to cover the Elections here on the 15th , somehow I think that it is going to be a adrenaline charged week leading up to the Polls.

Democracy is coming to Iraq at a high cost in every regard. Everybody wants to go home, the question we ask is what home do you want to create for the children of Iraq. We land in twenty minutes time to put the body armor on.

Where in the World is Mal, even he does not know

Wednesday Dec 7 2005 – 3 am

Damman Airport
Saudi Arabia

I have never heard of this place and God willing, will never have a reason to ever come back here. The only reason we are here … Fog.

Kuwait is supposedly engulfed in a pea soup cloud and the plane could not land, I somehow managed to sleep through the entire attempted landing, flight to where we are now, the landing here only to wake and find everyone standing in the aisles and it was ten pm.

We have been off loaded into the lounge in this ghastly edifice that doubles as an airport and now face the prospect of waiting till 11.30 in the morning to continue, most likely the only reason that 11.30 is now the departure time is so that the crew can get a twelve hour break. It is a challenge to try and describe the lounge here and not have my words come across as an attack on Islam, but lets face it someone is to blame for designing and furnishing this room.

Quick aside here, We should all feel sorry for Betsy North, Ollie North’s better half because the machine gun is snoring away like no tomorrow on the couch with his feet in the air, again note another insult to Islam displaying the soles of your feet, however since they are pointing at me I will take it like a Christian, How many tones and combinations can you snore in, There is the in pause and fast release snore with the half content exhale, the little staccato snores where you come back with the deep grunt that wakes you up followed by the rub the ear hands back on chest and finally some quietness, after ten seconds you think it is all ok and you too can get some sleep only to be caught by the half chain saw intake with the nasal exhale. Now I have no doubt that Mrs. North would simply poke her fingers sharply and repeatedly into Ollie and demand that he roll over, I however will let him snore because it is easier to write about snoring than it is to describe the lounge

You quickly realize the status of where you are in the world when you look at the departure monitor on the wall and see that today you can fly to Delhi, Damascus, Doha Sharjah, Bombay and Cairo

Ollie has just completed the double roll back down the throat with a half nasal block hammer snore that I think woke Greg up, luckily for other passengers in the lounge Greg rolled over half an hour ago and stopped his attempt to out snore Ollie.

So you have a base light industrial brown carpet to which you add blue and green octagonal shapes all held together by a radiating red interlinking chain. The Blue and Green lounges are positioned in an informal formal way so as to maximize the effect of the round black coffee table with sharp edges at shin height. The brown marble wall panels and pillars are highlighted by lights that you would happily find in the back storeroom of your Grandmothers, naturally 100 watts to maximize the sterility of the room.

A windmill is on the desk where your friendly airline person would be to greet you as you come to relax and socialize with family and friends prior to flying to either Delhi Damascus Doha Sharjah Bombay or Cairo. Two massive television sets on stands are naturally turned off

The rapid three in succession with the half content pause exhale, oh hark I now hear a fellow snorer calling out across the room to Ollie, steady and without any personality to his snore I might add.

A fluorescent light makes those cheese and egg club sandwiches so tempting in the refrigerated glass display cabinet, Luckily they made the sandwiches with stale bread to enhance the dining experience.

The smoking corner is positioned next to the food and coffee service area, so as to meet Saudi Health and Hygiene regulations.

Why have muzak, when the call to prayer can be broadcast at Volume 11, Allah the merciful has managed to silence Ollie’s snoring, well not completely but the combination of snoring and the call to prayer is a meeting of two great religions.

It will be daylight in a couple of hours and even the golden rays of dawns first light are not going to make this room any better, only another six and half hours to go. If Ollie snores at once every five seconds that means four thousand eight hundred and sixty snores till we take off.

Inshallah we shall leave here.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

New York Marathon 2005

Run Mal Run – The New York Marathon 2005

Ok in one year I have run three marathons and for those of you who have never run the mystical 26.2 miles I apologise because you have not lived life till you have crossed that barrier of personal pain and belief in yourself

And this edition of the Unholyland blog is to salute all of us who in life have achieved what .1 of 1% of the world’s population has done and that is to have run a marathon.

My first marathon was an eye opener it was Athens in the Olympic year (November 2004) and there was “the hill” but to be honest the most exciting thing about running Athens was running up that hill, ok it was a big hill 10 km’s plus but that was the highlight running up a road. The crowd support was equal to that of a local under thirteen soccer game on a wet day in winter. But being your first marathon the sheer joy of completing the event overwhelms you and the sense of accomplishment cannot be understated. You have become the member of an exclusive club in that you are now a marathoner.

My second marathon was Paris in April, which I ran in under four hours. In Marathon circles saying sub 4 means you are in the club. Not totally in the club but you’re a player. And trust me it hurts to break four hours, you do not just jog around for four hours and watch the scenery.

Paris was big in the sense of running with close to thirty thousand other people makes anything big, but being French there always seemed to be that arrogance of other runners cutting you off and well just being French. The best part of running the Paris marathon was the start, running down the Champs Elysees is truly an awe inspiring thing to do, the problem then is that there is still another 25 miles to go. The last couple of miles are in a park and I was so mentally out of it that I do not remember much at all.

It seems silly to say that you are alive and conscious but at a state where you truly do not exist, that is what happens in a marathon. You can take your body and push it beyond the limits. The mystical wall does exist but only in ones mind, it is not rocket science to explain the “wall” in terms of simple glycogen deficit.

New York takes marathon to the next level, in that the complete city gets into this event, everyone you talk to salutes you, and its genuine they all know the course thru the five boroughs, it almost overwhelms you that the biggest city in the world actually enjoys being closed down effectively for twelve hours so that 35,000 people can run through the streets.

It still staggers me that I was actually running in the same race as the world record holder being clapped and cheered by the same crowd. He was running so fast that he probably did not get to hear the crowds clapping for as long as I did.

So there I am running with the World Record Holder in the same race (and yes I did see him, he is fast) how damm cool is that. Two years ago I could not run around the block and now here I am in a race with the World Record Holder. I figured out that in training for the marathon in New York I had run over 1100 kilometres in 190 days, I had woken up at three am on Saturday mornings to run for endless hours before the sun came up, endless loops of the sports academy track with my heart rate monitor going mad. The funny thing is that in 190 days of training it did not rain on me once.

Last Sunday I ran with my heart and soul, it wasn’t about time and personal bests. It was about being able to participate in one of the greatest sporting events in the world. I reflect on the fact that this race was broadcast live around the world and that my girls could actually watch it back home. Unlike Athens this was no wet soccer game in winter.

From the start to the finish I enjoyed every second of this run, 3 hours 59 minutes and 14 seconds. Coming off the bridge and onto 1st Avenue you are hit by a wall of noise that takes your senses apart. There are people ten deep on the footpath screaming and clapping, I had my name on the front of my running singlet and you hear “Go Mal Go” , Gospel Singers in Harlem , Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and small kids offering you chewing gum in the Bronx. You run down 5th Avenue towards Central Park and through the pain you soak up being part of the biggest marathon in the world.

It hurt and it hurt very badly for the last six miles (ten kilometres), you take your body and break it and then ask it to keep going. Pain will pass when you cross the line but pride will lasts a lifetime. In those last few miles in Central Park you cross a barrier of personal self and as a runner you look up and believe, you believe in yourself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Images of Pain And Desperation

Images of Pain and Desperation

Pakistan Earthquake October 2005

A small hand clinging to a fathers shirt, tilting the camera up you could see that the fathers eyes were clinging to hope, the camera pulls out as the father stands holding the small child clinging to him as he stumbled forwards to the helicopter, the child had only one arm the other stump hung in a bloody bandage, his arm had just been amputated. Mike Tobin wrote these great words to open our package the other night and in one paragraph summed up the tragedy we were both witnessing. Pictures and words that over one million people, would see and hear on the other side of the world in the coming hours.

The earthquake measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, it lasted six minute’s and killed in excess of 40,000 people more than 65,000 injured and close to 3,500,000 displaced. In the following seven days there has been 575 aftershocks, and Mike never felt one of them and it took a 5.6 in the middle of the night to wake Mark, the team’s Producer.

Numbers mean nothing, when you turn on the camera you can capture a moment a look that sometimes sums up what it must have been like, this assignment has been tough because like the Tsunami there is no enemy, no one to blame, because Mother Nature can be friend and foe in one person.

There was the close up of the little boys face, his eyes black and swollen looking up at the helicopter, the blades casting flickering shadows across his face in time with his heartbeat and suffering. The scene in the helicopter-taking people out injured and maimed 70 of them crammed into the US Army Air Guard Chinook. Every space was full of pain, there was nowhere to sit or kneel for me on the flight back, my feet were wedged between two heads of the injured lying on the floor of the chopper, there black eyes starring up at me then closing.

In the roaring dim of the helicopter, I reached across to Mike and searched thru the backpack we carried between us and found two sports drinks and a couple of granola bars I had packed for emergencies in case we were caught out overnight in the mountains. For some reason my camera had been knocked on and was recording, you could see my arm rummaging and finding the goods then passing them out to the nearest people. They in turned gave them to the most needy, swinging my camera around I zoomed in and caught the woman below my feet having some drink tipped into her mouth. Further down the chopper a man had a spoon and a plastic bottle cut in half with some water in it and he spoon by spoon full was trickling the water into the mouth of whom I assumed was his wife, she was more dead than alive.

You cannot capture the smell of death on camera, and no correspondent has ever found the right words to describe it and neither will I. It is something that pervades the air, covering the Tsunami the air was almost sweet and putrid; here the bodies mangled under concrete for days emitted an odour of fecal decay. When our favourite sports team is about to win, we often say that we can smell victory, the air in the towns and villages of Northern Pakistan smelt of defeat.

At what point as a Photographer covering tragedy do you put down the camera to help the injured, is a question many of us ask ourselves. The answer is somewhat callous and simple. If anyone is to be injured or killed as a result of me not putting down the camera to help them then it is justified to stop filming, but covering events like the aftermath of the Earthquake, there are times when you watch from behind the lens as desperate people struggle to carry the injured and sick on board helicopters. I always stand back out of the way unlike many other photographers who believe that an image is more important than someone else’s child.

I watched as Mike Tobin the correspondent on assignment with me, ran up and down the ramp of the helicopter helping carry the injured, many cynics in this business do this sort of stuff just to put themselves on camera as heroes, but watching Mike that day, he was no hero just another person caught up in this tragedy trying to help.

The best thing I can do as a Photographer is to record the images with as much dignity as I can, to transmit and broadcast these pictures so others may see the plight and realise that here in Pakistan people are hurting and maybe just maybe my images have helped their plight. Professionally there is no greater reward for a Photographer than to have your tape broadcast unedited, just your rushes and FOX did that, for over twenty minutes as we satellited the pictures back to New York the Channel ran them live to air. These are the moments you realise that I did help the victims in my own way.

This is about my twelfth trip to Pakistan for work, from the tumultuous days following 911 to filming exorcisms in desert Temples, sunrises over religious stupas to Friday prayer demonstrations with burning effigies. Trips through the Khyber Pass with armed soldiers for protection to filming child labour exploitation. I have cried as I watched Afghan refugees bury their only baby son, and on this trip seen destruction and scenes that only match the devastation of the Tsunami in South east Asia.

On this trip I have truly marvelled at the spirit of the Pakistani people here to help there fellow countrymen, it is one nation united, the kindness and compassion is everywhere, outside shops University students hand out leaflets listing what you can buy in that store to help the victims, People load cars with supplies that friends get together and drive up into the mountains and hand out food water from the backs of trucks. They are not the UN with their hated brand new Land Cruisers doing yet another fact finding mission, but battered old trucks loaded with goods they pass out to the hands below.

Standing on the backs of these trucks you point the camera down at the hands of small children clawing up in the air hoping that a bottle of water will be passed down. Small hands of five year boys and girls reaching up are powerful and at the same time pitiful images of the despair.

I filmed a small girl maybe no older than four years, who had managed to get a bottle of water sitting in the dirt trying to put it into a tattered plastic bag and thought at the same time this is all this child has in the world, a bottle of water and a plastic bag and yet she had a smile on her face.

As we left Islamabad a storm rolled in and the rain lashed the terminal, lightning and thunder competed like two foes fighting a duel, in the course of a matter of honour. In the mountains around Balakot and hundreds of other villages in the mountains it would be close to freezing, and with no shelter or blankets the death toll will be added to, another small child will be dying as I type this, of exposure. The old will welcome their release from the misery of life as it exists today and greet death as a friend coming to take them away to a better place.

I read my first newspaper in a week, sitting on the plane as we left Pakistan. I often do not read newspapers or watch TV on major assignments. I do not have to compare what I witness to anyone else, it is not a matter of what the competition are doing. I know what we do as a team and nobody competes in human tragedy and misery.

I read an account of a Doctor in Muzaffrabad, (where we filmed the child with one arm clinging) and found myself crying, you can have a cold technical mind whilst working in the field.

You have to, it is the only way to function when surrounded grief and horror. But sitting alone with my thoughts of the images and smells of the last week, I for a short time cried alone in my seat. These are the words that broke me ….

“ fear of death, fear of another earthquake, fear of being buried below the rubble and fear of living “ and I would personally “add fear of being forgotten”.

October 16 2005

Friday, September 30, 2005

The One from Egypt

The One from Egypt

You think you have been to big cities when you think of New York, London, Paris or even Sydney. But nothing can prepare you for Cairo, try to fathom 25 million people living in one city and compare that to Australia, hell the whole continent has on just over 20 million people living in a very big area to say the least.

But here in Cairo, you can almost count them out on the streets and that is before I even mention the cars and the traffic, more on that later.

The last time I was in Cairo was 1965, 40 years ago as a small boy travelling back to England with the family. From my vague memory bank there was a camel ride to the Pyramids and it was hot, we bought some silly fez hats that lay around for the youthful years, before they were discarded and that is the sum memory of the Land of the Pharaohs circa 1965.

The story we covered here was how the Arab world is reacting to the situation in Iraq and does the Arab world think anything positive has come of the US Invasion and the overthrow of the Saddam Regime. Now before anyone scoffs, there have been some very dramatic movements here in the Middle East/Arab World since Saddam was captured and crawled out of his hole. No modern Arab dictator ever wants to look like that, all of a sudden Libya declares peace and openness, and exposes the Dr Nuclear of Pakistan who was selling Atomic secrets to anyone who would pay. Syria all of a sudden decides it is time to get out of Lebanon after millions take to the streets and Damascus has a spring for the first time in decades. Egypt decides to have a multi party election for President for the first time in the history of the country, and they have a long history. The list goes on across the region.

Sitting back in the Western world, you may consider these events as nothing major. But here democracy is being redefined at an alarming rate that is giving people hope for the first time. Now it is foolish to try and impose our brand and definitions of democracy and think that they will work overnight, but every child’s first steps are small and tentative with lots of stumbles and falls.

Egypt is a police state; to have even dared to question the regime meant time in prison and a beating at the hands of the authorities. The fact that they had elections here a few weeks ago is an incredible opening up, the result was a formality before the first vote was cast, but the fact you have more than one box to tick is something that has never happened before. The result was that Hosni Mubarak was returned with 88% of the vote for a fifth term in office, the other nine parties never had a chance against the machine here. All media is owned and controlled by the Government with no exception, so the day before the vote you can imagine who the newspaper editors suggested deserved your vote.

We did interview the so-called Opposition leader, Ayman Noor; his party received 7% of the vote. The joke is that the authorities have him on trial at the moment for supposedly rigging his own party voting enrolment, and every day newspapers run a picture of him sitting in he is a cell in a courtroom. They have those classic cells with bars in the courtrooms, which you see in movies. He was a pleasant if unexciting character who had no problems of displaying pictures of himself in his office, on one wall there are even duplicates of the same picture framed. Not to mention the same photo also enlarged and framed in the reception area.

But for everyone you meet on location and question, you do meet some very remarkable people who fight for human rights and democracy. Negad El Borai we sat and talked to, on the corniche by the Nile. His only request was that we move down and away from the omni present police, his candid and open opinion about the trickle down effects of the Iraq war amazed us, no one likes what is happening in Baghdad on a day to day basis, but his point was that history is a big picture puzzle and do not lose sight of the positive by dwelling on the negatives.

Life in Cairo is struggle and small corruption if it ever becomes an Olympic sport will see Egyptians take Gold Silver and Bronze. Every aspect of life involves a bribe, and not a subtle bribe but a straight out cash into the hands of the Police. Waiters in restaurants earn almost a hundred dollars more a month than the cop on the beat. As we were checking in to depart at the airport the police on the screening door was quite open in asking for something.

The scary statistic here, is literacy, in a nation of 70 million people 63% cannot read or write, the government likes to quote 36% but as everyone says if the authorities give a figure reverse the numbers and you are closer to the real number. To give it some perspective it is like saying 12.8 million Australians cannot read or write out a population of 20.3 million.

Now 25 million people equates to a lot of cars on the roads of a city that lets face it, is not a model of the super freeway culture. You have never been in traffic till you have been to Cairo, as we were waiting in yet another jam this afternoon, I looked around and duly noted that there were four defined traffic lanes complete with lines that is if you could see the road. However in these four lanes there were 7 lanes of cars, just try to imagine how close they drive next to each other. I will not even mention the second national sport of crossing the road. I did not see one operational set of traffic lights or a single pedestrian crossing in the entire city. The traffic just does it own thing, like a cell culture in a Petri dish it somehow moves multiplies and continues to move. 24 hours a day the constant sound of car horns dominates and permeates all aspects of your senses. With that said you would think it would be the capital of road rage, no not all there seems to exist this sense inevitably so why make life worse. We saw only one minor accident in five days; back in Israel driving to work it is not uncommon to see five car crashes in one hour.

Everyone should visit Cairo at least once in their lifetime, the Pyramids are truly awe inspiring and worthy of all the accolades they receive, the Sphinx is just totally dwarfed by the Pyramids and rather than a lion like figure it looked like a cat sitting proudly on the doorstep. The Cairo Museum houses the most amazing collection of purely ancient stuff for the lack of better words, you walk in and there is literally not a vacant space in the entire building, every nook and cranny has some statue in it. The problem though is that 90% of the artefacts are not marked at all, and those that are marked look like they were typed on a hand typewriter 50 years ago, the paper is so worn and old that the print is barely legible. So for an hour you can immerse yourself in mummies till you are bored, then finally you find the Tutankhamen exhibit halls and you see what an incredible discovery it was to find an intact tomb, these guys took a lot for the afterlife, why you would need three racing chariots is still a question that deserves a better answer.

But then again the traffic could have been bad even back then and you try to get your chariot fixed on a weekend even if you are Pharaoh.

Sept 29 2005

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Journey into the Heartland - Pakistan 2000

Found an old diary piece I wrote after a trip to Pakistan a few years back - enjoy if you want to read through it

Israel August 2005

Sunday September 24 2000

Hong Kong – Bangkok – Karachi

There is a saying that every journey starts with a step, for life on the road every journey starts at the excess baggage counter. When I talk excess baggage I mean excess baggage, once when travelling by myself I had 300 kilos excess baggage spread over three trolleys behind me, needless to say I paid for the fuel for that flight.

Correspondent Joe Kainz and I had decided that this twelve-day trip would be best done with a minimal amount of equipment as we are due to travel extensively over our time in Pakistan. From the south to the North of the birthplace of the Indus civilization.

Karachi the first destination nine hours later,

Customs come and go, but the machinations of customs at airports is something to behold and the power of the Customs officials pen is mightier than the sword, even in a country under military rule. Logic defies reality and what applied the last time you arrived with a mound of television equipment did not apply this time.

The first sense of arrival is the assault of the senses of another country, the noise of an airport at 9.00pm, the heat and the hustle of porters. The drive in from the airport is often the first time you can sit back and relax, the baggage has arrived intact the hotel awaits and you try to remember the differences from the last time. Perhaps what amazed me most was that for the first time in visiting Pakistan over the last three years was that I started seeing signs which had web addresses on them, but I must admit that they seem to have decided that the longer the domain name the better the site must be 23 letters before the dot com.

From billboards advertising the infernal golden arches to the decorated bus running the red light whilst taxi drivers laughed and the motorbike with a family of six abreast. Pakistan may be chasing the e world but life has not visibly changed in nine months.

Monday 25th September 2000
Karachi – Islamabad

Six hours later the roads are deserted and taxi drivers around Asia are convinced that the faster they drive the happier you will be, so on a greasy road with no traffic we set out for the airport and the domestic flight north 2 hours to Islamabad.

There is a saying in diplomatic and business circle here that Islamabad is not in Pakistan, but in fact Pakistan is 30 km’s from Islamabad. It is a city that is less than forty years old and was planned to serve the interests of locals and diplomats with no sense of direction.

The only sense of life in the drive from the Airport is the increase in police checkpoints, as a result of a market place bombing a week ago. The impression driving past these checkpoints is that they serve only to shake down local bus and taxi drivers.

The first story we are working on up here is the decline in Pakistan cultural heritage, which like the fate of so many other countries is seeing its archeological artifacts being smuggled and sold overseas. Our first interview was with Pakistan’s’ leading archeologist who has been studying the ancient history of this land for nearly half a century.

We were due to interview another person who is a leading expert in this field, but who is currently working for a Government department, but she told us that it was pointless to talk to her as she has to toe the official line and would have to lie, but was still willing to appear on camera if we wanted. We declined.

Mobile phones are essential tool in everyday living but buying a local chip to use is not the easiest thing to achieve in a minimal timeframe. A simple rule on the road, is that the more logical an idea the less likely it is going to work. After 20 minutes in the largest phone companies office, moving from office to office, floor to floor and selecting a suitable plan we were told that our phone is not compatible and we should go to the other company next door. 10 minutes later we had an operational phone.

You get to spend endless minutes aimlessly wandering around hotel shopping centres, knowing full well that they are overpriced, but the books tucked away behind the handicrafts can often reveal the most bizarre reading material – take tonight’s offering in the Holiday Inn Islamabad “ Treatise of Flexible Pavement Design “ a complete diatribe on how to build a multi lane highway. Very useful on the road, might have to build a road one-day.

Tuesday 26th September 2000

Every knows that the best light to film in is in the magic hour after sunrise and before sunset, the trouble is getting other members of the team to agree to get up in the dark and start work at 5am. This is the day after also getting up at 5am the previous day to catch a flight up here. Well Joe agreed and the day began with me asking the driver to slow down in a polite but firm tone.

Driving in Pakistan is regarded as a bloodsport with no rhyme or reason, why bother with a map when you can take 5 wrong terms, go in the wrong direction and ask endless people which direction. Today was no exception. We would be dropped off at one spot due to the road being so bad, (next time I will buy the copy of “Treatise of Flexible Pavement Design”) then we would find the driver where we originally wanted to go but could not because of the road.

You meet great unassuming people on the road who are brilliant in their fields of expertise and then you meet people who have not got to their position of influence by apparently valid means, today’s example was a person who insisted on sitting behind his desk with a room full of sycophantic underlings nodding to his every word. The after asking us to leave whilst he made a phone call for the whole building to hear with the door open, and then rings a bell to call another person to come running to summon us. Please give me a break from such fools.

It was a good days filming today, we had brilliant dawn light and the crossroads of civilization where Alexander the Great visited (well conquered) in 327BC is know recorded for posterity. Visiting a looted site makes you realize that the problem here is corruption at all levels and the looting will continue until there is nothing left unless corruption is tackled in Pakistan.

Wednesday 27th Sept 2000

Islamabad – Karachi

A travel morning down to Karachi and a rise in temperature of about 10, in fact a boring day on the road with a couple of feature interviews and a late night interview with a psychiatrist. We have started working on the second story about the state of women’s mental health in Pakistan and the treatment they receive which involves trance dancing and chains in temples. That is tomorrow night so I am looking forward to some good pictures and something different to say the least.

The afternoon saw us wrap the last interview up with the Director General of the Department of Archaeology, the office was ancient to say the least. It is not until you stop and look around, did I realize that there were no computers on any desk. All communication was done in longhand and involved people walking in and out of offices. The Director had an email address but I could not figure out where the computer lived.
A hour off to try and get some shopping for clothes before heading to Thatta tomorrow was thwarted by the fact that every shop was closed in Karachi, except for shoe stores. Why no one knew they were closed because – well because.

Two Days later Friday 29th September 2000 6.30pm

Post Thatta and the Shrine Therapy Story.

Thatta is about two hours South East of Karachi, then turn off the main road and head south for another hour into the heartland of the Sind Basin, cross the Indus River and keep going. Eventually you come to the town of Chuhar Jamali, the closest village to the Sufi Shrines. Electricity is spasmodic and you realise that the whole world has not grasped the e world, when there was not even a fax machine in this town let alone a computer anywhere.

Sufi shrines are best described as tombs of mystic or holy men, like many shrines in the western world these attract pilgrims and devotees who believe that the power of devotion and worship can help them. The main concern for Pakistani health officials is that due to poverty and illiteracy is that some people have come to rely on these shrines as their primary source of medical help, forgoing modern medicine due to the cost.

The shrines of Ali jabar and ali 2 attract around 30,000 devotees a month, situated in the middle of fields 6 km from the village of Chuhar Jamali, people are living for years in mud and stick shanties in the most brutal and harsh landscape. The temperature in summer rarely drops below 40; there is no shade apart from the temple and mud huts, which become furnaces and ovens.

The dirt and filth defies words, and sanitary conditions belong to another century. Families endure these conditions in the hope of a miracle and they can afford the cost of hope.

We arrived as the sun was dropping and the sound of drums heralded our first exposure to what was to become probably the most bizarre night of filming in my career spanning more than two decades.

On the steps of the shrine three drummers pounded out a rhythm and in the forecourt of dirt and rubbish four devotees were literally shaking themselves to trance frenzy, rolling and running up the stairs to the shrine to throw themselves down in an uncontrollable tangle of limbs. The eyes were not focused and the drums kept going for over an hour.

The first person came forward with his miracle cure story that involved the Sufi replacing all his internal organs, over the next sixteen hours we were presented with stories of cancer and hepatitis being treated by the power of the Sufi.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of this shrine therapy is that a large percentage of the devotees are women with obvious mental health problems from paranoid schizophrenia depression. They pace the shrine with clocklike timing, running and slamming into walls on occasions; standing and spinning the head with hair flying or speaking in tongues while shaking uncontrollably.

Another woman in her mid twenties sat chained to the bars of the shrine window so that she would not run away and hurt herself of others. Her husband sat holding her hand; it was a heartbreaking scene to see this tragedy unfold in front of the camera lens.

Inside the temple and around the outside women arched backwards and slammed into the marble floor with howls of demonic possession and pleas for help from the Sufi, whilst family members tried to minimize their injuries.

Dawn broke and the early mist light revealed a scene of controlled peace, only the occasional voice pleaded in the echoes of marble. Families that were leaving collected their possessions often a straw mat and tin cooking pot, whilst others rubbed mud from pools of wastewater and dirt onto the heads of infants seeking a miracle.

As we drove away, I thought how lucky some of us are in this world and the plight of others were the greatest possession they have in life is hope and no one can take that away from anyone.

Karachi was a welcome site and entering the city graffiti on a wall proclaimed “Crush India” welcome back to Pakistan 2000.

Saturday 30th September 2000

Time to move onto the new stories, Junoon the band has received so many international accolades over the past decade and have laid claim to the title to the biggest band in Asia.

The problem of piracy of music and CDs is beyond words on in South Asia and a factory we visited produces 12 million CDs a year it produce more but it has not got enough machines, full capacity twenty four hours a day seven days a week.

Today was also one of those great days of fixers getting things wrong, to the point of Fawlty Towers proportion. We asked how many people were expected at the concert, whether the venue was indoors or outside and what time was Junoon due on stage.

Emphatically after checking and much discussion amongst the fixers and driver it was agreed that
1. The Concert was indoors
2. The anticipated crowd was 800 maybe 900
3. The group Junoon will start at 9pm , yes 9pm

That was the end of discussion, “Let me tell you” is a Pakistani way of saying listen I know what I am talking about. What would you know you do not live here, ha ha ha I am the expert.

After arriving at the massive Pakistan Air force Museum grounds set in a sprawling park of 10 acres place with a stage being prepared in the middle of the park to be told that at least 8,000 tickets had been presold and hopefully Junoon would on stage around midnight. Joe and I laughed not at the situation but at the fact that the fixers seemed pleased that everything was as they had arranged.

We finished filming at 3.45 am the next morning in a dark Karachi street with a dead cat in the middle of the road.

Sunday 1st October 2000

The low point of the day was a get together of politicians and newspaper editors in the evening. It is no wonder that Pakistan faces the 21st century in such dire straits, as a nation it behind Bangladesh in almost all aspects now. These somewhat august gentlemen seem to consider yelling as a form of conversation and even the listening was beyond their level of manners. I left the evening assured that the military has a role in the future of Pakistan; at least they can provide order amongst the ruins of democratic chaos. The newspaper editor’s voice the future, but it sounded very much the past.

Politicians in Pakistan believe that to serve the people, they must have been to prison to suffer the indignity of the masses. These same people drink and eat whilst outside their drivers wait hungry, they are given the leftovers from the dinner party whilst the after dinner drinks are passed around. These same drivers all want the military to remain in power when asked off the record.

Monday 2nd October 2000
Karachi – Lahore

It was meant to be an easy operation, as promised by a Chief Minister “ have whatever you want, take it you have my permission”. It was a simple matter of dubbing some video from the archives of the Local Archive for Culture office of Sufi Music, enter the well yes but no world of Pakistan. To make matters worse one of our local fixers managed to totally confuse everyone by arranging something we did not ask for and compound the problem by having all discussions in Urdu and leaving us to sort out a mess we did not want to be in. It ended with Joe signing a bit of paper on behalf of the network saying we would not use any material, which has the same legal binding as me signing on behalf of Microsoft because I am running Windows 98.

An evening flight to Lahore and the final story – Imran Khan Profile and Feature Interview.

Tuesday 3rd October 2000
Lahore – Karachi

Lahore has the richest colonial history and buildings, the trouble is seeing it through the pollution. If the famed Red Fort has an enemy it is not the ravages of the elements but the exhaust fumes that by sunset reduce visibility to a couple of hundred meters.

The final story is Imran Khan, the famed Pakistani Cricket captain and living legend that eight years ago gave Pakistan the cricket world cup. Following the death of his mother from cancer he has devoted himself to building a hospital for cancer sufferers in Pakistan, providing free treatment to all that cannot afford it.

Stepping into the hospital was like stepping from the third world to the first world; this hospital could be in any major city in the world. The faces of the children in the wards upon seeing Imran was of bewilderment being to young to know who he is, but the faces of the mothers and fathers with their sick children when they talked to Imran revealed a glimpse into why there is hope here when every other section of society is collapsing due to corruption and mismanagement.

Pakistan Airlines flight to Islamabad tonight was delayed 4 hours because, well we never found out. So to avoid any problems the solution was to announce that it was a free seating flight. Meaning sit wherever you like, first come first serve. Enjoy your flight Inshallah.

Wednesday 4th October 2000
Islamabad – Attock – Middle of Nowhere – Islamabad

Is it the messenger or is it the message, comes to mind following Imran Khan on the campaign trail in the rural areas of Pakistan. The crowds come to see and meet him, but are they receptive to his vision for Pakistan. The team around him gave me great hope as men who have a vision without corruption but could it work here is the question.

Imran at times is the great sportsman, but a reluctant politician on the stump, he seemed to find it hard to just go and talk to people and shake hands like politicians in the west, but then again this is not the west. We visited three villages during the day, at the last in a fresh plowed field as the sunset Imran gave a passionate speech and left the stage to be mobbed by the crowd just wanting to shake hands with a living legend in a country where there are few.

Thursday 5th October 2000
Islamabad – Karachi – Kuala Lumper – Hong Kong (Next Day)

With the trip nearly over, we have only the final interview to complete. The final sit down feature interview with Imran at home. We sat down for nearly and hour and quizzed Imran on why he should lead this nation and life under Imrans vision.
The trip was over and effectively we just pack and travel home. Sitting in the departure lounge in Karachi I figured that in the past twelve days we had spent nearly eighteen hours in airport lounges waiting for various Pakistani flights, checked in and out 14 times from hotels. We had shot nearly 19 hours of videotape to be edited down to 5 feature stories.

The final laugh was at the airport leaving Karachi. Remembering back to the first day and the request that we send an equipment list in advance to assist Customs, I asked the Customs officer for a fax or email address, only to be told that sorry we do not have an email and nor do we have a fax machine. The largest airport in the country and they do not even have a fax machine. When pressed for how we relay the required information, we were told to send a letter addressed to Customs, Karachi Airport, and Pakistan.

Imrans vision has a long way to go, but as we saw at the shrine – hope shines eternal in Pakistan.

Malcolm James
September/October 2000

West Bank End Game

For months there had been words of doom regarding the dis-engagement from Gaza and four settlements in the West Bank. That there would be blood on the streets as Jew expelled Jew, the opposition had promised hundred's of thousands protestors blocakading the army and police.

In true Israeli fashion, nobody's predictions came true, more people were injured in road accidents during the six days it took to remove the settlements than were injured in the actual operation of removing the settlers.

After the first phase in which the Gaza settlements were cleared, this week was the turn of the isolated settlements in the north of the West Bank. Deep inside Palestinian lands the four settlements to be evacuated had been fortified to repel the Army and Police.

Against one of the most disciplined and modern war forces in the world, the religious zealots and infilltrators thought that they would stock pile flour bombs and tomatoes complete with bottles of oil to pour down from the roofs.

We arrived in the settlement of Hormesh twenty four hours before the army and police, and drove into what can best be described as a quasi modern suburb with neat homes, paved streets, young parents pushing babies in strollers.

Given the ettiquette and rules of boys and girls not mixing, arranged marriages within the strict religious Jews, results in early marriage so it is not unusual to see young teen girls with at least one young child, I was talking to a young woman and found out that she was 24 and expecting her fifth child in the coming months.

So as we set up our live position on the edge of a playground overlooking the Synagogue and Yeshiva (Jewish Religious School same as an Islamic Madrassah), the speakers blare out that if anyone needs anymore magazines or ammunition to come down to the Yeshiva and collect them.

After being in the pleasant community of Hormesh for only a few hours, we had had five tyres slashed on our vehicles and rather than repair them, we decided to wait till things were over before repairing them. It turned out that the kid that had put the 18 holes in our tyres was ten years old and was arrested on the roof of the Yeshiva. A small pathetic child that had been brainwashed by religion and left on his own, I had no sympathy for this little kid as he represented what is wrong in this country and not the future.

There were about 1500 people in Hormesh, of those 1400 were infiltrators NOT settlers, they came to cause trouble. They had foolishly believed the right wing and religious leaders who had promised them tens of thousands more to boost there numbers and naturally divine intervention was immenent.

At seven am the next morning the police and army arrived, ten hours later with no injuries the operation was over. Clinical in its implementation, it was like watching a swiss watch movement.

Protestors had set up burning tyres barricades and torched the occasional car, this at the best delayed things by five minutes as the troops would simply relax find some shade (make some phone calls home on their cell phones) wait for the tyres to burn out, a D9 bulldozer would then push the tyres to the side and the evictions continued. Some came peacfully some came kicking and screaming but they all came rounded up and put on a bus out.

As we drove out (after repairs to the vehicles) the settlement of Hormesh was empty and will be bulldozed in the coming days. Driving out in the military convoy of buses and army vehicles we passed through a large Palestinian village, where people leaned on the balconies and watched in silence. No guns blasting the sky or dancing in the streets, but in their eyes you could see their glea.

Just fyi there are another 120 plus illegal Israeli settlements remaing in the West Bank

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Witness to History

Friday August 19th 2005

The streets of Nev Deqaulim are deserted this morning; the occasional Israeli Military vehicle cruises past. No teenagers in orange shirts are milling about chanting Judaism slogans and swearing racist statements, Long columns of Israeli Police and Army soldiers are no where to be seen. Nev Dequalim has been disengaged.

In years to come history books will record the events of the past few days here, I have been lucky enough to say that I watched it unfold. I filmed settlers setting their houses on fire rather than walk away, weeping families walking slowly onto buses never to return to their house, recorded demonstrators hurling the abusive racist chants at young soldiers. Filmed Jew fighting Jew and seen one of the most amazing sights I have ever witnessed, the Israeli Army storming and taking a synagogue full of Jews who had desecrated their own house of religion.

The days and nights of this week have been a blur, at one stage we worked 37 hours straight. It is easy to type but it drains the life out of you, the only thing that sustains you is adrenaline on assignments of this magnitude. You have to remember that it will end, like all news events they end, but the events of the last few days and weeks to come have changed this nation and what is next is anyone’s guess.

There are so many images of the past few days that I need to write and record over the next few days, some may make this blog others will be kept for my girls to read later.

The one story that somehow sticks in my mind happened the day before or the day before, the standoff at the synagogue had just started to gather around 1500 infiltrators had taken sanctuary inside but were free to move around come and go, they were not prisoners and the forces tolerated them. Towards the evening almost everyone is out of water from troops to media to demonstrators, you simply cannot carry enough to avoid dehydration.

A refrigerated truck turned up, organised by the Israeli Army. They open the back and handed out water to everyone around, we collected two cases and standing back watched troops and police hand out water to a group of teen girls demonstrators who accepted the water with thanks. These were in effect the enemy of the troops and police but they were fellow countrymen and Jews just themselves.

One minute later the same group of girls rushed the truck and tried to use knives and ice picks to slash the tyres of the truck, a sergeant managed to grab the girl with the knife and save the truck tyre from being slashed, she stood back glared and abused him, he was old enough to be her father and the venom she had in her tongue was obscene, but she had taken the water before.

The young kids have over this week discovered the art of petty vandalism, and prowled the streets looking for media cars so that they could slash the tyres, as fast as they could be repaired they were slashed to drive through the settlement here at times we would walk the car with four of us walking next to each wheel to stop them from rushing out and slamming an ice pick into the tyre. The strange thing is that it was not as if it was a state of Anarchy existed, police and troops were everywhere.

Why enforce law and order when the town will be rubble in the next few days. The house we rented is to be demolished in the coming days, like the rest of the settlement before being handed back to the Palestinians. The Israelis are not knocking down the homes to spite the Palestinians, it is just that the houses here occupy too much land and are not part of the plans for a future Palestinian State; both sides agreed that demolition is the best option.

It has been a week that changes this country, what the future holds is anyone’s guess.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

After Midnight

After Midnight

Neve Dequalim Settlement, Gaza Strip

It is now possible to leave the settlement’s but against the law to come back. The roads back into the settlements are closed, and effectively we are now trapped. Prisoners of choice as you wait to watch history unfold before your eyes.

Starting at 7am the Israeli Army will come by house by house and give notice that you have 48 hours to leave or face evacuation by what ever means is deemed necessary.

We are renting a house in the Neve Dequalim settlement that will be bulldozed in the coming weeks and we as a team face incredible challenges and risks over the coming days.

When you are in these situations you values and worries become somewhat skewed. Issues of security become paramount and the endless scenarios you can imagine could become reality in the next few hours. What ifs include complete riots and being physically under attack from zealots with sticks and a religion as their driving force. How do we protect ourselves and what becomes important. The desire to be live and showing the world real time news is an incredibly powerful drug.

We have a base on the roof of the only high buildings in the settlement-shopping complex and it is like a circus up there watching who comes up. From overweight politicians to pot smoking kids, some how they all end up on the roof. This only adds to your security nightmares, where is the security? Then when you find out late at night that the security is an eighteen-year-old boy, who is shit scared of the kids, you are not keen to leave anything on the roof.

So you end up renting a trashed office for a king’s ransom, think you have been totally ripped off, then look on the wall and see an air conditioner and all of a sudden the rent seems totally reasonable. It was so hot sitting on the roof today that sweating was considered as a national sport down here.

There are five of us living in the house, with no television. Stop for a second and ask yourself when was the last time you were in a house with no television. Ahhh, just as I thought, you cannot remember the last time you were living in a house with no television.

A fact of life now is the Internet, and the fact I cannot get wireless Internet is a cause for concern, this blog will be sent out tomorrow morning on a satellite phone.

A final thought as midnight approached, I was standing outside with Amir Efrati the Sound Engineer on this assignment, and I looked across the street to see a few kids out walking their dogs. I thought of Mohammed, the Palestinian boy I had filmed a few days ago and who had given me the theme of my last diary entry. And he was right; they do have nice dogs here in the settlements. Two happy dogs were walking down the street.

In forty-eight hours, it is forbidden to be here.

Monday August 15, 2005

Counting down the Hours

The first scene this morning were the hundreds of hard-core rightists barricading the entrance to Neve Dequalim, the largest settlement in the Gush Katif Settlement block here in Gaza.

Most of the demonstrators have never lived in settlement, but have come down to protest the disengagement, they sang and danced, cried and fried in the sun, which was beating down relentlessly. You work in a constant state of sweat, the heat and humidity draining the life out of your soul.

But I do realise that I am witnessing history, for many the a very painful chapter in the short history of this country, you do not have any sympathy or compassion in these times. You just do your job and listen to the demonstrators, they rant and at times demand that there’s is a true and just cause. Based on what distorted truths they have had driven into them by religion.

The hard core Jewish Settlers here in Neve Dequalim, do honestly remind me of any Islamist rally I have covered in the Muslim world, they DEMAND that their view is the one and only true light and that is what scares me. Religion no longer is love and understanding to extremists, but a source of zealot power.

Watching the dancing today, I could have been filming the same religious scenes at an exorcism in Pakistan, and I have filmed exorcism in Pakistan.

You work in a constant state of alertness, of when and if the “Game is ON” and the violence is about to start. The hardest part of covering events like this dis engagement is that they happen over a large area, and being on the scene you only see a small part of the equation.

Whilst watching major world events like this at home, you get to see the whole picture with video elements from here and there. WE cannot be here and there; we are locked into the settlement in one location. We cannot go and come back; the road is one way now jammed with buses and trucks of the Police and IDF coming in.

We spent five hours filming down at the gate, filming and waiting, being abused and waiting, hungry as we scrambled with no time for breakfast and by 1pm the heat and hunger drove us back to the house for a break, an advantage of living in the story.

One thing did make me smile today; remember how I told the story of the girls on the left, boys on the right (or vice a versa) at the rally last week. Well rest assured when they formed up today to barricade the gates, the girls and ONLY girls were on the left side of the road, and only boys were on the right hand side of the road.

I had to smile deep inside at just how funny it is to watch such sexual divisions in August 2005. Hard core Judaism has not changed in thousands of years and today was a chance to observe it.

I saw tears today as a young girl about seventeen, was reading her Torah, it was hard to gauge what she was experiencing she bobbed her head and cried in time (very similar to scenes I have filmed in a Madrassah) but she was deeply moved and as she recited the verses she had tears rolling down her face.

However her friend next to her was busy texting SMS messages on her phone, perhaps it was tradition, meeting the 21st century. I filmed close ups of the girl crying holding torah and her friend’s phone, both shots will never make air, as there was violence down the road but to me they did symbolise my day.

The clock continues to count down to when the scenes will get ugly, tomorrow is another day.

Friday, August 12, 2005

They have Nice Dogs

Khan Younis, Gaza

Spending the day in Khan Younis inside the Palestinian side of Gaza is not everyone’s idea of having a fun day in the sun. In the lead up to the disengagement next week, it was like a last chance to go into Gaza and experience the desperation that the locals must endure everyday whilst the Israelis are still there.

The population of Gaza is so young that more than an estimated 60% of the people there have never lived without the Israelis controlling every aspect of there lives there.

To put Gaza into perspective, it is only 40 km long and 5 km wide, the 8,000 Israeli settlers have 40% of the land (the best land) and the remaining 1.2 million, read that number again 1,200,000 live in the other 60%. The only way to enter Gaza, is through the Erez Checkpoint at the Northern end, there you come straight into Gaza City and all the
Refugee Camps like “Jabaliya and Beach Camps”, here squalor and life live in hand in hand. Whilst they are called camps they are just suburbs of Gaza City.

There is one and only one road down thru Gaza to the southern cities of Khan Younis and Rafah, which borders onto Egypt with the Israeli buffer zone known as Phildelphi road. This is where the tunnels for smuggling are and have been flashpoints for clashes for years.

Now the problem is that this road is only two lanes wide and passes thru Israeli settlements, so the IDF controls the road that is the main and only road to commute on in Gaza. The Israeli checkpoints that control this road are full-scale military options, no soldiers are seen, they sit in Concrete turrets and can close the road at any time for any reason.

Yesterday was no exception, we had wrapped filming in Khan Younis and wanted to get back to Gaza City and out through Erez. But the IDF had closed the road and we were in a traffic jam that stretched back a couple of km. There was nothing anyone could do we just had to sit and wait. Looking around at the Palestinians sitting in the heat of summer in the taxis and the frustrations of truck drivers you could sense that they know there is nothing they could do. When the Israelis would open the road no one could tell, it could of been in two minutes two hours or two days, there is nothing you can do but wait.

Somehow Niall our local fixer/producer managed to convince the Palestinian soldiers who were trying to maintain a semblance of order in this road closure, that as foreign press we were important and should go to the front of the line. Now I am not ashamed to say that we did get the green light to go ahead towards the front of the line and we took off only to sit in the heat further up the line. You just sit and wait, we probably spent an hour all told waiting there.

Which was only a precursor to the frustrations of trying to get out of Erez, we got to the first Palestinian checkpoint where they co-ordinate with the IDF to allow you to re enter back into Israel. Only to find out that no one was going out, you must wait how long no one could tell, my record is having to wait 8 hours. I just hoped that it was not going to be that long, it was 6:15 pm when we arrived and the border closes at 9pm.

The reason for the delay we found out was that Palestinian workers were coming back into Gaza after working the day in Israel, and with the disengagement the soldiers at the Erez Crossing were short staffed, so we had to wait.

Hot tired and sweaty we sat in the car, tried to sleep, tried to pass time, tried phone calls to anyone who could help us and tried not to look at our watches. It was getting darker and darker; this is no place to get caught after nightfall.

Two and half hours later we finally got out of Gaza and back into Israel, the whole experience can only be likened to escaping from prison, yet another blog subject on another day.

Perhaps the telling moment of the day, and the title of this blog belong to Mohammed Mouser aged thirteen. We were filming the final sequence for the story looking into the Gush Katif Settlements from the Palestinian side and I noticed Mohammed standing on a wall looking into the Settlements. After I had shot the sequence we were talking to him asking if he had ever gone into the Settlements, no he replied, but he had once got close to the fence and was watching life in there, his only line back to us was “They have nice dogs in there”.

Strange what people admire on the other side of the fence.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Seeking Asylum In Gaza

Seeking Asylum in Gaza

When I think of people seeking Asylum, you have images of crowded old fishing boats jammed with desperate people or men jumping fences to try and jump on a train, but here in Israel we have the classic opposite. There are people who believe that it is their mission in life to seek Asylum in Gaza.

The IDF has declared the area around here as a closed Military Zone, without the correct papers there is no access to the Settlements inside Gaza Strip. The right wing hard core settlers who are planning to make a stand and refuse to leave are getting more supporters coming in, they are truly “Guerrillas in the Dark”

Once night descends protestors in small groups start trying to walk into the Gaza Settlements through the fields, trying to avoid being caught by the IDF.

It is not exactly scientific well planned; most of them get caught, taken into Police custody and released at some time, by all accounts very peaceful.

So last night we set out to try and find some of these Israeli Asylum Seekers, by all accounts you must smile when you think that what they are trying to do is to smuggle themselves into Gaza. Gaza is not exactly the land of milk and honey, on the other hand you have a million plus Palestinians trapped inside Gaza, if they try to walk out they are shot without questions.

There was no moon and it was pitch black, and we had driven not more than one kilometre around the Kissifim Kibbutz, before we came across an IDF Checkpoint. Much scrambling by young soldiers who thought that the best thing to do would be to detain us, in fact Mike and I did not even know that we had been detained, Gaby the Producer did not seem fazed so we were not.

After a few minutes a slightly older soldier (here read about 20 years old) turned up, Gaby and him chatted and the end result was that there were no reports of people walking thru the fields that surrounded us, they even said we were free to go further down the road, but he warned us that only a km further down we would come to the fence that separates Israel and Gaza and that the locals do not always play nice.

With that warning we turned back and Mike had one of those secret squirrel type phone conversations and then pointed to a road junction twenty minutes on the map. Along dark roads, through the checkpoints. Mikes contact gave the impression that it would be like a sea of lemmings jumping out of cars and striding out into the fields, once we got to the junction.

We found a lookout spot on top of a hill overlooking the fields, and turning on night scope lens of the camera, I panned and zoomed, scanned and tilted. The end result nothing not one Gaza Asylum Seeker.

You get used to boasts of people with agenda’s in our business, all part of the spin and sometimes just sometimes they are telling the truth.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Kibbutz Breakfast

Sunday August 7th 2005

The Kibbutz Breakfast

“Breakfast” The most important meal of day, everyone says so, books tell you “do not miss breakfast”. They have not had to eat a kibbutz breakfast.

Kibbutz’s are a uniquely Israeli aspect of life. In other parts of the world, you would call them Commune’s, conjuring up images of hippy’s wandering around preaching love and peace. Here though they have always been the backbone of the country, almost every Israeli you meet, who has grown up here, has a one time lived on a kibbutz.

Kibbutz’s are like small farms, complete with an Industrial zone and housing community. Everyone has the own small house but no real kitchen, meals are served in a communal dining room. Most of the people, who live on the kibbutz, have jobs within the community whether it is on the farm or in factory/business that the kibbutz runs. Where I am staying the kibbutz has one of the largest paint factories in the country. Commerce is developed and the community runs them as a collective. In short some of these Kibbutz’s are multi million dollar operations.

As Israel has grown, the children of the kibbutz’s have moved to the big cities, for work and the bright lights, (that is after serving three years national conscription). And now a lot of the rooms have been turned into Bed and BREAKFAST hotel style rooms. Note the word breakfast has cropped up again.

They are a unique chance to actually experience the pioneer challenge that developed Israel into the nation it is today.

I have always tried to eat breakfast whilst on the road. And over the years, breakfast has been in places like this. A roadside cafes in rural Afghanistan, a dark smoky mud brick house on the pot holed road between Herat and Kandahar, just before you start the dash across the Desert of Death.

Here we had fresh baked Naan bread and fried eggs complete with tea, an hour later four of us were really sick and everytime we had to stop, we risked the chance of stepping on landmines in culverts under the road we were using as toilets. Only later to be told by a de-mining engineer that culverts are the most dangerous places for landmines.

We were too sick at the time to even think of the risk as we clambered down into the culvert before your stomach exploded. That was a bad breakfast, in what must be one of the worst places in the world to get sick.

In Iraq on the US Bases, you can get “Grits” for breakfast, and I grew up believing that Grits was only on the TV show, “The Beverley Hillbillies”. But this semolina type stuff is hard to handle, even “Cheese Grits” do not taste much better.

Breakfast in Vietnam, is a fantastic bowl of Pho soup, full of taste and every time you have one there is always a slight difference, so you can never get tired of ordering the same thing day after day.

The Kibbutz Breakfast must be the blandest repetitive meal that exists on the planet today. The communal dining halls are designed by Prison architects, functional, classless and depressing places. The meal is a self-service counter type with cucumbers and tomatoes sitting there, tubs of cream cheeses and yoghurt, hard-boiled eggs, and stale bread, hummus is naturally available.

It is just such a depressing meal to have to face everyday. Hot water is from a tap in the wall, the cutlery and plates are functional, and it is like walking into a bad prison movie dining room, at the end of your meal you take your plate out the back and put it on the conveyor belt Industrial dishwasher.

And like the movie “Groundhog Day” every morning you walk into the same scene, the food is exactly the same, the decor and ambience just the same. You probably read the menu items I listed and think that they sound good, BUT trust me every day it is the same. The same items in the same places.

In closing, I look out of my bungalow window and see a truly beautiful rural community lifestyle; the grounds are immaculate with glorious shade trees. I think I will close and go for a ride on my bike. They are a unique community lifestyle that you can stay in, but remember my words about “The Kibbutz Breakfast”, you too can experience what I have eaten it will be the same.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Guns & Religion

Day 4

Guns and Religion

Over the last few years being based here in Israel, I have filmed at most of the settlements that are to be evacuated the week after next. Netzer Hazani has always been known as the home of “The Celery Lady”, I cannot remember her name but she has lived in the settlement for over thirty years, growing celery (Kosher Celery, yes there is such a thing as Kosher Celery). Whenever you film or interview her it is always in her greenhouse, with her holding a stalk of celery.

Today however, when we met her in the community square in the settlement, she was not holding her beloved celery. But she was there watching the men of the community handing over their guns to the IDF, (Israel Defence Forces). For the last three decades the locals have had a degree of responsibility for their own security, given that the Palestinian town of Khan Younnis is just over the sand hill a kilometre away, and both sides have not played nice on many occasions.

But as a collective the residents of Netzer Hazani do not want guns in their community when the soldiers come to evict them, that way their can be no risk of someone losing their temper and firing a gun against a fellow Jew, perhaps a ray of sanity amongst the insanity of the Middle East.

With their guns wrapped in orange ribbons the men stepped up to the table and saluted the IDF representative and placed their gun on the table and walked away. There was no tears or outward signs of losing their toys, but a bitter taste in their mouths.

The celery lady has not given up hope and continues to farm in the belief that some divine intervention will come from above and the disengagement will not happen.

Down the road and on the beach is the settlement of Kefar Yam, a collection of tumbledown buildings and a growing community pf plastic tents and structures. But what is alarming is that these hard-core radicals are starting to turn their community, into a collective Orwellian “Animal farm”.

What made me realise how right wing and racist this community has become was when someone asked me if I was “Jewish”, remember the four legs good two legs bad from “Animal Farm”. Never ever in twenty-five years of covering news around the world has anyone asked my religion with the undertone that it mattered.

I did not respond to the question, I would not stoop to their level of racism.

In the media you get used to people not liking you, and placing silly caveats on you like, “ You can film here, but do not film any people “. It makes as much sense as saying you can write but you cannot use a pen or pencil.

The last time someone said to me “You can film, but you cannot film any people” was a Taliban Leader in Afghanistan when they were at the height of their power in early 2001.

Fundamentalism is alive and well down here.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Girls on the Left, Boys on the Right"

Day #3
August 3rd 2005

“Girls on the left, Boys on the right’

At the end of a long night, the Rabbi stands on top of the car and proclaims” Girls on the left, boys on the right” and Uri the Sat Truck Operator almost drops to the ground rolling in laughter along with Yonat our producer.
The location just outside Ofrakim on the edge of the Negev Desert, at 12.30am, it had been a long night. The anti disengagement protestors had been claiming that they did not want to clash with the police and army, and vice a versa. The remnants of the previous days protest in Sderot had staged a last rally in Ofrakim and were going to march into Gaza.

However 2,000 protestors mainly fanatics, were not going to get past 12,000 Army and Police, complete with three water cannons and mounted troops. Who had locked the area down tighter by sheer force.

Security is something that the Israelis take seriously, very seriously. Now the area around Gaza were the disengagement is to take place in a couple of week’s time is a closed military area. Without the correct accreditation you simply cannot go anywhere, it seems that every road has checkpoints every few kilometres, where we have to show our Government Press Cards after which we are allowed to pass through.

Mike Tobin, the correspondent that I am working with, somehow managed to lose his card the night before last at the demonstration in Sderot, and we have at least six checkpoints to clear before we get back to the Kibbutz where we are based for the month.

Traffic is naturally totally and completely chaotic as it can only be in Israel, It is late at night and we want to get home for a cold beer and something to eat.

We approach the first checkpoint and I say to Mike, “Pretend you are asleep”.

Mike closes the eyes and I wind down the 5cm that my window opens on my armoured car.

Soldier looks in, and Yanot and I show our Press Cards, he looks across at Mike and I shrug my shoulders tell the soldier “shhhh he’s asleep, very tired, he is a correspondent and has been working very hard”

Soldier nods OK and we are through, now it has worked once will it work again and again and again ....

Well it does six checkpoints later we arrive at the Kibbutz complete with Mike, one of those silly security things that late at night can work, even in the most security aware country in the world, just ell them “ sorry he’s a asleep”. Planning on trying this next time at the airport.

Back to the rally last night, after five hours of sitting in the dust of the desert, around two thousand tired bedraggled and listless protestors who after a couple of days in the heat and great outdoors are no match for the Police and Army. Finally clash well clash is to hard a word to use, they face each other off. There is no way the protest is progressing, New York expresses no interest in opening a satellite to show nothing happening but want us to stay around for a couple of more hours, ‘just in case’
I knew we were in trouble when the rabbi was hoisted up on a truck roof and after forty minutes asked for a box to sit on, sometimes it is good not to understand what is being said, ignorant bliss.

Rabbi after rabbi addresses the crowd and the clock keeps ticking, that is until Uri bursts out laughing.

What did he say I ask my interest peaked, he just said that they are going to spend the night sleeping on the road and the rabbi has requested that, Girls sleep on the left hand side of the road and Boys are to sleep on the right hand side of the road.

Lets face it in these tumultuous times of struggle it is important to remember “no hanky panky before marriage”

We packed up and left them in singing songs of struggle, and any aspirations of love under the stars (and eyes of 12,000 Police and Army) was not going to happen.

Ofrakim is not Woodstock

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Rallying for the Cause

Day #2 “ Rallying for the cause”

Tuesday August 2nd 2005

One favourite game that we like to play whilst on the road is to try and estimate the size of crowds at demonstrations, meaningless and a way to try a pass time whilst standing around doing nothing.

If anything epitomises the boredom of my job then last night was one of those nights, the anti disengagement movement had called for the Jews of Israel to come together and oppose the pullout from Gaza less than two weeks away now.

Claiming that they could get a crowd of one hundred thousand, five hundred buses and the nation to support them. The only fly in the ointment in this scenario was that they had called the rally for sunset in the town of Sderot. Now I am sure that none of you know of the vast metropolis that Sderot is, it’s only claim to fame is that it is the closest town to the edge of the Gaza Strip, and over the last few years of the Intifada it has been the favourite target for the Kassam missiles fired by the Palestinians to annoy and terrorise the Israelis.

These rockets are home made pipe bombs with no guidance or science involved, but have claimed many lives. So imagine a large crowd tightly packed into the park of Sdereot will naturally be a target that Hamas would find hard to resist.

Back to the crowd, the hundred thousand did not turn up, only a hundred or so buses arrived and the TV Networks of Israel gave the demo no major coverage. I stood there for four hours not understanding a word and trying to avoid conversations with racist right-wingers.

We estimated around ten thousand turned up, enough to cause total traffic chaos on the small streets of Sderot, and the Police and Army outnumbered the protestors.

One of the Palestinian cells did fire three rockets, two landed inside Gaza killing one Palestinian child and injuring others, and the third in a field miles away from Sderot.
No one will ever know the name of the Palestinian child who was killed by his or her own, it will be put down as a statistic in the struggle.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Life is a Supermarket Shelf

Countdown to History

Day #1 “Life is a Supermarket”

Monday August 1, 2005

It is hot down in the Gaza at this time of year, so hot in fact that the woman at the check out counter in the settlement supermarket sat listlessly eating gherkins straight out of the can, not exactly the best of looks for customers. But then again when you know that in two weeks time your shop is going to close for good, what the hell eat gherkins whilst doing the check out.

In two weeks time all the Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip are going to be evacuated and the land given back to the Palestinians, also in this time a few of the settlements in the West Bank are also slated to be returned.

Supermarkets are a microcosm of life and societies, walking down the aisle you can see what people eat, clean with and purchase on impulse. What we are is represented in the aisles of the supermarket. Whether it is Safeway’s or Big W in Australia the alcohol department can be the same size as the fruit and veg department, or Tescos in England where a complete wall is dedicated to warm beer and crisps, In Hong Kong you just dread the Durian Season at Park n Shop.

So at the Nev Dekalim Settlement in Gaza, final closing down sale they are not stocking the shelves anymore, You can buy salt but not pepper, only dodgy brand children’s toothpaste is on the shelf, they have run out of diet coke and they don’t care, in less than two weeks they will have no customers, the settlement will be devoid of life just like the shelves.

This part of Israel reminds me of Kuwait in the build up to the Iraq War, every road is jammed with buses carrying soldiers and police into the region, as the nation prepares to go Jew against Jew. The nation is polarised with those against the pullout mounting demonstrations and those for the pullout declaring democracy is alive and well in the Unholy lands.

As we bought our meat for the bbq, the check out lady moved the half empty can of gherkins to the side, smiled and wished me a good day.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Color Orange

The Colour Orange

Tuesday July 19 2005: 16:56

Summer in the Gaza Strip it is this year, the Israeli pullout of the settlements that house around 8,000 Jewish settlers surrounded by 1.2 million Palestinians, is less than a month away. It is almost unfair to say that the settlers are surrounded because it is by their choice that they choose to occupy the area in the Gaza Strip.

It is a miserable 35 C outside and all around is the colour Orange and Day 2 of the mass anti disengagement protests is about to start, for some reason the protestors against Israel’s pullout from the Gaza (and some isolated settlements in the West Bank) decided that since the colour Orange worked so well in the so called Orange Revolution in the Ukraine six months ago that they would adopt the colour here. I do not have the heart to tell them that the Ukraine uprising is showing all signs of total collapse and a return to the corrupt status quo prior to the people power uprising.

So surrounded by the colour orange I sit and wait for the inevitable balagan. (Balagan is a great Hebrew word that sums up everything is in a total mess, it can refer to anything from traffic on the roads to a bbq gone badly) People have Orange ribbons, Orange T Shirts, Babies are dressed in Orange, schoolgirls wear Orange Caps and even Rabbis are sporting Orange in some degree. Has no one told them that as a fashion statement Orange does not convey power or authority, unless you are running for President of the High School Computer Club?

The Police and the Army are intent on not letting the Protestors cross into Gaza and to support the settlers there, and the Protestors naturally are claiming that religion insists that Gaza is an intricate part of the Greater Israel, this is from people who have never had to spend a day in Gaza. After the war in the Sinai Israel in fact tried to give Gaza to Egypt, who said thanks but no thanks we do not need the Palestinian Problem on our hands.

Covering events like today’s (and it is only about to start, so there will be a post script to what transpired during the clashes.) you often have a chance to think whether you are pro one side or the other, and you have a chance to choose whether you are one or the other. Black hat or White Hat, Republican or Democrat, Labor or Liberal / Conservative, I think you get the idea.

However the big question today is in a democratic society do people have a right to demonstrate and if so how much civil disturbance is permissible. Well naturally Israelis being Israelis everyone is correct and the other side must be shouted down for having the audacity to question the other person without shutting up and agreeing with the other side who must be correct.

End result total Balagan. Democracy is the loser and Israelis end up fighting Israelis. For a country that believes it is worthy of first world status it has a lot to learn of tolerance and acceptance of the other peoples views and beliefs and that is within its own people, let alone mention the small problem of Palestine.

As they used to say in medieval times let the battle commence, it could be a long night on the Gaza border.

Postscript: Wednesday – Nothing happened the Army and the Police decided to let them bake in the sun another day, such is life ...

Monday, June 20, 2005

Filming the Dead Goat

Filming the Dead Goat

This summer in the Unholyland. The Israeli settlers are due to be evicted from the Gaza Strip.

The term used by the Israeli Govt is “Disengagement” for the eviction of some 7,500 Settlers. Tucked down in the corner of the Gaza Strip, lies the fenced in village of Dahaniya. It is a prison, within the prison that is Gaza.

Dahaniya is known as the “Village of the Collaborators”, Palestinians and Egyptians that have worked with the Israelis. They are traitors in the eyes of Palestinians, and for the Israelis they have served their purpose. But to protect them from there own, the Israelis built the village of Dahaniya. Within the security buffer at the southern end of the strip.

The problem is, with the disengagement only weeks away the Israelis have no plans to relocate the residents of Collaborators’ Ville. They are potentially going to be left to the whims of the Palestinian mob, once the Israeli Army leaves.

There is no mercy for collaborators in society here, they are hung upside down in the Main Squares of towns across the West bank & Gaza, like slabs of meat in a butchers shop, many of them tortured before being executed. I have filmed bodies being dragged through Manger Square in Bethlehem and then hung out of windows. A warning to the locals, collaborate, and you will be killed.

So for the 75 families (350 men, women and children) of Dahaniya, they live in fear for the future. For many they are innocent victims of actions of their parents or grandparents who in the past provided Israel with Intelligence.

Mike Tobin (Correspondent) Ibrahim (Producer) and I drove down there last week to do a story on the plight of the residents and their fears for the future. Gaza is best described as third world, Dahaniya could only be described as bordering on the door of the fourth world. Totally Isolated at the end of a road that can only be entered through the Israeli Army Checkpoint on the border with Egypt.

On one side of the village are the remains of Gaza International Airport, yes before this Intifada, there was an International Airport in Gaza with daily flights and they even had their own airline “Palestinian International Airlines”.

Driving in past the Animal enclosures made of wood scraps and plastic, the village looks almost deserted. Small boys ride old bikes and the sun just beats down.

We had permission to go and visit to the village but were told no cameras are allowed in, especially TV Cameras, so out came the small small handicam, I refer to this camera as my highjack camera as it is so small it fits almost anywhere, as you will find out.

I sit in the back as Mike drives around, so we could assess where the Israelis had lookouts and tanks. Suddenly Mike slows the car down and exclaims, “Did you film the dead goat?”

“The what?” “The dead goat back there”

“No I did not see it”

“Great Shot that Dead Goat”

Just up the road the Israelis have a tank positioned and we continue back into the village.

Mike stops the car outside a house and as we get out “Would have been a great shot, that dead goat”

Interviews are done, b-roll filmed inside the homes, usual mix of dirt floors and women doing the washing by hand. Small children come and go fascinated by the visitors. Mike shoots his piece to camera and it is time to leave. Goodbyes, and waves out of the car window.

Lets do one more lap of the village for b-roll. Say’s driver Mike. “Around this corner is the dead goat.”

“OK OK, stop the car and I will film the dead goat”

Car is stopped, Goat is filmed. Correspondent is happy, Cameraman is happy that he has now heard the last of the Dead Goat. Ibrahim laughs.

Now we had been told that we were going to have the car searched by the Israeli army as we left so we have to hide the camera. So down the front of the pants into the crotch goes the camera. I was picturing the scene from Spinal Tap when the bass guitarist is stopped at the airport with a cucumber in aluminium foil down the front of his pants.

We get to the army checkpoint and they wave us through, no checks or sweeps for cameras.

The Dead Goat shot never made it into the story, viewers would of complained, people can live in abject poverty and in fear, but a dead goat that is not visually acceptable to people watching TV.