A Palestinian journalist who gained popularity during last year’s war in Gaza by providing eye-witness accounts via his social media accounts and blog, has praised the continued resilience of residents in the embattled coastal strip. Mohammed Omer, better known by his Twitter handle Mogaza, became one of the leading sources of information for international media outlets during the 51-day conflict, risking his own safety to provide raw and honest reporting from the ground.
A recipient of the 2007 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, he was also involved in a Russell Tribunal session in Belgium last year, where his first-hand accounts aided a report from the tribunal which held Israel accountable for incitement of genocide and crimes against humanity.
While journalism may not have been Omer’s first choice as a career path, having initially sought to be a translator, the conditions in Gaza effectively “forced” him into the role at the tender age of 16. Speaking to VOC’s Drivetime, Omer said he felt the need to provide objective reporting on the region, especially in light of the Zionist occupations stranglehold on media coverage on Gaza.
“I want to continue to be the voice of the voiceless. I want to continue to tell the world the untold stories because there is so much need for it, and there is so much bias in the international media. We feel the international media is not focusing anymore on Gaza with what’s gone on in the Middle East,” he said.
Life goes on
“Gaza is a place where people can make from one tree a whole paradise.”
This was how Omer chose to describe the resilience and steadfastness of those in the war-ravaged strip, where Palestinians have made the best of minimalist facilities and resources to create some glimmer of hope around them. Despite the on-going oppression of the blockade on Gaza, as well as sporadic attacks on residents, he said many continued to show a sense of optimism about the future.
“Look at the blockade. Ten years of this blockade and the closure of the Gaza Strip yet new generations are born and know that tomorrow there is a sunrise, and there is a new beginning. I think that the people who lost their homes in Shejaiya, those people were extremely remarkable when they were living inside UN shelters during the 51-day war. Those are the people who teach life,” he declared.
“Maybe the F-16s and the war machines decided to end their lives, but people are ready to start once again and start with a new smile and a tear together.”
Omer said there was a strong sense of hope amongst Gazans that the situation would get better and an end to the blockade would eventually arrive, as there was no way Palestinians would cease their struggle for liberation and freedom.
In the same breath, he reiterated the calls of so many other Palestinians in urging the international community to do more to aid those in the coastal strip.
“It is time for them to reward those people (Gazans) by putting pressure on Israel to open the borders and allow Palestinians to get in and out. It doesn’t help anybody that Palestinians are isolated and segregated, because it only creates new generation and doesn’t help anyone in the long term,” he added.
Omer’s book Shell-Shocked, which gives readers the chance to live the war through the eyes of locals, is available online at http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/shell-shocked-by-mohammed-omer/ or via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Shell-Shocked-Mohammed-Omer/dp/1939293928. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)