Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Story on Time.com

Don't read this if you're squeamish.

I have become largely desensitized to gore for many reasons. First, I have seen my share of Hollywood films. Second, I worked as a medic during the second Intifadah. Third, I have seen the devastation of war and natural disaster firsthand . Fourth, I once saw Al Gore in person. (ok, terrible joke, sorry). I thought I was a pretty composed dude until I flipped through the photo album of Gazan Doctor Tada Medhat Taha. There I saw images so grisly I wish I could erase them from my memory, but I know I never will. Every once in a while, when I least expect it, they will flash in my mind's eye, sending chills up my spine.

He showed me what human brains look like when they're oozing out of the skull. I nearly vomited. He showed me a human eye socket with an eyeball dangling by a thread. I did vomit a little bit into my mouth. He showed me a blue, lifeless human leg that had just been amputated. I got up and left the room in the middle of the interview. I walked down a corridor full of fake limbs and teenagers banished to wheelchairs for life, went into the bathroom, and didn't know if I should cry or vomit or both. I ended up splashing cold water on my face, and told him not to show me those images ever again.

This is one of the hardest stories I ever had to do for many reasons. Access was difficult. Building trust was especially difficult. It took many trips without the camera just to make friends with guys that are mostly my age or younger. Had I been born about 50 kilometers south of where I'm typing now, I could have easily been one of them.

I ended up interviewing between 10 and 12 Fatah policemen, activists, and bodyguards about their lives in Gaza before, during, and after the Hamas takeover. I never had the heart to turn off the camera and just let them talk for hours on end. In the more than 2 years I've been going back and forth to Ramallah to meet up with these men, deprived of their limbs and their families, I've learned more about life, love, and war than in my 28 years prior. I understand now that legs a man can do without. But to be cut off from your family, and your roots, is too painful for most men to bare.

I've also been privileged to amass many hours of interviews, from which I've amalgamated a fascinating oral history of the Hamas takeover. I reckon this probably could have been a pretty good feature film, too. Here's a glimpse:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nice Stories for a change from Israel, Gaza

I savored these stories on Israel and Gaza on CNN. Soccer and comedy is infinitely better than bombs and bullets. Thought I'd share em.

This one is on the World Cup in Gaza.

and this one is on the most popular comedy show in Israel,

a satirical program called "Eretz Nehederet," meaning "a wonderful country."


Scene from the Gaza World Cup

Monday, May 17, 2010

NYT Lens Blog Covers Rina Castelnuovo

The NYT Lens Blog has written up a story on my colleague, New York Times photographer Rina Castelnuovo. Rina has been photographing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for 30 years. I have had the good fortune of working with her for the past several. Her professionalism, passion, and stunning pictures never cease to amaze and inspire me. I actually had no idea she started off as a painter, but if you look at the texture, colors, and the incorporation of landscapes in her shots, they are all true works of art. They also powerfully tell the story of a conflict replete with horror, fanaticism, and tragedy. Check out 20 of her photos here , and make sure you go full screen to really appreciate them.

From Confrontation in Nilin, West Bank
Courtesy of Lens Blog, Rina Castelnuovo

Saturday, May 15, 2010

UK Elections and New Media Story

Check out the story and video reports I made in London last week, on the effects of new media on the UK elections, currently on PBS MediaShift.

The Vandalised Conservative Billboards Facebook group proved popular during the election; this is one image from that group.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Insightful Haaretz Article

I just got around to catching up with the news from Isratine, after a week I spent in the UK covering the elections there. It was refreshing being in a country where the most important item to discuss, in this order, are the weather, football, and the weather.

I want to highlight an interesting story I read in Haaretz.

In an article by Amira Hass, it shows some of the devious tactics the Shin Bet (Israeli intelligence services) to get Palestinians to work as snitches for Israel. They essentially give two Palestinian medical students an ultimatum, to become an informant for Israel or lose out on a chance to fulfill your dream of becoming a doctor. I have heard of many cases like this firsthand, where desperate kids are bribed or blackmailed. Work for Israel, or give up what you love most.
Read it here.