Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Language Faux Pas

Gaza City
July 12, 2006


There are moments on the road, when you are in places where the choice of language does matter, because you never know what the reaction will be.

At about three am in morning, when I was enduring yet another totally restless and hot night with no air conditioning in the room due to power blackouts caused by Israeli Urban Redevelopment program at the Gaza Power Station a couple of weeks ago. So during my tossing and turning the Israeli Air Force dropped a quarter ton bomb on a three-storey house.

In the ensuing chaos seven members of an Islamic University Professors family were killed as the house collapsed. However what the Professor might of forgotten to tell his family members was that he had invited a few close friends around to use his living room as a meeting place.

Now what he also might of neglected to tell the rest of the family was that in fact the friends in question were in fact some of the top echelon of the Hamas Military wing and that one of the boys Mohamed Deif is fact the most wanted man by the Israelis and is known as the Israeli Osama Bin Laden he is so wanted, this guy has escaped three previous assaination attempts on his life.

This was no meeting to discuss the next agenda items for the forthcoming Annual general Meeting of Hamas Social Club or who was to arrange the trestle tables for the forthcoming cake sale. This was a top echelon meeting of senior Hamas Militants, now naturally the Israeli Secret Service upon finding out about this meeting rang the Air Force who struck this building with ultimate force.

The death of civilians in any conflict is a tragedy and the family have become yet another statistic to be forgotten in time, whilst all the leaders to our knowledge escaped with some being injured. The Hamas Media Spokesman declined to give any details on how the “Most Wanted” are doing or what their present condition is.

Late this afternoon we did hear that Hamas Gunmen had taken over a section of the Main Hospital for a while; read into this that they did not want to queue in the Outpatients with the “friends” that needed treatment. After getting Medical Attention they left, no doubt without paying the bill.

The power of a Militant group like Hamas is not to be questioned. In fact it was talked about quite openly today. That one of the Agencies had arrived at the scene of the bombing in time to film one of the senior “Most Wanted’s” leaving the scene injured but alive. The agency was phoned and told not to transmit that image; freedom of the press is not noted in the Hamas constitution.

I spent nearly twelve hours on the scene there today in conditions that go from bad to worse to worser and worst. The heat of the midday sun, lack of food and the sheer numbers of kids being obnoxious. The only English they learn at school being “What’s your name” breaks the language barrier? What’s your name? What’s your name?, What’s your name?.

It does not matter what you answer the follow up to your reply is in most cases “Fuck you Yehuda (Jew). I just avoid any contact reply in French or simply say, “I’m Australian” to which the reply is either, “What’s your name? Or the new crowd favorite “Fuck you Yehuda”.

After nine hours in the Middle East full summer sun, you can get forgetful of where you are and I think Producer Maryam Sepehri will never forget this moment.

The house is destroyed, bystanders and kids are still milling about, Hamas Militants are now in charge of crowd control and along with Correspondent David Lee Miller, Maryam and I are killing time before the next live shot at the bottom of the hour. It is an emotional and still potentially volatile scene, but safe. The sound of the afternoon artillery shelling of North Eastern Gaza was starting to boom in the background.

Maryam’s phone rings and it is the office in Jerusalem who simply give the standard Hebrew “hello” to which Maryam responds with the standard Hebrew “hello”. David and I just about shat ourselves for her to shut up, “did you really think that this is the best place to say ….”

Here we are out side a family home that has had nine members killed by an enormous bomb, surrounded by Hamas Militants carrying guns, Israel is shelling their land a few miles away and the locals are certainly not candidates for the Gaza Mensa Association.

Maryam, please please in future do not answer the phone by responding with a cheerful “SHALOM” back.

David and I just collapsed with the sort of it could only happen on the road laughter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i think it may have been you... the live shot in your vehicle (while driving away from gun fire outside of the vehicle) looked great... clean signal, great hussle.I thought a certain anchor in nyc sho was confused why people would shoot at someone wwith "press: on their kevlar vest was the dumbest remark in tv news history.
great work on your part.

i work for that 2nd rated cable network.