July 2, 2008
Washington Report Correspondent Mohammed Omer Hospitalized Following
Detention by Israeli Soldiers at Allenby Bridge Crossing
petition - http://mediausa.net/wrmea/petition/
Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer, Gaza correspondent for the
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and co-recipient of the
2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, was hospitalized with
cracked ribs and other injuries inflicted by Israeli soldiers at the
Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan into the occupied West Bank.
Omer was returning home to Gaza after a European speaking tour and
the June 16 London ceremony at which he accepted the prestigious
Journalist John Pilger (c), a member of the Martha Gellhorn Prize
judges panel, congratulates co-recipients Dahr Jamail (l) and
Mohammed Omer. Photo Paul de Rooij.
Dutch MP Hans Van Baalen, head of the parliament's foreign relations
committee, and award-winning journalist John Pilger spent weeks
lobbying Israel to issue an exit permit for the 24-year-old
journalist. As has been the case before, diplomatic intervention was
necessary to secure permission for his return as well.
Nevertheless, Israeli authorities initially refused to allow Omer to
return to his home in Rafah from Amman. Finallyafter missing his
brother's weddinghe was told that arrangements had been made for
him to cross the border on Thursday, June 26.
Dutch diplomats awaited him on the other side to escort him to the
Gaza Strip. Instead of being granted free passage, however, Omer was
detained, questioned by a Shin Bet agent, strip searched at
gunpoint, assaulted and dragged by the heels to an ambulance after
he began vomiting and going in and out of consciousness. When he
finally came to, he was in a Palestinian hospital in Jericho, where
he was treated and allowed to return home in the custody of the
See the following article by John Pilger in the July 2 Guardian:
The following afternoon, speaking from home, a recovering but still
traumatized Omer told the Washington Report that he was having
difficulty breathing and swallowing. The next day, suffering from
cracked ribs and other injuries, he was admitted to a hospital in
Gaza, where he remains as of this writing. Washington Report
Mohammed Omer lies in his hospital bed in the Gaza Strip
June 30, 2008. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa (GAZA)
In his article in the August 2008 Washington Report, "A Voice for
the Voiceless," Omer defines his life's mission as "to get the truth
out," and describes himself as "not pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli,
an eyewitness on the ground, reporting what happens and
One of the Shin Bet agents who interrogated him at the Allenby
crossing advised Omer not to return to Gaza, wherethanks to the
Israeli siegethere is no electricity, potable water, medical
supplies, gasoline or other necessities of life.
Clearly Israel wants to silence Mohammed Omer's voice, as it has
silenced the voices of other journalistsmost recently Omer's
colleague Fadel Shana, the 24-year-old Reuters cameraman killed by
an Israeli tank shell on April 16. Palestinian journalists risk
their lives on a daily basis to tell the world what is happening in
their homeland. Their words and pictures remind us that we have yet
to realize the vow, "Never again!"
Please click on the button at right or visit the Washington Report
website, www.wrmea.com, to sign a petition condemning Israel's
attacks on journalists, both Palestinian and international. Add your
voice to Mohammed Omer's on behalf of voiceless Gazans and all
Palestinians living under Israeli military occupationan occupation
made possible by American tax dollars.
Petition to End Israel's Restrictions on Freedom of Movement and the
sign petition - http://mediausa.net/wrmea/petition/
To: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
We, the undersigned, condemn Israel's appalling treatment of
Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer, Washington Report on Middle
East Affairs Gaza correspondent and author of the magazine's regular
feature, "Gaza on the Ground."
The 24-year-old Palestinian journalist was brutally assaulted by
Israeli Shin Bet security officials at the Allenby Bridge border
crossing on his way home to Gaza on June 26. He had just received
the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, which he shared with
independent American journalist Dahr Jamail.
Omer's award citation reads, "Every day, he reports from a war zone,
where he is also a prisoner. His homeland, Gaza, is surrounded,
starved, attacked, forgotten. He is a profoundly humane witness to
one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the
voiceless." (see John Pilger's July 2 article, "From Triumph to
Torture," in the Guardian:
This is not an isolated incident, Pilger points out, but part of a
terrible pattern. Israel gives its border guards and Shin Bet agents
free rein to regularly harass Palestinians (as well as Palestinian
Americans and American peace activists and academics) traveling to
and from the occupied territories. Israel randomly abuses, searches,
interrogates and humiliates travelers of every agemen and womenand
frequently refuses to let them pass through Israeli-controlled
borders to their homes in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. We
just don't hear their voices.
Israel simply doesn't want Palestinian voices to be heard abroad.
Palestinians are routinely prevented from accepting invitations to
speak in Europe or North America. Students with scholarships to
study overseas are not permitted to leave. Israel is now preventing
Palestinians from returning home, even for a visit, once they have
left to work or study abroad. (Israel recently revoked Zeina Ashrawi
Hutchison's travel documents, and will not renew her Jerusalem ID
card. She is not allowed to return home to visit her father and
mother, Dr. Hanan Ashrawi.)
We, the undersigned, also urge the Israeli government to end its
efforts to censor international reports from the occupied
territories. The government prefers stories to be filed from Tel
Aviv or Jerusalem, where they are subject to censorship, and allows
few, if any, international journalists to enter the West Bank and
Gaza. Israel censors, harasses and even kills Palestinian
journalists who are trying to report on conditions in the occupied
We call on the Israeli government to protect journalists who are
trying to work in the occupied territories. At least eight
journalists have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza since 2001,
seven of them in attacks by Israel Defense Forces, according to the
Committee to Protect Journalists research.*
We call on the Israeli government to end its harassment of travelers
and journalists. When Israel targets journalists it infringes on a
basic pillar of democracy, freedom of the press. Human beings, even
those ruled for decades by an occupying power, have the right to
leave home and return safely, without interference, and the right to
freedom of speech.
* Fadel Shana, a Reuters cameraman, was killed, and soundman Wafa
Abu Mizyed was wounded, on April 16, 2008 in the Gaza Strip after
they stopped their car, bearing the markings "TV" and "Press," to
film Israeli military forces several hundred meters away. Shana was
filming an Israeli tank when it fired on the men.
* Imad Ghanem, a cameraman for the Hamas-affiliated satellite
channel Al-Aqsa, was killed by shells fired from Israeli tanks in
July 2007 in the Gaza Strip as he was filming paramedics
transferring victims of an Israeli tank attack.
* Mohamed Abu Halima, a student correspondent for university-
affiliated Al-Najah radio station, was killed on March 22, 2004
while reporting on Israeli troop activity at the entrance to the
Balata refugee camp, outside the West Bank city of Nablus.
* Nazih Darwazeh a cameraman for Associated Press Television News,
was killed by Israeli forces in Nablus on April 19, 2003 while
filming clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli troops.
Darwazeh was wearing a fluorescent jacket marked "Press," and he and
other journalists shouted loudly to Israeli troops in both English
and Hebrew indicating that they were with the media before the
* James Miller, a British free-lance cameraman and award-winning
documentary filmmaker, was fatally shot in Rafah in the Gaza Strip
on May 2, 2003. His producer Saira Shah, and translator Abdul Rahman
Abdullah attempted to identify themselves to the Israeli troops in
the area while they were leaving. The journalists were wearing
jackets and helmets marked "TV," and Abdullah was waving a white
flag while Miller used a flashlight to illuminate the flag.
Israel denies it mistreated Gaza journalist at Jordan crossing
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
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
Full account of Muhammed Omer's hair-raising encounter with the
From Khalid Amayreh in the occupied Palestinian Territories
From his hospital bed at the European Hospital in Gaza and with
barely audible voice, award-winning Palestinian journalist
Muhammed 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 matter 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 Muhammed Omer's story as intimated by him to this
"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 Muhammed 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,
"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
"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
"Take the underwear as well," he said.
"I told him I wouldn't. What do you want from me," I protested in a
"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
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
"Eventually, I was taken to the Jericho hospital where I was assured
by doctors that I was fine."
Muhammed 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 Muhammed 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.
The BBC ignores the beating of Palestinian journalist they
interviewed only days before
By Mary Rizzo
Jun 30th, 2008
LETTERS TO THE BBC BY DAVID HALPIN
To BBC News online
My first message to you was on 06/28/2008 at 08:33 PM. I see no
report of the assault on this journalist on the BBC web site.
Assuming you are on holiday, I am copying this to senior
colleagues. To this lay person, there would appear to be several
reasons to report that which Mohammed Omer has and is suffering.
1. The BBC were sufficiently interested to interview him on BBC
World Service just before he left for France. I provided the
contact number for that to happen.
2. It is true is it not that an unprecedented number of journalists
have been killed in Iraq - at least 250? 9 have been killed in
Gaza. The alleged barbaric treatment of this young journalist
should be reported; the louder the silence, the greater the state
3. If this was Alan Johnston and not a Palestinian (albeit of great
talent), the story would have been number one.
4. I ask what would have been reported by yourselves if the boot
which trod on his throat had lead to his death. It has been a near
thing and I have not had a report today. Would his dying from this
assault by agents of Israel have been reported by the British
5. His courage is exceptional - and our world needs that more than
ever. His own web site http://www.rafahtoday.org/
I ask that you report it. He was/is in the European hospital near
Khan Younis. Its number is Tel 00970 - 8- 2054495
David Halpin FRCS
A more explicit report http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?
idnews=43005 and an up to date report from a Swedish journalist
who has taken Mo's writing and photos for these last 5 years. Lotta
Schullerquist spoke with him in the European hospital. He is on
a `drip' because he cannot swallow and his speech is faint. It is
likely that the boot was `placed' across his larynx as he lay
supine. A major `broadsheet' will carry the details tomorrow. They
were celebrating the birth of a `democracy' 60 years ago in Trafagar
Square I am told.
You were aware of this prize giving 14 days ago. I was honoured to
attend. We were distressed when we learned that a tired but happy
Mo had been stopped from entering Palestine. I have returned from
another enjoyable Palestinian exercise last night in London to learn
of this assault on an unarmed young man, who with his family has
already suffered greatly under the Israelis. A brother was shot
dead, his mother was shot in the leg and the family home was
demolished in Rafah in 2004.
I thought you would wish to report this. I have his number for
corroboration but I imagine he will not to hear from the west at
With best wishes
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