Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Finger in the Sky

Gaza City
February 4, 2006

It is an image that the west will have to get used to seeing, massed crowds holding Korans in the air with an index finger pointed to the sky, in a sea of green.

Hamas is here and they have one stated intention down here in Gaza. To take Islam to the rest of the world, and crush any resistance to their religion by whatever means necessary.

To label them as extremists is an understatement, they hate the label. Yet they preach it. Yesterday in Gaza City, Hamas took to the streets after Friday Prayers, no sooner had the mullah said the final prayer inside the mosques of the city than they started marching, the objective was not to celebrate democracy and there unlikely victory at the ballot box last week. But to protest against the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad published in Danish newspapers last week and reprinted in the French newspaper “Ce Soir” this week.

What is fascinating in my line of work is actually watching news develop, in my first blog from Gaza this week I made a laughing reference to militants and this story, By Sunday Emabassies across the Middle east are being looted and set on fire, in the name of Allah the merciful.

The only question I was asked in the demonstration yesterday was whether I was from Denmark or France, and I was asked and repeatedly asked this question. If I had been, there is no doubt that the mob would of turned on me and either beaten the living hell out of me or kidnapped me.

The kidnap threat is a reality down here now, for the last four years covering the Intifada in Gaza and the West Bank, never has the personal threats been so high.

Up to now I used to feel comfortable down here, I used to go for a run in the morning along the beach road down to the checkpoint near Arafats compund and up through the Beach Refugee Camp. I could go for a walk in the city and go shopping in supermarkets and stores by myself. Now that is a distant memory.

Last night I was grabbed by the throat and a pink kid tried to take my phone whilst I waited for the elevator in the office building. The fact that I was bigger and did not want to give my phone up without a fight was probably the only thing that saved me. Lets say when the kid left I was praying that the bloody elevator would come down faster, it did not and for about three minutes I stood there virtually shitting myself. Thinking that kid is going to come back with friends, and I would be to put it bluntly fucked. I got upstairs and told the guys what happened and was asked do I still have my phone, they were busy preparing a live shot.

To add to the joy of being assigned here this week, some fools from the Islamic Jihad fired a home made Qassam rocket into Israel in the afternoon and injured people on a kibbutz. Retaliation was swift and forthcoming from the Israeli Army, just as dusk fell we started to hear the artillery shells being fired into the dead zones around Gaza.

All evening the air was punctuated by the booms of artillery across the city. You have no idea of what or where they are landing but the sound sucks the air for a second and the noise is like someone has slow slam closed a door. We just kept working, being under artillery fire in Gaza does not even make the news anymore, it is just life. The Palestinians fire a couple of homemade rockets out and the Israelis pound back with ultimate force into the Dead Zone.

It is time to get out of Gaza, I used to have good feelings about the place. Now it is sad to see it descend into anarchy and extremism. Where religion has become a poison that the chosen use to destroy the future. Where poverty and the grind of living in a virtual prison is turning the mob on its self. People with rose tinted glasses may ignore to see the streets, but then they did not stand amongst the crowd at the Hamas Rally yesterday to be questioned whether you come from Denmark or France. Ignorance is a disease down here that is fast becoming an epidemic.

The finger to the sky, signify’s One god and only One true god whilst the other hand holds aloft the Koran. The crowd in unison chant “Allah Ackbar” at the mullahs beck and call. The stated aim of their leadership has always been to eliminate all religions bare one and these people are in power now.

The world thought that the Taliban were ok to begin with, anything was better than the anarchy and warlords of post Soviet Afghanistan. Hamas have more in common with the Taliban than a lot of people are prepared to admit. Look at the women on the streets of Gaza, the Habiya is no longer rare but very common.

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