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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Five days that shook the Middle East

At Checkpoint Jerusalem this morning, Dion Nissenbaum posted a riveting account of his experiences as one of a handful of foreign journalists who were in Gaza during the denouement of last week's 'Palestinian' civil war. Here's a small sample:
You know you’ve crossed into a different reality when you start judging the risk to your life not from whether or not there is gunfire, but how close it is – and which way the bullets are whizzing.

That was the world I entered last Tuesday morning with my laptop, camera, bulletproof vest, helmet and a backpack with one extra day’s clothes when I was among the few journalists to get into the Gaza Strip to cover the coup de grace of the summer, 2007 Palestinian coup d’etat.

Most reporters stopped going into Gaza in March when BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was kidnapped. But you can’t cover a story very well by phone, so, 24 hours after a long weekend admiring Gaudi architecture and eating Indian food in Barcelona, I stuffed an extra day’s worth of stuff in my backpack, grabbed my flak jacket and headed 70 minutes south to the Israel-Gaza Strip border.

In the past, the passport control room would have been packed with jittery Western journalists anxiously smoking cigarettes and having frenetic conversations with their editors in London and Rome and Jerusalem and New York.

Now, there was no one.

“Why are you going to Gaza,” asked the gray haired Israeli border control officer as I waited for the guards to stamp my passport. I thought he was being sarcastic, but he seemed to be serious.

“Oh, you know,” I said, with what I thought was deadpan sarcasm, “Just a short holiday.”

He raised his eyebrows in apparent belief and surprise: “Holiday?”

“Yea,” I said with a shrug and a smile. “I hear they have nice beaches. It’s on the Mediterranean…”

“We have nice beaches here in Israel,” he said…

He and I both knew I wasn’t going for a holiday. But I don’t think either of us realized that I was heading in to cover the fall of Yasser Arafat’s once dominant Palestinian liberation movement and the military triumph of Islam in the Gaza Strip.
Read it all.


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