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.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Have a Nice Trip, yet another airport in another country  Posted by Hello

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Scream Machine

"The Scream Machine" it sounds like a bad episode of Scooby Doo. But in Israel it can have a new definition - It is used by the Israeli Army to deter protests.

Imagine a truck covered so that it looks like a handymans attempt at building a Caravan, when he gets bored halfway through the project and just sticks a bit of canvas over the back. However inside this machine is the sound system to out boom box the biggest baddest boom box you can imagine. And rather than playing soft classical music to soothe the situation down. It emits this high pitched scream that can be pumped up to the extent that it can cause ear damage and leave you dis-orientated.

Friday on the West Bank, in Summer is no picnic day. The village we went to is about to be "walled in" by the "Wall" that Israel is building the length of the country to deter terror at 8 m (25ft) of solid concrete this is the mother of all walls. Now a problem is that Israel just builds it where it wants to build, it and takes whatever land it wants to build on.

The trouble is that the Palestinian villagers are just having their land taken, fields and olive groves are taken bulldozed and the monolith is built. Farms are divided into two with no access between them and land that has been in the family for generations is gone with no compensation.

Thus today the Villagers turn up complete with placards in German denouncing the wall, why in German. Because they knew German TV was coming to film today. Down the road they march to the barbed wire and twenty or so Israeli soldiers standing behind the wire. And there in middle of the road is the scream machine.

So Protestors sit and lie down behind the barbed wire, Israeli soldiers take position up behind the Scream Machine, Mal debates the situation for point five of a second and stands next to the Israelis. And sure enough - out comes the scream.

For thirty seconds this noise, like something from science fiction b grade movie laser blast , it was hard to comprehend what might sound like in front of it coping the full treatment. But they did not scatter or drop to the ground clasping their ears, I think half the faces they were pulling were for the tv cameras and still photographers to there sides. There were the usual professional protestors from supportive groups from around the world, crying and hugging each other bemoaning the plight, before jumping on a plane and heading back home with stories from the frontline.

Then the Israelis decide enough with The Scooby Doo Ice Cream Jingle and out come the smoke and blast grenades, bada bing, all these usual TV News scenes you are all so used to seeing are played out in front of you. It is only when you sit back at the end of the day do I sometimes think "What a bizarre day at the office I am had"

Ibrahim (Fox News Producer) and I decide this is predictable, time to head back to the Bureau. So in the midday sun we stroll back up the road to the village. Back to my armored car, we turn the corner and next to my new car are the Israeli soldiers getting pelted with stones. Grenade Guns are pinging out smoke from behind clear plastic riot shields.

Everynow and then a rock scuttles past you, and you think shit, wheres a wall to get behind. Five minutes later the soldiers pull back enough of the fun and games, they want to get home for shabat dinner with the family. A couple of bangs later they dissapear around the bend. All suddenly that sting hits your eyes for the first time and the air tastes foul. Tear Gas!!!, the bastards had left off a couple of tear gas grenades in the village as they left.

The worse thing you can do is to rub your eyes, it just rubs the Tear Gas into them, making it even more painful. So into the local shop we go, just standing there. With the shop owners family, not saying anything. No explanations are needed, its a reality of life here. That from time to time, during fighting in the street outside, members of the Press seek sanctuary.

A few minutes later, a quick nod to the father of the family a word of shukrum (thanks in Arabic). Back out into the street, and nod to Ibrahim, "Lets go".

We had filmed what we had needed to film "The Scream Machine" and we drove out eyes still smarting from the Tear Gas.


Thursday, June 16, 2005

How to Save $441 Australian Dollars

Life is Google now, you can think up any word or combination of words, go online and type in and see what the results are, yesterday I reached a milestone of no importance to anyone but me. I have now logged 3,000 km running, between training and races. From school 5km fun runs to two marathons.

So what does 3,000 km get you if you google, well for starters you can buy a Greyhound Bus Pass for Australia vaild for 3000 km for $441. Transamazonica is a bike ride that goes 3,000 km through the Amazon, East China's
Shandong Province has become the country's first province to have more than 3,000 km of Expressways and according to some pathetic car owner on the Toyotas Car Owners Forum UK has experienced tyre problems at 3,000 km, as if anyone cares.

So does anyone care that I have run 3,000 km, probably not. But achieveing things in life does matter and goals no matter how lofty do give us focus. I see so much hatred and greed in this world covering news that sometimes it is nice to sit down and smile to myself that I have achieved something that matters to no-one else

My next target is to reach 4052 km my the end of this year, why 4052 km - go google and see if you can find out why


Monday, June 13, 2005

The Newsletter I Forgot to Send

Tel Aviv Airport 3 am May 5 2005

3 am is a god awful time in anyone’s book , what is only worse is a 5.30 am departure from this country it means that you have to be at the airport three hours early to clear security.

Now here they treat security with a capital S, and travelling alone with equipment and no actual idea of where you are going apart from saying “ I am off to Iraq” means very little to the staff here.

I am in the position now of holding 4 passports one of which is used solely for travelling in and out of Israel and a second passport for countries which are to say the least not exactly the friends of Zion. This passport includes entry stamps and visas for Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria. The third passport is for Pakistan and Afghanistan with the odd Uzbekistan visa for good measure and the fourth passport is what I call the get out of jail passport totally clean with not a stamp in it issued in a third country.

So when packing it pays to make sure that I have the correct passport let alone tickets and credit cards.

So starts another day another trip another adventure in the somewhat bizarre world I live and work in. I am on assignment to Iraq for three weeks to be embedded in with the US Marines in such exotic locations as Fallujeh and Ramadi. needless to say that Lonely Planet Guide Books do not list many restaurants or hotels as must experience events. In fact I do not think there are any guidebooks for Iraq yet.

Now aologies for the somewhat lack of communication in recent months, it was only the other day that my mother complained and I realised that I must put fingers to the keyboard and bring you up to date on the trivial facts of life here.

I now drive an armored car so road rage has taken on a new meaning here and the fact that I could run over anyone and squash them flat has embin the process of finishing oldened me with a new sense of purpose. It is a top of the range Toyota Land Cruiser with a satellite transmission dome on the top so it is not what you would call a subtle car on the road complete with foreign number plates, the best thing though is that it has a siren which is far more effective in getting attention than the car horn. The only down side is that it is so heavy that if you park on a slope you cannot open the doors because of the weight of the doors with the armour.

Enough of the driving asides ...

Louise is in the process of finishing her Junior Year in High School, this is equivilant to Year 11 and has one more year of High School. She is blossoming into a beautiful young lady to fast, but still has the joys and frustrations of being a teenager, enjoys staying up till five am and then sleeping till midday. Then complaining of being tired, of course it goes without saying that she cannot understand why she is not allowed to go out to night clubs till all hours of the morning in Tel Aviv.

It is hard to explain the reality of life here to teenagers, for example last week I was in Jenin (The so called home of the suicide bombers here) sitting in a cemetary with twelve gunmen who are looking for work in the new Palestinian Administration. You can imagine the job interview ... and what have you done for the last four years ? .. well I can shoot a gun, place bombs and have extensive experience in anarchy. would be an honest answer. Then out of the blue they introduce a new member of the team they are looking after, whose intention it was to go to Tel Aviv and blow himself up taking as many Israelis as he could with him. Looking into his eyes he was not kidding, luckily for everyone the local gunmen had found out and stopped him and were now looking after him so that he did not carry out his planned attack.

Now trying to explain this scenario to a sixteen year old teen daughter is weird to say the least, when her response is that we were going to club in North Tel Aviv , so whats the problem dad .... needless to say she was not allowed out to the club and the bomber I hope is still under the wings of the Al Aqsa Matyrs Brigade Commander of Jenin.

BJ is now the tallest of the girls in the household and grapples with the annoyance of not being allowed to do what her sister is allowed to do, it is just not fair Dad is the standard response Why is she allowed to go out and I am not, to which the standard parental response of she is older cuts no grounds with a fourteen year old.

As far as what has happened to me, well time passes and I have reached the ripe old age of 46 last Tuesday, celebrating it by running the marathon in Paris last month in under four hours which is the magic barrier for all runners to break hours in a marathon.

Twelve Hours later --- 3 pm En Route Frankfurt to Kuwait

Now at 30,000ft on board a new airbus (not one of the big ones but a new one) and of course now I am trying to log onto the internet whilst flying but for some reason the plane system cannot track the satellite for the moment. It amazes me that here am I in the middle of a flight and if the system works I can actually email and work from a plane using nothing but wireless connections , but of course the system is down and there is no IT guy on the plane

I am trying to think of the last Unholyaland newsletter that went out and now realise that it was in the post Tsunami days. It just seems like years ago that I was coverin that tragedy and yet it is only a few months

Since then I have been to Lebanon and Syria to cover the Beirut and Damascus Spring Revolutions that have in reality not gone that far. Syria was intresting to say the least in the fact that I was badly attacked by a mob and had the preverbial shit kicked out of me along with being beaten by sticks. One of those mad mob moments that makes you realise that for all the pretence of a normal society, brutal fascist dictatorships still exist. I managed to keep to my feet as they put the flying kicks in and the hits were just to my back and neck.

What was funny though was that as I ran and stumbled from the mob the only place that I could get to was a car operated by the secret police. I jumped in the car the mob screamed up to the car and then we had this stand off whereby the mob wanted me but the secret police wanted there car and I was convinced that I was either going to be lynched from the car by the mob or taken to the Secret Police HQ and then given a going over in a cell downstairs.

In the end not knowing what to do in the mob frenzy the SP drove thru the crowd about ten meters and then asked me to get out and escorted me another twenty meters assuring me all was ok, before letting me loose when i saw the rest of my crew and we bolted down the road and paid a taxi a small fortune to get us the preverbial “F” out of dodge city.

The company pulled us out of Syria three hours later and I did not argue their decision, would I go back yes ... would I film another pro democracy demonstration there NO


Monday June 13th 2005

Public Holidays & Cheese Festivals

If you are downunder then this weekend has been the Queens Birthday weekend, the opening of the winter Snow Sking Season and a continual festival of the boot, as Roy and HG would describe a weekend of endless sport. Even listening online to Australian Radio you can sense the weekend.

Here it is the Public Holiday of Shaviot , which is the Festival for the Cheese, go to your local supermarket and there is nothing but bloody cheese. I often that that Australia was known as the "Land of the Long Weekend" forget it, the Jewish Nation has taken the art of Public Holidays to a new level. It seems that every other weekend there is a festival for something, be it bringing in the wheat festival or one of the big holidays like Yom Kippur, which is also National Ride a bike day.

Why merge two holidays together (Yom Kippur is basically Good Friday equivalent, the day you ask God forgiveness and everything is OK)

Back to National Ride a bike Day aka Yom Kippur, Now since it is a day to repent You are not allowed to drive your car from sunset to sundown so the roads are totally empty. I mean totally not a car on the road so everyone gets there bikes out and take over the roads from National Freeways to back alleys.

Back to this weekend, it is sort cheesecake overload.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sunday June 12 2005

The time has come that since I have been so slack in maintaining the regularity of the Unholyland News. I have decided that it is time to bring the Unholyland News into the realm of modern technology and hence forth the Unholyland Blog commences.

Why wait to hear the musings of life on the roads of the Israel, when there will be a constant update daily, now everyone always starts a blog (and/or newsletter) and claims that it will be the best thing since a fresh sliced white bread tomato sandwich. And we all know that, that is impossible because nothing is better than a "fswbts".

So much news to catch up on, summer is on us the girls are out of school and still in bed

Till later