I am an independent writer and rights activist with extensive experience in Syria and in the Gaza Strip, where I lived a cumulative three years (from late 2008 to June 2010, and back in 2011 off and on to March 2013).
In 2017, I was short-listed for the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. The award rightly was given to the amazing journalist, the late Robert Parry [see his work on Consortium News].
In March 2017, I was awarded “International Journalism Award for International Reporting” granted by the Mexican Journalists’ Press Club (founded in 1951). Co-recipients included: John Pilger and political analyst Thierry Meyssan.
I was also the first recipient of the Serena Shim award, and am honoured to share that with many excellent journalists since.
I documented the 2008/9 and 2012 Israeli war crimes and attacks on Gaza while riding in ambulances and reporting from hospitals. For a detailed list, see the bottom of this entry.
Since 2007 I’ve been writing from and on issues in the Middle East, mainly occupied Palestine and in recent years Syria, fighting for its existence under a foreign war of aggression. For 8 months in 2007, I reported on the ground in West Bank areas of occupied Palestine, where I saw invasions and lockdowns of villages by the heavily-armed Israeli army, excessive brutality against truly unarmed protesters, and the unchecked violence of illegal Jewish colonists against Palestinian civilians, among other crimes. Twice arrested there due to solidarity work, ultimately deported after a third 4 day arrest by the Zionists, I was banned by the same entity from Palestine, in December 2007.
I entered Gaza in November 2008 by boat, traversing Palestinian waters, part of a volunteer movement to bring focus to the dire siege on Gaza. As we approached Gaza, an Israeli gunboat flanked our simple vessel to the north, menacing us to turn around. We powered on to Gaza, where a harbour of small fishing vessels and countless Palestinians greeted us.
From Nov 2008 to June 2010 I stayed continuously in the Gaza Strip, doing solidarity work (volunteer) with fishers and farmers, coming under fire from the Zionists on the sea and along the border, writing about the criminal siege on Gaza. I finally exited through the Egyptian-controlled border, Rafah in June 2010, returning via Egypt to Gaza in mid-2011 and staying there, on and off, for another year and a half till March 2013.
In, my years in Gaza from 2011 until March 2013, I lived in a home with a Palestinian family near the refugee camp of Deir al-Balah, taking local public transport and enduring the same extreme power outages, lack of water and Zionist warplane flyovers and bombings.
Since April 2014, I’ve visited Syria 11 times (including two delegations), including two months in summer 2016 and one month in Oct/Nov 2016, and my more recent visits in June 2017 (to Aleppo, Homs, al-Waer, Madaya, al-Tall, Damascus) and in April and May 2018, notably going to Douma, the site of alleged chemical attacks in eastern Ghouta and taking the testimonies of medical staff and civilians there, who all said there had not been a chemical attack. Underneath the medical facility where alleged victims were allegedly treated, I filmed a segment of the labyrinth of tunnels terrorists used to move undetected.
I also went to Kafr Batna and Saqba where the White Helmets had a centre 200 metres from a terrorist mortar and missile workshop.
On my April/May 2018 visit, I went to Dara’a under terrorists shelling, Hadar repeatedly attacked by al-Qaeda, Aleppo where life is renewed, Hama and liberated areas of Qalamoun.
In September and October, I returned to Syria, going to Mhardeh–a northern Hama village under attack by terrorists, ignored by corporate media; to Maaloula where their ancient, annual, Cross Festival was held again; back to Daraa, a different city following expulsion (by military and reconciliation means) of terrorist factions, and met with a number of people, including Syria’s Minister of Health, the father of a Christian martyr who died fighting alongside Hezbollah fighters, and more, outlined here.
In October, I also interviewed Syria’s Grand Mufti, Dr. Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun.
I’m currently on my 10th visit to Syria, having passed New Year’s Eve observing Syrians in the streets celebrating the return of peace to Syria and the victory over the Western war on Syria.
My early visits to Syria included interviewing residents of the Old City of Homs (see here, here, and here), which had just been secured from militants, and visiting historic Maaloula after the Aramaic village had been liberated of militants. In December 2015, I returned to old Homs to find life returning, small shops opened, some of the damaged historic churches holding worship anew, and citizens preparing to celebrate Christmas once again.
On my 5th visit in June-August 2016, I went twice to Aleppo, as well as the village of Nubl which had been besieged by terrorists (related articles here and here), also visiting: liberated Palmyra; Masyaf to interview survivors of the terrorist attacks on Aqrab and Adra; survivors of the May 23 terrorist attacks on Jableh & Tartous; and the Barzeh district of Damascus, as well as returning again to Maaloula and Latakia.
In Maaloula, I took the testimony of a woman whose brother and two relatives were point-blank assassinated by the west’s “moderates” in September 2013. She herself was critically-injured in the attack.
In Latakia, I visited a center for internally-displaced Syrians (internal refugees), where they were being given shelter, food, health care, education and social services by the state. I also met several internal refugees, who had fled from their homes in Aleppo, fleeing the terrorists which the west dubs “moderates” and rebuilding their lives in government-secured Latakia. In Damascus, I visited a restaurant the day after a mortar fired from a terrorist-occupied area east of Damascus, killed many civilians. I also visited a hospital where maimed survivors (all young women) were being treated. Read my Updates From on the Ground in Syria: June to August 11.
On my sixth visit to Syria, in October and November 2016, I visited Aleppo twice more, as well as areas around Damascus. The testimonies I gathered in Aleppo starkly contrasted narratives corporate media had been asserting.
On my seventh visit to Syria in June 2017, I returned to liberated Aleppo, visiting eastern areas formerly occupied by al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist factions. I saw the Eye Hospital complex, which also included the Children’s Hospital, in which terrorists (including ISIS, FSA and al-Qaeda), had imprisoned civilians, trying them in Sharia courts, torturing and executing them.
I also met the media-exploited “boy in the ambulance”, Omran Daqneesh, interviewing his father the day after Mohammad Daqneesh went public to Syrian and allied press about the exploitation of and lies around his son.
I visited the Quds hospital in al-Sukkari, Aleppo, which MSF had reported “destroyed” in 2016, reduced “to rubble”. It was of course not destroyed, still intact, and inside the militarized hospital were logos of the FSA.
On that June visit, I went to Madaya, a town NW of Damascus which had been the hub of media crocodile tears for “Assad is starving civilians”, and learned that the civilians were being starved by Ahrar al-Sham, al-Nusra, and other such “moderates”. I also visited recently-secured al-Waer, Homs, and found the same thing. [Many photos and videos from both areas in this article and extended blog post]
My published Syria writings, videos, photos can be found at this link.
Some highlights of my activism and writing from occupied Palestine include:
-Documenting the crimes of illegal Jewish colonists and the Israeli army against Palestinian civilians in Hebron (Khalil), Susiya, Bil’in, Nablus, and towns surrounding Nablus, including attacks on Palestinian farmers during the olive harvest (in 2007).
-Documenting, while volunteering with and riding in the ambulances of the Palestinian Red Crescent in northern areas of Gaza, Israeli war crimes during the December 2008/ January 2009 Israeli bombardment, including:
*Israel’s widespread use of White Phosphorous (see here, here, here, here, and here ) , as well as post-attack documentation and taking of testimonies in February 2009. See videos here.
*Israel’s targeting of Palestinian medics: in this example, an Israeli sniper fired on two uniformed medics and on the ambulance I was in. An Israeli soldier also targeted and killed a medic I had worked with, firing a flechette bomb (“dart bomb”) directly at he and the ambulance he stood at.
*Israel’s targeting Palestinian media. A media building I was on a higher level floor in was targeting by shelling. [account and video]
*Israel’s holding civilians as human shields: see here
*Israel’s point-blank assassinations of children (see here, here, here, and here)
*The widespread, intentional, destruction of homes and infrastructure (see entries from late January and February 2009
-First Strikes: Abbas police station Omar Mukthar street Dec 27 VIDEO
-Shifa Hospital: Too Critical. After the very first strikes on Gaza during Israel’s 23 day massacre of Gaza, nurses in Shifa hospital’s ICU describe some of the patients on their deathbeds. VIDEO
-Brain Matter Out: Nurses in Shifa hospital’s ICU describe some of the patients on their deathbeds. VIDEO
-American High School, NW Gaza, Bombed: Bombed by Israeli warplanes on the night of January 3. Upon arriving at the bombed school, a search for survivors or martyrs was done. In the pitch dark, without adequate lighting and under threat of at any moment being bombed again by the Israeli warplanes, we were unable to find the martyr’s body and had to return at first light. The youth, a teen from the area, was the night watchman at the school. His dead body was burned and mutilated by the bombing. VIDEO
–Survivors From Ezbet Abed Rabbo: transporting some of the over 5000 Palestinians injured by Israeli bombing and firing during the 23 day Israeli massacre of Gaza. Gaza’s Palestinians had no bomb shelters, no air raid sirens, no safe havens, no means of escaping the Strip which was being bombed in its entirety. The residents of Ezbet Abed Rabbo faced some of the worst atrocities at the hands of the occupying Israeli soldiers, including point-blank shooting to kill, denial of water, food and medication, assault, detention in vast mud walled pit, and bombing of homes in which families resided.VIDEO
-Transporting Injured Palestinian Civilians VIDEO
-Husband of Drone Strike Martyr: After an initial Israeli bombing outside his home (during the 23 day Israeli war on Gaza in 2008-2009), the man’s wife ran out to help any injured. within minutes a second Israeli bombing in the same place, a precision drone missile, torn her apart. While trying to help collect her pieces and load her onto a stretcher, the husband wails his grief. VIDEO
-Documenting, during the November 2012 bombardment of Gaza, Israeli war crimes, from a central Gaza hospital, including the drone strike killing of a youth just hours before the ceasefire
-Documenting (often under heavy Israeli fire at close proximity) examples of the Israeli army and navy’s near-daily armed assaults against unarmed Palestinian fishers and farmers (including elderly, children, women, families, young men working to support their families).
-Writing about the devastating effects of the full siege Israel has imposed on all aspects of life in Gaza.
-Giving no-entrance-fee lectures on Palestine throughout the US, Canada, and also in Ireland and the UK.
*For a longer summary, including many photos, look here.
This interview further outlines some of my experiences. Excerpts include:
“…being in dangerous areas became normal after my experiences in West Bank areas of occupied Palestine, on the ground for eight months in 2007 where I saw invasions and lockdowns of villages by the heavily-armed Israeli army, excessive brutality against truly unarmed protesters, and the unchecked violence of illegal Jewish colonists against Palestinian civilians, among other crimes.
Twice arrested there due to solidarity work, ultimately deported by the Zionists and banned from Palestine, in November 2008, I entered Gaza, by boat, traversing Palestinian waters, part of a volunteer movement to bring focus to the dire siege on Gaza. As it happened, I stayed for a cumulative three years, witnessing and documenting two major Zionist massacres of the people of Gaza, and the Zionists’ daily wars on farmers, fishers, industry and all aspects of life in Gaza.
Going to Syria was something I felt the need to do—as should any person capable of doing so—in order to see and hear directly for myself what Syrians actually have to say about the fake ‘revolution’ and the hell they have been living since its inception in 2011. As with being in Palestine under Zionist bombs and attacks, being in Syria under attacks of the NATO and allied terrorists, one doesn’t think of fear and one takes strength from the people defying these attacks and somehow continuing their beautiful traditions, living, marrying, resisting the Saudi death cultists by celebrating life even amidst war.”
GLOBAL CIR: During 2012 you reported and documented the stories from Central Hospital in Gaza. What did you witness there and can a person and in what way continue to function normally, to go to work, to laugh…? How this what you do influence your life?
“In November 2012, Israel heavily bombarded all over Gaza for over one week. At that time, I was living in central Gaza and as my instinct was to document the Zionists’ war crimes, I went to the main hospital there, to document the victims and the martyrs.
By this point I had experienced the December 2008/January 2009 massacre, my first such experience. Then, I was one of around eight international solidarity activists based in Gaza, and throughout the weeks of savage bombings I was on the ground in some of the most hard-hit areas, particularly northern Gaza districts, riding in the ambulances of Palestinian medics. One ambulance I was in came under intense sniper fire while retrieving the corpse of a Palestinian civilian. Riding in the ambulances was an attempt to discourage the Israeli army from targeting medics as is their standard practise. It also enabled me to document first-hand some of the victims of Israel’s war crimes, including their using White Phosphorous on residential districts and close range point-blank shootings.
After the massacre, I followed up by taking testimonies of families whose loved ones, including infants and toddlers, were point-blank shot dead by Israeli soldiers, others who were murdered or mutilated by White Phosphorous, and others whose loved ones were murdered by flechette (dart) bombs, as was a medic friend of mine.
By the time of the November 2012 massacre, I had also experienced the routine Israeli army firing on farmers, while accompanying them on their land, with bullets flying past within inches of my head and body on a routine basis. So the concept of ‘danger’ was long gone, and sadly I had become accustomed to the sight of injured and dead. However, on the last day of the bombings in 2012, two children were brought to the hospital; their stories broke my heart: within two hours before a full cease-fire was to be implemented, a 4 year old girl was brought in and died on the emergency room table. Shortly after, a 14 year old boy was brought in, also dead on arrival. The boy’s body was so mutilated by the drone strike which killed him that I sobbed as I hadn’t since 2009. Sometimes a tragedy breaks the defensive emotional wall one builds to cope with such crimes.
I believe that Palestinians continue on in spite of such horrific losses because they have no other choice. A number of them find comfort in religion. And during the hardest times, many I know were even able to find something to laugh at in their absurd, tragic situation. For myself, it is the bravery and resilience of Palestinians, or Yemenis, Syrians, anyone in such unjust circumstances, which keeps me grounded and inspired to do whatever possible to contribute to bringing an end to their suffering…”
*In Bil’in, Palestine, 2007, at a demonstration against the wall Israel has built on false premises of “security”, stealing 60% of the residents’ land. The Israeli army routinely abducts Bil’in residents in hopes that they will cease to protest the theft of their land. Prior to the tear gassing, soldiers surrounded us kicking at our bodies and heads. Full account here. Video here.