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Journalists remain targets of Isaraeli state

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-Mohammed Omer latest casualty

One wonders whether the German-based Global Media Forum [GMF] will reconvene an emergency session to re-appraise its session dealing with perception and prejudice flowing from media coverage in the Middle East.

My concerns are raised in view of the most recent experience of a Palestinian journalist who was hospitalized with cracked ribs and other injuries inflicted by Israeli soldiers at the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan into the occupied West Bank.

Washington Report correspondent Mohammed Omer was returning home to Gaza after a European speaking tour and the June 16 London ceremony at which he accepted the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, when he was detained and severely tortured.

The 24-year old journalist’s traumatic experience at the hands of Israeli troops and Shin Beth agents has prompted John Pilger to devote a column in the latest Guardian titled “From Triumph to Torture” in which he recounts this terrible ordeal:

“Two weeks ago, I presented a young Palestinian. Mohammed Omer, with the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. Awarded in memory of the great US war correspondent, the prize goes to journalists who expose establishment propaganda, or ‘official drivel’, as Gellhorn called it. Mohammed shares the prize with Dahr Jamail. At 24, he is the youngest winner. His citation reads: ‘Every day, he reports from a war zone, where he is also a prisoner. His homeland, Gaza, is surrounded, starved, attacked, forgotten. He is a profoundly humane witness to one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the voiceless.’ The eldest of eight, Mohammed has seen most of his siblings killed or wounded or maimed. An Israeli bulldozer crushed his home while the family were inside, seriously injuring his mother”.

This is shocking treatment and by no means is it an exception. And don’t bother to expect any coverage in the mainstream media on the Mohammed Omer saga, since he is one amongst many Palestinian journalists who are routinely tortured and killed, without a fraction of the massive publicity generated for the BBC’s Alan Johnston.

Groups such as Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists [IFJ] have compiled huge dossiers on Israeli transgression of journalists as well as documented studies on their deliberate targeting.

The sheer brutality and gruesomeness of Israeli forces in the execution of policies deliberately designed to silence the media, would allow for many of these accounts to be used for horror movie scripts.

Indeed, Israeli media has in the main underpinned such violations of universal freedoms and in direct racist undertones sought to dehumanize the ‘other’. An editorial in the Jerusalem Post during the 2006 capture of Israeli soldiers in the Gaza and in southern Lebanon demonstrates this attitude:

“Perhaps the most complex dilemma we face is when IDF soldiers are kidnapped and taken to hostile territory, the situation that now confronts us with the abduction, first, of Gilad Shalit [from southern Israel], and now, of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev [from northern Israel].”

It goes on to suggest that “every life is precious beyond measure”, yet in the next sentence makes it clear that the Jerusalem Post was considering only Israeli lives: “Each of our soldiers is pure gold, worth hundreds, even thousands of the enemy.”

Such naked racism is no different to the remarks regularly attributed to various Israeli leaders who spew venomous hatred of Palestinians. In June 2006 Ehud Olmert was reported in the Independent as having expressed “regret” for army operations that killed 14 Palestinian civilians in Gaza in just nine days but said the lives of Israeli citizens threatened by Qassam attacks were “even more important”.

It’s such disdainful contempt that shields Israeli soldiers of any accountability, which explains their illegal conduct. Mohammed Omer’s captors and torturers will probably remain free to continue their violent harassment of more brave journalists.

Iqbal Jassat
Chairman: Media Review Network