Sunday, 28 June 2009

I missed a riot

I'm not a very good journalist. I missed a riot. And it wasn't a very easy riot to miss, considering it happened thirty seconds from my hotel. And it happens every Saturday at around the same time.

Normally, I wouldn't be so flippant about covering a riot. I'm not an adrenaline-junkie who likes seeing people hurt and moans that there wasn't enough blood. If people are getting seriously hurt, I'm not happy. But this was a different riot. It's being called the Sabbath Wars, and is based on the fact that God said to Jerusalem's Ultra-Orthodox Jews not to open a car park on Saturday. But he did say that in response to that car par opening you could riot and burn tires and assault police.

Then, not happy just attacking police (and getting themselves hurt in the process), they attacked journalists, forcing a Channel 2 news presenter to cut short a live broadcast. That's just a step too far. I mean, attack the police all you want, but for God's sake (no pun intended) spare the journalists.

I'm starting to think the most dangerous thing about covering this conflict is not the armed violence, it's the threat of being attacked by Orthodox rioters.

Now I'm still in Jerusalem waiting for news on my press credentials. The press officer made it very clear that they don't like freelance journalists. They probably don't like Palestinian/British freelance journalists much either, but he didn't say that. He did say that my commission from the London Bureau of Reuters wasn't good enough, I had to have it commissioned through the Jerusalem office. So I called the Jerusalem office and said "you don't know me, but..." and head of the bureau said "okay, tell the London bureau to contact me and tell me who you are". He was very nice about it, actually.

So I called the London bureau, but of course my editor is away on holiday, so I had to speak to the deputy editor and say "you don't know me, but..." You get the idea. She was also very nice about it, and said yes. At least the official paperwork will be taken care of. Now it just remains for the "other stuff" to be passed. This, from what I understand, is an intense background check the GPO does before issuing press cards. This is what the foreign press liaison said he was doing at the GPO office last time I called him.

We can only wait and see...

In the meantime, I've been finding other stories in Jerusalem. Here's another series of images that was promoted to the front page of Demotix (Ultra-Orthodox won't like this one much either, I'm afraid...)

Now, another coffee...

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