Friday, June 16, 2006

The one with the long title

A Man his donkey, Hamas Militia, A small obnoxious boy and Mike Tobin.

A rather long title for a story, not exactly what sub editors would accept but then again introduce four characters in a title and somehow you try to figure out what they all have in common.

We had to do a live shot from the streets of Gaza, late yesterday afternoon and the Eli Fastman the Fox News Bureau Chief back in Jerusalem wanted to see Hamas Militia in the streets in the background. Well given the current state of affairs here in Gaza finding Militia on a street corner is as difficult as finding a drive thru Mc Donald’s in Texas.

We headed out towards the so called No Go Death Zone that the Israelis have declared in Northern Gaza, and just before you enter this delightfully named area on the main road is a large on Mosque, the Hamas Militia were relaxing in the shade and when Nael our local fixer asked if it would be possible to go live from here, the response was a proud yes. Just like any military in the world the foot soldiers love being on TV.

I remember how during the Kosovo War, SKY News would contact the British troops there and get them to come around to their house and place them on street corners so that they would be in exactly the right position behind the correspondent during the live shot. Then they would give each of the soldiers in the background a satellite phone so that they could call home to let their families know that it was them behind the correspondent.

We try to avoid such staged “Geraldo’s” as they are known. In deference to Geraldo Rivera a US reporter with the ego that defies words, who would in such cases actually get anyone with a gun to crowd around him and brandish them in the air during his live shots, whilst he explains the danger he is in.

My armored car has a built in system that allows for videophone transmission from the vehicle, so we parked on the corner and proceed to set the shot up. Now as I have explained on may occasions, a TV camera in Gaza is to small boys a magnet that means they can come out and be to put it bluntly as rude and as obnoxious as a drunk sports fan staggering out of a play off game their team has won. Only they have numbers on their side here.

After about ten minutes these two boys, one so fat that his family is obviously not suffering from any economic hardships the rest of the people are experiencing in Gaza and his mate, whom I will call “Bluey” only because he wore a blue shirt. Decided that they would try and ruin our live shot, as they had nothing else to do.

Just to the right of our camera on a vacant lot, where the rest of the children were just standing around watching and causing no problem. Was a donkey tied to a cart. Gaza is close to the donkey capital of the world, if New York is a sea of yellow cabs then Gaza is awash with donkey carts on the streets.

Thus Bluey and his Jenny Craig reject friend, decided that they would try to get the donkey to run dragging his cart thru the back of our live shot and set about their task. Now enter the Hamas Militia who could see their chance of being on TV diminish with the efforts of Bluey and Jenny’s handiwork. So over they come and grabbing Bluey by the scruff of his neck drag him away, to give Bluey his credit he was giving them lip, but the bearded men with AK47’s, wanted their minutes of famed not to be ruined by his antics and frog marched him away to the other side of the lot. Jenny by this stage had run out of steam and had headed home to yet another plate of humus, a chickpea dish not to be confused with Hamas.

Now enter the donkey owner who after hearing the plans of Bluey and Jenny went ballistic in more than the sense of the world, storming onto the vacant lot to protect his beloved donkey. he did what any sensible Palestinian donkey owner would do, he gave Bluey a solid slap to the face, Bluey ran a few steps away and then did what five years of Intifada Darwinian evolution causes any Gazan boy to do he picked up a stone and hurled it at the donkey owner from that moment on the scene descended into mayhem, donkey owner picks up bigger stones and proceeds to throw them at Bluey, Like a pagan Gazan ritual a good old fashioned stone fight was happening to the side of our live shot

The whole time Mike stood there going over his script trying hard not to be distracted, I just stood there watching trying to figure out what was going to happen next.

New York gave Mike the cue and two minutes later we were cleared and finished, Hamas Militants were happy in the background and as we packed up. Bluey and the donkey owner were still trading insults.

Even a routine live shot in Gaza can involve a sense of comic opera at times, if you tried to write a Hollywood script you would never be able to capture “Bluey’s” Dennis the Menace character or that of the outraged donkey owner, it was more like a scene from a black and white 1950’s Egyptian comedy.

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