A victory for Mohammed Omer

Haymarket Books announces that a campaign to allow Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer to enter the U.S. for a speaking tour has succeeded.

Palestinian journalist Mohammed OmerPalestinian journalist Mohammed Omer

BACK FROM the brink of cancellation, a presentation on conditions in Palestine will take place in Chicago April 5 with award-winning journalist and photographer Mohammed Omer.

Subjected to an extended, and unexplained, hold on his visa, Omer and supporters launched a public pressure campaign, winning his entry from the U.S. consulate on March 26.

In 2008, Omer became the youngest recipient of the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, for his firsthand reportage of life in the besieged Gaza strip. As his prize citation explained, "Everyday, he reports from a war zone, where he is also a prisoner. He is a profoundly humane witness to one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the voiceless...Working alone in extremely difficult and often dangerous circumstances, [Omer has] reported unpalatable truths validated by powerful facts."

What you can do

Attend "Reflections on Life and War in Gaza: A Discussion with Palestinian Journalist Mohammed Omer" in Chicago on April 5. Omer will be in conversation with Ali Abunimah, author of One Country and founder of Electronic Intifada.

At 7 p.m. at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton. Sponsored by Haymarket Books. Visit Facebook for information.

Upon attempting to return to Gaza following his acceptance of the Gellhorn award in London, Omer was detained, interrogated, and beaten by the Shin Bet Israeli security force for hours; and eventually hospitalized with cracked ribs and respiratory problems (for the full story, visit Ha'aretz). He has since resided in the Netherlands and continues to undergo medical treatment there for his subsequent health problems.

Nearly canceling his planned speaking tour, the U.S. consulate held his visa application without explanation. Organizers decided to protest, as in recent years, numerous foreign scholars and experts have been subject to visa delays and denials that have prohibited them from speaking and teaching in the U.S.--a process the American Civil Liberties Union describes as "ideological exclusion."

As his hosts at Haymarket Books commented:

The issue of Palestine, and particularly the voice of Palestinians is so frequently side-stepped and marginalized in mainstream political discourse. Yet the Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays a huge role in American foreign policy, as we can see in the ongoing debate between the U.S. and Israel over expanded settlements.

We believe that the conditions in Palestine represent one of the great humanitarian catastrophes of our time; and we were simply not willing to accept that Mohammed did not have the right to travel to the U.S. to share his reportage--and that Chicagoans did not have the right to hear what he has to say.

Omer will visit Houston, Santa Fe and Chicago, as planned, where local publisher Haymarket Books will host his Newberry Library event, "Reflections on Life and War in Gaza," alongside a broad set of interfaith religious, community and political organizations. Omer will discuss, with Ali Abunimah, Chicago-based author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, his reportage, personal experience and the struggle for Palestinian rights: