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Aktham Suliman, the representative of al-Jazeera to the 54 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference in Vienna and the chief of the al-Jazeera bureau in Berlin, did not surprise me with his news reported from the IAEA press room in Vienna about being physically assaulted by the bodyguards of the Israel envoy while he was doing his work reporting from the conference on last Sept. 24 2010.
I was also subjected to repeated and deliberate insulting gestures and obscene words by the bodyguards of the israeli delegation to the IAEA. In my case the humiliations began on the evening of Sept. 22 and lasted until September 23, and only ended with the intervention of the UN security and after it became intolerable, was hindering my work and I could not keep silence anymore. (click on the pictures to make them bigger)
This is the first time I have seen “somebody” traveling as a diplomat but still violating the house rules at the UN which ensure a peaceful atmosphere for the people from many nations who work there to pursue their duties. The security staff at the UN appears to me to be very professional, they deal with all workers, diplomats, journalists and visitors with great respect. I was also very impressed by the objective manner in which they dealt with my case.
During the 54 IAEA General Conference, ONLY the conference itself was my interest, including the speeches of the representatives and photographing. I attended the conference as a representative of Rense Worldwide News Service which has about one million unique readers monthly. Most of diplomats attending the conference are known to journalists, and the journalists are known to them. Over time the same faces appear at conferences, meetings and special activities held in Vienna in various organizations, ministries etc.
On Sep. 22 I called the attention of one of the Israeli representatives, who asked me politely if I was a photographer. I asked him if he would like to have copies of his photos. He said yes and wrote me his e-mail address on a piece of paper which he tore from a notice block. Other diplomats were sitting nearby during this exchange. My working principles dictate that I deal with everyone with respect and polity. But this appears not to be the case with the israelis. That day during the afternoon session I started noticing hateful looks which frightened me coming from the Israeli mission. I left the IAEA conference for the day to attend another one at the UN.
I returned to the IAEA conference on Sept. 23 during the morning. I acceded to the demands of some of the present diplomats and members of delegations in the audience who asked me to take photos of them. Some of them asked me to stay in the conference room and photograph them, others came out for a chat whenever they had a short break or asked me questions about my work and photos, etc. All was going well with my work, which was developing in a peaceful and cordial atmosphere.
When the voting on the various resolutions started, I followed the conference team with the ballot to capture some pictures while the delegations were depositing their votes. When I arrived near the Israeli mission, the bodyguards started to taunt me with gestures of mockery, one was turning his mouth right left, opening his mouth and showing me his teeth. When I went to make a picture of the Irish ambassador while voting, the Israeli representative was standing up, he smiled in my face and sat next to his bodyguard and told him something. I made a picture of him smiling but suddenly his bodyguard approached me and whispered insulting words in hebrew into my ear. I told him that this was improper and made a picture of him. I informed one of the ambassadors and also a security man from the UN who was present.
The Ecuador delegation, which was seated near the Israeli delegation, asked me to take some photos of them, but each time I wanted to do this I was faced by the Israeli security and his childish mockeries.
Later when I decided to leave for a break, I saw the israeli performing his mockery show for me doing deliberate stupid acrobatic gestures. On Sep. 24, the mockery and molestation continued without interruption. I avoided the area where the Israeli mission was, despite the presence of important diplomatic figures in the same area who I wanted to photograph.
When I followed the Palestinian ambassador to take a copy of his speech, the israeli bodyguard cut my way, and … with clear intent to insult me. I asked him what he meant with his grimaces and crazy gestures. I then turned to the Palestinian Ambassador, I was unhappy and angry after two hours of deliberate provocations and stupid gestures. A UN security man wearing civil cloths intervened.
In the end the israeli bodyguard was warned off. A new israeli delegation with another security crew arrived on 24 Sept. afternoon. They appeared to know about the incident, and they kept their distance. I would like to thank the UN security for their high level of professionalism in dealing with this issue.
The questions are:
- Why are the israelis the only mission among over 180 countries which needs to bring ill-mannered bodyguards while the UN has a very professional security team doing their work in a responsible, peaceful and friendly way?
- When will israel understand that their irresponsible behavior and crimes only bring them a bad name and damages their reputation?
- Force and terror are not the right way to deal with the human beings.When will israel understand that at the UN and in civilized countries they can’t go on rampage like in occupied Palestine and that they should start thinking to learn to behave like a human beings instead of as occupiers?