SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: November 13, 2019

Attack Types: Imprisonment

Institution(s):Bisan Center for Research and Development

Region & Country:Western Asia | Palestine (OPT)

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 13, 2019, the Israeli military detained Ubai Aboudi, a researcher and the director of the Bisan Center for Research and Development in Ramallah. A military court has since sentenced Aboudi to two months imprisonment without charge.

Aboudi is a Palestinian-American political economist who heads the Bisan Center, which produces research and policy papers on issues including education, development, democracy, and environmentalism in Palestine. Under Aboudi’s leadership, the Center has reportedly engaged increasingly in advocacy to highlight issues related to the rights to education, academic freedom, and freedom of expression in Palestine. According to the Middle Eastern Studies Association, Aboudi’s scholarship has focused recently on enhancing Palestinian education in the STEM fields.

Sources indicate that, at approximately 3:00 AM on November 13, Israeli soldiers entered Aboudi’s home in the Kufr Aqab neighborhood of East Jerusalem. There, soldiers reportedly confiscated Aboudi’s mobile phone and US passport, and detained him on unknown charges in front of his family. The military informed Aboudi’s family the next day that he had been transferred to Ofer prison, outside of Ramallah in the West Bank.

Five days after his arrest, Aboudi appeared before an Israeli military court and was sentenced to four months imprisonment without charge. The court later reduced his sentence to two months, through an “administrative detention” order, a procedure that allows for the incarceration of an individual without trial or charge, based on undisclosed evidence that they intended to commit a crime.

Aboudi’s arrest and sentencing occurred roughly two months before before the third annual meeting of Scientists for Palestine, scheduled to take place in January 2020 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Scientists for Palestine is an organization devoted to integrating the Occupied Palestinian Territories into the international scientific community. Aboudi was reportedly a key organizer of the event. Aboudi’s supporters have commented that his arrest in advance of the event appears to fit a pattern of detentions and travel restrictions by Israeli authorities that disrupt academic activity, including international exchanges.

Scholars at Risk is concerned by the arbitrary detention and incarceration of a scholar by state military authorities. Arbitrary arrests and imprisonments without particularized and reasonable suspicion may violate recognized human rights standards and international humanitarian law. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.