|Israel Receives Palestinian Award Winning Journalist "Home"|
|Written by ')">Dahr Jamail|
|Thursday, 03 July 2008|
He Lacks Privilege
by Dahr Jamail
On June 16 I was the co-recipient of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism with Mohammed Omer in London. Omer is a 24 year-old Palestinian with whom I felt, and feel, honored to have shared this award.
During my brief talk while accepting the award, I told the audience I could not think of anyone else I would rather share the award with. Omer’s work from his Gaza homeland has been a beacon of humanitarian reportage; his work serves as a model of peace and attempted reconciliation with Israel for the youth in his occupied territory.
Unlike me, Omer’s journey to London to receive the award was next to impossible.
When I heard the news that I was a co-recipient, I simply booked my flight from San Francisco and boarded my plane. Omer – whose home has been crushed by an Israeli bulldozer and who has seen most of his seven siblings killed or maimed by the Israeli army which occupies his homeland – struggled even to get an exit visa. The veteran journalist John Pilger, who handed us each our award, described his journey:
Then, after the ceremony, came our even more different return journeys. My biggest problem was an hour’s delay for the flight back to my home country -- which last year gave Israel $2.38bn in military aid. And will again give that same amount for the coming fiscal year, along with an extra $150m. (As of July 2006 direct US aid to Israel had reached $108bn according to conservative estimates.)
Omer, on his return home last Thursday, was tortured by Israel’s security forces, Shin Bet. He was met by a Dutch official at the Allenby Bridge crossing (from Jordan to the West Bank) who was to ferry him back into Gaza. The official waited outside for Omer as he entered the Israeli building. Inside, Omer was told he was not allowed to call this embassy escort when he asked to do so; a Shin Bet officer searched his luggage and documents, and asked him for his English pounds.
Omer was surrounded by eight armed Shin Bet officers. This is how he described what happened next:
Consider the fact that the Israeli Supreme Court has allowed the use of “moderate physical pressure” in the questioning of prisoners. Israel holds more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of them under administrative detention (no charges filed, detention can be renewed every six months).
Now consider the fourth Geneva Convention (1949):
Former Dutch ambassador Jan Wijenberg said of what happened to Omer:
Janet McMahon, managing editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs with whom Omer files stories, just told me he is still in hospital.
As Omer’s colleague, I cannot reconcile the disparity in our experiences. How can we reconcile something that is irreconcilable in the absence of all justice?
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Le Monde Diplomatique
3 July 2008
Reprinted here by permission of the author.