Journalist’s Abuse Claims Refuted

mohammedomerOn July 2, a number of media outlets, including The Independent, reported that an award-winning Palestinian journalist from Gaza had been physically abused by Israeli security at the Jordanian border on his way back from the UK.

Writing in The Guardian, polemicist John Pilger went further, retelling Mohammed Omer’s story verbatim while claiming, outrageously and without offering any evidence, that “Israel is high in an international league table for its murder of journalists, especially Palestinian journalists.”

In fact, Israel and the Palestinian areas do not feature prominently on official league tables compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

It should be noted that Omer is the Gaza correspondent for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, a journal known for its anti-Israel positions, while John Pilger is renowned for his radical and extreme left-wing and anti-Israeli views.

As in many previous cases (see HonestReporting’s “The Big Lies” interactive presentation for some of the most infamous), a Palestinian claim has been taken at face value by a media keen to fit the story to a preconceived narrative that portrays Israel as a serial human rights abuser.

Once again, Israel, as a country that respects the rule of law, is compelled to investigate the allegations. However, the damage has already been done. The claims by Mohammed Omer even reached the UK Parliament in the form of an Early Day Motion where MPs expressed:

concern that harassment, intimidation and even killing of journalists has been too frequent an occurrence, particularly since the outbreak of the Intifada in 2000; calls on Israel and all other parties to uphold the freedom of journalists to report; further calls on the Israeli government to launch a full independent inquiry, to compensate Mohammed Omer in full for his injuries; and urges the Government to raise this issue with the government of Israel at the earliest opportunity.

This, despite Israel being the only country in the Mideast where journalists’ rights are fully respected. While it may already be too late to arrest the damage, we are disseminating, in full, the statement of Israel’s official inquiry into Omer’s allegations in order to counter this latest anti-Israel libel and to ensure that the following remains on the web for the record:

Mr. Mohammed Omer al-Mughaier (hereinafter “the Complainant”) arrived at the Allenby Crossing on Thursday, 26 July 2008. Due to suspicion that he had been in contact with hostile elements and had been asked by them to deliver items to Judea and Samaria, both he and his baggage were searched. In contradiction to his claims, at no time was the Complainant subjected to either physical or mental violence.

The investigation revealed that the search of his baggage was conducted in the presence of four people and not eight, as he noted. The search was conducted, according to regulations, in a public place and in the view and presence of the Complainant.

The body search, which took several minutes, took place in the presence of two security personnel (a policeman and an ISA official) and was conducted according to the relevant regulations. The Complainant’s claims to the effect that he was threatened at gunpoint are baseless.

Regarding the Complainant’s collapse, as it were, it should be noted that the paramedic who attended to him found no evidence of a physical cause of collapse. The Complainant’s behaviour raises doubts as to the sincerity of the situation. In any event, the Complainant was sent to an infirmary and an ambulance was ordered for him.

As to the Complainant’s allegation that he was compelled to stand on his feet for twelve hours, we point out that according to our records, the Complainant arrived at the Allenby Crossing at approximately 11:00, and the entire incident ended at approximately 14:00. Thus, this claim is also baseless.

We should point out that there are numerous additional contradictions in the Complainant’s allegations. For example, in the media he reported that he was humiliated, stripped and that a gun was held to his head. And yet, in his complaint filed with the IDF Spokesperson, the Complainant claimed that two uniformed personnel sprayed his face.

In conclusion, the Complainant’s grievances were investigated and found to be without foundation. At no time was the Complainant subjected to either physical or mental violence; he was treated fairly. We can only regret that his allegations received publicity and a platform without being properly investigated.

Update: For more information on this story, see CAMERA.

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