Friday, November 17, 2006

Independence Day!

Apparently Nov 15 was Palestinian Independence Day. Passed without a whimper. One woman I canvassed called it "meaningless". Asked how he felt, another guy in a chilly building said simply "cold". A couple of orgs in Ramallah issued declarations of solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Still - the Palestinians are 18 years old as an independent people! Independence was declared by the Palestine National Council in Algiers on Nov 15, 1988. It's a coming of age, of sorts. The Palestinians are now adults. Didn't notice a mass getting trashed or visiting of hookers, but who knows - maybe it all took place discreetly as these things tend to.

Anyway, for chapter and verse, see here

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Yisrael Beiteinu

The flight from Amman to Tel Aviv only takes about 25 minutes in a small twin-prop plane. So small, unfortunately, that there wasn't enough space for my luggage.

This is routine, the guy at Ben Gurion told me - cheaper for Royal Jordanian to deliver the bags across Israel later than pay to run a bigger plane.

A small West Bank settlement, on the rugged ground at the western edge of the Jordan valley. Maybe 150 houses, communal swimming pool, few buildings, surrounded by a perimeter road and presumably a guarded gate at the entrance.

Tel Aviv - where the sun never stops shining. Put on your shades, look West and forget the occupation.

Coming in to land over the suburbs. Luckily I had the foresight to stow the camera rather than walk off the plane clutcing it in my hand - there were three security goons scrutinising passengers as they walked off the plane. One had what I think is a classic Israeli look: completely shiny shaved head, wraparound shades and a kind of confident physical leer.

And for the second time in a row I managed to arrive on the Shabbat - no flipping public transport...

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Dubai revisited!

Even Dubai seems a model of sanity after the Israel/Palestine headfuck. To coin an appropriately commercialised phrase, I’m loving it. The inmates are all bellyaching about traffic, the rents (some landlords are now demanding the entire year’s rent in one cheque: insanity) – the usual snakes in this desert of Eden. But I rise above it all, calm as a Hindu cow, because I don’t have to live here. The downside is of course that I do have to live there.

So I’m back! Back in the ludicrously overpriced and undercool restaurants and bars of Sheikh Zayed Road and Madinat Juneirah. Back in the only places you can get a decent square meal – the Indian workers’ caffs.

Back in the offices of Emirates Today, where this now=deleted blog (by an embittered ex-employee/s?) is the latest blow to staff morale. The talk there is of a race war, with the Indians and Arabs wresting control away from the Anglo-Saxons who are leaving in droves (not all of their own accord: one guy resigned after receiving an email demoting him from assistant editor of a section to sub editor – the first he had heard of it). Getting quite vicious, apparently. After all the ethnic cleansing I’ve been looking at in Palestine it’s odd to come back and suspect it may also be playing out in my former office. Perhaps it's more the Clsh of Civilisations.

But financially speaking – who cares? The paper is said to be turning a profit from big ads and apparently even has a core readership. The pockets of the sheikh backing it are as deep as an oil well. And there are always new people ready to come aboard from more stricken papers. As long as the paper comes out every day people can play as many internal games as they like.

Spent four frustrating days trying to rig up a line from the UAE to Israel, which of course is banned by the UAE telecom Etisalat. After a lot of bullshit, we ended up with a satellite line that bypasses the Etisalat blocker via a satellite above the Indian Ocean. Skype is also blocked by Etisalat because of course the cheap internet telephony threatens Etisalat’s ginormous profits as the quasi-monopoly here. But Skype will be unblocked in December = too big to ban? Be interesting to see if you can use it to call the Zionist entity…