Last weekend on Thursday and Friday, I went to the Irish Embassy in Vienna for personal business. My visit to the Irish Embassy reminded me of my previous visit to the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv in December 2001. Eight years have passed between my first and second visits to an Irish embassy. There was a big difference in the treatment which I received then and how I was treated now.
Good things, kind words and gestures, respectful treatment, but also bad treatment, bad words, unfriendly gestures are never forgotten by most of people, by journalists and writers. “A proverb from my country says that the wise take into account the presence of journalists whenever they say or do anything”.
At the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv I was treated very well by the Irish Ambassador Patrick Hennessy. In Vienna, everything was the opposite. These two contradictory treatments between both embassies did not even shock, but opened my eyes, my mouth and forced me to carry these few lines to the public record. Without further details about what happened at the embassy of Ireland in Vienna, I could say that what I heard and saw during both visits on last Thursday and Friday was neither acceptable nor reasonable, but scandalous. (Click on the pictures to make them bigger).
On Thursday all what I heard was “I am busy and if you have a question you can call me”. On Friday, I stood from 10:25 – 11:35 behind a thick glass window listening to contradictory instructions which changed every 15 minutes when it would have been possible to reduce all the discussion to five minutes, or even to say the right things during my visit on Thursday, if the staff had shown at least a modicum of civility to me and to other people going about their business there, instead of forcing me to repeat my visit on Friday and partaking in a useless discussion which I perceived ONLY as humiliating.
The way how I was treated made me wonder:
- How many times per day does the staff at the Irish Embassy treat visitors in the same way?
- Does Ambassador Frank Cogan know how people are treated at his embassy, or is such behavior off-the-record and depending on the mood of the staff?
- Is this kind of treatment a policy implemented at all western embassies, perhaps in accordance to instructions from the USA and only against people from Muslim background? Would the staff at the Irish embassy behave likewise if the persons applying for visa or extending an invitation were not of Arab background?
In my opinion there is a big difference between following and implementing the laws and regulations in a respectful and friendly way as is done at most authorities in all countries, and humiliating visitors with unfriendly, haughty demeanor just because the taste of the application was not sweet enough for the staff. There is a big different between clarifying things in a concise and objective way in a couple of minutes, and saying the things in contradictory ways and in a commanding demeanor which touches the feelings of those addressed in such a way.
The treatment which I received at the Irish Embassy in Vienna reminded me of the beautiful image and the good treatment which I received at the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv. This was in December of 2001 when Mary Lawlor and the organizers of the Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders (Frontline, International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Foundation, etc) invited me to participate and help them to prepare the conference.
I still remember the young, elegant and friendly Ambassador who gave me the visa in a very short time. I remember Ambassador Patrick Hennessy, who held an emergency meeting in his office after the Israeli authorities hindered me by denying me the necessary permit to accesses Ben Gurion airport. Ambassador Hennessy received me in his office in the black-white tower at 3 Daniel Frisch Street. On the table were some cookies. Ambassador Hennessy said “Here is my diplomatic team sitting with you at the same table, we all stand with you and are ready to help you solve your problem”.
Ambassador Hennessy listened with interest to me and he promised to solve the problem. After that he excused politely and left for a meeting out of the Embassy. He said: “you can continue sitting with my team explaining and clarifying the problem”. I remember that I drank tea and ate the delicious cookies together with his friendly team.
Finally, the intervention of Ambassador Hennessy solved the problems created by the Israelis and a travel permit was issued by them. I traveled to Ireland. It was a wonderful country, a friendly nation who expresses a special sympathy with Palestine and the Palestinian cause as it closely resembles their history of about 800 years of resistance to foreign occupation.
In Ireland, I worked with the Frontline team to prepare for the Dublin Platform for Human Rights Defenders conference which was held at Dublin Castle on 17 –19 January 2002. I still remember this international event in Ireland a country where human rights are respected. I still remember the nice vacation from the horrors of the Israeli occupation and the friendly Irish people whom I met. During my stay I was able to interview members of the Irish Parliament and also Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at that time, Hina Jilani, UN Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, and many other Irish people whose names I do not remember.
In Ireland things are different from other Europeans countries. The Irish people are very friendly, they talk to you openly and without complication on the street. The Irish people seem to be always smiling, at least I don’t remember gloomy faces. They work hard and at night they love fun, to go out and drink their renowned “Guinness Beer”. They are fond of making parties at their houses, where people can stay until the morning. In Ireland night turned to be active the same like day, discussions, dialogue, and other activities always raised at night; and each one chooses the right suits which fit with him.
Many beautiful images remind me of my trip to Ireland and the Irish people and journalists. The Irish-Times newspaper published a report about my visit. The mainstream Irish Radio aired a discussion of about half an hour. The Irish Sunday Tribune Editor in Chef helped me.
The ONLY awful and ugly memory I have from Ireland was Mark Meir Sofer, “מרק סופר מאיר”, the Israeli ambassador to Ireland at that time. Sofer did not only comment on what the Irish media reported about me, but he sent incitements and false reports about me to his government. According to Sofer, my presence at the Dublin Human Right International Platform, in which over 120 country participated, and which all ambassadors to Ireland were attending, among them Sofer himself, was “a political campaign against Israel”.
The staff of Sofer called me several times during my stay in Ireland and connected me with him. He said that he would recommend to his government “to treat me in the right way as a journalist”. Sofer “invited” me to his office at the Israeli Embassy after Mary Lawlor fixed a meeting between us, probably due to incessant nagging from the Israelis.
The entrance of the Israeli Embassy in Dublin is at the same time the entrance to a zone in Ireland were human rights, dignity, respect and decency mean nothing. I received all kind of humiliations at the hands of the staff of Sofer.
I was forced to take off my shoes, to strip out of my clothes in a dirty room. I was only allowed into the office of Sofer without shoes and when he saw my miserable situation he blandly excused himself, telling me that he “did not have any power to change the security protocols at his embassy”. He added that his “security” thugs were even following him to the toilet. What a coward, hiding behind people under his command.
I remember that I told Sofer that he and his country were complicit to all crimes against us Palestinians and that they were scared of their own crimes and their victims. I simply told him that normal people wouldn’t allow themselves to humiliate their guest in such a way “you are scared of what you are doing and of your victims, and everything you do is crimes by the standards of international laws”.
When the thugs of Sofer brought my shoes to his office, I refused to put them on. I preferred to get out to the street without shoes, to leave my shoes for them to enjoy as much as they wanted. If I was not ashamed to get out stripped of my clothes, which the “security” thugs of Sofer had forced me to take off in a dirty room, and if the laws of Ireland allowed human beings to be completely naked in the streets, then I wouldn’t accept to put on the clothes which these miserable’s had forced me to take off. I met Sofer wearing red skirt, a shirt without sleeves and long black coat. The meeting with Sofer ended after an hour. It was a monologue with a deaf zionist, an extremist member of the israeli Likud party who was not accessible to reason.
My stay in Ireland ended on February 19 2002. On my arrival to Ben Gurion airport, the airport security put me into a small cell in a corner of the airport. The cell was full of cockroaches, it smelled foul and was extremely dirty, I shouted loud because of my scare from the cockroaches. Over 10 security thugs interrogated me. When they asked me to take off my skirt and backless top, I refused to do that without the presence of a woman. I spent three hours under interrogation. I found that each word I had said during my stay in Ireland, each word I had said at the human rights conference were written down.
The interrogators had a copy of the Irish-Times newspaper and of protocols of what I had said on their table at Ben Gurion airport. My top crime was obviously that I was doing my journalistic work in the right way during my stay in Ireland, exposing the scandalous crime of raping a 9-year old Palestinian girl at the israeli Moscobiyyah police detention center in Jerusalem. I handed Mary Robinson a letter in which I asked her to send a team to investigate this horrible crime committed against a Palestinian child at the Israeli police headquarters.
The Israeli interrogators released me from the airport after several hours. When I arrived home, another horrible crime was waiting for me. My young sister was paralyzed after the IDF had shot nerve gas grenades in Hebron. She was at a shopping center in the city when the Israeli soldiers shot the gas grenades at peace demo. My family, which never showed interest in politics in any way, was very sad. When I tried to return to my home in old city of Hebron, it was declared as a military area. The Israeli soldiers expelled me out of Hebron and denied me the right to live with my family and following my work as a journalist. Mark Sofer was involved in all these crimes with his reports, which were direct incitements against me, reports which he submitted to the “State of Israel” and to his friend Daniel Seaman, the Israeli government spokesperson and a former Mossad agent, in which he claimed that I had “made a political campaign against Israel in Ireland”.
I would like to refer this report to Mr. Micheal Martin, Irish Foreign Minister, and to Frank Cogan, the current Irish Ambassador in Austria. In summary I can only say that what Mark Sofer did to me happened during his presence in the State of Ireland, while I was a welcomed guest of the Irish Human Right organization, and that the reason of my expulsion from Palestine and of my eight years in the exile in the friendly state of Austria was because of Sofer’s smear and incitement, the false reports which he submitted to Israel. It is not justified that a small article which was published in the Irish Times becomes grounds for expelling me from my homeland after stealing my house and all my property in Hebron. Such a thing is witness to the mindset of the miserable piece of work Sofer and his miserable israel. Read more about Mr. Micheal Martine here and here.
I will never give up or forgive that they expelled me from Palestine because of the small article published in the Irish Times. For now, I love Austria as I love Palestine, and Vienna become a new homeland. Even so I will continue revealing news about Israeli crimes until the justice treats all those criminals in the right way and I see as many of them as possible in jail, as they justly deserve.
The staff at the Irish embassy in Vienna, also deserve my gratitude because they reminded me of all those crimes of long ago and helped me to release part of the still hidden crimes and horrors of Israel.
I hope that the staff of Ambassador Frank Cogan at the Irish Embassy in Vienna will be able to treat visitors in the right way, as a human beings, according to the constitution of their respected country, where human rights are respected.