July 2, 2008
Washington Report Correspondent Mohammed Omer Hospitalized Following Detention by Israeli Soldiers at Allenby Bridge Crossing
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 Gellhorn Prize.
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. Finally—after missing his brother’s wedding—he 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 Dutch diplomats. 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 on Middle East Affairs, correspondent 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 on Middle East Affairs, “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, but simply…an eyewitness on the ground, reporting what happens and why.”
One of the Shin Bet agents who interrogated him at the Allenby crossing advised Omer not to return to Gaza, where—thanks to the Israeli siege—there 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 journalists—most 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!”
Sign the Petition: Please click on the button at right 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 occupation—an occupation made possible by American tax dollars.