The NLG NYC Condemns the Israeli Government for the Detention of African American Political Activists
25 November 2009
The New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild condemns the actions of the Israeli government for its unlawful and racially motivated detention of two African-American political activists.
On November 23, 2009, Dhoruba Bin Wahad, a former U.S. political prisoner and leader of the Black Panther Party, and Naji Mujahid, a student-activist from Washington D.C., were on a tourist bus en route from Amman, Jordan to the West Bank of occupied Palestine. Both had been invited to attend a conference on political detention in Jericho that was sponsored by the Palestinian Authority. As the bus crossed the King Hussein Bridge that connects Jordan with the Israeli-occupied West Bank, it stopped for a border inspection by Israeli officers. Of the numerous individuals on the bus, only Dhoruba and Naji were ordered to disembark. Significantly, both were the only Black people on the bus. Within a short time, the border officials searched under Dhoruba’s name on the Internet. They discovered that he is Muslim, a former Black Panther leader, and someone who spent 19 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. (Dhoruba, a target of COINTELPRO, was arrested in 1971 and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was overturned in 1990). Both Dhoruba and Naji were interrogated, strip-searched, and their property confiscated and searched. Despite their cooperation and offer to return into Jordan, their detention continued for over 12 hours. They were ultimately released but denied permission to enter occupied Palestine and returned to Jordan.
The treatment accorded Dhoruba and Naji would be outrageous if it occurred to anyone. And as Naji Mujahid himself stated shortly after returning to Amman, “the humiliation and frustration that we endured was a small taste of what we can be sure the Palestinians go through on a daily basis.” But the incident is rendered even more shameful because its genesis appears to have been racial profiling. Dhoruba and Naji were ordered off the bus before Israeli border officials had any idea of their country of origin or personal histories. They only knew that they were Black. Moreover, the incident occurred only days after it was reported that the South African government deported an Israeli official following allegations that a member of Shin Bet, the Israeli secret police, had infiltrated the airport in Johannesburg in an effort to get information on South African citizens, particularly Black and Muslim travelers (Reuters, November 22, 2009).
The New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild calls upon the United States State Department to lodge a formal protest over the treatment of Dhoruba Bin Wahad and Naji Mujahid. We further call upon the Israeli government to end its racist and unjust detention and interrogation policies.
For further information about the NLG NYC statement, contact: Robert J. Boyle, Esq., 212-431-0229.