Monday, May 22, 2006

Waiting for Civil War in Gaza

Gaza is a time bomb that is set to explode, all the signs are there. I just hope that it doesn't because the potential for carnage is beyond words.

Last Wednesday we went down to Gaza, to shoot a couple of features and what transpired in those few hours still amazes me.

We started by going to the Bank of Palestine in Gaza City, from the outside it was as if it was business as normal, inside however was a scene of chaos , panic and frustration. There were angry frightened men six deep trying to get skips through the teller windows. Most of these men were members of the security forces of the Palestinian Authority, in otherwords these were the Police they have not been paid for nearly two and half months, and the bank was extending a line of credit on this day of 500 Shekels (roughly $110) .

The reason is that since Hamas won the Election, all monies to the Palestinians has dried up from the EU and USA, they will not extend any credit or loans to Hamas, who stated aim is still the elimination of the State of Israel, whom they do not recognize. It is a nice notion of a party that is known more for terrorist acts than for acts of peace. Banks will not transfer money to Hamas for fear of sanctions of funding a terrorist group. All sound words and as one diplomat from the EU said to me the other night. We made the mistake of thinking Hitler was a good idea when he won the election back in the thirties, if we had just said no how different things might of turned out. So in effect there will be no dealings with Hamas, they might of won a fair and democratic election but that does not mean the International community has to accept the rise of a terror organisation into the ranks of the democratic community.

The losers in all of this , the man on the street in Gaza. The man who has a family and whose whole life has been woven into the politics of which party you support, the difference is that democracy is only achieved down in Gaza through the barrel of a gun and not the ballot box.

We then left and drove down to the Southern border of Rafah, which is the only way in and out of Gaza to the world. A land border crossing into Egypt, desolate and forlorn. It is a joint operation of Palestinians , Israelis and EU monitors. But the elected Hamas Govt has no dealings here, it is run by the opposing Presidential Guards on behalf of the Palestinians , men who are loyal and owe there allegiance to the President Abu Mazen, who suceeded Arafat.

We watched as the Presidential Guards along with EU Monitors checked bags , what did i see. Cigarettes and more Cigarettes every single person seemed intent on seeing how many packets of Marlboro they could get past the Guards. I felt that if I was not there with the camera that most of these people would of been just allowed to enter with nothing more than a cursory nod. What is the point of hasling someone for a few cartons of cigarettes.

Driving back to get out from Rafah entails driving the full length of Gaza, South to North and the Presidential Guards insisted on escorting us back out to the border crossing back to Israel, and what I saw still makes me shudder, in the course of a few hours hamas had suddenly established a new militia Guard and on virtually every street corner, where three hours previously there was nothing, now stood at least two armed gunmen members of the new miltia, a militia loyal to Hamas and not the Palestinian Authority controlled by the President.

We had to stop a film a quick piece to camera on the streets as we drove out, so our convoy stopped , the Presidential Guards fully armed jumped out of the cars and provided a cordon, whilst the new Militia came over , it was a matter of getting it done as fast as possible and getting out as both the Presidential Guards and the Hamas Militia where getting close to a Mexican stand off.

Later that night, Fatah the political party of the Authority and Arafat loyalists decided that they too were forming their own Militia on the streets of Gaza. The scene now is that you have two Militia facing each other off, any sense of law and order in the form of Internal Security on a National level no longer exists. In fact over the weekend the Intelligence Chief of the Palestinian Authority had a bomb explode under his elevator, no one has claimed responsibilty yet.

And the pictures out of Gaza today, just hails of bullets going everywhere, Ibrahim our Producer said casually did I recognise the street where the gun battle was raging? It was a 100 m away from the hotel where we stay down there.

The day after we had filmed the security at the Rafah Crossing, a senior Hamas official was caught with 600,000 Euros on his body, what we believe was the payroll for the new Hamas Militia, now Hamas gunmen will not be getting paid along with the Fatah Militia, lots of men lots of guns, no one being paid and a lot of anger reaching critical boiling point.

The clock is about to hit Midnight in Gaza

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Week of Geek

This what a satellite looks like , so if anyone asks you this is W2
Larnaca Cyprus

Now I am not the worlds greatest geek, anytime anyone mentions anything mathematical my brain turns to anti geek mode, however this week I have achieved a major victory in my technical ludite brain.

I have completed a week long course in learning the correct procedures for uplinking satellites, they are a major part of my industry and I have been around them for eight years and even on occasions have had to operate the dish we have in Jerusalem, which let me tell you was far more luck than skill and operator knowledge.

Now I can find a satellite in the sky with alarming accuracy, look at machines of lines of squiggles and align them, even down link calculate so I leave Cyprus with a great new skill.

It feels good to complete a course and have confidence in yourself, trying to find the right satellite in the sky is like someone getting a very sharp HB pencil marking a point in the sky and then turning you around three times whilst they rub it out and telling you to find it again. That is the best way I can describe finding satellites.

Cyprus is a nice place somewhere where the Greeks hate the Turks and British Tourists come to drink in Pubs and glorify the weather. The weather here is glorious a bright blue sunshine that makes color come alive, where life is very expensive and life also runs very slowly.

Could I live here, well yes if I had too, but then again it would also drive me insane with aspects, one good thing is that they drive on the right but even that scared me a couple of times in car we came to a T intersection and I swore we were on the wrong side of the road. Hence it will be a long time before I could ever drive back in Australia.

It ends with another week away from home, making me sometimes wonder where is home, Israel is home but not home that I am still searching for .. Somewhere to call home. When someone asks me where I call home I have lost that answer.

Makes me wonder what and where I am in life at times. Heading back to Israel is not going home but going back to where I live.