Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Palestinian Journalist Abused By Israeli Agents

This taken from John Pilger's piece in today's Guardian on the treatment of Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer on his return to Gaza following his acceptance of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in London:

Last Thursday, on his return journey, he was met at the Allenby Bridge crossing (to Jordan) by a Dutch official, who waited outside the Israeli building, unaware Mohammed had been seized by Shin Bet, Israel's infamous security organisation. Mohammed was told to turn off his mobile and remove the battery. He asked if he could call his embassy escort and was told forcefully he could not. A man stood over his luggage, picking through his documents. "Where's the money?" he demanded. Mohammed produced some US dollars. "Where is the English pound you have?"

"I realised," said Mohammed, "he was after the award stipend for the Martha Gellhorn prize. I told him I didn't have it with me. 'You are lying', he said. I was now surrounded by eight Shin Bet officers, all armed. The man called Avi ordered me to take off my clothes. I had already been through an x-ray machine. I stripped down to my underwear and was told to take off everything. When I refused, Avi put his hand on his gun. I began to cry: 'Why are you treating me this way? I am a human being.' He said, 'This is nothing compared with what you will see now.' He took his gun out, pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear. He then made me do a concocted sort of dance. Another man, who was laughing, said, 'Why are you bringing perfumes?' I replied, 'They are gifts for the people I love'. He said, 'Oh, do you have love in your culture?'

"As they ridiculed me, they took delight most in mocking letters I had received from readers in England. I had now been without food and water and the toilet for 12 hours, and having been made to stand, my legs buckled. I vomited and passed out. All I remember is one of them gouging, scraping and clawing with his nails at the tender flesh beneath my eyes. He scooped my head and dug his fingers in near the auditory nerves between my head and eardrum. The pain became sharper as he dug in two fingers at a time. Another man had his combat boot on my neck, pressing into the hard floor. I lay there for over an hour. The room became a menagerie of pain, sound and terror."

Almost as revolting is the reaction of the Israeli government:

An Israeli spokesman told the Reuters news agency that Mr Omer received "fair treatment" during his detention at the Allenby Bridge crossing.

He said officials carried out the body search because they suspected the journalist of smuggling.

He says two officers dragged him by his legs, with his head on the floor, in front of other passengers. He says he then vomited and fainted.

The Israeli official said at the end of the search Mr Omer "lost his balance and fell, for some reason unknown to us".

"A team of medics, an ambulance and a paramedic were summoned and he was transferred for treatment to Jericho".

A disgusting example of the utter disregard the Shin Bet have for basic human rights and dignity. As long as both the Shin Bet and Hamas continue this cycle, there will be no hope for Jew or Muslim in the Middle East.