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.


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