Al-Awda Press Release
Palestinian human rights leader Ubai Aboudi, featured speaker at AL-AWDA NY “Rising to Return” conference, blocked from traveling to US along with colleague Sahar Francis
Two leading Palestinian NGO directors scheduled to speak at the World Social Forum and Al-Awda National Conference to support Palestinian right to return have been blocked from traveling, in an escalation of Israeli repression against Palestinian civil society.
New York, NY – A keynote speaker at the Al-Awda “Rising To Return” National Conference, along with a colleague scheduled to speak at the World Social Forum, have been blocked from traveling to the U.S. On April 29, Ubai Aboudi, Executive Director of the Ramallah-based Bisan Center for Research and Development, was detained and denied permission to travel as he tried to depart occupied Palestine for a North American speaking tour. On April 30, Sahar Francis, director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, was prevented from boarding her plane to the U.S. from Tel Aviv.
- This is the second time Aboudi has faced Israeli repression for taking part in intellectual exchanges in the U.S. In late 2019, Aboudi was abducted by occupation forces at his home, in front of his wife and children, as he prepared to travel to MIT in Cambridge, MA for the January 2020 International Meeting for Science in Palestine. Israeli military then held Aboudi for 11 months in administrative detention, without charges.
- This troubling, aggressive travel ban comes against an intensifying backdrop of Israeli government-backed right-wing settler violence in occupied Jerusalem and throughout Palestine.
- On Twitter, Addameer posted: “Preventing the directors of leading Palestinian civil society organizations from traveling & speaking abroad is a dangerous escalation in the Israeli-led harassment & isolation campaign.” It called the ban on travel by Francis and Aboudi “a blatant attempt at silencing criticism of Israeli apartheid & settler-colonialism.”
- Addameer, which supports political prisoners, and the Bisan Center, which supports education rights, are 2 of 6 Palestinian human rights groups baselessly designated last year by Israel as “terrorist organizations.” According to the United Nations human rights commission in an April 25, 2022 release, Israel’s accusation “has not been accompanied by any public concrete and credible evidence.” The UN statement called upon governments to resume funding to the 6 NGOs, including Addameer and Bisan Center.
- Israel has Aboudi banned from travel to the U.S. even though he is a U.S. citizen, at a time when Israel is demanding visa waivers for its own citizens who travel to the U.S. In recent weeks, Israel has rolled out intrusive questions that must be answered by U.S. Palestinians wishing to travel to Palestine, requiring them to disclose family and other contacts, social media handles, and any property they may be due to inherit in Palestine. “In this way,” said Al-Awda NY co-founder Lamis Deek, the colonizing entity tries to intimidate Palestinians here in the U.S., threatening that our families in Palestine will be harmed if we speak out.”
- “Al-Awda is outraged that Palestinian civil society leaders such as Sahar Francis and Ubai Aboudi are blocked from traveling to the ‘Rising To Return’ conference,” said Al-Awda spokesperson Anas Amireh. “But to quote Ubai, ‘This denial will not scare me, we will continue the work.’”
- Aboudi will now speak remotely in his scheduled May 7 conference plenary panel on “Defeating Criminalization and Increasing Direct Support and Aid to Palestine” and will lead several workshops also remotely.
- Petition campaigns against the travel bans on Aboudi and Francis will launch soon.
Al-Awda’s “Rising To Return” conference will bring together some of the world’s leading activists, writers, artists and scholars for three days of intensive planning and dialogue dedicated to mapping effective strategies to allow Palestinian refugees to return – and dismantle Israeli occupation and Zionist apartheid. The gathering begins on Friday, May 6 at 5:30 p.m. at The People’s Forum in Manhattan, 320 W. 37 St. and runs through Sunday, May 8, with plenary sessions, intensive workshops and panels, as well as film screenings, a book launch, and cultural performances, concluding with a press conference Sunday, May 8 at 3:00 p.m.
“The right to return for all Palestinians displaced by Zionist ethnic cleansing is an absolute necessity before there can be peace and justice in Palestine and in the region,” said Lamis Deek, co-founder of Al-Awda NY. “This right applies throughout the global Palestinian diaspora, and to Palestinians internally displaced who cannot travel to see their own families or visit the place they were born.”
“In one space, in one weekend, this conference will be a major step toward moving the right to return from a theoretical concept to a practical reality.” Deek said.
Reporters should reach out to Al-Awda press contacts or register at alawdaconference.org. Some sessions will be livestreamed, please reach out for details.