Archive for November, 2009

Welcome to Hell: Mohammed Omer

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Photo by Anas Qtiesh

I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by the brilliant Palestinian journalist and photographer Mohammed Omer which was properly named Welcome to Hell. He demonstrated the the situation in Gaza, the Israeli war crimes, and his experience as a journalist working under the Israeli occupation in Gaza and the abuses and assault he was subjected to by Israeli soldiers.

Omer shocked an awed the audience with striking photos and videos almost never seen by a “western citizen” and he recounted tales of horror of families killed; homes demolished over the heads of its residents; children risking their lives to go to a bombed house looking for a bicycle, or to see whether their favorite school bag survived; and elderly women cooking grass to survive. Needless to say that’s all a result of the Israeli siege on Gaza that has been going on for years now while the international community stands silently on the sidelines.

What really amazed me was his talk about the fluffy names of Israeli operations in Gaza: Rainbow; Summer Rain; and, if I remember correctly, Plucking Flowers where Israeli soldiers would walk around randomly shooting civilians (children included) point-blank.

Looking at Omer’s Wikipedia page you’ll find out that “in 2008, Omer was awarded the 2007 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. In the award citation, Omer was honored as ‘the voice of the voiceless’ and his reports were described as a ‘humane record of the injustice imposed on a community forgotten by much of the world.’”

On his return to Gaza after winning the award, he was assaulted by Israeli Soldier’s at Allenby Bridge and received severe bodily injuries including broken ribs and spine damage. He is still receiving treatment for these injuries till this day. But that’s not the worst of his problems: in 2003 his 17 year-old  brother was killed by sniper bullets as he was going to school. Three years later his mother sustained severe injuries as she jumped out of a house window to escape with her life as an Israeli Army bulldozer was tearing down their 2-story house with no prior warning. Almost all of his younger siblings were injured by the Israeli army at one time or another.

After all he went through, he stood at Harvard advocating a nonviolent approach to end the suffering in Gaza. He asked the people to spread the message and pressure their congressmen to cease blind preferential treatment for Israel. He pointed out a small yet significant progress: The Congress condemned the Goldstone report as biased with a vote of 344 to 36. While the aggression were taking place the Congress overwhelmingly voted against condemning Israeli actions with only 2 in opposition. This counted as a success to a slowly, yet steadily, growing BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) against Israeli occupation.

Mohammed Omer will go on with his tour before going to the Netherlands to resume medical treatment for the aforementioned injuries. His work is available on his website: http://www.rafahtoday.org .