From Khalid Amayreh in occupied Palestine
From his hospital bed at the European Hospital in Gaza and with barely audible voice, award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer has given a full account of the hair-raising encounter he had last week with Shin Beth agents at the Allenby Bridge border-crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.
Omer, a co-winner of the 2008 Martha Gelhorn Prize for Journalistic Excellence, said he was abused, assaulted , humiliated, ridiculed, kicked, and strip-searched at gunpoint by undisciplined Shin Beth officers until he had a nervous breakdown in which case he lost consciousness for at least 90 minutes.
A resident of Rafah at the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, Omer said he didn”t know for sure why the Shin Beth people treated him in such a barbaric manner apart from the characteristic sadism and savagery routinely meted out to Palestinians.
”They behaved with unimaginable hatefulness and vindictiveness. They couldn’t accept the very idea of a Palestinian journalist winning a renowned journalism prize. They wanted to punish me for being a successful journalist and especially for exposing Israeli barbarianism to the people of Europe.”
The following is Mohammed Omer’s story as intimated by him to this writer:
”On Thursday, 26 June, the Israeli authorities finally allowed me to return to Gaza after several days of waiting and uncertainty in Jordan. When I arrived at the Allenby Bridge Border Crossing, I was dragged away rather unceremoniously to a special room where I was made to wait for more than 90 minutes. This happened as Dutch diplomats who were accompanying me were waiting outside.
”When I arrived on the Israeli side of the Allenby Bridge, I encountered an Israeli female officer who started mocking me in a brazenly insulting manner.
”She asked me repeatedly where Gaza was. She then said I had no permit to return to Gaza via Israel.
”Then a Shin Beth officer who introduced himself as ”Avi” showed up and took me to an isolated room where I was kept stranded for an hour and a half.
”He asked me ”Oh, You are Mohammed Omer.
”Yes, I said.
”You know you are a fool,” said Avi, adding ”how could you leave Europe and return to Gaza where there is no water, no electricity, nothing.
”I told him Gaza was my country, and I was a journalist and wanted to be a voice for the voiceless.
”A voice for the voiceless,” Avi spoke sarcastically.
”He then asked me if I was carrying any contrabands or guns or knives.
”I said no, I had none.
”Then he asked me to produce the money of the prize I won. I told him that the money would be transferred later to my bank account.”
”Then one Shin Beth agent demanded in a stern tone that I hand all the money I was carrying with me over to them. They didn”t believe I didn”t have the prize money with me.
”Disappointed, Avi, who was carrying a pistol in his hand, ordered me to take off all my clothes, which I did, leaving my underwear. At the same time, another officer was pointing an M-16 rifle in my face.
”Take the underwear as well,” he said. ”I told him I wouldn’t. What do you want from me,” I protested in a suffocated voice.
”Then he ganged up on me and forcibly removed my underwear piece, leaving me completely naked.”
”Avi, training the pistol at me, told me to turn right and turn left, before telling me to get dressed again.
”At that point, I was nearly totally broken emotionally. I felt I was being raped. I cried and pleaded to them to leave me alone, but to no avail”
”Telling me I haven’t seen anything yet, they dragged me to another room where they interrogated me on my speaking tour in Britain, Sweden and Greece.
”Oh, you have not left a place in Europe without speaking at”You know these Europeans, they hate Israel.
”Then another Shin Bet officer began kicking me and pushing me. This lasted for more than ten minutes after which I fainted and lost consciousness. Eventually they began dragging me along the floor by my feet with my head banging on the floor.
”I don”t remember much of what happened to me during this period, but remember a Shin Beth officer piercing his finger right below my eyes and at the lower end of ears. Also, another Shin Beth officer was pressing his large boots against my neck as I was lying unconscious on the ground.
”I thought I was dying. I remained in a state of unconsciousness for up to 90 minutes until a medical doctor, who was carrying an M-16, performed an (electro-cardiogram) or ECG on me.
”Then I heard someone saying the word ”ambulance.”
”However, before a Palestinian ambulance from Jericho arrived, a Shin Beth officer came to me and asked me to sign a form that I was not being maltreated by the Shin Beth.
”I was too distraught, too confused and too unconscious to say anything.
”Eventually, I was taken to the Jericho hospital where I was assured by doctors that I was fine.”
Mohammed Omer said the Israeli Shin Beth inserted a special electronic device into his mobile phone which would enable them to know his whereabouts.
He also called upon his colleagues around the world to condemn in the strongest words the ”criminal and disgraceful Israeli behavior” which he said ”only befits criminals and thugs, not states, let a lone states that claim to be civilized, western and democratic.”
The Dutch Foreign Ministry has protested the traumatic treatment meted out to Mohammed Omer and demanded and explanation.
Similarly, the Dutch Embassy in Israel reportedly has raised the issue with the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
The Shin Beth, Israel”s chief domestic security agency, controls all aspects of Palestinian lives and is widely believed to systematically and grossly violate the basic human rights of Palestinians.
My dear friend and brother Mohammed Omer returned to his native Gaza Strip on Thursday… literally unconscious and unable to speak after being beaten and tortured by Israeli troops. He is still unable to speak so I was not able to communicate with him, I will be posting updates on his condition in future posts.
Mohammed was in Britain, where he was the recipient of a prize for journalism. You can read about it HERE in a post I wrote earlier in the week.
Mohammed’s ordeal is written about in an Action Alert issued by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a journal in which he appears regularly.
Gaza Correspondent Mohammed Omer Home Again in Rafah
At a June 16 ceremony in London, Mohammed Omer, author of the regular Washington Report feature “Gaza on the Ground,” received the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism (a link to the presentation and Omer’s remarks can be found on our home page, <www.wrmea.com>). He shared the prestigious prize with independent American journalist Dahr Jamail, who was honored for his “unembedded” reports from Iraq.
Before traveling to England to receive his award, Omer spoke in Sweden, the Netherlands and Greece about the situation in Gaza. Dutch MP Hans Van Baalen, head of the parliament’s foreign relations committee, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Pilger spent weeks lobbying Israel to issue an exit permit to allow this young reporter to travel to Europe and London.
Not for the first time, however, getting home was even harder than leaving.
As soon as Omer arrived in Amman, the Dutch diplomats who were helping facilitate his travel arrangements informed him that the Israelis did not want to allow him to return. After further intervention by his Dutch sponsors, Omer finally got the green light, and on the morning of June 26 crossed from Jordan into the occupied territories via the Allenby Bridge. There he was interrogated, strip-searched and manhandled for several hours. After losing consciousness, he finally was taken to a hospital in Jericho, and from there escorted back to Gaza.
MP Van Baalen has demanded that Israel launch an investigation into Omer’s barbaric treatment.
by Desert Peace
The Israeli government clarified the entire situation regarding his ‘beatings and torture’ in a Reuters report just issued… THEY DENIED EVERYTHING!
Israel would NEVER lie…. I can’t understand why Reuters would even give coverage to such blatant lies… especially considering that Israel has still not given them details of the MURDER of their own reporter Fadel Shana two months ago.
(May the lying bastards rot in hell!!! That’s all I have to say about Israel’s statement)
It’s not too late to demand a full investigation of the incident….
The zionists will stop at no length to silence the voice of the voiceless. The truth is the biggest enemy of theirs. Murder, beatings, incarcerations, there is no end to their attempts. But the truth will get out and you can help that happen… You can contact the Israeli government offices in your areas and demand an investigation of these incidents… all contact info can be found HERE.
You can also contact the Israeli Foreign Ministry and DEMAND an investigation.
Foreign Minister’s office
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
9 Yitzhak Rabin Blvd.
Don’t allow the voices of justice to be silenced…. Raise your own voice to stop this madness.
Tue Jul 01 08:46:47 UTC 2008
JERUSALEM, July 1 (Reuters) - Israel denied on Tuesday allegations by a Palestinian journalist that he was abused and injured by Israeli security personnel while on his way home to the Gaza Strip after receiving a journalism award in Britain.
Mohammed Omer said from his hospital bed on Monday that he was detained for nearly four hours at the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge when he crossed from Jordan into the occupied West Bank, en route to the Gaza Strip, on June 26.
Omer said he was forced to strip to his underwear by an Israeli officer who then “snatched it down off me”. He said two officers dragged him by his legs, his head sweeping the floor, in front of other passengers, and that he vomited and fainted.
An Israeli security official said a body search and an examination of Omer’s belongings were carried out “because of the suspicion that he had been in contact with hostile elements and had been asked by them to smuggle something in”.
The official said Omer received “fair treatment and no irregular action was taken towards him” during the search.
“At the end of the search, he lost his balance and fell, for some reason unknown to us. A team of medics, an ambulance and a paramedic were summoned and he was transferred for treatment to Jericho,” the official said.
Omer, 24, received the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, awarded to journalists who expose “establishment propaganda”, according to its Web site, at a ceremony in London on June 16.
While in hospital in Jericho, in the West Bank, he contacted Dutch diplomats who had facilitated his trip to Europe, and they drove him to an Israeli border crossing with the Gaza Strip.
Back in the Hamas-controlled territory, he was admitted to hospital where doctors said he had suffered a nervous breakdown and that several of his ribs had been broken. (Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Editing by Richard Balmforth)