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Oct-01-2009 22:22printcomments

Weekend in Palestine Part 2

A very candid look at what takes place on a regular basis on the West Bank, plus photos from the bombing of Haifa and the Israeli reprise against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

IDF battle in Haifa,
All photos are property of Dexter Phoenix

(JERUSALEM) - This is part 2 of 2 in a series by Dexter Phoenix that began September 29, 2009. You can see part one here: Weekend in Palestine Part 1 - Dexter Phoenix Salem-News.com.

In part one of this special two-part series, Dexter Phoenix describes starting out in the early morning in Jerusalem, and traveling with a group of Palestinian demonstrators to the West Bank where they go every week to demonstrate, and typically, clash with Israeli soldiers. We join the story after Dexter has arrived at the point where protesters draw the attention of the IDF. The images in part two are from the fighting between Israel and Lebanon three years ago.

We quickly walked back towards the road where all the action was going to be, the people had already started marching towards that main area. Every kind of person was there; kids of all ages, old ladies, men (but oddly enough no Palestine woman?!) and of course the overly excited photographers and video people that were running around like headless chickens buzzing from there adrenaline rushes of finally getting involved in what they have a huge passion for... serious worldwide news.

There was also the usual large crowed of travelers with their weird haircuts and piercings... these people oddly enough were the most verbally aggressive out of everyone who was in the large march towards the Israelis. The March itself took about 20 min until they all stopped over the brow of the hill... seeing all the Israeli security services lined up at the entrance of the fence. The whole march looked pretty impressive with their huge Palestine flag and Lebanon flags, as well as colorful posters of the Journalist that got shot in the head.

All the locals seemed to be enjoying themselves, especially the kids who were all shouting out or singing as they marched towards the Israeli wall of people. I quickly ran past everyone after getting the pictures of them marching towards the Gate. I headed quickly towards the Israelis wanting to get a full on picture of them facing the Palestinians. As I got closer I noticed all the Palestine news teams were hiding behind the Israeli security personnel, pointing there cameras towards the march.

There was one Israeli guy holding a piece of paper up towards the the march while another military person was on a speaker, and seemed to be reading something regarding their rights? (I thought Palestinians had no rights, do they?)

Damage in Haifa and IDF tank soldiers. All photos by Dexter Phoenix

No one took any notice and basically walked right up to them. The first line of people were the European travelers. Screaming and shouting at them, and basically goading them on in the most antagonizing way. After a short while the Israeli military moved in and went straight for the large Palestine flag that was waving in front of them.

They soon tore the flag away and threw it on the ground while the first line of protesters were starting to get kicked and hit by the batons. It soon started to get very heated when the Israeli troops were trying to snatch people from the march and drag them back over the so called “line”

People started to fight back, and many were trying to grab the people back who were being taken by the Israelis.

Once the Israelis started to get heavy handed, the people started to pull back to a distance where the Israelis started to fire tear gas at them. Once this started to happen, the Israelis separated themselves into small teams... almost like they were trying to do a flank move to flush everyone out.

Both sides of the rough land on each side of the road soon got crowded by the Israeli troops who were slowly pushing the protesters back. Now they were taking out individual targets with rubber bullets and tear gas. By now the back end of the march had split up and started to fight back in the trees and bushes. Stones were thrown, sling shots were used, tear gas thrown back.

By now I was right in the middle of it, most of the photographers or video people were at a safe distance or hiding from the rocks, and anything else that could be fired or thrown. Now everyone had split up, some curled up in groups shouting at the Israelis to "not hurt them..." while the Palestinians were throwing anything they could get their hands on, and at the same time yelling obscenities at the Israelis.

You could say I had the ring side seat as I was now walking through the bushes in between all of this, even having time to talking to some of the Israeli troops, who were all by now sweating buckets in the heat, through all of this excitement. Many were intrigued in to where I come from and what I think about Israel... while ducking down occasionally to avoid flying obstacles.

Images from Part 1, West Bank March; all photos by Dexter Phoenix

At this point I was extremely calm about the whole situation as most of the Israeli troops could see I was behaving neutral and not a threat to them. Some were good enough to tell me to duck or move away quickly, as so did the Palestinians, who were now screaming at me to move while I was standing in the middle of the road at one point, right in between both of them, trying to get my shots in.

I remember seeing some Palestinians wave their hands at me in disbelief over where I was standing, while the Israelis shook their heads, with broken smile disbelief towards me.

But the fun ended after an hour when a plain clothed Israeli security guy with a bullet proof jacket came right up to me and started to video tape me. I just waved to him and smiled not caring about who he might be. He then went off and was trying to point his hand held video camera at other journalists or photographers..with not much luck. after about 20 minuets he crawled up to me and said, "Do you know who I am? And what I am doing?"

I said "nope, I'm too occupied to care", and just enjoying the show I thought to myself. He then donned this big broad evil sinister smile and said... "I work for the security of Israel, and this video I have of you will be put on an information data bank, we will find out who you are, and we will make it difficult for you to come back to this country. Then he just patted me on the back as I said quietly to myself "Oh great" - as if Israel is not hard enough as it is to get in. He then ran off with another group of Israeli troops.

Now I was getting tired of being caught in this cross fire, so I decided to move towards the Palestine side. As I did this I saw a protester with shoulder length black curly hair... dressed normally (not a traveler) screaming as he ran down this barren land, holding his ass. I thought wow, this guy can really jump those old rock piled walls, pretty talented guy considering he is clenching his ass with his hands like his life depended on it.

American Journalist getting abuse from a old lady while her
small town of Haifa, Israel, was being hit by rockets.

Then I heard him him scream again as I heard a muffled thud, and this time this guy must have jumped 2 foot from the ground straight up, as he got shot in the ass again by a rubber bullet. After that happened I heard an Israeli sergeant shout stooop in a restrained humorous voice to his troops, as a bunch of them were taking pot shots at this poor guy's ass while laughing to each other.

I did laugh to myself, because its something you don't expect to see in this environment, more like something out a comedy movie, or watching Fox news camera men wandering lost, after what seems to be like a classic ditch and run move with them a lot, which I have always found amusing, and keep seeing where ever I go in the world.

The people had been pushed right back close to this one shop that was bizarrely still open. I remember walking in to get a bottle of cold water amongst all this confusion. It was pretty surreal to see tear gas and flying objects going past outside while walking into this deserted food store.

I got my water and looked over the counter to see an old lady sitting around the back, hidden. I gave her the money, walked up to the door and took a long swig out of the bottle of water...then looked left and right like a child about to cross a busy road. The area was almost unbearable with the tear gas burning away at my eyes. I quickly ran out the shop and walked a little bit further to see already a group of Israeli troops who were trying to prevent some photographers from taking pictures.

I ran to the opposite side of the embankment and tried to get a front side shot of them doing all of this, suddenly there was a loud crack and everyone ducked. the Israelis soon let go of the photographers and the photographers ran off in a crouched position. Yep, that's what I thought, gunfire from the Palestine side, then another crack. by now the the Israeli troops split up in two teams as they tried to flush out who ever was firing at them.

After a long wait for them to do anything, there were no more gunshots. The throwing became less, but the tear gas became extremely heavy around that area until basically no one could take it anymore, and that tear gas did not leave for quite a while. By now the Israeli troops were backing up and heading back, firing a copious amounts of tear gas to finally push everyone back to the beginning of the march road. When I walked back, nearly everyone was gone; my eyes burning as well as my throat.

As I walked around the corner, groups of Palestinians were joking and laughing like it was some big sports day outing. I remember seeing 10-year boys come up to me, laughing and joking with me. One had picked up an empty canister of tear gas and offered it to me, I pulled out some loose change and gave it to him, and they both ran off with smiles on their faces. I though cool souvenir.

I then bumped into 3 very friendly Palestinian guys who must have been early 20’s and they walked me back, and spoke about the whole ordeal in broken English.

One guy I met into though, as I was making my way back who was also around about the same age started to shout at me and look quiet aggressive towards me, what ever he said towards me was soon suppressed by my 3 new friends who basically threaten to slap him. They apologized profusely afterwords about that young mans behavior towards me.

After about an hour, most people had left and it started to quiet down again... like nothing had ever happened.

The shuttle came soon after to pick everyone else up. I certainly had a lot to think about as we all laid on our small seats trying to regain our energy, but at the same time are adrenaline pushing towards the ceiling.

Now we have to go all through the boarder and road block situation again I thought... oh great!, some one please give me a nice clean bed, a warm shower and a air conditioned room!

When I got back, my roommates had the window open on the balcony drinking while watching the world go by, while at the same time letting in the warm muggy air, and the shower had run out of hot water, oh great!

Dexter Phoenix has worked as a staff and freelance photographer since the mid-1990's and has a wealth of professional experiences on his resume. We welcome his presence to our staff and Salem-News.com.

This native of Great Britian moved to Los Angeles in 2007, where he photographed general news, general Interests, sports, freelance model photo work, and also stock images. In his career Dexter has had photos published : World wide, in many magazines and newspapers and online. Throughout the course of his career he has experience with technology of all imaginable types. In his career as a photographer Dexter has covered stories in Norway, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Mexico, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey, Somalia, Tunisia, Algeria. Angola, Iran, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Colombia, United States. Email inquiries about photo purchase to Dexter at the above address.

You can email Dexter Phoenix, Salem-News.com Photographer/Reporter, at innocent_p0stcard@hotmail.com

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.