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Israel holds a US scholar in administrative detention, as colleagues demand his release

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International scholars and activists are campaigning for the release of their colleague and friend, Ubai Aboudi, who was arrested by Israeli forces on November 13th and has since been held under administrative detention.

Aboudi, a US citizen and director of the Ramallah-based Bisan Center for Research and Development, was detained from his home in the town of Kafr Aqab northeast of Jerusalem, where he lives with his wife Hind and their three young children.

Born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, Aboudi has lived most of his adult life in Ramallah, where he was educated as a political economist at Birzeit University.

His work at the Bisan center, according to family and friends, consists mostly of working with marginalized communities in rural areas of Palestine “to support their struggle in advancing their socio-economic rights.”

“Ubai’s family and friends are distraught and anxious for his immediate release,” a statement written by Aboudi’s family said, adding that “Ubai would like nothing more than to continue his work of bringing education and equal gender rights to his community” and to be home with his family to decorate their Christmas tree.

“It is a violation of international rights to imprison a person without any accusations or indictments,” the statement said, urging “fellow Americans and citizens of the world who believe in the rule of law and Ubai’s rights of due process as a US citizen and human being to demand for his immediate release.”

On November 18th, five days after he was arrested, Aboudi was put before an Israeli military court — which has a 99% conviction rate — and sentenced to 4 months in prison, subject to renewal.

Under Israel’s widely condemned policy of administrative detention, Palestinians can be detained for months, or years at a time, for “security reasons,” without ever being charged with a crime or having their day in court.

Aboudi was set to attend the Scientists for Palestine conference in January at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which he had been instrumental in organizing through his position at Bisan. 

Aboudi with his wife and children (Photo: The Action Network)

His arrest has drawn the attention of activists and scholars from around the globe, including Noam Chomsky, Nobel laureate George Smith, and Amnesty International.

“It’s a crime that the Israeli military would pull a gentle soul like Ubai out of his home in front of his family in the middle of the night,” Chomsky said in a joint statement published by Scientists for Palestine. “They are clearly sending a signal to anyone who works with Palestinian civil society.”

Amnesty International released an urgent call for action, asking its followers to write an appeal to Israel’s chief of Central Command, Major-General Nadav Padan, demanding the release of Aboudi ahead of his next court hearing on November 28th.

“Amnesty International is gravely concerned that Israel’s systematic use of administrative detention against Palestinians violates international human rights law; its use as such result  in arbitrary detention, and if prolonged or repeated can amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” the group said.

Mario Martone, theoretical physicist and spokesman for Scientists for Palestine, expressed the group’s fear that “this attack is directed towards those with strong relations with international organizations oriented towards implementing change in Palestine.”

A petition has been set up online for supporters of Aboudi’s case to sign.

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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3 Responses

  1. eljay on November 26, 2019, 9:55 am

    An American citizen living and working in not-Israel…
    – is kidnapped from his home in not-Israel by Israeli Occupation and Colonization Forces goons operating in not-Israel; and
    – is incarcerated in an Israeli prison located in not-Israel,
    …and the U.S. government is apparently too busy fellating the Zionist donkey to say or do anything about it.

    • genesto on November 26, 2019, 12:38 pm

      The US’ standard response to American citizens injured or imprisoned by Israel for supporting Palestinian rights has, for a long time, been, “You’re on your own, Buddy!” And if you are killed, well then, it’s, “Don’t worry, just let the Israeli ‘justice’ system take care of things.”

  2. Misterioso on November 26, 2019, 10:30 am

    Although not precisely on topic, this article regarding the arrest and detention of Ubai Aboudi brings to mind the following ugly historical facts Zionists have attempted to suppress since 1948.

    “On Israel’s little-known concentration and labor camps in 1948-1955”
    Oct 19, 2014 | Articles & Features

    “It is shocking that this would have happened in Palestine within just a few years after the Nazi regime was defeated and all the prisoners including the large number of Jews in their concentration camps were freed.

    “The following article by Yazan al-Saadi was published in Alakhbar on Monday, September 29, 2014.

    “Much of the grim and murky circumstances of the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the late 1940s have gradually been exposed over time. One aspect – rarely researched or deeply discussed – is the internment of thousands of Palestinian civilians within at least 22 Zionist-run concentration and labor camps that existed from 1948 to 1955. Now more is known about the contours of this historical crime, due to the comprehensive research by renowned Palestinian historian Salman Abu Sitta and founding member of the Palestinian resource center BADIL, Terry Rempel.

    “The facts are these.

    “The study – to be published in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies – relies on almost 500 pages of International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) reports written during the 1948 war, that were declassified and made available to the public in 1996, and accidentally discovered by one of the authors in 1999.

    “Furthermore, testimonies of 22 former Palestinian civilian detainees of these camps were collected by the authors, through interviews they conducted themselves in 2002, or documented by others during different moments of time.

    “With these sources of information, the authors, as they put it, pieced together a clearer story of how Israel captured and imprisoned ‘thousands of Palestinian civilians as forced laborers,’ and exploited them ‘to support its war-time economy.’

    “Digging up the crimes

    “’I came across this piece of history in the 1990s when I was collecting material and documents about Palestinian,’ Abu Sitta told Al-Akhbar English. ‘The more and more you dig, the more you find there are crimes that have taken place that are not reported and not known.’

    “At that time, Abu Sitta went to Geneva for a week to check out the newly-opened archives of the ICRC. According to him, the archives were opened to the public after accusations that the ICRC had sided with the Nazis during World War II. It was an opportunity that he could not miss in terms of seeing what the ICRC had recorded of the events that occurred in Palestine in 1948. It was there he stumbled onto records discussing the existence of five concentration camps run by the Israelis.

    “He then decided to look for witnesses or former detainees, interviewing Palestinians in occupied Palestine, Syria, and Jordan.

    “’They all described the same story, and their real experience in these camps,’ he said.

    “One question that immediately struck him was why there was barely any references in history about these camps, especially when it became clearer the more he researched that they existed, and were more than just five camps.

    “’Many former Palestinian detainees saw the concept of Israel as a vicious enemy, so they thought their experience labouring in these concentration camps was nothing in comparison to the other larger tragedy of the Nakba. The Nakba overshadowed everything,’ Abu Sitta explained.

    “’However, when I dug into the period of 1948-1955, I found more references like Mohammed Nimr al-Khatib, who was an imam in Haifa, who had written down interviews with someone from al-Yahya family that was in one of the camps. I was able to trace this man all the way to California and spoke with him in 2002,’ he added.

    “More references were eventually and slowly discovered by Abu Sitta that included information from a Jewish woman called Janoud, a single masters thesis in Hebrew University about the topic, and the personal accounts of economist Yusif Sayigh, helped to further flesh out the scale and nature of these camps.

    “After more than a decade, Abu Sitta, with his co-author Rempel, are finally presenting their findings to the public.”

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