TOON OF THE DAY ~~ JOHN YOO @ TORTURE.COM

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PALESTINE IS ONE BIG GUANTANAMO

Israeli Use Of Painful Shackling As A Form of Torture
Stephen Lendman


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VIA

Founded in 1990 to highlight a growing problem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PACTI – stoptorture.org) `believes that torture and ill treatment of any kind and under all circumstances is incompatible with the moral values of democracy and the rule of law. (It) advocates for all persons – Israelis, Palestinians, labor immigrants and other foreigners in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) – in order to protect them from torture and ill treatment by the Israeli interrogation and law enforcement authorities.`

They include the Israeli Police, the General Security Service (GSS), the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). In June 2009, PACTI published a report titled, `Shackling As A Form of Torture and Abuse.` Its findings are discussed below.

PACTI reviews the `serious phenomenon` of shackling Palestinian detainees `in a systematic manner and throughout all stages of detention and interrogation.` Its purpose is to dehumanize and inflict pain, suffering, punishment, intimidation, and discrimination as a way of lawlessly extracting information even though experts acknowledge that torture is ineffective, counterproductive, and, of course, illegal under all circumstances at all times with no exceptions allowed ever.

Israel`s use of shackling `has snowballed almost out of control….even when it serves no real` purpose, and it begins at the time of arrest. Plastic handcuffs are used `that can be tightened but cannot be released or halted.` They inflict pain, especially when hands are cuffed from behind, the most common way.

Shackling continues during interrogation, `where diverse and creative forms of cuffing are intended to apply pain and pressure….` Then in cells, detainees are painfully shackled to beds for extended periods. Even when they`re transfered for urgent hospital treatment, cuffing stays in place throughout.

In his `Torture Ruling,` (HCJ 5100/94 Public Committee Against Torture in Israel v. Prime Minister of Israel), former President of the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ), Aaron Barak (1995 – 2006), addressed cuffing as follows:

`A reasonable interrogation is an interrogation without torture, without cruel or inhuman treatment of the interrogee, and without a humiliating attitude thereto. It is forbidden to use brutal and inhuman measures during the course of the interrogation….Painful cuffing is a prohibited action. Moreover: other means exist to prevent escape from lawful custody or to protect the interrogators which do not involve causing pain and suffering to the interrogee.`

Interrogators ignored the ruling and keep using procedures prohibited by the High Court as a way to gratuitously inflict pain, suffering, and at times permanent injury and disability.

PACTI cites specific cases and offers a medical opinion on the pain and neurological damage it causes. In response to its demands, interrogators began using new type handcuffs with longer chains, supposedly to limit physical harm. However, they`re as harsh as before.

Cuffing During Arrest and Transfer to Interrogation

Painful cuffing begins, even for minors, the sick and women at the moment of arrest to begin breaking detainees` spirit and soften them up for GSS interrogations. Each month, PACTI gets dozens of complaints, and over the past year documented hundreds representing `the tip of the iceberg` about a universally administered procedure. For example:

Alaa Nasser Dib Salem was arrested on October 2, 2008. In his affidavit, he said soldiers cuffed his hands behind his back so tightly that any hand movement tightened his restraint more, causing pain and producing paresthesia (an abnormal tingling or pricking feeling the result of pressure on or damage to peripheral nerves).

Mahmud Faruq Hamed el-Bubali lost feeling in both hands after 30 minutes and made him feel like `my palms were going to disconnect, to be cut off.` The cuffing turned his hands blue, and he suffered intense pain, especially in his right hand.

When Yazan Sawalha complained of pain, he was denigrated, laughed at, cursed, and told to shut up even though his hands turned bright blue and red, were very swollen, and he had trouble lifting them.

Rami Mufid Jum`ah`s complaint led to further abuse. In transit with soldiers, he was kicked and struck with rifle butts on his shoulder.

A.G, a minor, told of being tightly handcuffed with his hands behind his back and blindfolded. When his restraint was temporarily removed, his left hand was blue and swollen, and his wrist swollen and red. At the Petah Tikva detention center, a doctor discovered white pus on both his hands.

Each time PACTI submitted a complaint to the Central Command Attorney for Operational Affairs, `no substantive reply` was gotten.

During Operation Cast Lead, Amar Fuad Mahmud al-Helu was arrested, painfully cuffed and held that way for three days. As a result, his shoulder was sprained and dislocated. When he shouted about the intense pain, soldiers tightened his restraint further.

In statements gotten by the Breaking the Silence organization, soldiers corroborated detainee testimonies. For example, Staff Sergeant A. said:

`….handcuff (detainees) and put a cloth over their eyes. Just take them away at night….put the handcuffs on them real tight. It stopped their blood circulation a bit.` They were left in a school `for hours, blindfolded and handcuffed, and they had no idea what they`d done…It went on through the day` lasting for hours.

Staff Sergeant B said:

`some soldiers know what the purpose of the handcuffs is and some….think (it`s) to stop the flow of blood from the wrist and fingertips….some guys think that you should squeeze the handcuffs as far as possible so that no blood can flow from one side to the other.` That`s different from just restraining them.

The Medical Aspect

At PACTI`s request, Dr. Bettina Steiner-Birmanns said:

`Tight handcuffs – such as narrow and rigid plastic handcuffs with no space between the cuffs and the detainee`s hands – press forcefully on the wrists. The detainee is liable to remain (in restraint) for protracted periods. In these conditions, the handcuffs may cause injuries to soft tissue and abrasions, skin wounds, and even fractures. The handcuffs also press on the nerves in the palms, thereby causing paralyses and a loss of sensation in (them). These neurological injuries may be transient but they may also be permanent….From the neurologist`s viewpoint….tight handcuffs can cause transient or irreversible damage….`

Correspondence with Army Authorities

All detainees are subjected to the same abuse with slight variations. PACTI asked authorities to provide regulations, procedures, or orders regarding the use of plastic (or other type) handcuffs. In response, Major Zohar Halevy, the IDF Spokesperson`s Division Human Rights and Public Relations head, issued a statement saying:

`In principle, force is not to be exercised against another person in order to execute a function or perform a duty unless the function cannot be executed or the duty performed without the exercising of force.`

Regarding forceful handcuffing, Major Halevy added that military police orders establish that:

`the use of force shall be in such measure as is necessary and logical while adapting given the circumstances. This shall be reasonably proportional to the desired goal. (Furthermore), the shackling of detainees outside the detention center shall be effected solely by the use of handcuffs, in such manner that the accompanying MP is shackled by the hand to the detainee, or when two detainees are shackled together and the MP accompanies them….it must be ensured that the accompaniers have cutters in order to cut the handcuffs when necessary.`

In response to a further PACTI inquiry, Human Rights Officer, Captain Gon Erez, said that handcuffing is in accordance with military police commander Instruction No. 9810 concerning `Shackling with Handcuffs – Security Detainees.` It states that they`re used to:

–prevent self-injury;

— injury to another person or property; and

— prevent escape from lawful custody.

Per the military police commander`s instruction, ordering handcuffing, including the type, is to be made in writing by the authorizing person, `and this decision shall be examined on an individual basis.` Further, `handcuffing shall be in such a manner as is essential in order to secure these goals and as an only and last means to do so. Once the goal is reached, the handcuffing of the security detainee is to be halted.` The facility military police commander and medical officer must approve maintaining it for over 72 hours, and handcuffs `shall be removed every three hours for a period of fifteen minutes.`

The provisions of commander Instruction No. 9803, `The Transfer and Removal of Detainees from a Detention Facility,` must also be followed. It states that:

`force is not to be exercised against a detainee for the purpose of the transfer or removal of the detainee from the incarceration facility unless it is impossible to execute the mission without` it. It`s further established that `the use of force shall be in a degree that is reasonable and essential for the execution of the task and shall be adapted to the circumstances….reasonable proportionality is to be maintained between the desired goal and the extent of the force that is exercised` that at all times `shall serve as a last resort.`

However, this instruction is vague on details during transfer and removal of detainees from incarceration facilities, thus granting soldiers a margin of leeway to exercise their own judgment and let them be harsher than necessary.

Nonetheless, the official reply acknowledges no legal basis for painful shackling, yet the procedure `is actually the case in the army` with no justification. As a result of 574 documented abuse cases, PACTI wrote to the West Bank judge advocate general and military police commander on May 13, 2009 demanding that soldiers henceforth be prohibited from using plastic handcuffs as the first and only means of controlling detainees from the time of arrest through their transfer to interrogation facilities. All painful restraint methods were also asked to be eliminated, especially shackling detainees` hands behind their back, and that procedures be established concerning the method and length of detainees` held in restraint. PACTI learned that plastic handcuffs can only be tightened, not loosened or removed unless cut off.

Handcuffing During GSS Interrogations

During interrogations, detainees are isolated and prevented from meeting with an attorney, family members, or ICRC representatives. As a result, they`re `subjected entirely to the interrogators` control at all times during the period of interrogation.`

They`re kept painfully handcuffed in various ways, including `regular` protracted cuffing of hands behind their back as well as their arms and forearms in positions causing severe pain, suffering, and at times permanent harm. PACTI calls `high cuffing` the most extreme form.

GSS interrogators claim the procedure is to protect detainees` well being and prevent their escape. However, they`re kept in a secured, closed, carefully guarded facility, making that likelihood nearly impossible.

Detainees are placed on an unupholstered wood, metal, or rigid plastic chair of standard office size. Both hands are shackled behind their back with metal cuffs connected by a short chain to the chair`s seat. Most often legs are also restrained, and the chair always is fixed to the floor.

Detainees are held that way throughout interrogation lasting many hours or days, except for short meal breaks and even shorter bathroom ones. Protracted sitting alone with no possibility of shifting positions, standing, or stretching is itself extremely uncomfortable. Being painfully shackled makes it much worse, and any attempt to slightly adjust the hands results in further tightening of the cuffs.

As explained above, paresthesia often results that includes loss of feeling, weakness, and pain in the back, arms, wrists, shoulders and neck – the entire upper body. Chest muscles are also strained, breathing impeded, and long-term neurological damage is common.

The Scale of Cuffing Detainees with Their Hands Behind Their Back

PACTI affidavits show it`s widespread during all interrogations, usually throughout the procedure. A few testimonies describe the practice:

A.B, aged 16 and a half, said his hands were cuffed behind his back and attached to the chair`s seat. His testimony shows that even minors are subjected to the same harsh treatment as adults. At one point during the process, A.B. broke down and cried.

Samar Hasan Sus said:

`When the interrogation began, I was cuffed with my hands behind the back of the chair I was sitting on. The handcuffs were attached to the bottom of the seat of the chair and I could not move my hands. The handcuffs were made of metal.` He complained to an attorney about forearm, leg and back pain. PACTI submitted a complaint on his behalf to no avail.

Dr. Ghasan Sharif Muhammed Khaled said he was cuffed and not allowed to change position. He said he was subjected to intensive interrogation for eight days, up to 22 hours a day, excluding Saturday and Sunday. Throughout, he was painfully shackled with only rare breaks of about 10 minutes. As a result, he experienced severe pain in his tailbone, back, neck, palms, and knees. He also sustained internal bruising and his knees swelled. PACTI again complained, was told the case was closed, and no corroboration was found for Dr. Khaled`s complaints.

Numerous other cases were much the same, and PACTI got no substantive responses to its complaints. They also learned that the only time interrogators unfastened the restraints was when detainees said they wanted to confess. Otherwise, painful shackling continued, causing permanent damage and humiliation as well.

`High Handcuffing` in the Interrogation Room

PACTI describes it as `any type of handcuffing in which the detainees` hands are above the level of their wrists, including cuffing of the forearms or arms.` It`s extremely painful, can cause physical injury, and if maintained for extended periods very often permanent disability.

Detainee Jalal Khaled Momammed Sawafta describes it in his affidavit:

He was cuffed with a large metal bracelet. `They cuffed my hands in the middle of the forearm (between the wrist and the elbow). Each of two interrogators pressed on the bracelet of the handcuff on my arm – they both pressed together. It was terribly painful. Of course, these handcuffs were in addition to the regular handcuffs that were on my hands all the time, so I had two pairs of handcuffs fastened behind my back. (They) pressed on my arms hard. I cried out but it didn`t do any good.`

Sawafta`s hands are still numb. He can`t move his palms well, and they still feel cold all the time even on hot days. He still has marks on his right hand and wrist and `all kinds of bruises on both hands.` Also, his back hurts when sitting for a long time. He`s unable to write or hold a cigarette between his fingers, and his hands are swollen and red.

On his behalf, PACTI complained to Attorney General Meni Mazuz. Even after a follow-up memo, no substantive reply was gotten. Other detainees described the same treatment. Some referred to `indescribable` pain, and subsequent medical examination confirmed neurological damage.

After repeated attempts on behalf of detainees, Attorney Naomi Granot, Inspector of Interrogee Complaints, closed the issue `on the grounds that the findings of the mechanism for examining complaints by interrogees did not warrant legal, disciplinary, or other action against any of the GSS interrogators.`

From the clear evidence it got, PACTI concluded that detainee rights were `gravely` violated and that no redress would be forthcoming. Nonetheless, an appeal to the prime minister was made, including demands to prohibit painfully shackling, restrict the method and frequency of less or non-painful restraints, and assure future procedures only prevent detainees from harming interrogators or escaping. PACTI wants new rules, guidelines, and criteria in writing that comply with international and Israeli law.

Response from the Prime Minister`s Office

In January 2008, the Office of the Military Secretary to the Prime Minister head, Major Shalom Ginzburg, replied:

`It has been decided to alleviate the condition of interrogators by lengthening the chain in such a manner that the interrogee will be able to place his hands by the side of his body in a more comfortable manner, without this impairing the security of the interrogators or increasing the risk that the detainee will escape from custody.`

The `high handcuffing` issue wasn`t addressed, nor was PACTI`s demand for clear cuffing procedures. Nothing fundamentally changed as repeated detainee complaints were received. In response, PACTI contacted the internal security minister `to ensure immediate compliance with the decision of the Prime Minister`s Office on this matter.`

In May 2008, Col. (Ret.) Yuval Rivlin from the Office of the Comptroller of the Ministry of Internal Security (Public Complaints Office) replied stating:

`our examination with the Israel Police has shown that interrogees are not handcuffed during their interrogation. The Israel Prison Service informs us that the interrogation facilities are not under the responsibility of the IPS.`

In December 2008, PACTI again wrote the prime minister asking him to immediately prohibit painful cuffing, including `high handcuffing` and to establish firm procedures to be followed during interrogations.

In February 2009, Ayelet Moshe from the Public Affairs Department in the Prime Minister`s Office stonewalled by repeating earlier responses that produced no substantive changes.

Painful Handcuffing Continues

Detainee testimonies reveal it:

Mu`ataz Suleiman Mohammed Qawasmeh described how his hands were painfully cuffed behind his back with metal cuffs connected by a 40 centimeter long chain fixed to the back of the chair. While in this position, he was intensively interrogated from 10 – 22 hours a day. As a result, he suffers spinal and shoulder pain.

For about 12 hours a day, Ahmad Samir Hassan Isma`il was cuffed the same way for nearly five days. As a result, he has lower back pain and paresthesia in both palms. Others now experience various upper body pain in their shoulders, neck, hands, arms, and elbows. They also suffer from swollen red hands, paresthesia, and leg pain for those whose legs were shackled.

Alaa Nasser Dib Salem revealed more – painful hands and feet shackling to a concrete bed in solitary confinement for two days without interrogation. After six hours, he experienced paresthesia throughout his body. He was also denied access to the bathroom and forced to urinate in his clothes. When he complained, two men in civilian clothes tortured him by painfully pressing on his cuffs, cursing him, and threatening to torture his family. Salem was later beaten on all parts of his body with a nightstick and lost consciousness. When revived, he was shaking.

PACTI concluded that `The behavior of the interrogators in these cases and in other similar cases….indicates the use of handcuffing as a form of torture in order to extract information unlawfully` with interrogators often told anything to stop the pain.

Non-Handcuffing of Detainees During Police Interrogations

After GSS interrogations, detainees are questioned by police, or at times interrogations are done alternately for different purposes. GSS wants information to protect state security while police need it for subsequent prosecutions. During their interrogations, cuffing isn`t used, a clear sign that GSS does it solely to inflict pain.

PACTI concludes that GSS interrogators use `systematic handcuffing (for) extraneous motives….far removed from the need to `protect the safety of the interrogators` or to `prevent escape from custody.` ` Painful cuffing is used solely to torture, abuse, and inflict permanent impairment. `This behavior is inconsistent with the declared objectives and those set in (international and Israeli) law….`

Shackling Sick Detainees and Prisoners During Medical Treatment

One case involved a shackled young man who was unconscious after Israelis lynched him. Police refused to unfasten his handcuffs in the hospital even though they impeded treatment. Another case involved a hospitalized woman shackled on her way for major surgery, then again painfully after completion.

After being shot, Mohammed Ashkar was hospitalized unconscious and placed in intensive care with a ventilator attached to his mouth. Yet his hands were cuffed to the bed, and his legs cuffed together. At all times, four guards watched him. Ashkar subsequently died from his wounds, still painfully shackled. PACTI called his case `an appalling example of inhumanity` and a shocking breach of medical ethics for hospital staff to permit this.

The December 1982 UN Declaration on the Principles of Medical Ethics clearly states that:

— `Health personnel, particularly physicians, charged with the medical care of prisoners and detainees have a duty to provide them with protection of their physical and mental health and treatment of disease of the same quality and standard as is afforded to those who are not imprisoned or detained.`

The Declaration also prohibits actively or passively participating in `torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatement or punishment (and) assist(ing) in the interrogation of prisoners or detainees in a manner that may adversely affect (their) physical or mental health or condition….`

In response to PACTI`s complaint about Ashkar`s treatment, IPS Attorney Tal Argaman on prisoners` affairs said his shackling properly complied with `confidential` procedures he wasn`t at liberty to disclose. PACTI nonetheless submitted a request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law, 5758-1998, but was denied on grounds of confidentiality.

At a subsequent meeting (attended by Physicians for Human Rights representatives) with police, the IPS, Deputy Attorney general (Criminal), Ministry of Internal Security and Ministry of Health, PACTI learned that `IPS security prisoners are considered dangerous and are automatically shackled` while hospitalized, even if on life support. The meeting ended inconclusively.

On July 31, 2008, another meeting was held with the same attendees as earlier. As a result, the IPS published IPS Commission Order No. 04.15.01 concerning `the shackling of a prisoner in a public place.` For the first time, it distinguished between levels of danger for prisoners and detainees as follows:

— those classified `level A` include all held for security reasons to be shackled as authorities see fit;

— `level B` detainees may not be shackled, `subject to individual examination;`

— for minors, the handicapped, disabled, or sick, shackling should be avoided, but isn`t prohibited if grounds are documented in writing;

— during court proceedings, cuffing should be avoided, `subject to individual examination;`

— for hospitalized detainees, authorities should refrain from shackling unless sufficient grounds are presented; however, this doesn`t apply to `level A` detainees who`ll be shackled at all times; this means that anyone may be so classified and painfully restrained.

PACTI concluded that the new order didn`t alter `the default practice of shackling.` It continues unabated.

Shackling from the Perspective of International Law

International law is clear and unequivocal. Torture amounting to cruel, inhuman, and/or humiliating treatment is prohibited at all times, under all circumstances, with no exceptions ever allowed, including in times of war or imminent danger. This prohibition is a rare example of a legal principle, accepted as customary law that`s binding on all countries worldwide. Neither Israel or any other nation may violate it no matter what conditions exist.

In addition, accepted principles for detainees and prisoners were established in a non-binding July 1, 1957 UN resolution concerning Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. They were adopted in 1955 by the First UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders and were approved in 1957.

They reflect accepted norms and standards concerning prisoner treatment, including the prohibition of shackling to inflict punishment under Section 33, but allow it, with restrictions, to prevent escape during transfer, provided:

— cuffs are removed before detainees appear before a judicial or administrative authority;

— for medical reasons on instruction of a medical staff member; and

— on order of the incarceration facility`s general manger.

Even when applied, doing it in a painful manner is prohibited, and the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) several times affirmed the standard under the 1988 Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment that states:

`All persons under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be treated in a humane manner and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.`

Yet the HCJ also legitimized coercive interrogations in three 1996 cases involving plaintiffs Bilbeisi, Hamdan and Mubarak seeking interim injunctions prohibiting abusive GSS treatment, including painful shackling, violent shaking, hooding, playing deafeningly loud music, sleep deprivation, and lengthy detentions. After further deliberation, the HCJ ruled painful shackling illegal, but allowed the other practices, even though Section 277 of Israel`s 1977 Penal Law prohibits torture and provides criminal sanctions against its use. It specifically states:

`A public servant who does one of the following is liable to imprisonment for three years:

— uses or directs the use of force or violence against a person for the purpose of extorting from him or from anyone in whom he is interested a confession of an offense or information relating to an offense; or

— threatens any person, or directs any person to be threatened, with injury to his person or property or to the person or property in whom he is interested for the purpose of extorting from him a confession of an offense or any information relating to an offense.`

In fact, this law applies solely to Jews, so Palestinians are subjected to systematic torture and abuse, including extended periods of injurious painful shackling. In addition, the Penal Law has a giant loophole `necessary defense` provision allowing `psychological and moderate physical pressure` to obtain evidence in criminal proceedings. It also permits coercive interrogations against `hostile (threats or acts of) terrorist activity` and all expressions of Palestinian nationalism.

Then in 1999, the HCJ ruled that coercive force may be used in `ticking time bomb` cases that can be applied to anyone designated a security threat or terrorist. According to Israeli authorities, all expressions of Palestinian nationalism, activism and resistance against lawless oppression is `terrorism,` opening the way for Palestinian detainees to be tortured – defined by international law as war crimes that impose criminal liability on perpetrators, their authorizing superiors, and the state itself.

Israel is a serial violator, so far unaccountable for its grave breaches, yet potentially liable for its actions as well as individuals at all security and political levels engaged in state-sponsored policies that willfully disregard binding international laws.

Under the well-established principle of `universal jurisdiction,` any nation may investigate and prosecute foreign nationals for crimes against humanity and war, including torture, cruel and abusive treatment of detainees. In April 1961, Israel applied it against Adolph Eichmann, and so has America against figures like Panama`s Manuel Noriega and Liberia`s Charles (Chuckie) Taylor. It may only be a matter of time until the `law of averages` catches up with Israeli war criminals. For their victims, it can`t come a moment too soon.


Written FOR

TOON AND PHOTO ~~ RURAL ACTIVISTS KILLED IN BRAZIL

On December 9th at 14:00 PM, two rural activists of Liga dos
Camponeses Pobres in Rondonia, North Brazil, were kidnapped by hitmen
in the road between Rio Alto camp and the city of Buritis. Elcio
Machado (alias Sabia) and Gilson Goncalves were both tortured,having
finger nails and parts of skin pulled out, and then executed.


Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

On October I met Sabia, his wife and children in Buritis, during my
trip to countryside Rondonia. He can be seen in this photo, holding a
Palestinian flag.

May he rest in peace. Struggle goes on.


“I WAS BEATEN SAVAGELY WITHOUT KNOWING THE REASON”

a human-rights story by Khalid Amayreh
kanaan mustafa said shatatDespite repeated assurances from the Palestinian Authority (PA) that torture has been outlawed in PA interrogation and incarceration facilities, stories of physical and psychological abuse continue to surface in the West Bank. This raises serious questions about the credibility of undertakings made by the PA to local and international human rights organisations operating in the occupied territories.

The following is an accurate translation of a written testimony by Kanaan Mustafa Said Shatat from the village of Bidya in the Salfit District.

Shatat spoke personally to this writer on Tuesday 8 December, recounting the horrible ill-treatment he had been meted out by members of the Palestinian General Intelligence or Mukhabarat last month.

His graphic account underscores the rampant lawlessness still permeating through the PA security apparatus. It also shows that the PA government is quite slack in enforcing its own laws on the various security agencies operating under the PA rubric in the West Bank.

Bidya man recounts nightmarish experience in PA custody“My name is Kanaan Mustafa Said Shatat from the village of Bidya in the Salfit District. On Monday, 9 November, while I was inside the al-Noor pharmacy at around 7:30 pm, to buy medicine, two officers from the General Intelligence in the Salfit Governorate stormed the pharmacy.

The two officers are Mahmoud Mustafa Mahmoud Kanaan from Bidya, who is forty years of age and married; and Sofyan Abdul Rahman Kamel al Dalew, also from Bidya, and is 30 years’ old and single.

As the two stormed the drug store, they attacked me savagely, beating me with their fists all over my body before they dragged me outside in a violent and savage manner. Then the two resumed beating me in the face and head.. Outside the drug store, there was a police patrol whose members helped the two officers force me into a blue vehicle belonging to the Mukhabarat. The pair took me to the police station at Bidya.

There, the police frisked me, took my Identity card and placed me in one room alone. At that time I heard my father’s voice, enquiring about me. The police chief told my father that I was not there, which forced me to scream at my dad to tell him that they were lying to him. Then, the police opened the door, with one officer telling me not to speak a word, and that I was a trouble-maker. I told him I was not a trouble maker and that I really didn’t know why I was being detained, especially since no arrest warrant had been issued against me.

Bidya man recounts nightmarish experience in PA custodyThe police chief told me that a Mukhabarat car would come to pick me up soon and that the Police were going to hand me over to the Mukhabarat based on their request. I asked him why they were going to hand me over to the Mukhabarat. He said because the Mukhabarat wanted to question me on certain charges.

About half an hour later, I was taken by a group of Mukhabarat officers to their local center where I was ordered into a small room on the entrance to the building.

Soon afterward, as many as ten intelligence officers stormed the small chamber, ganged up on me and started beating me ferociously. The assault lasted for ten minutes and caused deep cuts in my skull, another one behind my right ear as well as bleeding from my head, lips and teeth. The beating was so harsh that I barely could stand on my feet. Then I was taken to the interrogation office while I was still bleeding. They started questioning me on charges alleging that I had threatened two intelligence officers (Mahmoud Mustafa Kanaan and Hasan al Akraa). When I denied the charges they asked me to wash the blood away.

Bidya man recounts nightmarish experience in PA custodyThey actually led me to the washbasin as I was too frail to walk on my feet on my own. Then they took me to another interrogation room. However, as they failed to prove the charges against me, the Mukhabarat’s local chief, Muhammed Abdul Hamid, Abu al Abed, entered the room, accompanied by several officers. He asked me about the charges and I answered that I was innocent. Then the chief himself started beating me as I was bleeding and had nothing with which to stop the blood except a small pillow which was soaked in blood.

An hour later, they took me to the local clinic in Bidya where my cuts were stitched up. Taking me back to the Mukhabarat center, the chief told me that I would stay in their custody indefinitely. On the sixth day of my incarceration, (November 15, 2009), they asked me to fill in a form stating my name, whether I was married or single, my political affiliation and which political party I voted for in the past elections. They also asked me why the Israelis arrested me in 2005. I signed the affidavit, which also included my denial of the charges.

Then I was taken to the office of the military prosecutor in Salfit, Yafi Marayta. There I was asked to state my name, political affiliation, and the charges levelled against me. Marayta warned me that if he found out that the charges were genuine, he would show me what he would do to me!

Then he extended my detention for 15 more days. As I was being led to the military prosecutor’s office, I heard an intelligence officer, named Zayd, tell the military prosecutor the following: “I’ve brought you a Hamas detainee in our custody. He is stubborn, teach him good manners!! Then Marayta said “don’t worry.”

Afterwards, I was taken to the Salfit police center where I remained incarcerated for 11 more days until I was released on bail on 26 November.

I am civilian citizen and totally innocent of the charges levelled against me. In fact, the Mukhabarat apparatus didn’t content itself with beating, humiliating and torturing me, but also contacted my employer, the Palestinian Telecommunication Company, demanding that they fire me from my job, apparently in order to impoverish me and my family. Fortunately, the company didn’t succumb to their blackmailing tactic. I really don’t know what will happen to me next with regard to the charges against me and also with regard to my job.

Signature: Kanaan Shatat,

Final note: “From the first moment of my abduction from the Noor pharmacy on 9 November, 2009, until I was transferred to the police headquarters in Salfit, the Mukhabarat officers accompanying me never stopped abusing and cursing me every day and every time. It seemed that for those people, bad-mouthing, cursing God and religion and indulging in all sorts of blasphemes were like breathing oxygen.”

Written for

ACLU; RECKONING WITH TORTURE

Commentary by Chippy Dee, Photos © by Bud Korotzer

The ACLU and Pen American Center co-sponsored a meeting at Cooper Union in N.Y.C earlier in the week. The subject, “Reckoning With Torture: Memos and Testimonies from the ‘War on Terror'”, attracted hundreds – more than enough people to fill the Great Hall where issues of major importance have been discussed and debated for about 150 years. Over the past 5 years the American Civil Liberties Union has been struggling to find documents that would shed light on the origins and extent or torture, first seen with the 2004 release of the photos taken at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Before that the ACLU, Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for documents concerning the treatment of prisoners outside the U.S. “The FOIA request was meant to determine whether the government’s interrogation policies were consistent with domestic and international law”. Nothing happened. Stonewalling. But after the photographs were released the ACLU filed a lawsuit to enforce the request. The court ordered the Bush Administration to respond to the request. Since that ruling more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released.

“Collectively the documents show that the administration’s lawyers invented a new legal framework – what President Bush once called a ‘new paradigm’ – meant to permit barbaric interrogation practices and to insulate interrogators and officials from prosecution for war crimes. Relying on this new legal framework, interrogators subjected prisoners to abuse and even torture. The documents show that the abuse of prisoners was systemic, not limited to Abu Ghraib, and indeed that hundreds of prisoners have died in the custody of the U.S. military and that many others have disappeared into the CIA’s
secret detention system”.

In the course of the evening writers, lawyers, artists, a former military interrogator, and a former CIA agent read from the pages that brought these abuses to light. There were also videos of former Guantanamo prisoners, Moazzam Begg, Omar Deghayes, Rual Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul, describing the nightmare of their arrest and treatment.

K. Anthony Appiah, President of PEN American Center, opened the meeting. He said that he was shamed by the record of U.S. torture and that we, our people, created Guantanamo. But voices against torture are American too. Tonight we will read the record of torture – the place we must start.

Jameel Jaffer, the Director of the ACLU National Security Project, then spoke. He said that although the documents we will be hearing about tonight have been declassified by the government, there are thousands more that are still being withheld. Also, very little is being done about those that have been released. There has been no congressional investigation and, in fact, congress is considering a bill that would allow the remaining torture documents to remain hidden.

20 people then read from 20 documents. The accounts of victims were remarkably similar, making it clear that there was a well thought out sadistic protocol. Don Delillo read from a CIA background paper sent to the Justice Department’s office of Legal Counsel, 12/30/04. It states that the purpose of the interrogation is to get information, therefore, psychological and physical pressures have to escalate. A state of “learned helplessness and dependence” has to be created. The capture leads to shock, then rendition to a black site in shackles while deprived of light and sound. There is to be no interaction with the prisoner. When he arrives at the black site the hood or blindfold is removed and he sees that he is surrounded by Americans – they are in complete control. Apprehension is created. His head and face are shaved. Nude photos are taken. Then there is a medical and psychological examination.

David Cole continued, he read from a legal memo signed by Jay Bybee (now a federal judge), Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s office of Legal Counsel, 8/1/02, relating to the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. It said that he was a high level prisoner and they should “dislocate his expectations” to grasp his attention. Then there is an escalating list of punishments, all very specific, that begins with a slap in the fleshy part of the cheek using fingers only, moves on to being smashed into a wall that made a loud sound and caused the prisoner to bounce back towards the interrogator, and finally ends with waterboarding. There is a lot of instruction regarding the waterboarding process: the angle of the board, the perception of drowning, how long it should take (20 minutes), and that it should be done repeatedly. Bybee writes that there is no pain or severe suffering in waterboarding – it is a “controlled acute episode”.

Art Spiegelman read excerpts from Abu Zubaydah’s first hand account of his interrogation in a secret CIA prison – part of a Red Cross Report, 2/14/07. He tells how he was beaten, smashed into walls, put into confinement in a small dark container, and repeatedly waterboarded causing him to vomit and lose consciousness.

George Saunders read a statement by a German citizen, Khaled El-Masri, 12/18/05, a father of 5 children and a victim of the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition program” (kidnapping with the intent to torture). He gave an account of being seized, hooded, dealing with the horror of sensory deprivation, beatings, injections that caused blackouts, interrogations, and a 27 day hunger strike which led to painful tube feedings. One day he was put on a plane and dumped in Albania. From there he made his way back to Germany. He never received an explanation or an apology.

Jonathan Ames read a selection of emails written by FBI personnel describing abusive interrogations at Guantanamo, 6/2003 – 7/2004. There were reports of very loud music, lights flashing, he saw a detainee wrapped in an Israeli flag, and aggressive and improper techniques used by the military and contractors. Some Department of Defense interrogators were claiming to work for the FBI. They also said that no information was being collected. Instructions to the FBI personnel from the FBI were for them to stay within FBI policy guidelines and use the proven methods.

Paul Auster read a series of autopsy and death reports of detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, 12/02 – 11/04. One after another, they were ruled to be homicides resulting from blunt force injuries, asphyxia, and strangulation.

The final report was read by Ishmael Beah. It was the declaration by Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, former lead prosecutor in the military commission case of Mohammed Jawad, a 16 year old. He said that the attacker in the crime which Jawad was being held for was never seen. Other people had confessed to the crime. The prisoner was mistreated, put through sleep deprivation, he made several suicide attempts by banging his head against walls,and he could not have written the confession the government was presenting because he was illiterate. There was no justification for keeping him prisoner for 6 years. Lt. Col. Vandeveld asked JAG to be relieved of his position and they did as he requested.

It has been said that torture is not about getting information, It is about the suppression, domination and terrorizing of the enemy. Listening to the sickening descriptions of the victims, descriptions of extreme light and sound, sensory deprivation,nudity to humiliate and make people feel more vulnerable, beatings, extreme sleep deprivation, extremes of temperature, being enclosed in a tight dark place in a stress position with insects, waterboarding, and murder, and then hearing the cold, “scientific” equally sickening instructions written by bureaucrats who are devoid of any sense that they are dealing with human beings that will die or never recover, it is hard to believe that we are now openly discussing torture as a policy to be considered. How did we, as a nation, reach this point of moral depravity?

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author, once said that he has covered wars all over the world and he has seen torture in very many places. It is a weapon of war, part of the us vs. them culture of war, and an inevitable part of the dehumanization, the need to enhance death. Building an empire, he said, destroys democracy.

The ACLU and PEN believe that, “We can’t sweep the abuses of the last 8 years under the rug. Accountability for torture is a legal, political, and moral imperative. To restore the rule of law, we must condemn these violations of our Constitution, domestic and international law, and seek to hold accountable those who authorized the abuse and torture of prisoners in America’s name.”









THE TORTURE OF PALESTINIAN CHILDREN DOCUMENTED


Israeli ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children – a report

Defense For Children International (DCI-Palestine) released a report which documents the widespread ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children at the hands of the Israeli army and police force – Palestinian Child Prisoners: The systematic and institutionalized ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities.

The release of the report came just days after an article was published in The Independent newspaper reporting the testimonies of two Israeli soldiers which detail the deliberate abuse of Palestinian children. One soldier is reported as saying that in an incident that occurred in a Palestinian village in March, he saw a lot of soldiers ‘just knee (Palestinians) because it’s boring, because you stand there for 10 hours, you’re not doing anything, so they beat people up.’

The report published contains the testimonies of 33 children, one as young as 10 years old, who bear witness to the abuse they received at the hands of soldiers from the moment of arrest through to an often violent interrogation.

Most of these children were arrested from villages near the Wall and illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. There is evidence that many children are painfully shackled for hours on end, kicked, beaten and threatened, some with death, until they provide confessions, some written in Hebrew, a language they do not speak or understand.

Following are some excerpts from this chill-shocking report. It is a must-read report and worth saving for your reference in the future. It can be downloaded from here and here (both PDF format):

Executive summary

The Israeli military court system in the Occupied Palestinian Territory has operated for over 42 years almost devoid of international scrutiny. Each year an average of 9,000 Palestinians are prosecuted in two Israeli military courts operating in the West Bank, including 700 children.

From the moment of arrest, Palestinian children encounter ill-treatment and in some cases torture, at the hands of Israeli soldiers, policemen and interrogators. Children are commonly arrested from the family home in the hours before dawn by heavily armed soldiers. The child is painfully bound, blindfolded and bundled into the back of a military vehicle without any indication as to why or where the child is being taken. […] Most children confess and some are forced to sign confessions written in Hebrew, a language they do not comprehend. These interrogations are not video recorded as is required under Israeli domestic law.

Children as young as 12 years are prosecuted in the Israeli military courts and are treated as adults as soon as they turn 16 […] In 91% of all cases involving Palestinian children, bail was denied. […] With no faith in the system and the potential for harsh sentences, approximately 95% of cases end in the child pleading guilty, whether the ofence was committed or not. […] Many children receive no family visits whilst in prison and limited education […]

Some examples of torture


What amounts to torture or ill-treatment will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. However, it is useful to list some of the types of circumstances that have been held to amount to torture and ill-treatment by the Committee as a general guidance:

– Restraining in very painful conditions;
– Hooding under special conditions;
– Playing loud music for prolonged periods of time;
– Threats, including death threats;
– Violent shaking;
– Kicking, punching and beating with implements;
– Using cold air to chill;
– Excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel and the military;
– Incommunicado detention (detention without access to a lawyer, doctor or the ability to communicate with family members);
– Solitary confnement;
– Sensorial deprivation and almost total prohibition of communication;
– Poor conditions of detention, including failure to provide food, water, heating in winter, proper washing facilities, overcrowding, lack of amenities, poor hygiene facilities, limited clothing and medical care.

The above list is by no means exhaustive and in every case, the particular vulnerability of the victim, such as his or her young age or medical condition should be taken into consideration.

Case Study No. 15

Name: Islam M.
Date of arrest: 31 December 2008
Age at arrest: 12
Accusation: Throwing stones

On 31 December 2008, 12-year-old Islam from a village near the West Bank city of Nablus, was out hunting birds in an olive grove when he and his friends were arrested by Israeli soldiers and accused of throwing stones. The olive grove was located about 500 metres from an Israeli settler bypass road.

At around 4:00pm we decided to go home. We collected the nets. Our houses are about one kilometre away. After walking 20 metres we heard a gun shot from the bypass road. We began walking faster towards our houses in the opposite direction to the bypass road. When we reached the edge of the village, we were surprised to see Israeli soldiers, about 10 to 20 metres behind us, with their guns pointed at us. They were shouting at us to stop in Hebrew. We stopped where we were. […] One of them approached me and grabbed my hand. Another soldier grabbed Hasan’s hand. They then tied our hands together with the same plastic cord. They tied my right hand to Hasan’s left hand. The soldiers then pushed us and forced us to walk towards our house. The soldiers did not tell me why they were arresting me […] When we reached the jeep, the soldiers blindfolded me and Hasan with a piece of cloth that the soldiers had. They pushed me inside the jeep. I fell on the ground. I was seated on the floor of the jeep. I lifted the blindfold using my untied left hand and looked around. I saw six soldiers inside the jeep, sitting on seats. Hasan and I were seated between their legs.

Twelve-year-old Islam was arrested by Israeli soldiers while out hunting birds. He was transferred to an Israeli military base for interrogation. Ten minutes later a soldier asked me […] whether I threw stones at the soldiers. Three minutes later a captain called Hasan, wearing a military uniform, came to us … He took me to a pine tree and made me sit on the ground. ‘Have you seen kids throwing stones at the soldiers?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ I answered. ‘Do you know them?’ He asked. ‘No,’ I said. He threatened to pour hot water on my face. ‘I don’t know who threw stones,’ I said. Five minutes later he took me to a place full of thorny bushes. He ordered me to sit in the bushes. I refused. He pushed me and I fell in the bushes. That really hurt me. They placed me inside a jeep […] Captain Hasan approached me and asked me to confess to throwing stones. I refused. ‘We’ll put you in jail, patriotic boy’ he said. […] A policeman in blue uniform came and took me to interrogation. I was still tied and blindfolded, but managed to see things from beneath the blindfold. In the interrogation room, there was one policeman with a solider sitting next to him. ‘You threw stones. You were photographed while throwing stones’ the policeman said. I denied it […] I asked the soldiers for food. They brought me an apple, one half rotten. I ate the good half and gave the rotten half back to the soldier […] They seated me on a chair for about five hours without asking me anything.

A policeman in blue uniform came and took me to an office. He allowed me to watch a DVD that had children throwing stones at soldiers. ‘See yourself throwing stones?’ He said. I did not see myself because I had not thrown stones. He then took me out of the room. I was kept alone, tied and blindfolded, sitting on the ground for three hours. (2 February 2009)

Islam was charged with throwing stones and fned NIS 1,000 (US$ 250) by a military court after entering into a plea bargain. He spent three days in detention in Ofer.

Case Study No. 22

Name: Afaf B.
Date of arrest: 5 February 2008
Age at arrest: 16
Accusation: Contact with a wanted person and the intention to carry out a suicide bombing

On 5 February 2008, Afaf and her father voluntarily went to the Israeli intelligence headquarters at Ras al-Amoud, Jerusalem, after being ordered to attend. Afaf was immediately taken for interrogation where she was accused of having contact with a wanted person and intending to carry out a suicide bombing. Afaf’s father was not permitted to remain with her during interrogation. Afaf was then interrogated for 59 consecutive days and then sentenced to 16 months imprisonment inside Israel.

The interrogator began asking me general questions about myself and how I was doing. I asked him to stop asking such questions and get straight to the reason why they brought me here. He said that I had committed some security ofences […] he then asked me about a young man called Murad … I agreed that I had never seen Murad but I used to talk to him on the phone […] The interrogator did not charge me directly with any wrongdoing, and he did not accuse me of a specifc accusation. He only said that I had committed some security ofences without giving any further details […] An hour later, the interrogator came back to the room and told me I was under arrest and that they would transfer me to Al Mascobiyya Interrogation and Detention Centre in Jerusalem. […]

Two interrogators named Arsan and David were already in the room. They had a typed paper written in Hebrew. They told me that this paper was sent via fax from the same interrogator who interrogated me earlier in Ras al-Amoud, and that I had confessed to doing many things. I told them that what was in the paper was a lie and that I did not confess to anything and no specifc accusation was made against me. They said that the paper says that I knew a young man named Murad and I knew that he was wanted by the intelligence … This interrogation lasted until midnight. […] In the morning of 6 February 2008, they came and took me to Jerusalem’s Magistrate’s Court. My hands and feet were tied. A lawyer hired by the State was waiting for me, but none of my family was there […] In the court, the prosecution asked for my detention to be extended for 10 days, relying on a secret file submitted to the judge. My lawyer objected and asked for my immediate release. However, the judge decided to extend my detention […]

Israeli Military CourtIsraeli Military Court

My interrogation lasted for several hours for 59 consecutive days. In one of the interrogation rounds, a tall interrogator told me that I should confess that I had asked Murad to help me carry out a suicide bombing. I denied that of course, and he slapped me so hard that I fell over to the ground and my mouth began bleeding.

On the seventh day of my arrest […] the interrogator told me that Murad had been arrested, and he had interrogated him. He added that Murad confessed that I asked him to help me to carry out a suicide bombing. […] After 10 days of interrogation […] I came back from the court and I was put in a room inside the Centre with another detainee named Nisreen Z. She was detained on a theft case. On the same day I had a stomach ache. Nisreen handed me a white pill, which turned out later to be a narcotic pill. I fainted for some time. When I woke up, Nisreen told me that I had said many things and confessed to many things and that it was recorded. I was then removed from the room and taken to the interrogation room. The tall interrogator asked me to confess to everything but I refused […] the interrogator played the recording. I heard myself speaking with Nisreen who was asking me many questions about Murad and carrying out a suicide bombing, and I would answer her ‘yes’ without giving further details […] I did not sign any confession papers. (23 December 2008)

Afaf was charged with contact with a wanted person and the intention to carry out a suicide bombing. She was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment by a military court after entering into a plea bargain. She is currently detained in Telmond Prison inside Israel. Afaf was released on 7 May 2009.

Case Study No. 33

Name: Ezzat H.
Date of arrest: 11 June 2008
Age at arrest: 10
Accusation: None

On 11 June 2008, Israeli soldiers stormed Ezzat’s family’s shop in a village near the West Bank town of Qalqiliya, situated near the Wall. The soldiers said that they were looking for a hand gun.

At around 10:30am, I was sitting in my father’s shop selling animal feed and eggs. I was wearing a red T-shirt and blue jeans. My brother Makkawi (7) and sister Lara (8) were sitting with me […] I was surprised by the arrival of two Israeli soldiers to the shop. One of them had dark skin, wearing khaki jeans and a black T-shirt with a blue vest on top. The other one was in green clothes. Both of them were wearing helmets and carrying black weapons. The soldier with the black T-shirt was carrying a pistol around his chest in addition to the assault rife.

They suddenly walked into the shop. Once they entered the shop, the soldier with the black T-shirt began shouting at me, telling me: ‘your father has sent us to you and we want the pistol your father has.’ I became terrifed and said: ‘my father has nothing. He doesn’t own such things.’ He slapped me hard across my right cheek and he slapped my brother on the face too. He then asked my siblings to get out of the shop. He asked me all over again and I told him we had nothing. He asked me to get out the pistol from the animal feed sacks. I answered him we had no pistol. He slapped me again and this time it was on my left cheek. […]

A group of locals gathered around the store and some of them tried to enter and help me, but the soldier standing by the door prevented them from doing so. When the other soldier did not find anything, he asked me again to tell him where the pistol was. When I answered him back saying: ‘we don’t have anything’ he punched me hard in my stomach and I fell over onto the empty egg boxes. I was crying and screaming because I could not stand the pain and I was terrified too.

The soldier with the black T-shirt made fun of me and imitated my crying. He spoke very fluent Arabic. He kept me inside the shop for 15 minutes. He then grabbed me by my T-shirt and dragged me out of the shop. I asked him to let me close the shop but he said leave it open so that it would be robbed. Some of my friends who were at the scene closed the shop.

When he dragged me out of the shop, he ordered me to walk in the street in front of him. He and the other soldier, who was pointing his weapon at me, walked behind me, and some people gathered around. While walking, the soldier in the black T-shirt would slap me hard on my neck now and then … I was slapped three to four times on my nape while walking towards the house. When we reached the house, 100 meters away, I saw many soldiers around the house and a number of dark green military vehicles. The word ‘Police’ was written on an olive coloured jeep. When I entered the house […] the soldier with the black T-shirt made me stand in the yard and asked me to get the pistol out of the flower basin. When I was about to answer him and say we had no pistol, he slapped me so hard that I fell down on my face in the fower basin. […]

My father was standing by the door of the guest room, where my family was held. The soldier slapped me on my nape in front of my father and I fell to the ground. He slapped me again on my nape and I fell to the ground after I stood up. All of this was in front of my father. He then lifted me in the air after he grabbed my T-shirt. He told my father that he was going to take me to prison […] He threatened to arrest my older sister who was 19 years old […] he then pushed me into the guest room where my mother and siblings were held. My mother was crying. When she saw me crying, she asked me why and I told her that I had been hit. She asked them to leave me alone and hit her instead. They told her that they would take me to prison. […] The soldier with the black T-shirt took me to the bedroom and slapped me at the door. He then brought my older sister to search and interrogate her while forcing me to stand by the kitchen door. They then moved me to another bedroom.

Torturing Ezzat HTorturing Ezzat H

While passing me, the soldier with the black T-shirt slapped me so hard on my face that I fell on the ground. He asked me to stay there in the room. He would go for five minutes and then come back to slap me on the face, and punch me several times in my stomach. I would shout and burst into tears. He would imitate me and make fun of me. He continued coming to the room around six times where he would hit me and slap me. […] I spent about one hour in the room all alone with the soldiers. During this hour, the soldier with the black T-shirt ordered me to stand on one foot and lift my hands up in the air with my back against the wall. This lasted for about half an hour. I was exhausted but I did not dare to put my foot on the ground because he ordered me not to. […] The soldier with the black T-shirt […] then brought my older sister and asked me whether I cared about her or not. I said: ‘yes I do.’ He then asked me to tell him where the pistol was and he would not tell my father. I said we did not have a pistol, so he took my sister out, and then came back and hit me all over my body. He left the room and after a while he came back and ofered me 10 Shekels if I would tell him where the pistol was. I told him I did not care about money. He really became so angry that he took of his helmet and hit me with it from two metres away. He asked me to bring him the helmet and when I did, he threw it again at me, but this time he missed. He again asked me to bring him the helmet but this time he did not hit me with it. Instead, he left the room for five minutes and came back and slapped me on the face and stomach without asking me anything. Once again he left the room and was gone for a while, and I was all alone in the room. He then came back and asked me about the pistol and I answered that we did not have any pistol. He slapped me twice on my face and pushed me back. He then left the room for a while and came back to repeat it all over again. […]

Afterwards, a soldier wearing black sunglasses came into the room where I was held and pointed his rife at me. The rife barrel was a few centimeters away from my face. I was so terrified that I started to shiver. He made fun of me and said: ‘shivering? Tell me where the pistol is before I shoot you.’ I replied by saying that we had nothing. He lowered his rife and took out the bullets […] (21 June 2008)

After initially wishing to file a complaint against the soldiers involved, Ezzat’s father changed his mind for fear of retaliation.

Since DCI-Palestine last published a report on Palestinian child detainees (April 2008), the practice of ill-treatment and torture has continued unabated. During the course of the reporting period DCI-Palestine continued to receive numerous testimonies from Palestinian children speaking of their ill-treatment and torture at the hands of Israeli soldiers, policemen and security operatives. This abuse occurs from the moment of arrest, and continues during transfer, interrogation and detention. The ill-treatment documented by DCI-Palestine appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalised, suggesting complicity at all levels of the political and military chain of command. This abusive system operates with the knowledge and assistance of some doctors, and is overseen by a military court system that ignores basic principles of juvenile justice and fair trial rights, whilst willfully turning a blind eye to the presentation in court of one coerced confession after another. This system imposed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory operates beyond international legal norms and within a general culture of impunity.DCI-Palestine continues in its eforts to bring this situation to the attention of the international community which is itself bound by a number of legal obligations to ensure that these violations are fully investigated, and where appropriate, prosecuted and that such conduct is not rewarded.

Without some measure of accountability, it is unlikely that the situation endured by Palestinian children described in the pages above, will improve.

* Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-Palestine) is a national section of the international non-governmental child rights organisation and movement, Defence for Children International (DCI), established in 1979, with consultative status with ECOSOC. DCI-Palestine was established in 1992, and is dedicated to promoting and protecting the rights of Palestinian children in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), as well as other international, regional and local standards. As part of its ongoing work to uphold the rights of Palestinian children, DCI-Palestine provides free legal assistance, collects evidence, researches and drafts reports and conducts general advocacy targeting various duty bearers.

Thanks to Sabbah for this

MOHAMMED OMER; ONE YEAR AND COUNTING

Mohammed Omer (photo by Norsk Folkehjelp)

A Journalist Beaten — One Year Later

by Mohammed Omer Released: 26 Jun 2009

June 26, 2008 is a day I will never forget. For the events of that day irrevocably changed my life. That day I was detained, interrogated, strip searched, and tortured while attempting to return home from a European speaking tour, which culminated in independent American journalist Dahr Jamil and I sharing the Martha Gellhorn Journalism Prize in London — an award given to journalists who expose propaganda which often masks egregious human rights abuses.

I want to address the denials from Israel and the inaccurate reporting by a few journalists in addition to requesting state of Israel to acknowledge what it did to me, prosecute the members of the Shin Bet responsible for it and put in place procedures that protect other journalists from such treatment.

Since 2003, I’ve been the voice to the voiceless in the besieged Gaza Strip for a number of publications and news programs ranging from The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to the BBC and, Morgenbladet in Norway as well as Democracy Now! These stories exposed a carefully-crafted fiction continuing control and exploitation of five-million people. Their impact, coupled with the reporting of others served to change public opinion in the United States and Europe concerning the dynamics of Israel and its occupation of Palestine .

After receiving the Martha Gellhorn prize I returned home through the Allenby Bridge Crossing in the Occupied West Bank between Jordan and Israel. It was here I was detained, interrogated, and tortured for several hours by Shin Bet and border officers. When it appeared I may be close to death an ambulance was called to transport me to a hospital. From that day my life has been a year of continued medical treatments, pain — and a search for justice.

Lisa Dvir from the Israeli Airport Authority (IAA), the agency responsible for controlling Israel’s borders in an June 29th article by Mel Frykberg for the Inter Press Service stated, “the IAA was neither aware of Omer’s journalist credentials nor of his coordination.”

The statement is wholly inaccurate and impossible on two counts. First, because I’m Palestinian, I am unable to enter Israel or leave Gaza , even through the Rafah border with Egypt , without Israeli permission, something quite difficult to get. Each time I’ve left Gaza for speaking tours required substantial lobbying and political maneuvering by several governments. In 2006, it was the American governments who ultimately won my visa. In 2007 the Dutch Parliament invited me back to speak to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and in 2008 when it was announced I won the Martha Gellhorn Prize, several European countries requested Israel grant me a visa but it was MP Hans Van Baalen of the Netherlands who, with great efforts, secured and guaranteed my passage out of Gaza and Israel, as well as the return for both the 2007 and 2008 trips on the condition I travel and be escorted by members of the Dutch Embassy in Tel Aviv while within Israel or the occupied West Bank. Therefore I was under diplomatic escort with the full knowledge of the Israeli government when I arrived at Allenby on June 26th. In fact Israeli security had blocked my re-entry for four days, causing me to miss a family wedding and wait in Jordan .

Secondly Dvir’s claim that the IAA didn’t know I was a journalist is proved false by the actions of the Shin Bet and border police. During the interrogation an Israeli security personnel searching my belongings repeatedly asked ‘Where’s the money from the prize, Mohammed?’ The prize is only given to journalists. Not only were they fully aware I am a journalist. They knew exactly how much I received, for what and where.

Dvir further perjured herself when she claimed, “We would like to know who Omer spoke to in regard to receiving coordination to pass through Allenby. We offer journalists a special service when passing through our border crossings, and had we known about his arrival this would not have happened.” Her denial shocked a Dutch diplomat in Tel Aviv who had confirmed with the state permission for me to cross on June 26. Again, I was traveling under diplomatic escort and when I asked to phone the escort — waiting on the other side of the terminal — Shin Bet’s response was they knew and didn’t care.

While not admitting that the interrogation and torture took place, Divr then dismissed any actions by the Shin Bet as out of her department’s control: “I’m not aware of the events that followed his detention, and we are not responsible for the behavior of the Shin Bet.” But the Israeli Airport Authority, Divr’s department, like most port authorities, is responsible for border security and those who enforce that security in Israel are members of the army and the Shin Bet.

Unfortunately Dvir’s diversions were just the beginning. In the days following my detention and torture, the Israeli Government Press Office acknowledged that despite traveling under diplomatic escort I was searched “due to suspicion that he had been in contact with hostile elements and had been asked by them to deliver items to Judea and Samaria (Occupied West Bank).” This has been mentioned and quoted in different papers. Like everyone else entering, my bags were x-rayed and cleared multiple times excluding the possibility I was carrying some type of contraband. And I was traveling in the Dutch Embassy’s car directly to Erez crossing with Gaza , as communicated to the Israeli authorities. There was zero possibility of me delivering ‘items’ to anyone.

Confronted with the medical reports and injuries including bruised ribs Israeli officials told the BBC on July 1, 2008 that, “He lost balance and fell, for reasons unknown to us,” other officers suggest, “Mr. Omer had a nervous breakdown due to the high temperature.”

Despite the attempts at denials, the emergency medical technician who sat in the back of the ambulance with me reported, “We noted fingerprints on his neck and chest,” the type bruising caused by excessive force often used in forensics to identify an attacker.

When Associated Press reporter Karin Laub called me on my cell phone for an interview after my ordeal, I detailed how I was stripped and held at gunpoint. Her reply? “Go on,” she stated. “This is normal about what we hear happening at Ben Gurion Airport . It’s nothing new.”

Torture, strip searches and holding award winning journalists or any other human beings at gun point is normal at Israel ’s largest airport? Ms. Laub’s apathy continued. In her article for the Associated Press on June 29th she wrote that she interviewed “Dr. Husseini who claims there were no signs of physical trauma.”

There’s only one problem with this. This Dr. Husseini never treated me. The Minister of Health in Ramallah confirmed that Husseini never made any such statement to the AP reporter. For reasons known only to her, Ms. Laub appears to have fabricated this comment and purposely ignored the medical reports and the statements by the attending paramedics — counter to journalistic ethics and standards upheld by the Associated Press. Despite this, no independent investigation toke place.

Meanwhile the Jerusalem correspondent for the Los Angles Times, Ashraf Khalil, conducted an investigation into my case and noted in his article on November 3, 2008, that my medical records describe: “Tenderness on the anterior part of the neck and upper back mainly along the right ribs moderate to severe pain,” and “by examination the scrotum due to pain varicocele (varicose veins in the spermatic cord) at left side detected and surgery was decided later.” Fevers and falls do not cause such distinctive marks. Kicks, punches and beatings do. Continuing Khalil explains that, “Paramedic Mahmoud Tararya arrived in a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance and said he found Omer semiconscious with bruises on his neck and chest. Tararya said Israeli security officers were asking Omer to sign “some sort of form written in Hebrew. The paramedic said he intervened, separated Omer from the soldiers and loaded him into the ambulance, where he remained semiconscious for most of the trip to a hospital.”

Khalil notes in his article that Richard Falk, the U.N. human rights official wrote to Verhagen, the Minster of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and stated: “I have checked out Mr. Omer’s credibility and narrative of events, and I find them fully credible and accurate.”

Recovering mentally and physically from torture and interrogation is far from easy. This should not happen to anyone. My objective is for my case to focus attention on universal human rights, the right of freedom of expression and freedom of movement. There are places in this world where these freedoms do not exist. Israel insists it is not one of those places, but both the government and the complicity of individual journalists in covering up what they did to me prove otherwise. Ironically, the day the Shin Bet chose to detain, interrogate and torture me — June 26 — is the date set aside by human rights groups as the International Day Against Torture.

Mohammed Omer has reported for numerous media outlets, including the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pacifica Radio, Electronic Intifada, The Nation, and Inter Press Service; he also founded the Rafah Today blog. He was awarded the 2007 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.

Copyright © 2009 Mohammed Omer   Distributed BY

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A CALL FOR ACTION…… From DesertPeace

Today,the 26th of June marks the one year anniversary of the near beating to death and torture of Mohammed Omer. He was returning to his home in the Rafa Refugee Camp in Gaza from a trip to Europe where he was the recipient of a prestigious award for journalism. A complete recap of the events that took place upon his entry to Israel on his return trip can be read HERE.         Mohammed was escorted on his return trip by Dutch diplomats of Her Majesty’s  embassy in Tel Aviv. After his torture and beatings, those same diplomats returned with him to the Erez Crossing where he continued on to a hospital in Gaza.          Kennith Ring had the following to add to the situation in a brilliant report that he wrote about the situation. He interviewed Mohammed while he was in the hospital in Gaza…. By clicking HERE, you can read the full report.
The investigation referred to still has not been launched after a complete year. Mohammed is presently in the Netherlands where he is still receiving medical treatment as a result of his injuries. He is scheduled to undergo surgery one more time in the very near future.

It is now up to YOU to do something about the situation. We ask that you write to the local representative of the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, DEMANDING that they put pressure on the Israeli government to bring the criminals involved in this case to justice. It was Dutch Government representatives that were witness to this horrendous act, it is their responsibility as human beings to help bring justice in this case and to help guarantee that this never happens again to anyone.

It is extremely urgent that residents of Israel and Palestine take part in this letter writing campaign. All contact information is available below…. worldwide.

Thank you for your efforts and watch this site for updates on the situation.

*********************************************
Contact info for Royal Netherlands Embassies WORLDWIDE (alpabetical)

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Edificio Porteno II
Olga Cossenttini 831, piso 3
(C1107BVA) Buenos Aires
Argentina
City: Buenos Aires
Phone: (54-11) 4338-0050
Fax: (54-11) 4338-0060
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/bue-es/
Email: bue@minbuza.nl

The Royal Netherlands Embassy in Canberra, Australia
120 Empire Circuit
Yarralumla ACT 2600
Canberra, Australia
City: Canberra
Phone: +61 (0)2 6220 9400
Fax: +61 (0)2 6273 3206
Web Site: http://www.netherlands.org.au
Email: can@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Vienna, Austria
Opernring 5/7
A-1010 Vienna
Austria
City: Vienna
Phone: +43 (1) 589 39
Fax: +43 (1) 589 39 – 265
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/wen
Email: nlgovwen@eunet.at

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Road nr. 90, House 49
Gulshan II
Dhaka, Bangladesh
City: Dhaka
Phone: +880-2-8822715-18
Fax: +880-2-8823326
Web Site: http://www.netherlandsembassydhaka.org
Email: dha@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Brussels, Belgium
Avenue Herrmann-Debrouxlaan 48
1160 Brussel
City: Brussels
Phone: (+32) 02 679 17 11
Fax: (+32) 02 679 17 75
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/bru-fr
Email: bru@minbuza.nl

Embassy of Netherlands in Cotonou, Benin
Avenue Pape Jean Paul II
Cotonou
Benin
City: Cotonou
Phone: 00-229-21- 30 04 39 / 30 21 39
Fax: 00-229-21- 30 41 50
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/cot/ambassade
Email: cot@minbuza.nl

Embassy of Netherlands in La Paz, Bolivia
Avenida 6 de Agosto 2455
Edificio Hilda, piso 7
La Paz, Bolivia
City: La Paz
Phone: +591 2 2444040
Fax: +591 2 2443804
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/lap-es
Email: lap@minbuza.nl.

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia
Grbavicka 4
71000 Sarajevo
Bosnia-Herzegovina
City: Sarajevo
Phone: (+387) (0)33 562 600
Fax: (+387) (0)33-223 413
Email: sar@minbuza.nl,sar-ca@minbuza.nl

Embassy of Netherlands in Brasilia, Brazil
SES – Qd. 801, Lote 05
CEP 70405-900
Brasilia – DF – Brasil
City: Brasilia
Phone: +55 (0)61-3961.3200
Fax: +55 (0)61-3961.3234
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/bra
Email: bra@minbuza.nl


Royal Netherlands Embassy in Bulgaria
Oborishte Street 15
1504 Sofia
Bulgaria
City: Sofia
Phone: (+359) 02-8160300
Fax: (+359) 02-8160301
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/sof-en/
Email: sof@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ottawa, Canada
Constitution Square
Building 350 Albert Street,
suite 2020
Ottawa, ON K1R 1A4
Canada
City: Ottawa
Phone: +1 613 237 5030
Fax: +1 613 237 6471
Web Site: http://www.netherlandsembassy.ca/
Email: nlgovott@netherlandsembassy.ca

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Santiago, Chile
Apoquindo 3500 Piso 13
Las Condes, Santiago
P.O. Box:
Casilla 56-D
Santiago, Chile
City: Santiago
Phone: (+56) 2-7569200
Fax: (+56) 2-7569226
Web Site: http://www.holanda-paisesbajos.cl/
Email: stg@minbuza.nl

Embassy of Holland, Netherlands in Bogota, Colombia
Carrera 13 No. 93-40 Floor 5
Apartado Aereo 4385
Bogota
Colombia
City: Bogota
Phone: (+57) 1-638 4200
Fax: (+57) 1-623 3020
Email: bog@minbuza.nl

Embassy of Netherlands in San Jose, Costa Rica
Oficentro Ejecutivo La Sabana
(detras de la Contraloria)
Tercer Edificio, Tercer Piso
Apartado 10,285
1000 San Jose, Costa Rica
City: San Jose
Phone: +506 296 1490
Fax: +506 296 2933
Web Site: http://www.nethemb.or.cr
Email: nethemb@racsa.co.cr

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Zagreb, Croatia
Medvescak 56
10000 Zagreb
Croatia
City: Zagreb
Phone: + (385) 1 4642 200
Fax: + (385) 1 4642 211
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/zag-en/
Email: zag@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Nicosia, Cyprus
34 Demosthenis
Severis Avenue
P.O. Box 23835
1686 Nicosia,
Cyprus
City: Nicosia
Phone: +357-22-873666
Fax: +357-22-872399
Web Site: http://cyprus.nlembassy.org/
Email: nic@minbuza.nl

Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Prague
Gotthardska 6/27
160 00 Praha 6, Bubenec
Czech Republic
City: Prague
Phone: (+420) 233 015 200
Fax: (+420) 233 015 254
Web Site: http://www.netherlandsembassy.cz/
Email: nlgovpra@ti.cz

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark
Toldbodgade 33
1253 Copenhagen K
Denmark
City: Copenhagen
Phone: (+45) 33 70 72 00
Fax: (+45) 33 14 03 50
Web Site: http://www.nlembassy.dk/
Email: kop@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Max Henriquez Urena #50
(tussen Av. Lincoln en Av. Churchill)
P.O. Box 855
Ens. Piantini
Santo Domingo
City: Santo Domingo
Phone: (+1 809) 262-0320 (Ambassade)
Fax: (+1 809) 565-4685
Web Site: http://www.holanda.org.do/
Email: STD@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Cairo, Egypt
18, Hassan Sabri
11211 Zamalek
Cairo, Egypt
City: Cairo
Phone: +20-2-7395500
Fax: +20-2-7365249
Web Site: http://www.hollandemb.org.eg/
Email: az-cz@hollandemb.org.eg,kai-ca@minbuza.nl

Netherlands Embassy in Helsinki
Erottajankatu 19 B
00130 Helsinki
Finland
P.O. Box 886
00101 Helsinki, Finland
City: Helsinki
Phone: +358 9 228 920
Fax: +358 9 228 92 228
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/hel/
Email: nlgovhel@kolumbus.fi

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Paris, France
7-9 rue EBLE
75007 Paris
France
City: Paris
Phone: 01.40.62.33.00
Fax: 01.40.62.34.56
Web Site: http://www.amb-pays-bas.fr/
Email: ambassade@amb-pays-bas.fr

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Berlin, Germany
Monastery route 50
10179 Berlin
Germany
City: Berlin
Phone: +49 30 20956-0
Fax: +49 30 20956-441
Web Site: http://www.niederlandeweb.de/
Email: nlgovbln@blnnlambde

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Athens, Greece
Leof. Vass. Konstantinou 5-7
106 74 Athens
Greece
City: Athens
Phone: +30 210 7254900
Fax: +30 210 7254907
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/ath
Email: ath@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Guatemala
16 Calle 0-55, Zona 10
Edificio Torre Internacional
Nivel 13, Guatemala
City: Guatemala
Phone: (502)- 2381 4300
Fax: (502)- 2381 4350
Web Site: http://www.embajadadeholanda-gua.org/
Email: nlgovgua@intelnet.net.gt

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Budapest, Hungary
Budapest
Fuge utca 5-7
1022
Hungary
City: Budabest
Phone: 336-6300
Fax: 3265978
Web Site: http://www.netherlandsembassy.hu/en/
Email: bdp@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in New Delhi, India
6/50 F, Shanti Path
Chanakyapuri
New Delhi 110021
City: New Delhi
Phone: +91-11-24197600
Fax: +91-11-24197710
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/nde-en/
Email: nde@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia
Jl. H.R. Rasuna Said Kav.
S-3, Kuningan Jakarta 12950
Indonesia
City: Jakarta
Phone: +62-21-524 8200
Fax: +62-21-570 0734
Web Site: http://indonesia.nlembassy.org/
Email: jak@minbuza.nl

The Royal Netherlands Embassy, Tehran
Sonbol Street #7 Farmanieh
City: Tehran
Phone: 0935 2111299
Email: teh@minbuza.nl

Embassy of Netherlands in Repubic of Iraq
Park Al-Sadoun
Hay Al-Nidhal 103
Street No. 38, House No.10
Baghdad, Iraq
City: Baghdad
Phone: 00-964-1-7782571 / 00-873-762953520
Email: bad@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Dublin, Ireland
160 Merrion Road
Dublin 4
Ireland
City: Dublin,
Phone: 00-353-1-2693444
Fax: 00-353-1-2839690
Email: dub-info@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel
Beit Oz 14, Abba Hillel St
Ramat Gan 52506
City: Tel Aviv
Phone: 03-7540777
Fax: 03-7540748
Web Site: http://www.netherlands-embassy.co.il
Email: nlgovtel@012.net.il

Netherlands Embassy in Rome, Italy
Via Michele Mercati, 8
00197 Rome
Italy
City: Rome
Phone: +39 06 32286.001
Fax: +39 06 32286.256
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/rom-nl
Email: rom@minbuza.nlwww.olanda.it

Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Amman, Jordan
22 Ibrahim Ayoub Street (former name: Embassy Street)
4th Circle
(opposite the offices of the prime minister in the Alico building)
Amman, Jordan
City: Amman
Phone: 00962 – 6 – 5902222
Fax: 00962 – 6 – 5930214
Web Site: http://www.netherlandsembassy.com.jo/
Email: amm-info@minbuza.

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Kuwait
Jabriyah, Area 9, Street 1, House 76
P.O. Box 21822
Safat 13079
State of Kuwait
City: Safat
Phone: 00.965.531.2650 / 1 / 2 / 3
Fax: 00.965.532.6334
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/kwe/
Email: KWE@minbuza.nl

Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Beirut, Lebanon
Netherlands Tower
Charles Malek Avenue,
Opposite Centre Sofil
2073-0802 Achrafieh
1100-2190
City: Beirut
Phone: 00-961-1-204663
Fax: 00-961-1-204664/00-961-1-339393
Web Site: http://www.netherlandsembassy.org.lb/
Email: nlgovbei@sodetel.net.lb

Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Luxembourg
6, rue Sainte Zithe
L-2763 Luxembourg
City: Luxembourg
Phone: +352 22 75 70
Fax: +352 40 30 16
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/lux
Email: lux@minbuza.nl

Embassy of the Netherlands in Skopje, Macedonia
Leninova 69-71
1000 Skopje
Macedonia
City: Skopje
Phone: +389 91 129-319/+389 2 3109-250
Fax: +389 2 3129-309
Web Site: http://www.nlembassy.org.mk/
Email: nethemb@mt.net.mk,SKO@minbuza.nl

Netherlands Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
7th Floor, South Block. The Ampwalk
218, Jalan Ampang
50480 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia
City: Kuala Lumpur
Phone: 00-60-3-21686200
Fax: 00-60-3-21686240
Web Site: http://malaysia.nlembassy.org/
Email: kll@minbuza.nl

Embassy of Netherland in Mexico
Avenida Vasco de Quiroga 3000
Edificio Calakmul, piso 7
Colonia Santa Fe
01210 Mexico D.F.
City: Mexico City
Phone: (+52) 5552589921
Fax: (+52) 5552588138
Web Site: http://www.paisesbajos.com.mx
Email: nlgovmex@nlgovmex.com

Embassy of Netherlands in Rabat, Morocco
40 Rue de Tunis,
Quartier Tour Hassan,
Rabat, Maroc
Potal Address:
B.P. 329, Rabat, Maroc
City: Rabat
Phone: +212 37 219600
Fax: +212 37 219665
Web Site: http://www.ambassadepaysbasrabat.org/
Email: nlgovrab@mtds.com

Royal Netherlands Embassy of Wellington, New Zealand
P.O.Box 840
Cnr. Ballance & Featherston Street
Wellington
City: Wellington
Phone: +64 04 471 6390
Fax: +64 04 471 2923
Web Site: http://www.netherlandsembassy.co.nz/
Email: WEL@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Oslo, Norway
Oscarsgate 29
0244 Oslo
Norway
City: Oslo
Phone: +47 23 33 36 00
Fax: +47 23 33 36 01
Web Site: http://www.netherlands-embassy.no/
Email: nlgovosl@online.no

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Warsaw, Poland
Ul. Kawalerii 10
00-468 Warsaw
Poland
City: Warsaw
Phone: 00-48-22-5591200
Fax: 00-48-22-8402638
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/war-en/
Email: war@minbuza.nl

Embassy o Netherlands in Moscow, Russian Federation
Kalashny pereulok 6
131000 Moscow
Russia
City: Moscow
Phone: +7 495 7972900
Fax: +7 495 7972904
Web Site: http://www.netherlands.ru
Email: mos@minbuza.nl

Embassy of Netherlands in Madrid, Spain
Avenida Comandante Franco, 32
28016 Madrid
Spain
City: Madrid
Phone: 91 353 75 00
Fax: 91 353 75 65
Web Site: http://www.embajadapaisesbajos.es/
Email: mad-info@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden
Gotgatan 16A
Stockholm
P.O. Box 15048
104 65 Stockholm
Sweden
City: Stockholm
Phone: (+46) (0)8 556 933 00
Fax: (+46) (0)8 556 933 11 (general)
Email: sto@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Bern, Switzerland
Seftigenstrasse 7
3007 Bern, Switzerland
City: Bern
Phone: +41-(0)31-350 87 00
Fax: + 41-(0)31-350 87 10
Web Site: http://www.nlembassy.ch/
Email: ben@minbuza.nl

Embassy of Netherlands in Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Abou Roumaneh
Al-Jalaa Street
Imm Tello
Damascus
Syria
City: Damascus
Phone: 00-963-11-3336871
Fax: 00-963-11-3339369
Email: dmc@minbuza.nl

Embassy of Netherlands in Vatican
Piazza Della Citta Leonina 9/ II
00193 Rome
City: Vatican City
Phone: 00-39-06-6868044
Fax: 00-39-06-6879593
Email: vat@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in Ankara, Turkey
Hollanda Caddesi 3
06550 Yildiz
Ankara, Turkey
City: Ankara
Phone: (0312) 409 18 00 visa: (0312) 409 18 20
Fax: (0312) 409 18 98
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/ank-en
Email: ank@minbuza.nl

Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Kyiv, Ukraine
Kontraktova Ploshcha 7
01901 Kyiv, Ukraine
City: Kyiv
Phone: +38 044 4908 200
Fax: +38 044 4908 209/267
Web Site: http://www.netherlands-embassy.com.ua/
Email: kie@minbuza.nl

Royal Embassy of Netherlands in Abu Dhabi, UAE
Hamdan Street
Al Masaood Tower
6th floor, Suite 602
P.O. box 46560
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
City: Abu Dhabi
Phone: (+971) 2- 6321920
Fax: (+971) 2- 6313158
Web Site: http://www.netherlands.ae/index.htm
Email: abu@minbuza.nl

Royal Netherlands Embassy in London, England (UK)
38 Hyde Park Gate
London SW7 5DP
England, UK
City: London
Phone: 0044-(0)20-75903200
Fax: 0044-(0)20-72250947
Web Site: http://www.netherlands-embassy.org.uk/

Embassy of Netherlands in Washington DC, U.S.A.
4200 Linnean Avenue, NW,
Washington DC 20008 – USA
City: Washington DC
Phone: (202) 244-5300
Fax: 202-362-3430
Web Site: http://www.netherlands-embassy.org/homepage.asp

Embassy of Netherlands in Montevideo, Uruguay
Leyenda Patria 2880 2o. piso
11300 Montevideo
Uruguay
City: Montevideo
Phone: +598 – 2 – 711 2956
Fax: +598 – 2 – 711 3301
Web Site: http://www.holanda.org.uy/index.html
Email: mtv@minbuza.nl

Embassy of Netherlands in Caracas, Venezuela
Edificio San Juan, Piso 9
Avenida San Juan Bosco
con 2a Transversal
Altamira, Caracas
Venezuela
City: Caracas
Phone: +58-(0)-212-276-9300
Fax: +58-(0)-212-276-9311
Web Site: http://www.mfa.nl/car/homepage
Email: car@minbuza.nl
**********************************
Contact info for the United States http://www.netherlands-embassy.org/location.asp

Contact info for Great Britain http://www.netherlands-embassy.org.uk/passports/index.php?l=1&i=46&d=

Contact info Internationally http://www.dutchgovernment.com

/index.htm Contact info for the Internet challenged (easy links)       Selected areas in the United States….. all others can be found HERE

California (North)
Netherlands Consulate
San Mateo, CA
650-403-0073 (phone)
650-403-0075 (fax)
sanfrancisco@ncla.org (email)
Please call or e-mail us for an appointment.Jurisdiction: Consulate-General Los Angeles
Honorary Consulate: YES
Consul: Mr. Douglas J. Engmann
Vice Consul: Mr. Johan P. Snapper
California (South)
Consulate-General
Los Angeles, CA
310-268-1598 (phone)
310-312-0989 (fax)
los@minbuza.nl (email)
Please call or e-mail us for an appointment.Jurisdiction: Consulate-General Los Angeles
Honorary Consulate: NO    

District of Columbia   Netherlands Embassy
Washington, DC
202-244-5300 (phone)
202-362-3430 (fax)
was@minbuza.nl (email)

Jurisdiction: Embassy Washington
Honorary Consulate: NO Illinois   Consulate-General Chicago
Chicago, IL
312-856-0110 (phone)
312-856-9218 (fax)
chi@minbuza.nl (email)
Please call or e-mail us for an appointment.

Jurisdiction: Consulate-General Chicago
Honorary Consulate: NO       Massachusetts   Netherlands Consulate
Boston, MA
617-542-8452 (phone)
617-542-3304 (fax)
nl.govbos@verizon.net (email)
Office hours are Monday – Friday from 10.00 am until 1.00 pm.

Jurisdiction: Consulate-General New York
Honorary Consulate: YES
Consul: Mr. Hans Gieskes       New York   Consulate-General
New York, NY
212-246-1429 (phone)
212-333-3603 (fax)
netherlandsnyc@cgnewyork.org (email)
Please call or e-mail us for an appointment.

Jurisdiction: Consulate-General New York
Honorary Consulate: NO

Selected areas in Great Britain …. all others can be found HERE Address:
Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
38 Hyde Park Gate
London SW7 5DP
United Kingdom
tel.: 0044 (0)20 7590 3200
fax: 0044 (0)20 7225 0947.
london@netherlands-embassy.org.uk

Netherlands Consulate Manchester
Apex House
266 Moseley Road
Levenshulme
Manchester M19 2LH
Tel: 0161 – 248 2390
Fax: 0161 – 248 2401
E-mail: mieke.slater@harvesthousing.org.uk

Israel and Palestine

Address
Beit Oz, 13th floor
14 Abba Hillel Street
Ramat Gan 52506
Tel: +972 3 75 40 777
Fax: +972 3 75 40 748
E-mail : nlgovtel@012.net.il
The Representative Office in Palestine
Visiting Address:
12, Holanda Street
(off Nablus Road)
El-Bireh, Ramallah
Click here for a map of the location
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1899 Ramallah
P.O. Box 54706 Jerusalem
Tel.: 02-2406639 / 2409797
Fax: 02-2409638

ISRAELI TROOPS: ‘USE THE ROD AND BEAT THE CHILD’

Bound, blindfolded and beaten – by Israeli troops

Children among Palestinian detainees abused during West Bank operation, according to soldiers’ confessions

By Ben Lynfield in Hares, West Bank

Blindfolded Palestinian men sit with hands tied after being detained during the Israeli operation in Hares on 26 March
AFP/GETTY

Blindfolded Palestinian men sit with hands tied after being detained during the Israeli operation in Hares on 26 March

Two Israeli officers have testified that troops in the West Bank beat, bound and blindfolded Palestinian civilians as young as 14. The damaging disclosures by two sergeants of the Kfir Brigade include descriptions of abuses they say they witnessed during a search-and-detain operation involving hundreds of troops in Hares village on 26 March. The testimonies have been seen by The Independent and are expected to add fuel to the controversy over recent remarks by Colonel Itai Virob, commander of Kfir Brigade, in which he said violence against detained Palestinians was justified in order to accomplish missions.

Both the soldiers, from the Harub battalion, highlighted the tight tying of the plastic hand restraints placed on detainees. “There are people who think you need to tighten the restraints all the way, until no drop of blood will pass from here to there,” one soldier said. “It doesn’t take much time until the hands turn blue. There were a lot of people that you know weren’t feeling anything.”

He said about 150 Palestinians, some as young as 14, were bound, blindfolded and detained at the village school during the operation, which lasted from 3am to 3pm. He was told it was aimed at preventing village youths throwing stones against nearby settler roads. It was clear many of the people detained had done nothing wrong, but they were held to gather intelligence, he said.

The worst beatings were in the bathrooms, he said. “The soldiers who took [detainees] to the toilet just exploded [over] them with beatings; cursed them with no reason. When they took one Arab to the toilet so that he could urinate, one of them gave him a slap that brought him to the ground. He had been handcuffed from behind with a nylon restraint and blindfolded. He wasn’t insolent, he didn’t do anything to get on anyone’s nerves … [it was] just because he’s an Arab. He was something like 15 years old.” The soldier said he saw a lot of soldiers “just knee [Palestinians] because it’s boring, because you stand there 10 hours, you’re not doing anything, so they beat people up.”

A second soldier described a “fanatical atmosphere” during the search operations. “We would go into a house and turn the whole thing upside down,” he recalled, but no weapons were found. “They confiscated kitchen knives.”

The first soldier said involvement was widespread.”There were a lot of reservists that participated, and they totally had a celebration on the Palestinians: curses, humiliation, pulling hair and ears, kicks, slaps. These things were the norm.” He said the incidents in the toilet were the “extreme” and added that the beatings did not draw blood. They were “dry beatings, but it’s still a beating”.

The second soldier said some troops stole from houses they searched, even though the people were so poor it was hard for them to find anything to take.

Last month, Colonel Virob testified in a military court that hitting detained Palestinians could be justified. “Standing them against walls, pushing them, a blow that doesn’t cause injury. Certainly, these are things that are commonly used in an attempt to accomplish the mission,” he said. Despite a reprimand of Colonel Virob by the head of central command, General Shamni, and a disavowal by army chief of staff Lt General Gabi Ashkenazi, the remarks are seen by Breaking the Silence, an organisation that collects testimonies of soldiers, as proof that the alleged abuses in Hares cannot be dismissed as an isolated occurrence or low-level improvisations.

In Hares, Ihab Shamlawi, a university student, recalled watching as a high school pupil asked soldiers permission to go to the bathroom. “They put him on the floor, they kicked his legs and beat him,” he said. Ten or 15 other soldiers were watching, Mr Shamlawi recalled. “They all laughed,” he said.

The army spokesman’s office yesterday said an investigation had been opened and added that, following Colonel Virob’s previous remarks, General Shamni had distributed pamphlets to troops underscoring that “when someone is detained, stopped or held … Israel Defence Force soldiers … are absolutely and clearly forbidden to use any force or violence against them”.

Source

PHOTO ESSAY ~~ TORTURE AND THE NEED FOR JUSTICE

Scores of New Yorkers came out on a stormy night to attend a town hall meeting at the N.Y. Society for Ethical Culture. The subject was “torture and the need for justice”. The belief being that for a future without torture we have to start by dealing with the past – the 2,000 torture photos being held back should be released and the people responsible for the torture policy should be punished.

There was an excellent group of speakers – each approaching the subject from a different angle. Between each speech 3 actors read poetry written by prisoners from Guantanamo.

Investigative journalist, Jeremy Scahill, said that torture at Guantanamo continues today. There is an extra-judicial terror squad there called the Immediate Reaction Force (IRF). In effect they are a thug squad that dresses in black, their faces hidden, and they severely beat prisoners, gouge eyes, stick heads in toilets, and bang heads on concrete floors for the slightest rule infraction. He also pointed out that there are now 250,000 private mercenaries fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. He believes that too many people are urging patience with Obama and to give him more time, but as long as people are being killed and tortured we should not be urging patience.

Michael Ratner, a lawyer who represents prisoners at Guantanamo, said that a Democratic Guantanamo is no better than a Republican Guantanamo and it is now Obama’s Guantanamo. Torture is not about getting information – it is about suppression and domination. He discussed Obama’s speech calling for indefinite preventive detention (being held forever without being charged with a crime) as un-American, unconstitutional, and a sign of a declining empire.

Chris Hedges, who, as a war correspondent, saw torture taking place in the wars he covered all over the world, said that torture is a weapon of war, part of the us vs. them culture of war. It is inevitable, part of the dehumanization, the need to enhance death. It has a centrifugal force sucking others into it. Once these forces are unleashed they cannot be held back – we develop a class or torturers that can be used at any time to suppress people abroad or at home. He concluded that empire destroys democracy.

The most devastating part of the evening was the speech of Sister Dianna Ortiz, a torture victim herself, from Guatemala, who has worked with torture survivors for 10 years. She is the founder and director of Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International. She said there are characteristics shared by all torture survivors: loss of control, dignity, security,and hope. Eventually all beg to die. These feelings do not end when the torture ends. They feel shame. Close relationships are difficult because they can’t trust. They do not feel alive, ever. Suicides occur 20 years after the torture. She ended with the following quote from Yehuda Bauer, a holocaust historian, “Thou shall not be a victim; Thou shall not be a perpetrator; and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander”.

Above commentary by Chippy Dee

Photos © by Bud Korotzer










Click on the following images to enlarge



PHOTO ESSAY ~~ NEW YORKERS CONTINUE THEIR STRUGGLE AGAINST TORTURE

Scores of people met on the corner of 42nd St. & Lexington Ave. Half of them put on orange jumpsuits with black hoods over their faces and held their hands behind their back while the others carried signs and photos of acts of torture and handed out leaflets.

At 5 o’clock (rush hour) there was a slow procession up 42nd St. into Grand Central Station. Once inside the station most stood on one of the lower balconies while others continued handing out leaflets. Those on the balcony held huge anti-torture signs. The public response was VERY strong. People were visibly disturbed. Many took photos, asked us why we were there, some argued, and some thanked us for being there. Many police were there but they didn’t hinder the participants.

At 6 PM everyone filed slowly out of the station and walked up Park Ave. to 38 E. 37th St, the Union League Club, where the NYPD had already set up a holding pen for us – apparently we were expected. There was a very small counter demonstration down the street. Two members of our group water boarded a volunteer. This could be seen by the people in the street as well as cars bringing people to the club. Inside John D. Negroponte, Bush’s intelligence czar was giving Gen. David Petraeus a distinguished service award. Other speakers at the club were Richard Holbrooke, Henry Kissinger, and Paul Volker. The demonstrators stood outside chanting “Torture is a war crime” and “Shame!”

At about 8 PM the group left altogether walking west on 37th St. past the counter demonstrators. There was a major shouting match with the police standing in-between shouting “Keep it moving.”

All-in-all it was a very effective demonstration. The sight shocked people and started them thinking about difficult issues. One of the most interesting things was walking through the crowd at GCS and hearing strangers arguing with each other about torture. WCW (World Can’t Wait) did a creative and excellent job. We were privileged being there with them.

A note – the woman in the J. Pierpont Morgan Library sign is Beth Lamont, widow of Corliss Lamont, and the young Asian woman in the light blue raincoat is Jane Lu whose grandfather was tortured by the French in Vietnam.

Above text contributed by Chippy Dee

Photos © by Bud Korotzer



























PHOTO ESSAY ~~ NEW YORKERS AGAINST TORTURE

Photos © by Bud Korotzer







Click on image to enlarge

GAZA… OH BELOVED GAZA

Gaza… oh beloved Gaza

This video describes in pictures and words the shocking details of Israels deliberate ravaging of Palestinian life and society in Gaza. Its purpose is to call attention to the plight of a people under siege, which so far has been chillingly ignored by governments and the world media unwilling to call Israel to account for its criminal execution of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their own land. The video was created by Sonja Karkar for Australians for Palestine on 9 December 2008 using images captured by various courageous photographers on the ground in Gaza, and the haunting sounds of Sada (Echo), composed and played on the oud by Ahmad Al-Khatib. Click HERE to see….
From

LETTING AP IN ON THE SECRET: ISRAELI STRIP SEARCHES

Letting AP in on the Secret: Israeli Strip Searches

By ALISON WEIR

Dahr Jamail & Mohammed Omer (by IPS)

On June 26th a young Palestinian photojournalist named Mohammed Omer was returning home from a triumphant European tour.

In London he had been awarded the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for journalism – the youngest recipient ever and one of the few non-Britons ever to receive the prestigious prize.

In Greece he had been given the 2008 journalism award for courage by the Union of Greek Journalists and had been invited to speak before the Greek parliament.

In Britain, the Netherlands, Greece, and Sweden he had met with Parliament Members and been interviewed on major radio and TV stations.

In the US several years before, he had been named the first recipient of the New America Media’s Best Youth Voice award.

In an Israeli border facility he was violently strip-searched at gunpoint, forced to do a grotesque sort of dance while completely naked, assaulted, taunted about his awards and his ethnicity, and finally, when Israeli officials feared he might have been fatally injured, taken by ambulance to a Palestinian hospital; if he died, it would not be while in Israeli custody.

As readers may have already guessed, Israel was not part of Omer’s speaking tour.

AP, in its over 60 reports from the region in the following week never mentioned any of this.

The reason Omer was even in ‘Israel’ (actually, an “immigration terminal” controlled by Israel on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank) is a simple one: He was simply trying to go from Jordan to his home in the Gaza Strip. Gaza is basically a large concentration camp to which Israel holds the keys. It is extremely difficult for Palestinians to get out. It is just as difficult to get back in.

Despite Omer’s journalism credentials (Gaza correspondent for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs and IPS, stringer for AFP, occasionally appears on BBC, etc.) and despite being invited to receive an international award, Omer was only able to exit Gaza through the considerable efforts of Dutch diplomats.

When the 24-year-old journalist tried to return to Gaza, it again required intercession by the Dutch Embassy. After being forced by Israel to wait in Jordan for five days (and therefore missing his brother’s wedding), Omer finally received word that he would be allowed to go home.

However, when he arrived at the Israeli immigration terminal, an Israel official told him that there was no entry permit for him in the computer and he was told to wait. Three hours later an official came out and took Omer’s cell phone away from him. While Omer’s Dutch Embassy escort waited outside, unaware of what was going on, Omer’s ordeal began.

“He then asked me to leave my belongings and follow him. I recognized we were entering the Shin Bet [Israeli internal security service] offices at Allenby. Upon entering, he motioned for me to sit in a chair within a closed corridor…

“After what seemed to be one hour and thirty minutes, both doors at the end of the corridor opened. I watched as one of the Palestinian passengers exited securing his belt to his trousers. A second man followed behind and was struggling to put on his T-shirt. Immediately I realized I was not in a good place. The rooms from which they exited must be used for strip searching…

A uniformed intelligence officer and two others began rifling through all of Omer’s possessions.

“They were looking for something specific but I wouldn’t know what until green eyes demanded, ‘Where is the money, Mohammed?’

“What money I thought. Of course I had money on me. I was traveling… For a moment I was relieved, thinking this was just a typical shakedown. I’d lose the cash with me, but that would be about it…

“However, my traveling money failed to suffice. Dissatisfied, he pressed, ‘Where is the money from the prize?’

“I realized he was after the award stipend for the Martha Gellhorn Prize from the UK and I told him I did not have it with me. I’d arranged for a bank transfer rather than carry it with me. Visibly irritated the intelligence agent continued to press for money.

“The room filled with more intelligence officers, bringing the total Israeli personnel, most well armed, in the room to eight: eight Israelis and me…

“Dissatisfied that larger sums of money failed to materialize, green eyes accused me of lying. I again repeated the prize money went to bank draft and I already had shown him all the cash I had on me. Avi interjected, ordering me to empty my pockets, which I already had. Seeing they had tapped out, he escorted me into another room, this one empty.

“’OK take off your clothes’ Avi the intelligence officer ordered.

“I asked why. A simple pat-down would have disclosed any money belts or weapons; besides, I had already gone through an x-ray machine before entering the passport holding area.

“He repeated the order.

“Removing all but my underwear, I stood before Avi. In an increasingly belligerent tone he ordered, ‘take off everything’.

“’I am not taking off my underwear,’ I stated. Again he ordered me to remove my underwear.

“At this point I informed him that an escort from the Dutch embassy was currently waiting for me on the other side of the interrogation center and that I was under diplomatic transit.

“He replied he knew that, thus indicating he didn’t care, and again insisted I strip. Again I refused. There was no reason for me to do so.

Omer asked: ‘Why are you treating me this way? I am human being.’

“For a moment I flashed on the scene in the Oscar winning film, The Pianist where the Jewish man, being humiliated by a Nazi quoted Shakespeare, invoking his faith in place of written words, ‘Doth a Jew not have eyes?’ the old man queried, attempting to appeal to the humanity buried somewhere in the soul of his oppressor. Finding myself confronting the same racism and disdain I wanted to ask Avi, ‘Doth a Palestinian not have eyes?’

Would his indoctrination inoculate him from empathy as well? Likely, I reasoned, it would.

“Avi smirked, half chuckling as he informed me, ‘This is nothing compared to what you will see now.’

“With that the intelligence officer unholstered his weapon, pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear. Completely naked, I stood before him as he proceeded to feel me up one side and down the other…

“Avi then proceeded to demand I do a concocted sort of dance, ordering me to move to the right and the side. When I refused, he forced me under his own power to move side to side…”

After awhile Omer was allowed to put his clothes back on, but the interrogation continued. His eight, mostly armed interrogators taunted him over his awards, his appearance on BBC, and the misery he was returning to in what they termed “dirty” Gaza. Finally, after hours in Israeli custody and a total of 12 hours without food or water, Omer collapsed.

“….without warning I began to vomit all over the room. At the same time I felt my legs buckled from the strain of standing and I passed out… I awoke on the floor to someone screaming, repeating my name over and over…

“As he screamed in my ears I felt his fingernails puncturing my skin, gouging, scraping and clawing at the tender flesh beneath my eyes. This was the intelligence officer’s method for gauging my level of consciousness. No smelling salts as is the civilized manner for reviving a person. Clawing at my eyes and tearing the skin on my face proved his manner of rendering aid.

“Realizing I was again conscious, though barely, the Israeli broadened his assault, scooping my head and digging his nails in near the auditory nerves between my head and ear drum. Rather then render first aid, which is the protocol and international law in instances whether prisoners of war or civilians, the soldier broadened his assault. The pain became sharper as he dug his nails, two fingers at a time into my neck, grazing my carotid artery and again challenging my consciousness before pummeling my chest with his full weight and strength.

“I estimate I lay on the floor approximately one hour and twenty minutes and I continued to vomit for what seemed like a half hour. Severely dehydrated, focusing took flight and the room became a menagerie of pain, sound and terror. The stench further exasperated and seemed to inflame my captors further…

“All around me I heard Israeli voices and then one placed his combat boot on my neck pressing into the hard floor. I remember choking, feeling the outline of his shoe and in my increasing delirium thought for a moment perhaps someone was rendering aid. Reality destroyed that hope. Around me, like men watching a sporting match I heard laughing and goading, a gang rape of verbal and physical violence meted by men entrenched in hatred and rage… I again lost consciousness and awoke to find myself being dragged by my feet on my back through my vomit on the floor, my head bouncing on the pavement and body sweeping to-and-fro like a mop…

Eventually, Omer was transferred to a Palestinian hospital, but only after Israeli officials tried to force him to sign a paper absolving them from responsibility.

“In other words, if I died or was permanently disabled as a result of Israel’s actions, Israel could not be held accountable. One would think I was in a third world dictatorship rather than the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’. One would think.”

Where is AP?

One would also think that such treatment of a journalist by America’s “special ally” would be news.

Since journalists tend to be particularly concerned when fellow journalists are victimized, it would be expected that Omer’s abuse would receive considerable press attention – especially since he had just received international recognition from the journalism community. One can only imagine the multitude of headlines that would result if an Israeli journalist, perhaps even one who had not just been feted internationally, had been similarly treated by the Palestinian Authority.

Oddly, however, despite the fact that Reuters, BBC, the UK Guardian, Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper, and others issued news reports, the Associated Press, which serves virtually every daily newspaper in the U.S., sent out nothing on it.

Astounded, I finally phoned AP headquarters in New York to find out how they had missed it.

I asked for the international desk, told them I had a news tip, and briefly described the incident. I was told, “Oh yes, we know about it.”

I asked them when they were going to report it and was told: “The Jerusalem bureau is looking into it.” The Jerusalem bureau is located in Israel; many of its editors and their wives/husbands/children have Israeli citizenship. It is not the most unbiased of bureaus. Yet, it is the control bureau for the region – the filter through which virtually all AP reports, photos, video footage from Palestine and Israel must pass.

A day or two later there was still no story. I phoned the international desk in New York again and was told that the Jerusalem bureau had decided not to cover the incident. There was no explanation.

I tried phoning higher-ups, including CEO Tom Curley, who goes about the country lecturing about the “public’s right to know” and Kathleen Carroll, Executive Editor, to learn on what basis AP had determined this incident was not newsworthy. Neither returned my call. I kept trying, hoping to find somewhere in the AP hierarchy at least a semblance of a journalist committed to AP’s alleged mission of reporting the news “accurately and honestly.”

Finally, I found one. I reached the managing editor in charge of international reporting, and asked him why AP was refusing to cover the case of a prize-winning journalist being strip-searched at gunpoint and physically abused by Israeli officials when he returned to Gaza from receiving the Martha Gellhorn award in London.

The editor admitted that he hadn’t heard of the incident and was interested in the details. I told him what I knew, referred him to the UK Guardian article and others, and he said he’d look into it.

As a result, two weeks after Omer’s ordeal, and after Israel had solidified its denial narrative, AP finally sent out a report.

The belated story, datelined Jerusalem and carrying a byline by Karin Laub, left a great deal to be desired.

It depicted the incident as a “he said/she said” dispute, in which it termed Omer’s statements as “claims,” while never using this verb for Israeli statements. In every case Israeli statements are placed in the rebuttal position.

The lengthy article places Omer’s strongest descriptions in the second half of the story, where they would typically be cut by the averaged-sized print newspaper, and leaves out a great deal of important information.

For example, while AP reports that Omer was discharged from one hospital, it neglects to report that Omer was admitted to a second one where he was hospitalized for four or five days. It does not name the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, neglects any mention of other awards, and omits entirely Omer’s meetings with Parliament Members in multiple countries. It fails to report the statement by the former ambassador from The Netherlands:

“This is by no means an isolated incident, but part of a long-term strategy to demolish Palestinian social, economic and cultural life … I am aware of the possibility that Mohammed Omer might be murdered by Israeli snipers or bomb attack in the near future.”

The international organization Reporters Without Borders reported issued a condemnation of the attack, stating that in the ten days preceding Omer’s incident alone, it had recorded five incidents of “wrongful arrest” of journalists by Israel, and that one journalist was still being held. None of this was in Laub’s article.

All of the missing material, of course, would serve to add credibility to Omer’s statements. Perhaps this pattern of omission was a coincidence.

Early in the story, while admitting that Palestinians complain about “rough” treatment at the border (a considerable understatement), Laub seems to go out of her way to discredit Omer’s description of being forcibly strip-searched, by writing: “However, Omer’s allegation of being forced to strip naked appeared unusual.”

The Strip-Searching “Secret”

This is a bizarre statement.

As Dion Nissenbaum, Jerusalem bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers, wrote last year, “While Israeli security won’t admit it, it is a widely accepted secret that Palestinians and Arabs…are routinely subjected to intense, hours-long questioning that can include strip searches.”

Is it possible that AP is not in on this secret?

The reality is that frequent, random humiliation by Israeli soldiers and officials is part of the Palestinian experience. Numerous degrading strip searches – some of them particularly grotesque – have been forced on Palestinian men, women, and children of all ages for decades.

In addition, Israeli officials periodically strip search others whenever, it appears, they wish, including:

  • The British Consul General (Israeli media reported that her search was “prolonged, needless and humiliating” and that she was “visibly upset);
  • An American holocaust survivor (she was treated to a “cavity search”);
  • Sixteen Christian evangelicals rounded up at gunpoint;
  • Journalists from around the world (an Argentinian journalist wrote: “… they made me go to another office and strip naked. An official came in stands next to me, while I’m naked, with a machine gun in his hand…” A Swiss reporter was forced to remove her pants in public and stand in her underwear, hands raised, in front of an x-ray machine);
  • A wheel-chair bound New Jersey woman with cerebral palsy whose sanitary pad was confiscated, humiliating her publicly;
  • An American doctoral student, who was also subjected to a cavity search… and the list goes on and on.

Yet, somehow, AP missed all of these. In fact, amazingly, a LexisNexis search of Associated Press stories over the past 10 years, using the search terms “Israel” and “strip search,” turns up only one result – a few stories on a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners protesting against, among other things, their daily strip searches by Israeli guards.

Since we think it’s unfair for AP to be excluded from what others in the region know, we compiled a very partial list of reports about Israeli strip-searches, with excerpts from each, and emailed AP the 25-page document. We asked for a correction and received the following response: “This acknowledges receipt of your e-mail. We have no further comment at this time.” Our request for an interview was “respectfully declined.”

Following are just a few of the stories on this topic that AP never reported to the thousands of newspapers, radio and television stations that rely on it for their foreign news. The entire document is available on the If Americans Knew website.

* In 2007 the Palestinian Minister of Women’s Affairs issued a statement protesting the policy of Israeli soldiers taking Palestinian women “to separate rooms in the checkpoint and being forced to remove all clothes, to become fully naked.” The minister demanded that the UN and the international community provide security for Palestinian women.

* Even the New York Times (which justified it) reported about the Allenby border in 1987: “Before any visitor gets in, however, he must go through a stringent security check at the Israeli terminal. Besides being examined by metal detectors, each visitor must undergo a private strip search…”

* A University of Utah law student describes a PhD student conducting research in the region who was detained at the border crossing for six hours, “Then a female guard conducted a strip/cavity search while two male guards observed.”

* A British researcher reports: “While men have also reported forms of sexual torture in jail, women prisoners are particularly vulnerable to this as a form of humiliation by their captors. Women are forced to strip naked in front of guards, many of whom are male, and subjected to brutal body searches. Many women prisoners have detailed sexual assault by Israeli military and prison staff. On some occasions women are detained as a way of threatening or putting pressure on a male member of the family.

* A woman trying to reach a hospital reports: “…the labour pains grew stronger. I saw a lot of soldiers in front of me. I called out at them using the word “baby” which I think some understood. They started to talk to me in Hebrew as they pointed the guns towards me. They used signs and gestures. I understood that they wanted me to show them how pregnant I was which I did. One soldier asked me to take off my robe, which I did. But it was not sufficient and he asked me to remove the T-shirt and the trousers. I had no choice and I was ready to go as far as that in order to get to the hospital before it was late. He asked me to take off my underwear which I did. After this humiliation, they fetched a stretcher from one of the tanks. I was naked. I was carried to a tank and was given intravenous glucose into my arm. A few minutes later, they brought my father-in-law inside the tank. They drove for almost half an hour. I was thinking they were taking me to a nearby hospital but it turns out they were taking us back to the Huwwara checkpoint. We were taken out of the tank and were laid nude on the stretchers for almost one hour…”

* Reuters reported: “Three Israeli soldiers forced a Palestinian man to strip naked at gunpoint and walk like a dog in a West Bank city under curfew…A Reuters photographer snapped Yasser Sharaf, 25, standing naked in a cold, muddy street in Nablus on Sunday as two men were handing him clothes to put on and two Israeli armoured vehicles were pulling away from the scene.”

* Reporters who entered Nablus after the Israeli invasion of 2002 quoted from an interview with one of the inhabitants: “The men were then driven to a nearby yard, ordered to strip naked, and made to lie face down in the dirt. While my neighbor Jamal Sabar was taking off his pants, they shot him dead…”

* “A soldier inside the jeep ordered me to raise my hands and get out of the car and said, ‘take off your shirt.’ I did; then he said, ‘and the pants.’ I did; then he said, ‘the undershirt and underwear.’ I begged him not to force me; and he said, ‘I’ll shoot you.’ And all the soldiers pointed their guns at me. I took off my underclothes and stood naked in front of everybody. He ordered, ‘proceed with your hands up.’ I came up to him and he gave me a transparent plastic bag to cover myself. He blindfolded me and made me sit 20 meters away. Then the soldier shouted at a passenger called Islam ‘Abed al-Sheikh Ibrahim, 18, who was sitting in the front seat, and ordered him to get out of the car. He told the soldier that his leg was broken, but the soldier insisted. He Islam got out and stood on his crutches. The soldier ordered him to take off his clothes. He tried by failed. The soldier came to me and removed the binding off my eyes and told me at gunpoint to go and help him take off his clothes. I went and helped the passenger take off all his clothes. The soldier told me to help him walk to the soldier. We walked up and he gave me another nylon bag for Islam. Then, he told us to sit on the ground. Soon after, the soldier ordered another passenger, Yasser Rasheed al-Sheikh Ibrahim,60, to get out of the car and take off his clothes like us…”

* The Guardian described an incident in which a commander was “awaiting a court martial on several charges, including ordering the boy to strip naked, holding a burning paper under his testicles, threatening to ram a bottle into his anus and threatening to shoot him…”

* “We were mostly older people, sick and wounded. We had nine handicapped people with us, three were from the same family, sons of Abu Ibrahim. Some of us were too old, they were senile. When they told them ‘go left’ they would go right, but they stripped them naked anyway. I tried to help them as much as I could. I was the only one who spoke Hebrew…Close to us was a group of young men. They were handcuffed, naked and lying on their stomachs. The Israeli tanks would pass by them so fast, only forty centimeters away from their heads.”

* “Other residents described how young men were stripped naked and then shot. Yusuf Shalabi, a young man from the camp explained how the Israeli soldiers denied medical treatment to the wounded, ‘…I remember this nightmare very well. It is very difficult to talk about it. I remember them stripping the people naked, they would handcuff them and blindfold them. I remember seeing two wounded men, one was wounded in the shoulder and the other in the leg. They were screaming in pain and the soldiers would not allow them to be treated.’”

Incredibly, AP seems to have missed all of these, and more. As a result, Americans have little idea of the life is like for Paleestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Moreover, strip searches are just the tip of the iceberg. According to an Israeli government report released in 2000 (five years after it had been written) Shin Bet “used systematic torture against Palestinians and regularly lied about it.” An Israeli human rights organization estimated that 85 percent of Palestinian detainees had been subjected to torture. In 2002 Foreign Service Journal carried a major expose on Israel torturing American citizens. AP missed this Foreign Service Journal expose – as did, therefore, every newspaper in the country.

AP’s Ownership

AP is a cooperative. That means that every single newspaper, radio station, and television station that uses AP news stories is an owner of AP. This includes Democracy Now, which apart from a report on Mohammed Omer also seems to have covered this subject minimally, if at all.

It is time for all these news media, and for their readers, listeners, and viewers, to demand that AP provide the full story.

Americans have long given Israel, the size of New Jersey, far more of our tax money than to any other nation on earth. It is time to end the cover up. Americans need to know how Israel is using our money.

Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew (which found in a statistical study that in 2004 AP had covered Israeli children’s deaths at rates 7 times greater than they had reported Palestinian deaths). The full document listing Israeli strip searches can be viewed at http://www.ifamericansknew.org/cur_sit/strip-searches.html. DVDs containing a short video about Israeli strip searching of women and children are available for readers wishing to educate their local media and community on the information that AP is choosing not to report. The Washington Report has created a petition on the incident for people to sign.


MOHAMMED OMER ~~ THE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT …

The following is a repost from yesterday… it’s a must read. To date it is the best account of what really happened to Mohammed Omer…

Gaza Journalist Assaulted by Shin Bet
By Sarah Price


The last words in his acceptance speech were, I can’t wait for the day I retire as a war correspondent. Then he came home to a whole new battle.

This was originally going to be a profile of young Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer, called “Gaza’s Best Hope.” I was going to write about his rise from the poverty-stricken refugee camps of the Gaza Strip to international readership and acclaim; the murder and maiming of family members and demolition of his home by the Israel Occupation Forces that have only served to fuel the fire of his mission: to get the word out about the truth of life in Occupied Palestine; and of his peaceful nature, despite years of tragic loss – his own and that of his homeland. He wants peace on both sides, and admonishes violence toward Israeli citizens as much as he does that toward Palestinians. He made a choice, in his words, “not to pick up a gun, but to pick up a camera,” because he knew the only solution was to document the truth of what is going on, and he has done so diligently for the last seven years.

But since the events of June 26, 2008, the focus has changed.

On Saturday, May 17, I received an excited e-mail from Mohammed: he had won the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize, an award given “for journalism that exposes establishment propaganda,” and would be sharing it with his friend, Dahr Jamail, an American journalist celebrated for his independent reports from Iraq. He had just received the news from John Pilger, an Australian-born, UK-based journalist and former war correspondent who sat on the judging panel, and had come to admire Mohammed for his work. At age 24, he would be the youngest journalist ever to have won it.

He was due some good news. He was still recovering from the loss of two close friends one month earlier: Gazan Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana, who was killed by an Israeli tank shell on April 16; and Palestinian rights activist Riad Hamad, the news of whose suicide circulated a day later. The previous four months had been hell for Gaza, in general. An Israeli siege hit the small strip of land in January, two months after peace talks had begun between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Over 120 Palestinians were dead – most of them civilians, and dozens of them children, and several hundred more injured. A small number of their most critical cases were being sent to Egypt for treatment, but only about one-third were being granted entry. “The rest of the cases,” said Dr. Medhat Abbas, Director of Crisis Management at the Gaza Ministry of Health, “will continue receiving the new formula of PFU in Gaza (‘pray for us’).”

Mohammed had been working constantly through fear, fatigue, and close calls on his own life to keep up with his reports about the siege for the number of publications for whom he writes: The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) in Washington, DC, New Statesman in the UK, Inter Press Service (IPS) in Italy, and several publications throughout Europe, for whom his articles are translated into various languages, as well as maintaining his own website, RafahToday.org, named for his hometown, located on the Egyptian border. He also regularly works to help patients who can’t get the treatment they need in Gaza, to get out and get what they need from Israeli hospitals – an almost impossible feat that he attempts for one patient after another, taking each case personally. He supports his parents and six siblings, and has done so since the beginning of his father’s 12-year imprisonment in an Israeli jail. He found work in a factory, which he would do every day after school, and late into the night. He would come home around 11pm, exhausted from school and work, sleep until about 5am, and get up and do it all again, still barely making enough to feed his family. And he was six years old.

His dream growing up had been to work as an interpreter for the International Red Cross. He loved languages, and even in grade school, taught himself new words in English when he came across them, getting so far ahead of his classmates that they accused him of having an American mother. By his mid-teens, he was already taking courses in international public relations, photography and journalism, and translation. In 2006, he graduated from the Islamic University of Gaza with a BA in English.

But by the time he was 17, his dream of being an interpreter had been replaced by what he saw as an obligation to become a journalist. He was seeing bloodshed on a daily basis – his town being bombed; people being shot by soldiers in the street; and the homes of his relatives and friends being bulldozed with no warning in the middle of the night. And yet, there seemed to be no coverage of this anywhere in the press. No one else is documenting this, he thought, so I need to. He started with just a notepad, writing every day what he saw. After a while, he put together a website, documenting with his words and photographs, life in Gaza.

In 2003, he began keeping a journal regularly on RafahToday. But he was not yet aware of the terrible year he was soon to document.

In January, Israeli forces destroyed two water wells and demolished more than 50 homes in the last week alone, in order to make room for a wall between Rafah and Egypt, its neighbor to the south; between March and May, peace activists Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, and filmmaker James Miller were killed by Israeli forces in Rafah. In March, his own home was demolished by an Israeli bulldozer, with his mother and sister inside. They managed to get out through the kitchen window as the walls and roof fell in, but his mother still suffers from the leg injuries she sustained from her escape.

But by November, things were much worse.

In late September, Mohammed’s younger brother Issam was shot in the leg, which had to be amputated; and on October 18, his younger brother Hussam was shot seven times and killed by an Israeli sniper. Trying to bring his body out of the street, their next door neighbor was also killed, and trying to save her, her husband was injured – all in full view of their small children. “The moments can’t be described when my mother got the news of the murder of my brother,” he wrote. “They were the worst in my whole life.”

But through it all, he persisted. Within a year, he was contributing to WRMEA, Morgenbladet newspaper in Norway, Agence France Presse, and the BBC, as well as several newspapers across Europe. In November 2006, he was awarded his first journalism prize, New America Media’s Best Youth Voice Award, but because of the difficulties getting permission to leave Gaza, he missed the ceremony, but was able to embark on a 15-city tour of the US, to give his presentation of life in Gaza, Gaza on the Ground, to thousands of people. Six months later, he was doing the same thing in Europe, but he had updated it, calling it Welcome to Hell. Days earlier, just before his 23rd birthday, he had survived an encounter with militants in Gaza who had cornered him on a dark street when he was trying to make his way home to Rafah from his work in Gaza City. The three gunmen surrounded him, discussing with each other where to shoot him, and whether or not to just kill him. He talked to and pleaded with them until they tired of him and let him go.

But with great struggle and work has come great admirers. The growing popularity of his writing spread to include international dignitaries and well-known writers. Soon, he was in touch with the likes of Noam Chomsky and Norman Mailer, who, before his passing in November 2007, was helping Mohammed write a book about his life; and had more requests from Europe and the United States for personal appearances. But the ongoing siege in Gaza made leaving even more difficult, so the news of his award in May was tempered with caution – he wanted to combine his visit to receive the award in London on June 16 with the opportunity to accept the invitation to speak to press and parliament members in Greece, Holland, France, and Sweden, and address the House of Commons in London, but didn’t know if he would make it out. The Dutch Foreign Ministry stepped in on his behalf, but Israel was making it very difficult to get the green light. Mohammed had been frustrated in Gaza for some time and was desperate for a chance to get away from the death and destruction he not only had to see every day, but as a journalist, had to seek out. By the end of May, he felt certain he would not get to go. “I am rejected and imprisoned in this hell,” he wrote.

But then the call came that he had been granted exit, and he rushed to get ready to go.

The three-week whirlwind tour of Europe was a great success. The opportunity to meet and speak with so many government and press representatives energized him, and gave him new contacts and notes for future articles. In his acceptance speech on June 16, he thanked his supporters, but said that he looked forward to the day that he could retire as a war correspondent.

Mohammed with co-recipient Dahr Jamail (left) and John Pilger in London,

June 16

(Photo: Paul de Rooij)

In trying to get him permission to leave, they had been careful to do everything correctly, so that getting back in would not be a problem. He was trying to get back to Gaza for his brother Fadi’s wedding, and expected to be home on Sunday, June 22. But upon his arrival in Amman, Jordan, he received the news that Israel was not granting him re-entry. Between Saturday, June 21, and Wednesday, June 25, the Dutch Foreign Ministry worked frantically to convince Israeli officials to let him cross back home to Gaza. John Pilger urged Mohammed to go to the press, but he preferred to handle it diplomatically, and failing that, would go public. But he wanted to see if they could do it quietly first. He was concerned about his status, because upon returning from his US tour in December 2006, he had been stuck in Cairo, trying to get back in, for three weeks, and he had already met people in Jordan who had been stranded there for months. But he hoped that since he had more diplomatic help this time, it wouldn’t take too long. On Wednesday, they finally got word that he would be allowed back in the next day. “Why can’t I go today?” he asked. “We don’t know,” was the response. “They just said tomorrow.” The answer made him suspicious and nervous.

He passed through the Jordan side of the Allenby Bridge crossing early the next morning, but when he came to the Israeli, there was trouble right away. He gave his passport to the woman at passport control and she asked where he was going. When he answered, “Gaza,” she asked “what?” in Hebrew several times as he tried to make her understand. Finally, he answered her in Hebrew, “Azzah.”

“Oh,” she replied. “Actually, according to my computer, you have no coordination.”

He did have coordination, he protested, but she told him to wait at the side, where he stayed for the next 90 minutes, until someone came to get him and told him to bring his bags. He had been through x-ray by this time, and his bags had already been searched and were ready to be picked up. He was made to wait at the Shin Bet office, and could see that there were two cameras on him, on either side. Then he saw two Palestinian men coming out from other offices and they were dressing themselves. He knew then that these were rooms for strip-searching, and that he was probably in trouble.

A young blond Shin Bet agent told him to come with him, collecting his bags from the holding area, where they had been searched already, and demanded his cell phone. Mohammed was going through the Allenby Bridge crossing under diplomatic escort from the Dutch embassy, as he had left, and asked if could call his escorts to let them know what was happening. The young man barked at him that no, he could not.

After a few minutes, another agent, an investigator in his forties referred to as “Avi” by the other agents, entered and started going through all his belongings, along with another interrogator who had joined him. After searching through everything and dumping all his notes, cell phone, and memory cards into a box, they demanded to know where the money was. He wasn’t sure what they meant, but told them what traveling money he had on him – various amounts in British pounds, Euros, Israeli shekels, and Jordanian dinars. They demanded he put it all on the table, which he did, thinking maybe this was a shakedown – they would take the money he had and then let him go. But they were still dissatisfied. They asked again about the English pounds he had, and he realized then that they were looking for the prize money. The Martha Gellhorn Prize, since it was shared, would come out to roughly $5000 USD. But he had felt it safer to have it transferred to his bank, rather than carry it with him. When he told them this, he said, they were visibly irate and called him a liar.

By this point, the room had filled with more agents and he was outnumbered eight-to-one. They were angry and wanted money he didn’t have. And they were armed. When he repeated that he had shown them everything he had on him, Avi escorted him to an empty room.

“Take off your clothes,” he ordered him. Mohammed refused. He had already been through x-ray, and a pat-down would have revealed anything he might have been hiding.

“Take off your clothes,” he demanded again. So, he stripped down to his underwear.

“Take off everything,” he pressed. Mohammed refused again. “I am a journalist,” he said, “and I have an escort from the Dutch embassy waiting for me. Call them and tell them what’s happening and that you want me to take off my clothes.”

Avi retorted that he knew all this, and insisted again that he take off his underwear. By this time, Mohammed was frightened. “Why are you treating me this way?” he asked.

“This is nothing compared to what you will see now,” Avi replied, putting his hand on his revolver, pressing his weight against Mohammed’s hip and forcibly pulling it off. He then patted his body down, “up one side and down the other,” Mohammed said later, and he was subjected to a cavity search. He then demanded he move to the left and right, in some kind of dance. When Mohammed refused, Avi pulled him left and right.

He had held his composure as long as he could, and started to cry. Avi backed off at that point.

“He looked satisfied,” he said. “He just wanted to humiliate me. He didn’t care about what I had. The intention was not to bring me to Gaza.”

He ordered him to get dressed and come back into the other room, where another of the intelligence officers was still going through his belongings.

The agent shook his head at Mohammed. “You are a crazy man,” he said. “I can’t understand why someone who has traveled to Sweden, Holland, Greece, London and Paris is coming back to Gaza. Gaza is a dirty place with dirty people. I thought the dream of those people is to leave Gaza and live in Europe. Why do you want to go to Gaza? There’s nothing in Gaza – no food, no fuel, no clean water. There is darkness. Go live in Paris; it’s beautiful there. Or do you like to be around the Hamas system in Gaza?”

Goading him, and not really looking for a response, he continued: “Aren’t you ashamed to have your name and reputation associated with such a dirty place as Gaza?”

Mohammed answered, “No, I want to be there because I want to be a voice for the voiceless. I want to get the truth out. I have no affiliation with Hamas; I don’t even think they like me.”

“Then you choose to suffer.”

“No,” Mohammed said, “I choose to tell the truth.”

They continued to go through his luggage, taunting him about various items he had come home with:

“What are the perfumes for?”

“My friends and family, people I love.”

“Oh, you have love in your culture?”

“Of course.”

“What is this?” they asked, referring to a trophy he was given by the Greek Union of Journalists. When he told them, Avi replied that Greece was not a friend of Israel, only of the Palestinians.

“I don’t know,” Mohammed responded, wondering how Greece would feel about that, “it’s not my business.”

He had been standing for quite some time by then and had been without food, water, or a toilet for several hours. The stress and abuse caused him to feel faint, and he vomited and collapsed. A doctor said later that he had suffered a nervous breakdown. He was unconscious for nearly an hour and a half on the floor, he estimates, but could hear what they were saying, and feel what they were doing to him.

“They didn’t believe I had really passed out,” he said, “so they were out to make me react to their pressure.”

One agent dug his nails into the skin under his eyes and behind his ears, pinching him. Another pressed his shoe hard enough against his neck, that Mohammed could feel the outline of it. Another used two fingers to press into the space between his neck and chest, cutting off his airway. Mohammed remembers feeling himself choking. The damage to his trachea was so severe that even weeks later, he could not swallow anything but liquids. Finally, another pressed his hands into his chest with all the weight of his body, which eventually resulted in several fractured ribs, and breathing problems. They also continued to taunt him, saying, “Come on, Mohammed, we’re going to take you to Rafah now!,” expecting that would cause him to suddenly recover.

They eventually realized the severity of the situation and began to panic, calling for an ambulance, and an Israeli doctor checked his heart and performed an EKG. He was still unconscious in the ambulance, but Shin Bet agents continued trying to revive him – calling his name, forcing open his eyes, and spraying a sort of smelling salts into his face. But the efforts were not out of concern for his health: they needed him to sign a waiver, releasing them from all responsibility. Fortunately, the Palestinian ambulance driver, Mahmoud Taraira, intervened. He cannot sign that, he protested, he’s unconscious. He added that anything signed in that state of mind is non-binding.

They finally made it to the Palestinian doctors in Jericho, who were reassuring him he would be OK now.

At last able to call his escorts, after at least five hours, he found his cell phone amongst his belongings, but then he noticed his mobile was acting strangely – it was dialing numbers and sending messages by itself. The agents had told him earlier to give it to them and take out the battery. He believes that they used that opportunity to put something in it to track him. For days, it would only work off and on. Sometimes people could get through, others times, not at all. So he borrowed a phone and called the Dutch embassy to come get him. He arrived home safely, but by the next day, he was back in the hospital with breathing problems and chest pains. Due to the damage to his trachea, he couldn’t swallow, and spent six days in European Hospital in Khan Younis, being fed and medicated through an IV drip.

He discovered later that although all the money had been returned, an expensive watch and some other items had not.

In his bed at European Hospital in Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip
(Reuters)

Israel’s immediate responses ranged from being completely unaware of the incident to washing their hands of the actions of Shin Bet.

Lisa Dvir, from the Israeli Airport Authority (IAA), the body responsible for controlling Israel’s borders, told IPS, “We would like to know who Omer spoke to in regard to receiving coordination to pass through Allenby. We offer journalists a special service when passing through our border crossings, and had we known about his arrival this would not have happened.”

The truth is that Palestinian journalists have been targeted for some time.

Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana, 23, had shown up at the site of an air strike on April 16, 2008, to film the outcome of the incident, when he was killed by an Israeli tank shell, filled with small metal darts called flechettes, in full view of the soldiers operating the tank. His car was clearly marked “TV” and “Press,” as was his bullet-proof vest. The blast also injured his soundman, and killed two children in the area instantly, and two more from their injuries days later. He was filming the tank when they fired at him. The tape from his destroyed camera shows the shell coming at him.

Al-Aqsa TV cameraman Imad Ghanem, 21, was shot while he filmed a clash between Palestinian militants and Israeli soldiers on July 5, 2007. As he fell to the ground, he held up his camera to show he was unarmed, but a tape filmed by a colleague shows that he continued to be fired upon. He survived, but lost both legs.

On July 8, 2006, photojournalist Mohammed al Zanoun, 20, was shot by a helicopter as he documented Israeli attacks in Gaza City. As paramedics rushed to save him, he pleaded with them to save the camera, so that what he saw would be documented. He has sustained permanent damage to his head and chest.

Omer had recently reported, after Shana’s death, that “journalists have long been targeted in the region. Since September 2000, Israeli forces have killed nine journalists, and have wounded at least 170 others.”

The news of Mohammed’s attack started to spread on Friday, June 27, as friends and colleagues were in touch with him from his hospital bed.

Hans van Baalen, a member of the Party for Freedom and Democracy in the Dutch parliament, who had been personally responsible for arranging his exit from Gaza both for this European tour and his previous one, in June 2007, said, “I cannot understand it because Israel wanted him to travel through Israel. The Dutch embassy escorted him a year ago and this time, so they should have known he is decent journalist and should have treated him in a decent way, they should also treat other innocent Palestinians and other travelers decently. But this did not happen.”

He filed a protest with the Israeli government and asked that Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen do the same, demanding “an investigation with public conclusions.”

“We will monitor this,” he said. “If we don’t like [the results of the investigation], we will speak out.”

Harry Kney-Tal, the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, assured them that if the claims were accurate, that this act was not according to official procedure. In response to a claim reported by Reuters that an Israeli official said that no rules were breached and that Omer had fallen somehow on his own, breaking his ribs, Kney-Tal said that was not the official response, and that there was a full investigation in progress and he expected results shortly.

However, on July 9, The Israeli Government Press Office released a statement on the incident, discrediting Omer. In it, they claimed that he and his baggage were searched, “due to suspicion that he had been in contact with hostile elements and had been asked by them to deliver items to Judea and Samaria.” (“Judea and Samaria” is a phrase commonly used by the Israeli right wing to dismiss the existence of the West Bank and to claim the area as exclusively Israeli), although he had been x-rayed and his baggage searched before the interrogation occurred. The press release went on to point out several points in Omer’s claim that they said contradicted their investigation, but it failed to cite the sources of their research, and often quoted him out of context.

When the Dutch Press Office became aware of the press release, they were surprised, said spokesman Robert Dekker, and they confronted Ambassador Kney-Tal about it. “He confirmed that this is not the official report, and that it is still expected in the next few days,” he said.

News of Omer’s attack spread quickly across the blogosphere and alternative news sources, as well as media outlets across the Middle East, but getting into the mainstream media in the West has been difficult. Concerned friends and colleagues deluged CNN, BBC and AP offices with requests that they cover the story, to no avail. When it was mentioned by the BBC and the New York Times, it was to say that Israel was denying the charges. But when Karin Laub, from the AP Jerusalem bureau published an article also disputing Omer’s claims, yet also failing to cite sources, it was the story that spread across American news websites. While she was interviewing him, Omer said later, she continually cut him off while he tried to give her his account of the incident, and although in her article she stated that strip-searching was not the norm in Israeli security procedure, when he was telling her about his, she said that that was normal.

More respected writers in the US have also had trouble getting the US press to pay attention.“I’ve been following it closely, signing petitions, joining in protests,” said author and political activist Noam Chomsky. “I’ve brought it to the attention of the very few journalists with whom I still have contact. It will, I’m afraid, be very hard to get the US media to pay any attention, or even to believe the facts.”

Omer’s Martha Gellhorn Prize co-recipient Dahr Jamail has also faced difficulty in getting the news published.

“I’m doing all I can to get it out,” he said. “Nada in the US mainstream, which is no surprise. The only response I got was an email from someone at CBS asking to be removed from my dispatch list when I sent out the press release about his torture. Doing all I can….but of course we know that they will censor this the best they can.”

Omer’s editors at the Washington Report circulated a petition protesting the abuse, which they planned to hand-deliver in a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, garnered approximately 2500 signatures; Israeli civil rights group New Profile also circulated a petition calling for the just treatment of journalists, citing Omer as one of many recent abuses, which had an additional 1000, and British Member of Parliament Colin Breed brought a measure to the Parliament House Assembly, calling on an official criticism of Israel’s torture of Omer, and for Israel to compensate him for his medical costs.

But despite the efforts, Omer is not optimistic. They have committed one crime after another that they have not had to explain or pay for, he says, and he doesn’t believe his case will be any different.

In his article for the Guardian, John Pilger quoted former Dutch ambassador Jan Wijenberg, who said: “This is by no means an isolated incident, but part of a long-term strategy to demolish Palestinian social, economic and cultural life … I am aware of the possibility that Mohammed Omer might be murdered by Israeli snipers or bomb attack in the near future.”

Omer has no doubt that could happen, but is not letting it deter him.

“The Israelis were trying to punish me for the work I am doing and getting the message out,” he told IPS from his hospital bed. “But they won’t break me. As soon as I am better, and my limbs are working properly, I will be back on the beat and reporting what is happening. They have made me more determined than ever.”

Mother Teresa once said, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” It would not be surprising if the same thought crossed Mohammed Omer’s mind once in a while. With his astonishing rise from poverty and tragedy to success and acclaim in his short 24 years, he may very well be Gaza’s best hope. Not merely because of his success, but because of what it took to get it – diligence, hard work, and a daily show of courage that most will never be forced to display; but above all, a belief in his fellow human beings that keeps him going – through the imprisonment of his father, the murder and maiming of his brothers, the demolition of his home and the loss of everything he had, and the brutal attempts to silence him. Gaza’s best hope is that there is still hope.

Barely out of the hospital, still on a liquid diet and unable to breathe comfortably yet, Mohammed is already hard at work, writing again.

This was the introduction to yesterday’s post…

The people of Gaza are not the only people on this earth without a voice. The Americans are not much better off in reality. The corporate media spouts out tons of garbage daily, but are they saying anything? That is the question. The American people are literally left in the dark, reading only what the powers that be want them to read. Every now and again, an exception to the rule appears on the journalistic scene. Sarah Price is such an exception. Sarah is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. She visited Gaza in October 2007, and has written for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and KNBC Los Angeles, and has appeared on Lighthouse TV in Los Angeles, discussing the humanitarian crises in Gaza.

The following is a brilliant example of investigative journalism, an art missing in the pages of the corporate media. Sarah is truly a ‘voice for the voiceless’, in America. The essay below originally appears on her Blog. Hours of research went into the writing of this, including many phone calls abroad to gather information. For this, I personally want to thank her and let her know that her efforts are most appreciated by many.


Thank you Sarah!

ANOTHER ‘VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS’ ~~ THIS TIME IN AMERICA

The people of Gaza are not the only people on this earth without a voice. The Americans are not much better off in reality. The corporate media spouts out tons of garbage daily, but are they saying anything? That is the question. The American people are literally left in the dark, reading only what the powers that be want them to read.

Every now and again, an exception to the rule appears on the journalistic scene. Sarah Price is such an exception. Sarah is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. She visited Gaza in October 2007, and has written for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and KNBC Los Angeles, and has appeared on Lighthouse TV in Los Angeles, discussing the humanitarian crises in Gaza.


The following is a brilliant example of investigative journalism, an art missing in the pages of the corporate media. Sarah is truly a ‘voice for the voiceless’, in America. The essay below originally appears on her Blog. Hours of research went into the writing of this, including many phone calls abroad to gather information. For this, I personally want to thank her and let her know that her efforts are most appreciated by many.


Thank you Sarah!

Gaza Journalist Assaulted by Shin Bet
By Sarah Price


The last words in his acceptance speech were, I can’t wait for the day I retire as a war correspondent. Then he came home to a whole new battle.

This was originally going to be a profile of young Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer, called “Gaza’s Best Hope.” I was going to write about his rise from the poverty-stricken refugee camps of the Gaza Strip to international readership and acclaim; the murder and maiming of family members and demolition of his home by the Israel Occupation Forces that have only served to fuel the fire of his mission: to get the word out about the truth of life in Occupied Palestine; and of his peaceful nature, despite years of tragic loss – his own and that of his homeland. He wants peace on both sides, and admonishes violence toward Israeli citizens as much as he does that toward Palestinians. He made a choice, in his words, “not to pick up a gun, but to pick up a camera,” because he knew the only solution was to document the truth of what is going on, and he has done so diligently for the last seven years.

But since the events of June 26, 2008, the focus has changed.

On Saturday, May 17, I received an excited e-mail from Mohammed: he had won the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize, an award given “for journalism that exposes establishment propaganda,” and would be sharing it with his friend, Dahr Jamail, an American journalist celebrated for his independent reports from Iraq. He had just received the news from John Pilger, an Australian-born, UK-based journalist and former war correspondent who sat on the judging panel, and had come to admire Mohammed for his work. At age 24, he would be the youngest journalist ever to have won it.

He was due some good news. He was still recovering from the loss of two close friends one month earlier: Gazan Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana, who was killed by an Israeli tank shell on April 16; and Palestinian rights activist Riad Hamad, the news of whose suicide circulated a day later. The previous four months had been hell for Gaza, in general. An Israeli siege hit the small strip of land in January, two months after peace talks had begun between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Over 120 Palestinians were dead – most of them civilians, and dozens of them children, and several hundred more injured. A small number of their most critical cases were being sent to Egypt for treatment, but only about one-third were being granted entry. “The rest of the cases,” said Dr. Medhat Abbas, Director of Crisis Management at the Gaza Ministry of Health, “will continue receiving the new formula of PFU in Gaza (‘pray for us’).”

Mohammed had been working constantly through fear, fatigue, and close calls on his own life to keep up with his reports about the siege for the number of publications for whom he writes: The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA) in Washington, DC, New Statesman in the UK, Inter Press Service (IPS) in Italy, and several publications throughout Europe, for whom his articles are translated into various languages, as well as maintaining his own website, RafahToday.org, named for his hometown, located on the Egyptian border. He also regularly works to help patients who can’t get the treatment they need in Gaza, to get out and get what they need from Israeli hospitals – an almost impossible feat that he attempts for one patient after another, taking each case personally. He supports his parents and six siblings, and has done so since the beginning of his father’s 12-year imprisonment in an Israeli jail. He found work in a factory, which he would do every day after school, and late into the night. He would come home around 11pm, exhausted from school and work, sleep until about 5am, and get up and do it all again, still barely making enough to feed his family. And he was six years old.

His dream growing up had been to work as an interpreter for the International Red Cross. He loved languages, and even in grade school, taught himself new words in English when he came across them, getting so far ahead of his classmates that they accused him of having an American mother. By his mid-teens, he was already taking courses in international public relations, photography and journalism, and translation. In 2006, he graduated from the Islamic University of Gaza with a BA in English.

But by the time he was 17, his dream of being an interpreter had been replaced by what he saw as an obligation to become a journalist. He was seeing bloodshed on a daily basis – his town being bombed; people being shot by soldiers in the street; and the homes of his relatives and friends being bulldozed with no warning in the middle of the night. And yet, there seemed to be no coverage of this anywhere in the press. No one else is documenting this, he thought, so I need to. He started with just a notepad, writing every day what he saw. After a while, he put together a website, documenting with his words and photographs, life in Gaza.

In 2003, he began keeping a journal regularly on RafahToday. But he was not yet aware of the terrible year he was soon to document.

In January, Israeli forces destroyed two water wells and demolished more than 50 homes in the last week alone, in order to make room for a wall between Rafah and Egypt, its neighbor to the south; between March and May, peace activists Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall, and filmmaker James Miller were killed by Israeli forces in Rafah. In March, his own home was demolished by an Israeli bulldozer, with his mother and sister inside. They managed to get out through the kitchen window as the walls and roof fell in, but his mother still suffers from the leg injuries she sustained from her escape.

But by November, things were much worse.

In late September, Mohammed’s younger brother Issam was shot in the leg, which had to be amputated; and on October 18, his younger brother Hussam was shot seven times and killed by an Israeli sniper. Trying to bring his body out of the street, their next door neighbor was also killed, and trying to save her, her husband was injured – all in full view of their small children. “The moments can’t be described when my mother got the news of the murder of my brother,” he wrote. “They were the worst in my whole life.”

But through it all, he persisted. Within a year, he was contributing to WRMEA, Morgenbladet newspaper in Norway, Agence France Presse, and the BBC, as well as several newspapers across Europe. In November 2006, he was awarded his first journalism prize, New America Media’s Best Youth Voice Award, but because of the difficulties getting permission to leave Gaza, he missed the ceremony, but was able to embark on a 15-city tour of the US, to give his presentation of life in Gaza, Gaza on the Ground, to thousands of people. Six months later, he was doing the same thing in Europe, but he had updated it, calling it Welcome to Hell. Days earlier, just before his 23rd birthday, he had survived an encounter with militants in Gaza who had cornered him on a dark street when he was trying to make his way home to Rafah from his work in Gaza City. The three gunmen surrounded him, discussing with each other where to shoot him, and whether or not to just kill him. He talked to and pleaded with them until they tired of him and let him go.

But with great struggle and work has come great admirers. The growing popularity of his writing spread to include international dignitaries and well-known writers. Soon, he was in touch with the likes of Noam Chomsky and Norman Mailer, who, before his passing in November 2007, was helping Mohammed write a book about his life; and had more requests from Europe and the United States for personal appearances. But the ongoing siege in Gaza made leaving even more difficult, so the news of his award in May was tempered with caution – he wanted to combine his visit to receive the award in London on June 16 with the opportunity to accept the invitation to speak to press and parliament members in Greece, Holland, France, and Sweden, and address the House of Commons in London, but didn’t know if he would make it out. The Dutch Foreign Ministry stepped in on his behalf, but Israel was making it very difficult to get the green light. Mohammed had been frustrated in Gaza for some time and was desperate for a chance to get away from the death and destruction he not only had to see every day, but as a journalist, had to seek out. By the end of May, he felt certain he would not get to go. “I am rejected and imprisoned in this hell,” he wrote.

But then the call came that he had been granted exit, and he rushed to get ready to go.

The three-week whirlwind tour of Europe was a great success. The opportunity to meet and speak with so many government and press representatives energized him, and gave him new contacts and notes for future articles. In his acceptance speech on June 16, he thanked his supporters, but said that he looked forward to the day that he could retire as a war correspondent.

Mohammed with co-recipient Dahr Jamail (left) and John Pilger in London,

June 16

(Photo: Paul de Rooij)

In trying to get him permission to leave, they had been careful to do everything correctly, so that getting back in would not be a problem. He was trying to get back to Gaza for his brother Fadi’s wedding, and expected to be home on Sunday, June 22. But upon his arrival in Amman, Jordan, he received the news that Israel was not granting him re-entry. Between Saturday, June 21, and Wednesday, June 25, the Dutch Foreign Ministry worked frantically to convince Israeli officials to let him cross back home to Gaza. John Pilger urged Mohammed to go to the press, but he preferred to handle it diplomatically, and failing that, would go public. But he wanted to see if they could do it quietly first. He was concerned about his status, because upon returning from his US tour in December 2006, he had been stuck in Cairo, trying to get back in, for three weeks, and he had already met people in Jordan who had been stranded there for months. But he hoped that since he had more diplomatic help this time, it wouldn’t take too long. On Wednesday, they finally got word that he would be allowed back in the next day. “Why can’t I go today?” he asked. “We don’t know,” was the response. “They just said tomorrow.” The answer made him suspicious and nervous.

He passed through the Jordan side of the Allenby Bridge crossing early the next morning, but when he came to the Israeli, there was trouble right away. He gave his passport to the woman at passport control and she asked where he was going. When he answered, “Gaza,” she asked “what?” in Hebrew several times as he tried to make her understand. Finally, he answered her in Hebrew, “Azzah.”

“Oh,” she replied. “Actually, according to my computer, you have no coordination.”

He did have coordination, he protested, but she told him to wait at the side, where he stayed for the next 90 minutes, until someone came to get him and told him to bring his bags. He had been through x-ray by this time, and his bags had already been searched and were ready to be picked up. He was made to wait at the Shin Bet office, and could see that there were two cameras on him, on either side. Then he saw two Palestinian men coming out from other offices and they were dressing themselves. He knew then that these were rooms for strip-searching, and that he was probably in trouble.

A young blond Shin Bet agent told him to come with him, collecting his bags from the holding area, where they had been searched already, and demanded his cell phone. Mohammed was going through the Allenby Bridge crossing under diplomatic escort from the Dutch embassy, as he had left, and asked if could call his escorts to let them know what was happening. The young man barked at him that no, he could not.

After a few minutes, another agent, an investigator in his forties referred to as “Avi” by the other agents, entered and started going through all his belongings, along with another interrogator who had joined him. After searching through everything and dumping all his notes, cell phone, and memory cards into a box, they demanded to know where the money was. He wasn’t sure what they meant, but told them what traveling money he had on him – various amounts in British pounds, Euros, Israeli shekels, and Jordanian dinars. They demanded he put it all on the table, which he did, thinking maybe this was a shakedown – they would take the money he had and then let him go. But they were still dissatisfied. They asked again about the English pounds he had, and he realized then that they were looking for the prize money. The Martha Gellhorn Prize, since it was shared, would come out to roughly $5000 USD. But he had felt it safer to have it transferred to his bank, rather than carry it with him. When he told them this, he said, they were visibly irate and called him a liar.

By this point, the room had filled with more agents and he was outnumbered eight-to-one. They were angry and wanted money he didn’t have. And they were armed. When he repeated that he had shown them everything he had on him, Avi escorted him to an empty room.

“Take off your clothes,” he ordered him. Mohammed refused. He had already been through x-ray, and a pat-down would have revealed anything he might have been hiding.

“Take off your clothes,” he demanded again. So, he stripped down to his underwear.

“Take off everything,” he pressed. Mohammed refused again. “I am a journalist,” he said, “and I have an escort from the Dutch embassy waiting for me. Call them and tell them what’s happening and that you want me to take off my clothes.”

Avi retorted that he knew all this, and insisted again that he take off his underwear. By this time, Mohammed was frightened. “Why are you treating me this way?” he asked.

“This is nothing compared to what you will see now,” Avi replied, putting his hand on his revolver, pressing his weight against Mohammed’s hip and forcibly pulling it off. He then patted his body down, “up one side and down the other,” Mohammed said later, and he was subjected to a cavity search. He then demanded he move to the left and right, in some kind of dance. When Mohammed refused, Avi pulled him left and right.

He had held his composure as long as he could, and started to cry. Avi backed off at that point.

“He looked satisfied,” he said. “He just wanted to humiliate me. He didn’t care about what I had. The intention was not to bring me to Gaza.”

He ordered him to get dressed and come back into the other room, where another of the intelligence officers was still going through his belongings.

The agent shook his head at Mohammed. “You are a crazy man,” he said. “I can’t understand why someone who has traveled to Sweden, Holland, Greece, London and Paris is coming back to Gaza. Gaza is a dirty place with dirty people. I thought the dream of those people is to leave Gaza and live in Europe. Why do you want to go to Gaza? There’s nothing in Gaza – no food, no fuel, no clean water. There is darkness. Go live in Paris; it’s beautiful there. Or do you like to be around the Hamas system in Gaza?”

Goading him, and not really looking for a response, he continued: “Aren’t you ashamed to have your name and reputation associated with such a dirty place as Gaza?”

Mohammed answered, “No, I want to be there because I want to be a voice for the voiceless. I want to get the truth out. I have no affiliation with Hamas; I don’t even think they like me.”

“Then you choose to suffer.”

“No,” Mohammed said, “I choose to tell the truth.”

They continued to go through his luggage, taunting him about various items he had come home with:

“What are the perfumes for?”

“My friends and family, people I love.”

“Oh, you have love in your culture?”

“Of course.”

“What is this?” they asked, referring to a trophy he was given by the Greek Union of Journalists. When he told them, Avi replied that Greece was not a friend of Israel, only of the Palestinians.

“I don’t know,” Mohammed responded, wondering how Greece would feel about that, “it’s not my business.”

He had been standing for quite some time by then and had been without food, water, or a toilet for several hours. The stress and abuse caused him to feel faint, and he vomited and collapsed. A doctor said later that he had suffered a nervous breakdown. He was unconscious for nearly an hour and a half on the floor, he estimates, but could hear what they were saying, and feel what they were doing to him.

“They didn’t believe I had really passed out,” he said, “so they were out to make me react to their pressure.”

One agent dug his nails into the skin under his eyes and behind his ears, pinching him. Another pressed his shoe hard enough against his neck, that Mohammed could feel the outline of it. Another used two fingers to press into the space between his neck and chest, cutting off his airway. Mohammed remembers feeling himself choking. The damage to his trachea was so severe that even weeks later, he could not swallow anything but liquids. Finally, another pressed his hands into his chest with all the weight of his body, which eventually resulted in several fractured ribs, and breathing problems. They also continued to taunt him, saying, “Come on, Mohammed, we’re going to take you to Rafah now!,” expecting that would cause him to suddenly recover.

They eventually realized the severity of the situation and began to panic, calling for an ambulance, and an Israeli doctor checked his heart and performed an EKG. He was still unconscious in the ambulance, but Shin Bet agents continued trying to revive him – calling his name, forcing open his eyes, and spraying a sort of smelling salts into his face. But the efforts were not out of concern for his health: they needed him to sign a waiver, releasing them from all responsibility. Fortunately, the Palestinian ambulance driver, Mahmoud Taraira, intervened. He cannot sign that, he protested, he’s unconscious. He added that anything signed in that state of mind is non-binding.

They finally made it to the Palestinian doctors in Jericho, who were reassuring him he would be OK now.

At last able to call his escorts, after at least five hours, he found his cell phone amongst his belongings, but then he noticed his mobile was acting strangely – it was dialing numbers and sending messages by itself. The agents had told him earlier to give it to them and take out the battery. He believes that they used that opportunity to put something in it to track him. For days, it would only work off and on. Sometimes people could get through, others times, not at all. So he borrowed a phone and called the Dutch embassy to come get him. He arrived home safely, but by the next day, he was back in the hospital with breathing problems and chest pains. Due to the damage to his trachea, he couldn’t swallow, and spent six days in European Hospital in Khan Younis, being fed and medicated through an IV drip.

He discovered later that although all the money had been returned, an expensive watch and some other items had not.

In his bed at European Hospital in Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip
(Reuters)

Israel’s immediate responses ranged from being completely unaware of the incident to washing their hands of the actions of Shin Bet.

Lisa Dvir, from the Israeli Airport Authority (IAA), the body responsible for controlling Israel’s borders, told IPS, “We would like to know who Omer spoke to in regard to receiving coordination to pass through Allenby. We offer journalists a special service when passing through our border crossings, and had we known about his arrival this would not have happened.”

The truth is that Palestinian journalists have been targeted for some time.

Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana, 23, had shown up at the site of an air strike on April 16, 2008, to film the outcome of the incident, when he was killed by an Israeli tank shell, filled with small metal darts called flechettes, in full view of the soldiers operating the tank. His car was clearly marked “TV” and “Press,” as was his bullet-proof vest. The blast also injured his soundman, and killed two children in the area instantly, and two more from their injuries days later. He was filming the tank when they fired at him. The tape from his destroyed camera shows the shell coming at him.

Al-Aqsa TV cameraman Imad Ghanem, 21, was shot while he filmed a clash between Palestinian militants and Israeli soldiers on July 5, 2007. As he fell to the ground, he held up his camera to show he was unarmed, but a tape filmed by a colleague shows that he continued to be fired upon. He survived, but lost both legs.

On July 8, 2006, photojournalist Mohammed al Zanoun, 20, was shot by a helicopter as he documented Israeli attacks in Gaza City. As paramedics rushed to save him, he pleaded with them to save the camera, so that what he saw would be documented. He has sustained permanent damage to his head and chest.

Omer had recently reported, after Shana’s death, that “journalists have long been targeted in the region. Since September 2000, Israeli forces have killed nine journalists, and have wounded at least 170 others.”

The news of Mohammed’s attack started to spread on Friday, June 27, as friends and colleagues were in touch with him from his hospital bed.

Hans van Baalen, a member of the Party for Freedom and Democracy in the Dutch parliament, who had been personally responsible for arranging his exit from Gaza both for this European tour and his previous one, in June 2007, said, “I cannot understand it because Israel wanted him to travel through Israel. The Dutch embassy escorted him a year ago and this time, so they should have known he is decent journalist and should have treated him in a decent way, they should also treat other innocent Palestinians and other travelers decently. But this did not happen.”

He filed a protest with the Israeli government and asked that Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen do the same, demanding “an investigation with public conclusions.”

“We will monitor this,” he said. “If we don’t like [the results of the investigation], we will speak out.”

Harry Kney-Tal, the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, assured them that if the claims were accurate, that this act was not according to official procedure. In response to a claim reported by Reuters that an Israeli official said that no rules were breached and that Omer had fallen somehow on his own, breaking his ribs, Kney-Tal said that was not the official response, and that there was a full investigation in progress and he expected results shortly.

However, on July 9, The Israeli Government Press Office released a statement on the incident, discrediting Omer. In it, they claimed that he and his baggage were searched, “due to suspicion that he had been in contact with hostile elements and had been asked by them to deliver items to Judea and Samaria.” (“Judea and Samaria” is a phrase commonly used by the Israeli right wing to dismiss the existence of the West Bank and to claim the area as exclusively Israeli), although he had been x-rayed and his baggage searched before the interrogation occurred. The press release went on to point out several points in Omer’s claim that they said contradicted their investigation, but it failed to cite the sources of their research, and often quoted him out of context.

When the Dutch Press Office became aware of the press release, they were surprised, said spokesman Robert Dekker, and they confronted Ambassador Kney-Tal about it. “He confirmed that this is not the official report, and that it is still expected in the next few days,” he said.

News of Omer’s attack spread quickly across the blogosphere and alternative news sources, as well as media outlets across the Middle East, but getting into the mainstream media in the West has been difficult. Concerned friends and colleagues deluged CNN, BBC and AP offices with requests that they cover the story, to no avail. When it was mentioned by the BBC and the New York Times, it was to say that Israel was denying the charges. But when Karin Laub, from the AP Jerusalem bureau published an article also disputing Omer’s claims, yet also failing to cite sources, it was the story that spread across American news websites. While she was interviewing him, Omer said later, she continually cut him off while he tried to give her his account of the incident, and although in her article she stated that strip-searching was not the norm in Israeli security procedure, when he was telling her about his, she said that that was normal.

More respected writers in the US have also had trouble getting the US press to pay attention.“I’ve been following it closely, signing petitions, joining in protests,” said author and political activist Noam Chomsky. “I’ve brought it to the attention of the very few journalists with whom I still have contact. It will, I’m afraid, be very hard to get the US media to pay any attention, or even to believe the facts.”

Omer’s Martha Gellhorn Prize co-recipient Dahr Jamail has also faced difficulty in getting the news published.

“I’m doing all I can to get it out,” he said. “Nada in the US mainstream, which is no surprise. The only response I got was an email from someone at CBS asking to be removed from my dispatch list when I sent out the press release about his torture. Doing all I can….but of course we know that they will censor this the best they can.”

Omer’s editors at the Washington Report circulated a petition protesting the abuse, which they planned to hand-deliver in a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, garnered approximately 2500 signatures; Israeli civil rights group New Profile also circulated a petition calling for the just treatment of journalists, citing Omer as one of many recent abuses, which had an additional 1000, and British Member of Parliament Colin Breed brought a measure to the Parliament House Assembly, calling on an official criticism of Israel’s torture of Omer, and for Israel to compensate him for his medical costs.

But despite the efforts, Omer is not optimistic. They have committed one crime after another that they have not had to explain or pay for, he says, and he doesn’t believe his case will be any different.

In his article for the Guardian, John Pilger quoted former Dutch ambassador Jan Wijenberg, who said: “This is by no means an isolated incident, but part of a long-term strategy to demolish Palestinian social, economic and cultural life … I am aware of the possibility that Mohammed Omer might be murdered by Israeli snipers or bomb attack in the near future.”

Omer has no doubt that could happen, but is not letting it deter him.

“The Israelis were trying to punish me for the work I am doing and getting the message out,” he told IPS from his hospital bed. “But they won’t break me. As soon as I am better, and my limbs are working properly, I will be back on the beat and reporting what is happening. They have made me more determined than ever.”

Mother Teresa once said, “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” It would not be surprising if the same thought crossed Mohammed Omer’s mind once in a while. With his astonishing rise from poverty and tragedy to success and acclaim in his short 24 years, he may very well be Gaza’s best hope. Not merely because of his success, but because of what it took to get it – diligence, hard work, and a daily show of courage that most will never be forced to display; but above all, a belief in his fellow human beings that keeps him going – through the imprisonment of his father, the murder and maiming of his brothers, the demolition of his home and the loss of everything he had, and the brutal attempts to silence him. Gaza’s best hope is that there is still hope.

Barely out of the hospital, still on a liquid diet and unable to breathe comfortably yet, Mohammed is already hard at work, writing again.

The above will appear in the July edition of the Independent Monitor.

CHOSEN PEOPLE OR ZIODREK ~~ A PHOTOESSAY

Chosen People
or
Ziodrek?

History repeating itself?


The ‘Salvation Army’?


Show me Palestine on the map and we’re outta here…..


Never again???



Say what????

Humiliation? You ain’t seen nothing yet…..


All brought to you by the USA via AIPAC….

WHY WAS MOHAMMED OMER THE VICTIM OF ISRAELI TERROR?

The answer is simple…. Mohammed says what the zionists don’t want him to say. He speaks the truth on behalf of a million and a half ‘voiceless’ citizens of Gaza. The truth is the biggest enemy of zionism so they attempted to silence him.

The state of Israel has rendered them voiceless in order to continue with the holocaust against their nation…. a holocaust that they wish would remain unnoticed and kept silent about.

Mohammed refuses to remain silent, and for that he was rewarded by fellow journalists… for those two reasons he was himself a victim of the worst type of torture imaginable. Watch the following series of videos to see what a special person Mohammed is. They are taken from his own Website, Rafah Today.

ASSOCIATED PRESS ‘ALLEGEDLY’ COVERS MOHAMMED OMER’S ORDEAL

We have been waiting exactly two weeks to the day for the Associated Press to write a report on the inhuman treatment that Mohammed Omer suffered at the hands (and feet) of Israel’s security officers when he crossed into Israel on his way home to Gaza.

They just issued a report on the situation…. not the situation regarding Mohammed Omer, but rather on the Israeli government’s report denying the situation ever happened.

At least now we know where AP stands…. on very shaky ground, to say the least. When the truth does come out, and it will…. AP and the likes of them will have allot of ‘splaining to do Lucy’.

Here is their so-called report via Fox News


Gaza reporter alleges was mistreated in Israel

Thursday, July 10, 2008

JERUSALEM — A Gaza journalist and the Israeli government offered sharply conflicting versions Thursday of what happened to him at an Israeli border crossing two weeks earlier.

Mohammed Omer said he was forced to strip naked at gunpoint during questioning and then was not given medical attention for more than an hour after he collapsed. Israeli officials denied he was threatened with a gun and insisted he was treated fairly at all times.

Omer’s allegations about his treatment at the Allenby Bridge crossing also made diplomatic ripples. The Dutch Foreign Ministry said the Israeli government had been asked for clarifications because Dutch diplomats served as Omer’s escort for part of his journey.

Palestinians have long complained about rough treatment at Allenby. However, Omer’s allegation of being forced to strip naked appeared unusual.

Israel’s Government Press Office said in a statement that Omer was never subjected to physical or mental abuse. It said his account was full of contradictions and was “without foundation.”

Omer, 24, claims he was mistreated June 26 after he entered the Allenby crossing between Jordan and the West Bank. A Gaza resident who writes for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, the New Statesman and other publications, Omer was en route back home following a three-week European tour that included receiving a journalism prize in London.

Omer said that after waiting 90 minutes at Israeli passport control, he was taken to a back area, where he waited again before a Shin Bet security agent and a policeman brought in his luggage and searched item by item.

At one point, Omer claimed, the policeman ordered him to strip naked. Omer said in a 10-page statement that after he refused repeatedly, the officer “unholstered his weapon, pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear.”

Omer said he was later allowed to get dressed again, but then was insulted and ridiculed by Israel agents, to the point of tears. He said he eventually vomited and fainted.

He claims that when he came to, an Israeli scratched his face deeply under his eyes, then someone gouged his head, clawed at his eyes and tore his skin. An Israeli pressed his neck to the floor with a boot, he charges, saying he suffered “beating, scratching and assaults” before Israelis summoned an ambulance that took him to a hospital in Jericho.

Dr. Diaa Husseini, who examined Omer at the hospital, said the journalist had no signs of physical injury. He said Omer had suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by emotional stress and was given stomach medication and released after two hours.

The Israeli government confirmed Omer’s luggage was searched. It also said he was required to undergo a body search. It said the search took several minutes and “was conducted according to the relevant regulations,” but did not explain what those rules are.

Omer’s claim that he was threatened at gunpoint is baseless, the statement said.

The Israeli paramedic who attended to Omer found no physical reason for his collapse, the Government Press Office said, adding that Omer’s “behavior raises doubts as to the sincerity of the situation.”

Mohammed Omer ‘allegedly’ in the hospital after his ‘alleged’ beating (not part of the above article)


MOHAMMED OMER, THE ‘VOICE’ ISRAEL TRIED TO SILENCE SPEAKS ON DEMOCRACY NOW

Award-Winning Palestinian Journalist Mohammed Omer Details Abuse by Israeli Security Officials

We go to Gaza to speak with award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer. The twenty-four-year-old journalist and photographer from Gaza was physically and psychologically abused by Israeli security officials late last month. Omer, who is a correspondent for the Inter Press Service, was on his way back home after receiving the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in London.

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The transcript follows……

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer. The twenty-four-year-old journalist and photographer from Gaza was physically and psychologically abused by Israeli security officials late last month. He is a correspondent for the Inter Press Service, was on his way back home after receiving the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in London.

Mohammed Omer says he was interrogated, strip-searched and beaten by eight armed Shin Bet officials. He was hospitalized for a week after the ordeal. The Shin Bet security service issued a response, saying Omer “received decent treatment and no extraordinary measures were taken against him.”

At twenty-four, Omer has seen most of his family killed or wounded. He is the youngest winner of the Martha Gellhorn award, named after the famous US war correspondent, given to journalists who expose establishment propaganda. His 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.”

Mohammed Omer joins me right now on the phone from Gaza. Welcome to Democracy Now!

MOHAMMED OMER: Thanks, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what happened and when it happened? You were just coming back from London after receiving your award?

MOHAMMED OMER: Well, let me mention before I start that I’m also writing for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs in Washington, D.C.

When I was coming back from my award ceremony and also a speaking engagement, I was stopped for nearly one hour and a half before an Israeli Shin Bet officer came to me and started collecting my bags, which were securely checked already. I kept waiting for some time until they got my luggage and they started checking everything.

The Shabak officer just came to me and then said, “You are a crazy man.” And I just kept quiet and listened to what he’s going to say. And then he said, “Is there anyone who has been to the Netherlands, to France, to Sweden, to Greece and to the United Kingdom and come back to Gaza Strip? Gaza is a dirty place. Why do you come back to Gaza? Gaza is a dirty place, and the people there are dirty. Why do you come to live in such a place, where there is no electricity, there is no light, and there is darkness, and there is shortages of fuel, and there is lots of difficulties? Why don’t you live in France, instead?”

And I continued to explain to the Shabak officer that I choose to come, because I want to come back to Gaza and to be a voice for the voiceless. I want to be the person who gets the message out of the Gaza Strip and to help the world understand what’s going on. And then he answered me, “OK, Mohammed, then it’s your choice. You choose to suffer.” I said, “Not really. I don’t choose to suffer. I choose to tell the truth.”

Then he started to ask me how much money I have. I told him that I have Jordanian dinar, I have Israeli shekels, and I have euros, and I have also English pounds. He said, “Put all the money on the table here.” I put all the money on the table, and then he said to me, “How much English pounds do you have?” I said, “I have 480 pounds.” And then he said, “No, you have more.” And then I said, “No, I don’t.” Then he said, “You’re a liar.” I said, “I’m not a liar. All the money I have is here.” And then I understood what he’s asking about when he was stressing about the English pounds. Then I told him, “Well, if you are asking about the money that I won from the prize, the Martha Gellhorn Prize, then I don’t have them on me now, and they will be sent via bank.”

Avi took me inside a room, where he asked me—in an empty room, where he asked me, “Take off your clothes.” I told him, “I’m not going to take off my clothes, because I have the Dutch embassy waiting for me outside.” After some time, I had to take off my clothes. He said, “Take off your T-shirt.” I take it off. I took off my jeans. I took off my shoes and my socks. And then he’s coming to me—he’s getting closer to me, and then he says, “Take off your underwear.” I said, “I’m not going to take off my underwear. There is an embassy waiting outside for me.” He said, “I know that there is an embassy waiting for you. Take off your underwear.” I said, “I’m not going to take it off.” Then he was putting his hand on his revolver and kept looking at me. “Mohammed, take off your underwear,” he says. And then I said, “I’m not going to take it off, because this is a humiliation. You’re trying to humiliate me. It’s not security checking, because I went through the security system like anyone else, and you are treating me differently.” And then he said, “Take it off.” And then I said, “I’m not going to take it off.”

So he went down to my knees, where he pulled down my underwear to make me totally naked. I looked at him, and then I told him, “OK? So what are you trying to do here?” And he said, “Go right, go left.” I said, “I’m not going to move right or left. I’m totally naked.” And then he started humiliating me and laughing. And I continued explaining to him, “Why do you treat me that way? I’m a human being, and I don’t deserve this kind of treatment.” Then he said to me, “Well, still, you have seen nothing. You will see more.” He continued to interrogate me and to continue to search me, stripping and searching me while I was totally naked. And then he told me, “Go and get your clothes on.” I put my clothes on, and I went back to the hall where the travelers are coming.

And then I had all my clothes on, and I found the Shabak agents. They are checking everything. They have collected all the documents that I have in my suitcases. They’ve collected all the information—my cell phone, my memory cards, my business cards for parliament members I met in the Swedish parliament, in the Dutch parliament, in the Greek parliament, and also they have seen also the House of Commons parliament members that I met. And then he started on me, “Oh, you were even on the BBC World Service.” I said, “Of course, I was on the BBC World Service, talking about Gaza and the humanitarian situations there.” “You were at this parliament, at that parliament. You were speaking here, you were speaking there.” I said, “Of course,” because he can see all the people I met, he can see all the business cards that I have in there.

And then he said, “Then I have only one problem,” that I’m talking too much. I said, “Well, it’s my job to talk, and I want that, and it’s my choice. I want to get the message out.” Then he said to me, “If I knew that you would be coming back to Gaza, I wouldn’t have let you out in the first place. If I knew that’s your dream, I thought”—he said, “I thought that your dream is like the other Gazans, young men who get out of Gaza and never come back again.” I told him, “Well, that’s not my dream. I want to come back, because Gaza is my home, and I want to be a voice for the voiceless.”

He continued to check everything and every detail, just checking my clothes and every detail, just collecting all the notebooks and all the information and all the brainstorming information and everything that I got from the parliament. He was making even fun of the parliament members that I met, including House of Commons. “Do you think those people are going to help you?” he asked. And then I tell him, “Well, I’m trying to get the message out. I’m not seeking for their help. I’m trying just to inform them about what’s happening in Gaza.”

He starts interrogating, and then he said, “Why do you bring all this perfumes?” I said to him, “Excuse me. Could you do me a favor? Once you check everything in this suitcases, could you please return it as it is? I don’t mind you checking it. No problem. But return it as it is.” And then he said to me in Hebrew, “Sheket,” which means “shut up.” And then I said, “Well, as a journalist, I’m not used to shut up, but I will have to keep it quiet at some point.” And then he said, “Why do you bring these perfumes for?” I said, “These perfumes are for friends and people I love, and they are just gifts for people that I like.” And then he said to me, “Oh, is love part of your culture, as well?” I said, “Of course.”

And then he continued interrogating, and he saw a trophy from the Union of Greek Journalists. I have received a trophy as a courageous journalist for 2008 from Gaza. And then he said, “What’s this?” I explained that it’s a trophy from the Union of Greek Journalists. And then he said to me, “Mohammed, you know that Greece is not a friend of Israel? You know that Greece is a friend of the Palestinians? Only the Palestinians and not Israel?” I said, “Well, I don’t really care. And that’s none of my business. It’s a country. I have received an invitation from the parliament in Greece, and I went there to speak after—or before I went to collect my prize.”

I collapsed during the interrogation. I fainted and—on the ground. And I started vomiting everywhere. And then the soldiers, they started gathering around me. I estimate nearly one hour and a half vomiting on the ground. And one of the Shabak officers—I was unconscious for most of the time, but I can remember one of the things that they were doing to me. He was using his nail fingers and pinching me all the way, trying to cause me pain under my eyes and under the soft part of my eye. I thought what these people are doing is basically they are trying to torture me. And one of them who was trying to do that, the same thing, pinching me using his nail fingers under my ears, and then one other of them who tried to—who put his shoes on my neck. I could feel actually the outline of his shoes on my neck, moving right and left.

I started vomiting again and again, especially after one of the soldiers, he had both his two fingers inside the hole between my neck and my chest. There is a little hole, and he put it all the way inside and tried to grab my bones, to grab me from my bones different times. That was the most painful thing. And then, other one who was trying to put his hands on my chest and all his weight on my chest. He was—it was actually meant to break me and to break my ribs, because he put all his weight. And the man who continued, or the soldier who continued to do—to put his feet and his shoes on my neck, that can’t be first aid at all. When I told the doctors here in Gaza what happened to me, they said that can’t be a first aid, and it can’t be something like that, that’s torture.

They continued to do that until one of the soldiers, he dragged me out from my feet, and my head on the ground, on the floor, and my back on the floor. He dragged me all the way, taking me into a few meters away, where they started to make fun, and they were joking. I could hear they were joking while I was lying down. At that moment, I felt how it feels for a black African man to be under the apartheid system. That’s what I felt at that moment. I was unconscious, on and off, and suddenly I found that they are taking me in a wheelchair, and they have said that I had nervous breakdown.

They take me to an army doctor. I could see the M-16 gun with the army doctor who tried to treat me. He tried to put—to install the heart machine to do heart test on my body. And then he suddenly—and still, there is one on the table while I was lying down. He is pinching me, trying to torture me in the same way. And I think he is also the same one who was doing the job before. They continued to do it. And after that, I heard the soldiers shouting at each other in Hebrew. And I could hear the English word more than one time, “ambulance, ambulance, ambulance,” after they realized that I am not conscious for some time.

And then they transfer me into a Palestinian ambulance for the Red Crescent, where I was taken from there into other place. And then, before the ambulance started to move, the ambulance driver and other paramedic, who was a Palestinian guy from Jericho, they had someone knocking at the door of the ambulance, and that is Shabak officer. I think it’s Avi, the same soldier who asked me to strip and to take off all my clothes. And then they say, “Mohammed, you have to sign on this.” I wasn’t really totally conscious to know what he wants me to sign on, but he wants me to sign on a paper showing that Shabak or Shin Bet Israel security is not responsible in what’s happening to me when I leave. I did not sign it, because I wasn’t conscious. And also, the other guys, the ambulance driver, they say, “Mohammed is unconscious, and he cannot at all do anything or sign any paper.”

It continued like that until the ambulance driver told them, “Should I tell the Dutch embassy? They are waiting outside. Should I tell them to follow us and to come to the hospital, tell them that Mohammed is inside the ambulance?” And he told him, “Listen, it’s none of your business. Don’t tell the Dutch that Mohammed is in this car. Just take him to the hospital, and that’s it. Don’t tell anybody about what happened.”

When I was transferred to the hospital, I found myself suddenly in a hospital surrounded by doctors, and that is—I asked him where I am. They say, “You are at Jericho hospital,” where I was—I called—the hospital called the embassy, and the embassy came from there to take me. And I was transferred from Jericho to Gaza, where I was transferred to the Gaza European hospital, where I spent many days, having nearly sixty days—six days it’s been since I was in the hospital.

AMY GOODMAN: Mohammed Omer, we just have two minutes, and I wanted to ask—John Pilger, who gave you the award, a well-known Australian journalist who lives in Britain, a filmmaker, wrote a piece about your treatment and said, “The former ambassador Jan Wijenberg said: ‘This is by no means an isolated incident, but part of a long-term strategy to demolish Palestinian social, economic and cultural life … I am aware of the possibility that Mohammed Omer might be murdered by Israeli snipers or bomb attack in the near future.’” Again, that was the former Dutch ambassador who said this. Your final comments?

MOHAMMED OMER: Well, I think this is possible. Once Israel has killed our colleague, the Reuters cameraman, they can kill me. I thought that the fact that I’m being given this international prize was going to bring me protection, but who cares? Israel doesn’t care. Israel is trying to provoke the public opinion. They’re trying to provoke everybody and trying to torture people and to kill them. I mean, will Israel care to kill a journalist? Of course not. They have killed a family on the beach of Huda Ghaliya; eight family members were killed. They have killed five children who were collecting strawberries two years ago. And they continue to kill on a daily basis people from day to day. Will they care to kill Mohammed Omer? Of course not.

AMY GOODMAN: Mohammed Omer, I want to thank you for being with us, award-winning Palestinian journalist, just won the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism with Dahr Jamail in Britain. Mohammed Omer is the youngest winner of the award.

Source

BRITAIN’S ‘ZIONIST WATCHDOG’ CALLS FOR INVESTIGATION IN MOHAMMED OMER’S ORDEAL

Engage, an on line publication that often (more than not) borders on the ridiculous, has actually published something worthy of reproducing. In the past, in their quest to seek out anti Semitism where it does not exist, they went as far as to include myself in one of their attacks. A few days later they sort of almost didn’t apologise… it was quite pathetic.

BUT…. they are one of the first and few Jewish publications to write sympathetically about the ordeal Mohammed Omer recently endured. It is presented here, taken from Engage…. You will find in the article digs against John Pilger, there again, they are merely fulfilling their mission of finding anti Semitism where there isn’t any…despite that, kudos to them for supporting the call for an investigation into the incident.

Mohammed Omer needs an investigation
Mohammed  Omer needs an investigationMohammed Omer is a 24-year-old Gazan who recently won an award for journalists who expose propaganda. He responded:

My ambition was to get the truth out, not as pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli, but as an independent voice and witness, posing questions and challenging international understanding. I wanted to give a voice to the silenced dead and to ordinary people still struggling: students, farmers, teachers, children, patients, refugees…”

There are reports that Omer Mohammed, returning from Holland where he collected the award, was detained for 4 hours at the Israeli border and emerged emotionally and physically battered. The Israeli Foreign Ministry, which facilitated his journey out of Gaza, has pledged to investigate his ordeal. They should do it swiftly and properly. Security doesn’t license humiliation, let alone physical abuse.

There are many reports of capricious and demeaning treatment of Palestinians on Israeli borders. Academic architect Suad Amiry’s account in Sharon and My Mother In Law is one. Another is the experience of Fulbright Scholar Zohair Abu Shaban. Sometimes there are reports of violence. It’s very important to be able to trust the reports and commentary. You have to be able to trust them in order to figure out how to respond. But there’s so much writing about Israel that comes with political baggage you know you have to fact-check – why should you? Why would you? There is so much flagrant and one-sided misreporting about Israel, sometimes with horrific repercussions, that to have unqualified belief in any of it has become practically impossible. The most important example is the myth-making around footage of Mohammed Al-Dura, emblematic for people who push the idea that the Israeli army deliberately kills civilians. Although the IDF initially assumed responsibility, there was no evidence that he was even dead.

Osama Bin Laden cited Mohammed Al-Dura as one of the reasons for the acts of terror on September 11th. Al-Dura was eagerly seized on by anti-Israel campaigners to strengthen their campaigns. His story is probably the single biggest contribution to the myth that Israel deliberately kills children. His picture, crouched against a wall, crying in terror, became ubiquitous. But the TV company which had produced Al-Dura footage brought a libel case against a member of a media watchdog who had called it a hoax, and they lost. It shouldn’t need saying that journalists who want to awake our consciences should behave conscienciously themselves – in fact, people’s human rights may depend on the trust their readers have in them.

John Pilger, who presented Omer Mohammed with his award, takes up his story. He reports Omer’s own account of what happened – and as with so much of what Pilger is interested in, it is important that this is reported – but then he nudges the story down his usual trajectory of total condemnation of Israel, and at that juncture it looks as if he misreports – Ben Cohen fact-checked the Pilger claim that “Israel is high in an international league table for its murder of journalists, especially Palestinian journalists”. Ben looked for the league table that Pilger didn’t bother to source and found that of the Committee to Protect Journalists maintains a list of the worst 20. Neither Israel or the occupied territories is on it. If we can’t trust Pilger on simple assertions he doesn’t bother to source for us, why should we trust him on anything?

The reason this matters is that a young and promising journalist who wants to tell the wider world about the experiences of ordinary Gazans under blockade is in hospital after an ordeal at the Israeli border which urgently needs to be investigated, and every time loud voices like Pilger, or those who abused the image of Mohammed Al-Dura, indulge their hatred of Israel by playing with facts, they lose the authority to bring stories like Omer’s to light.

We hope that the investigation into what happened to Mohammed Omer is thorough, that the people who assaulted him are brought to trial, and that he will regain his health quickly and live out his ambition “to tell the truth from Gaza”, or from wherever he wants to be.

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