Welcome to Hell: Mohammed Omer

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 .

  1. Sasa says:

    He sounds like an angel. After all he has gone through, to have the strength to educate, in the hope of changing the US’s attitude.

    But those stats at the end. Wow. America has such a long way to go. How do American voters, rational human beings, let them get away with that. In no other country in the world does Israel have that kind of support. In fact, in no other country in the world do a majority of citizens support Israel (except Russia).

  2. @anasqtiesh In parts of the world … people dream. In others, they live out the nightmares in their waking lives.

    Thank you for this post.

  3. Victor says:

    Sasa, I ask the same question, but in reverse – for how long will Arab people seek the destruction of Israel? On the one hand, you speak of human rights. On the other hand, you view Israel through a zero-sum game, “If the Jews win, then the Arabs lose”. This is not a zero-sum world. We can both win. Arabs need to overcome their self-inflicted wounds – the shame of defeat at the hand of the Jews. It’s over, forget about it.

    Israel has made peace with Egypt and Jordan, and has not had a single problem with either country ever since. It’s time to let go of the prejudices of the past. The Jews are not your dogs anymore. Israel has created a thriving democracy and a model economy in spite of a 70 year boycott by the Arabs and incessant war being waged against it. Meanwhile, the Arab world is drowning in petrodollars and bullets.

    The entire region, and increasingly the entire world, is being held hostage to your hatred for the Jews. Let go of your anger, come to terms with a just reality – a Jewish national home exists, and for all its faults, it is an amazing, vibrant country – and everyone can move on in peace and prosperity.

    • Anas says:

      Excellent Hasbara Victor. Now allow me to break down and respond to each of your points:

      for how long will Arab people seek the destruction of Israel?

      Which Arabs talk about that exactly? You said Egypt and Jordan have peace, Syria wants the Golan back in exchange for peace and despite several provocation attempts, and indeed attacks, by Israel Syria did not respond militarily. The way things are right now Arabs have no interest in destroying Israel. Arabs want peace, they want their occupied land back, and they want equal rights for Palestinians Whether it be in a two-state or one-state solution.

      Arabs need to overcome their self-inflicted wounds

      I’m pretty sure you can’t call them self inflicted since Israel have started every single war in the past three decades. You have a way with words, but your words don’t hold up to reality.

      Israel has made peace with Egypt and Jordan, and has not had a single problem with either country ever since.

      Problems between governments maybe, but peace holds so strongly because of US supported dictators in both countries and a ridiculous amount of US aid to the two countries. Peace would hold naturally if Israel stopped being so arrogant and worked towards real peace where Arabs get their occupied land, Palestinians get complete rights (including dismantlement of all settlements, they’re not suburbs, they’re illegal colonies.)

      The Jews are not your dogs anymore.

      And they have never been, Jews had always lived peacefully in Arab countries such as Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, etc. without religious tensions to speak of. Any animosity was brought about by the atrocities committed by Israel.

      Israel has created a thriving democracy and a model economy in spite of a 70 year boycott by the Arabs and incessant war being waged against it. Meanwhile, the Arab world is drowning in petrodollars and bullets.

      Israel’s so called democracy is nothing but apartheid and racism against non-jews and even jews of african origin (read: black), I can elaborate on that but I simple google search should bring you enough evidence. Hardly a model to praise. In the past 70 years Israel has incessantly waged war (with the exception of 1973), let’s not ignore the facts here. Israel has been the aggressor 90% of the time. Also, the reason of Israel’s economic success is the billions pumped into its economy in foreign aid from other countries. Israel is the #1 recipient of US foreign aid still, seconded by Egypt. If Israel’s economy is so great on its own maybe that aid money is better spent on countries that actually need it. The Arab world is not drowning in petrodollars, some Arab countries are indeed impoverished and have been under US sanctions for years. Many Arab oil countries have been on the sidelines of the Arab-Israeli conflict and thus flourished while the Palestinians, Lebanese, and Syrians indeed “drowned in bullets” shot at them by the IDF or settlers.

      The entire region, and increasingly the entire world, is being held hostage to your hatred for the Jews.

      And that’s the pot calling the kettle black, let’s agree that animosity has its reasons and it could be overcome by a demonstration of good intent and a serious effort towards peace. Israeli arrogance, aggression, and colonization of Arab lands is what’s holding the world hostage.

      Victor, you are oblivious to the nuances of the Middle East. All I read in your comment was the same old rhetoric by neocons and right-wingers. It would fit perfectly on ‘Faux’ News, but it won’t hold up in a serious fact-based debate.

  4. Victor says:

    Excellent asabiyyah Anas,

    You’ve defended Arab honor and retrenched your classic maximalist, zero-sum, honor-shame warrior culture positions. You didn’t give an inch and made sure that any Arab who compromises more than you (and you compromised nothing) is shamed and dishonored as a traitor. It’s perfect, by the book, you didn’t make even one mistake.

    Israel is the aggressor, despite Arab armies finding themselves on Israeli territory in ’48, ’67 and ’73. Israel is the occupier, despite no one considering Egypt or Jordan occupiers when they ruled the same territories before ’67. The Jews loved living as dhimmis under the Arabs, just like dogs love having a strong but kind master. Israel, a society of millions of refugees from over 100 countries, who lived in tent cities for a decade until housing was built, which did not receive a single dollar from America until after it defeated the Arabs in 1967, and whose foreign aid today constitutes less than 2.5% of the entire economy (GDP $200 Billion, like Pakistan with 200 million people), that Israel isn’t an economic miracle at all.

    What must hurt the most, Anas, is that Israeli Arabs – a silent but hostile Arab minority liming among a Jewish majority – have more freedoms than you Syrians. Not only that, but the Jews spend more time worrying about them, about their rights, education, infrastructure, than your benevolent leader ever has about you. No one will drag them out of their beds at night and dump their bodies in some wadi in the morning, only for saying the wrong thing about the “dear leader”. In fact Arab MPs in the Israeli Knesset say things for which they would be immediately executed in Syria.

    Yes, Israel is a racist, genocidal, apartheid state. Of course, it can’t it be otherwise because there is not a single grain of good in it at all and any Arab who says otherwise is a coward, a traitor, shame on them and their family. The Jews had no business creating a dynamic, civil society that cares about and responds to the needs of its citizens amidst the medieval barbarism of

    You need to let go of the mistakes of your fathers, or you will repeat them.

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