Palestinian Teacher Hospitalized, Says Israeli Border Guards Assaulted Him

Emir Abu Laban of East Jerusalem hospitalized for five days; Jerusalem authorities say they’re investigating his complaint

People at the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.
David Bachar

A Palestinian teacher from East Jerusalem has alleged that he was assaulted by Israeli border guards at Allenby Bridge on Thursday.

Amir Abu Laban, a 27-year-old teacher of Arabic from East Jerusalem’s A-Tur neighborhood, returned home from Amman via the Allenby Bridge with documents and a certificate showing that due to platinum plates in his body, he could not go through a metal detector.

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“I hadn’t finished speaking or explaining to the guard when a second later he twisted my arm and pushed me to the floor,” Abu Laban said. “I fell down and then three guards assaulted me, beating me in my head and arms and legs as though they were trying to neutralize me, and at least one of them cocked his gun. This all happened in a matter of seconds and I didn’t even manage to get a word in. I don’t know for what reason, and whether the fact that I have a beard and asked not to go through the metal detector got me such treatment.”

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He went on to say that one of the crossing’s commanders arrived and distanced the guards from him, apparently seeing that the guards had done wrong and that he was not a dangerous person. Abu Laban was taken to Hadassah Hospital, Ein Karem in Jerusalem with severe bruising all over his body and dizziness due to a blow to his head.

Abu Laban has filed a complaint with police and asked that the guards who attacked him be investigated. Police confirmed receiving the complaint and said it was being examined.

“I have no idea why they did this to me,” he said. “I’ve gone through the crossing many times, and I’ve never encountered this sort of behavior. I have documents and even a disabled person’s certificate, but the guard didn’t even let me explain my situation and just pounced on me as though he was catching some criminal or big-time terrorist.”

Abu Laban was released Tuesday from the hospital, still in pain. “I was so afraid, my entire body shook, it’s true that I’ve been released back home but I still can’t calm down from that incident.”

He described his experience on Facebook while he was in hospital and noted that it happened the same week he was being awarded a prize for his contributions to the study of Arabic.

Abu Laban is known in the East Jerusalem cultural scene as a teacher and director of a center for teaching Arabic, and is not known to be involved in political activities. His Facebook page is full of dozens of pictures of his meetings with leading writers in the Arab world, and last week he was awarded a certificate of honor for his contribution to the study of Arabic, and for being one of 100 influential people who have contributed to advancing Arabic language globally. The festive gathering held in Amman was sponsored by authors and academics from Jordan and elsewhere in the Arab world.