Webinar highlights case of Ubai Aboudi, struggle of Palestinian prisoners

On Sunday, 19 April, the NY4Palestine Coalition hosted an online webinar highlighting the case of imprisoned Palestinian-American researcher Ubai Aboudi and the overall struggle of Palestinian prisoners for justice and liberation. Speakers at the webinar, which reached maximum capacity on Zoom and was also livestreamed on Facebook, included Hind Shraydeh, Palestinian human rights defender and the wife of Ubai Aboudi; Dr. Haynes Miller, professor of mathematics at MIT and an organizer of the Scientists for Palestine conference; and Hadeel Shatara, an organizer with Samidoun Network in occupied Palestine.

Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network in NY is a member of the coalition along with Al-Awda New York, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition; Within Our Lifetime – United for Palestine; American Muslims for Palestine – NJ Chapter; the Muslim American Society – New York; and multiple chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine at New York City campuses.

Watch the video of the webinar here:

Wassim Kanaan of American Muslims for Palestine and Nerdeen Kiswani of Within Our Lifetime moderated the event, introducing the speakers and highlighting the importance of international solidarity and mobilization, especially around Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.

Hind Shraydeh, taking time on the holiest day of the Orthodox calendar on Easter, joined the webinar to discuss the case of her husband, Ubai Aboudi, and the injustices faced by Palestinian prisoners. She highlighted the fact that Ubai is a U.S. citizen yet received little to no support from the U.S. State Department, even when he was jailed without charge or trial under administrative detention. After a global outcry from scientists and researchers who have worked with the Bisan Center he directs, he was then transferred to the military court with trumped-up charges based entirely on political and social work and association. She emphasized that the struggle was not Ubai’s alone, and focused on the need to achieve justice and freedom for all Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails.

Haynes Miller spoke about the organizing of the Scientists for Palestine conference at MIT, noting that he had long been appalled by the violations of international law and human rights taking place in occupied Palestine. He discussed Ubai Aboudi’s work with Bisan Center to bring the conference together, working with Palestinian scientists and building connections, and organizing a parallel event to provide a video link to the Cambridge conference. “The conference was haunted by the specter of our colleague Ubai in prison,” he noted, emphasizing the ongoing work to support science in Palestine – and to free Ubai and his fellow imprisoned Palestinians.

Hadeel Shatara followed, highlighting the work of Samidoun Network in occupied Palestine and the threat posed by COVID-19 to Palestinian prisoners. She discussed ongoing and systematic Israeli medical neglect against the prisoners as well as the denial of access to their families and lawyers, imposing another kind of psychological torture on the detainees’ families. She also noted that the prisoners are placed at particularly severe risk of COVID-19, denied access to sanitary products in the “canteen” (prison store) and repeatedly exposed to potentially infected Israeli interrogators, repressive units and jailers. She emphasized that violent night raids, arrests and home demolitions continue to target the prisoners and their families amid the pandemic.

Lamis Deek of Al-Awda, a Palestinian human rights attorney, provided further insight into the Ubai Aboudi case, highlighting the key role of international pressure, particularly from scientists, in protecting him from extreme torture and abuse and emphasizing the need for continued advocacy to raise the profile of his case.

A discussion followed with questions from attendees and responses from participants about connections between imprisonment and racialized repression in the United States and Palestine, increasing settler violence amid the pandemic and the possibilities to struggle together. Charlotte Kates of Samidoun wrapped up the discussion with action items, including writing to members of Congress and the State Department to demand action and accountability on the case of Ubai Aboudi; contacting members of Congress to support H.R. 2407, the bill that aims to prevent U.S. funding of the military detention of Palestinian children; and getting involved with the movement for justice in Palestine, especially the NY4Palestine coalition members.

Here are some of the ways that you can take action on these important issues:

1. First, help support freedom for Ubai Aboudi! You heard Hind tell the story of herself and her family – and take time away amid the Easter celebrations to share with all of us.  Call and email the Department of State at (202) 647-4000 and EMAIL to OFM-Info@state.gov , OFMNYCustomerService@state.gov , OFMCGCustomerService@state.gov , OFMMICustomerService@state.gov

Contact your member of Congress. Find your Representatives: https://www.house.gov/representatives

Here is a sample message:
Hi, my name is ____ and I am calling to demand that the Department of State act to secure the release of US Citizen, Palestinian Civilian, Father and Educator, Ubai Aboudi from Israeli Military custody where he has languished since November 13, 2019.  Scholars and activists from all over the world have been calling for his release.

I am shocked that the Department of State would allow any US Citizen- a civilian no less- to be held by a foreign government-let alone a foreign military without due process. Not only is the Israeli military detention of a civilian illegal under international law-and considered a war crime- it also compromises the safety of all US Citizens as they travel and reside abroad. It especially compromises the rights and protections of Palestinians as they return to or visit their homes and families. How can I feel safe traveling or residing anywhere outside the US, when I know that my own government would sit idly by if I were kidnapped by a foreign military through illegal means, such as “administrative detention” and held without due process by an illegal military occupation force.

Worse over, the UN has found Israeli military courts violate international law and has recently found that Israel practices systematic torture of Palestinians with impunity-  the ICC is now investigating Israel for war crimes.

It is absolutely terrifying to think your department would allow a US Citizen to be held by a government that has been found to violate rules against torture and racism and is being investigated for war crimes.

I want to know what your office will be doing to protect Mr. Aboudi’s rights and what you will be doing to secure his release. I want to see Ubai Aboudi reunited with his family and I will follow up to see what your office has done to further ensure his safety.

I am also appalled that during a health and financial crisis in the US and here in (this state) that you would continue to approve the diversion of US taxpayers money to this same illegal military that is also the only military in the world which kidnaps and tortures children. It is anathema that you would approve funding of such a government and its military- it is all the more outrageous that you would deprive the hungry and needing children of the US to send money to a military that tortures children overseas.

I demand that you take immediate action to stop funding and bring our tax dollars home!

And don’t forget to tweet about the case – you can share a link to the video of this event! Use the hashtag #Freedom4Ubai.

2. Contact your Representative and ask them to support H.R. 2407, the important bill to help protect Palestinian children from Israeli military detention. There is an easy online action provided by American Muslims for Palestine – just follow this link to take part: https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51044/p/dia/action4/common/public/?action_KEY=22466

3. Get involved with NY4Palestine and Palestine activism in your area!

This event was organized by the NY4Palestine Coalition. Find us on Facebook here: https://facebook.com/NY4Palestine/
We are comprised of several groups in the NY area – please check out our member organizations!