Friday, August 28, 2009

The Clubhouses of the West Bank

I've been spending much of my time lately in two opposite, parallel universes: apartment hunting in Tel Aviv while searching for outpost stories in the West Bank. They require totally different mindsets, and given the freakishly competitive state of the apartment market in Tel Aviv, I considered seriously at one point throwing in the towel and building a little log cabin somewhere in the future state of Palestine.

The monthly rental price of a studio apartment in Tel Aviv: 1000 dollars

The monthly rental of a wooden shack in the West Bank (subject to sudden evacuation): Free, but must build it yourself

Thank Jah I found an apartment, an overpriced pad 4 blocks from the trash-infested, fish-depleted waters of the Mediterranean. But for a habitual beach prowler like myself, close enough to heaven. My surfboards will be dusted off and I will soon be riding the petite slow rollers next to the Jaffa Port.

The world's attention is once again fixated on those pesky settlers, camped out illegally on the barren hills of the West Bank. What the world doesn't know is that many of these so called "illegal outposts" are not even really even inhabited, but are the temporary hideouts of a handful of quixotic teenagers.

Take Ramat Migron for example. It consists of 3 wooden huts on a hill in the West Bank. The place has been destroyed several times by the army and is maintained by a group of no more than 10 young adults between the ages of 18 and 22. They don't live there, since the place has no electricity and/or water, but they hang out there as much as possible. They have a gas stove to cook, prayer books, and mattresses. It is sort of like a glorified camping trip, where you not only get to be one with nature, but also get to piss off the most powerful man in the world. Who knew that being a setter could be so much fun!

The place reminds me of a clubhouse I once had as a kid. It is a place of fantasy, where you make the rules. The adults, or international law, has no say in the matter. In the clubhouse, you decide right and wrong. You can call yourself king or president or whatever. It is an imaginary world with no boundaries, or borders. The entire world, or the greater land of Israel, is yours for the taking, until you hear a familiar voice in the distance. It's Bibi Netanyahu, or your parents, calling you for dinner.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ramat Migron Story

I shot and edited this piece for the UK's Channel 4. It's on a British settler in an illegal outpost called Ramat Migron in the West Bank. Have a look!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Huckabee Tour

I was on the Mike Huckabee (2012 Campaign?) Bus Tour last week. Politics aside, I found Mr. Huckabee to be a nice Southern gentleman who brought me right back to the good ol' days in Gainesville, Florida. We talked mainly about SEC football, and of course his Razorbacks are no match for the mighty Gators, who are expected to repeat as national champions. I mean, seriously, can anyone really stop Tim Tebow?

We visited countless settlements and lookouts in Samaria or Northern West Bank. Even went to a settler's goat farm and drank a real tasty cabernet sauvignon made in a little settlement called Har Bracha. Mr. Huckabee didn't drink, which meant more for the journalists. Shameless plug for the video I produced for

I also promised a person on the tour bus that I would publish this political cartoon from the late 1970's, which is suddenly relevant again, so here it is:

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Laura, Euna, and Ibrahim

Totally and utterly thrilled about the safe return of Laura and Euna.
Very proud of the US for sending in its top sweet-talker, Bill Clinton, to secure their release.

The one silver lining in this whole episode, I hope, is the raising of awareness for the hundreds of journalists still in captivity in various countries all over the world.

These cases don't make it onto the front page of the New York Times. They are low profile non-stories that few people, if any, know about. These journalists, instead of shining the light of truth, spend their days rotting away in dingy, dark, 3rd world prison cells that Bill Clinton will never visit.

The sad truth is that journalism is not such a sagacious career choice for people who live in repressive countries, and cherish their own personal freedom. By simply putting their pens to paper, digitally recording reality, and publicizing a truth, they can lose their lives. Outside these despicable bubbles of repression, we are aware that their "criminal" acts of journalism are actually the ultimate acts of patriotism.

The world's leaders should take this opportunity to condemn Iran, Burma, China, Cuba, and Zimbabwe's criminal record in arresting innocent journalists, and, when pertinent, acknowledge and correct their own shortcomings in this arena.

In particular, the US should take an introspective look at the case of Ibrahim Jassan. While the US doesn't have the same underlying reasons as North Korea for incarcerating journalists, the two countries may in fact be guilty of the same crime.

Read this article about the Reuters cameraman from Iraq held by the US for nearly a year without a trial.

While there have been no new cases of foreign journalists being arrested under the Obama administration, the fact that even one is still in custody since September of 2008 is unacceptable. Americans should pressure their representatives to provide Jassan a fair and swift trial. If there is no evidence to convict him, he should be released immediately. Holding him for one year without trial is criminal. Just like Laura and Euna, Ibrahim has a family anxiously waiting for him in Baghdad. It's time Americans also know him on a first-name basis.