But the Coffins Do Come In

by Mohammed Omer

IPS — GAZA CITY, Oct 13, 2010 – Samir Tahseen Al-Nadeem died after waiting 35 days for an exit permit for treatment for his heart condition. He was 26. The medicines he needed could not get in. But the coffins do.

Goods waiting for months to be transferred to the Gaza Strip at the Israeli-controlled Karni crossing. (Photo: Mohammed Omer)

The health ministry now lists 375 deaths due to shortage of life-saving medicines. The medicines sit just outside the borders of the territory until most pass their expiry dates. But there are no expiry dates on about 10,000 coffins that have been donated for Gaza. The coffins do make it to those that eventually need them.

By the end of last month more than 70 percent of medicines donated for Gaza had been dumped because they were past their expiry date, the health ministry says. They were worth many millions of dollars. And they were worth many lives.

“Much of the donated medicines came from Arab states,” Dr Mounir Al- Boursh, director of the pharmaceutical department at the health ministry tells IPS. This added up to 10,300 tonnes of medicines worth 25 million dollars, he said.

Only about 30 percent of this could be used, he said; the rest either expired, or was inaccessible because of restricted distribution by the Israelis, who control what gets into Gaza.

It’s not easy to dump medicines safely either. Much of unused supply mixes with domestic waste, creating health hazards far from bringing relief. The World Health Organisation has had to “raise concern about the unsafe disposal of expired medication and other medical disposable material,” WHO spokesperson told IPS.

But the Gaza ministry has received 10,000 coffins, about 1,000 of them for children, Dr Boursh said. Such help, he said, “does not meet with the needs of the Gaza Strip.”

Continue reading “But the Coffins Do Come In”

Kick Up the Volume: This Is No Time for More ‘Quiet Diplomacy’ with Israel

By Joshua Brollier

A favorite professor of mine once told me that the more you learn about history, the more you realize how little you really know, and how much you still have to learn.  Last night, I was both moved and angered to further learn about the ongoing destruction and blockade of the Gaza strip. The award winning Palestinian journalist, Mohammed Omer, showed photographs and told us many moving stories about his life and experiences in Gaza.  These stories included the demolition of Mohammed’s home and loss of his brother and neighbors.

Many of the tragic experiences Mohammed shared occurred before the election of the Hamas government, the siege of Gaza and last year’s Israeli offensive, Operation Cast Lead.  Mohammed described a major shift in Israeli military policy after Israeli settlements in Gaza were closed, in 2005.  Following the “disengagement,” Israeli air strikes increased and carried out house demolitions. Prior to 2005, Israel had primarily used bulldozers.  Before, the military would not have wanted to risk affecting Israeli settlers and their children, perhaps frightening the Israeli settlers’ children who would hear the sonic booms or, worse yet, catching Israeli settlers and their children in the cross-fire.

He also described how expert the children in Gaza are in identifying the different bullets and shells being used to destroy their neighborhoods and families. Many of these munitions are manufactured in America and given to the Israeli military.

Continue reading “Kick Up the Volume: This Is No Time for More ‘Quiet Diplomacy’ with Israel”

Life in Hell: A Journalist’s Account of Life in Gaza – Mohammed Omer

In a recent presentation to the Palestine Center in DC, the courageous and talented Mohammed Omer interviews fellow Palestinians in Gaza trying to survive the crippling blockade. Continue reading “Life in Hell: A Journalist’s Account of Life in Gaza – Mohammed Omer”

Mohammed Omer correcting the record

Mohammed Omer, the great Palestinian journalist and recipient of the Martha Gelhorn prize, sets the record straight about the torture ordeal he suffered at the hands of the Israeli Shin Beth torturers.

June 26, 2008 is a day I will never forget. For the events of that day irrevocably changed my life. That day I was detained, interrogated, strip searched, and tortured while attempting to return home from a European speaking tour, which culminated in independent American journalist Dahr Jamil and I sharing the Martha Gellhorn Journalism Prize in London — an award given to journalists who expose propaganda which often masks egregious human rights abuses.

Mohammed Omer receiving the Martha Gelhorn Prize together with Dahr Jamail
Mohammed Omer receiving the Martha Gelhorn Prize together with Dahr Jamail

I want to address the denials from Israel and the inaccurate reporting by a few journalists in addition to requesting state of Israel to acknowledge what it did to me, prosecute the members of the Shin Bet responsible for it and put in place procedures that protect other journalists from such treatment.

Since 2003, I’ve been the voice to the voiceless in the besieged Gaza Strip for a number of publications and news programs ranging from The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to the BBC and, Morgenbladet in Norway as well as Democracy Now! These stories exposed a carefully-crafted fiction continuing control and exploitation of five-million people. Their impact, coupled with the reporting of others served to change public opinion in the United States and Europe concerning the dynamics of Israel and its occupation of Palestine .

After receiving the Martha Gellhorn prize I returned home through the Allenby Bridge Crossing in the Occupied West Bank between Jordan and Israel. It was here I was detained, interrogated, and tortured for several hours by Shin Bet and border officers. When it appeared I may be close to death an ambulance was called to transport me to a hospital. From that day my life has been a year of continued medical treatments, pain — and a search for justice.

The article can be read in its entirety here

Mohammed Omer wins Reporters Without Borders journalism award

I just got an e-mail from Mohammed Omer and I’m pleased to tell you he received a journalism award from Reporters Without Borders.

Swedish press freedom prize to Gaza journalist Mohammed Omer

Photojournalist Mohammed Omer has been awarded the Swedish section of Reporters without borders Press freedom prize 2008. His courageous reporting gives a voice to the confined and oppressed people of Gaza. At 24 Mohammed Omer is one of the most important young voices from the region.

Mohammed Omer reports for numerous media outlets, including the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pacifica Radio, Electronic Intifada, The Nation, and Inter Press Service; he also founded the Rafah Today blog.

In 2006 Mohammed Omer was awarded the Best Youth Voice Award from New American Media.

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.” Continue reading “Mohammed Omer wins Reporters Without Borders journalism award”