By Friends of Mohammed Omer – London
Concerned citizens have asked the Israeli ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, to investigate reports that the young award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer was brutally assaulted by Israeli security officials on his way home to Gaza. The injuries they inflicted have put him in hospital.
Omer had been in London to receive the coveted Martha Gellhorn award for journalism. The Dutch government made arrangements for him to leave occupied Palestine for the trip, which included speaking engagements in Sweden, Greece, the Netherlands and France.
The letter to Mr Prosor reads:
Dear Ambassador Prosor,
Our good friend, the young prize-winning journalist Mohammed Omer, was assaulted by Israel’s Shin Bet at the Allenby Bridge border crossing as he returned home to Gaza, according to the reports below.
He had been in London to receive the coveted Martha Gellhorn award for journalism in war. Last year he was in America to collect a US award. He left Gaza at the invitation of the Dutch government and had been well received by a number of EU governments during his trip.
A few days ago we heard that he was marooned in Amman after being denied permission by the Israeli authorities to return home to the bosom of his family. As a result he missed his brother’s wedding. Yesterday we were shocked by the sickening reports below and are extremely worried especially as we have been unable to establish direct contact.
Mohammed Omer’s family has suffered grievously at the hands of the Israelis. One of his brothers was shot dead, another was shot in the leg which had to be amputated, the family home in Rafah was demolished in 2004 and their belongings burnt, and his mother was injured as the house was pulled down around her…. and now this.
You recently spoke of an anti-Israel campaign being stoked up in Britain "to harass, humiliate and discriminate purely on grounds of nationality". You said (in The Daily Telegraph) that Britain is "a hotbed of anti-Israeli sentiment" and "Israel faces an intensified campaign of delegitimisation, demonisation and double standards". It must be embarrassing for you that Israel exhibits the very racist vices you complain of. Will not your countrymen’s conduct towards Mr Omer simply fan the flames, here and in the Holy Land?
Some of us have witnessed and experienced for ourselves the gratuitous humiliation inflicted on people passing through crossings and checkpoints. We invite you therefore to persuade the authorities back home to investigate the incident and, if there’s any truth in it, to make a fullsome apology to Mr Omer for their brutal conduct, compensate him for the injury and in future respect his right to go about his work unmolested.
We now look forward to the matter being resolved in a courteous and humane way.
Mary Bedforth, Guildford
Barbara Mayhew, Bury St Edmunds
Nanny Brett, Cambridge
Felicity Arbuthnot, London
Tim Williams, Exeter
Paul Maddison, Huntingdon
Mark Brett, Cambridge
Stuart Littlewood, King’s Lynn
David Halpin, Newton Abbot
The group, who are friends of Omer, say the thuggish treatment handed out to him is typical of the daily humiliations, beatings, detentions – and not infrequent deaths – at Israel’s borders and checkpoints.
Mr Prosor recently berated Britain in the press for anti-Israel harassment, humiliation and discrimination. The group feels that British people need no lectures from a regime that thrives on demolishing Palestinian homes, stealing their lands, crushing their economy and generally making life a misery. Israeli diplomats like to portray their country as ‘the only democratic state in the Middle East’ and ‘a democracy under fire’, but the facts on the ground contradict these claims.
David Halpin, who has met Mohammed Omer several times and attended the award-giving in London, commented: "The Zionist entity has eleven basic laws. The one on human dignity and liberty requires that ‘there shall be no violation of the life, body or dignity of any person as such’ (Section 2). The violation and torture of Mohammed is one of the latest instances amongst millions which have been carried out for the purpose of ethnic cleansing. It is apparent that this Basic Law does not apply to the Palestinian and one can therefore assume the entity regards Mohammed and all his people as being ‘untermenschen’."
Writer Felicity Arbuthnot said: "The appalling treatment of Mohammed Omer demonstrates utter contempt for international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – now 60 years in being – in which is enshrined the right for all to travel freely."
"It will be interesting to see how Ambassador Prosor, after all his moralising and preaching, handles this shameful episode," said Stuart Littlewood. "We’re expecting him to have the matter resolved in an honourable and humane fashion."
Barbara Mayhew succeeded in talking with Mohammed by phone as he lay in a Gazan hospital this afternoon. She said: "He sounded exhausted, broken in body but not in spirit. He’ll mend and will soon be speaking up again for the tormented citizens of Gaza."
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