Why Are Palestinians “Disappearing” in Saudi Arabia?

October 18, 2019

by: Khaled Abu Toameh~Gatestone Institute

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visiting with Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz

Friday, 18 October 2019 | Dozens of Palestinians have been “disappearing” in Saudi Arabia in recent months and are believed held in detention in the kingdom’s prisons, according to Palestinian sources and international human rights organizations.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria], which regularly condemns Israel for arresting Palestinians suspected of involvement in terrorism and other anti-Israel activities, has been reluctant to speak out against the Saudi purge of Palestinians, ostensibly for security reasons, not to harm its relations with the kingdom.

The PA is not only keeping mum about the unprecedented Saudi crackdown, but it is also trying to prevent the families of the detainees from protesting in public. Last week, the PA’s Preventive Security Service summoned the family of Palestinian engineer Abdullah Odeh, [who is] being held in a Saudi prison, and warned them not to protest their son’s detention.

Odeh’s family was planning to arrive at a football match between Saudi Arabia’s national soccer team and the Palestinian national soccer team as part of the World Cup qualifier held on October 15 near the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The family was warned that they would be beaten and arrested if they arrived at the Faisal al-Husseini Football Stadium to protest their son’s incarceration in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, the family was ordered to remove all social media posts denouncing the arrest of Odeh and calling for his release.

The Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med), a youth-led independent organization that advocates for human rights across Europe and the Middle East, said it has collected names of about 60 Palestinians detained by the Saudi authorities in recent months.

The organization said that it has documented testimonies from 11 Palestinian families whose sons have been detained or were forcibly “disappeared” during their stay in or visit to Saudi Arabia. The detainees include students, residents, academics and businessmen, Euro-Med said in a statement.

Selin Yasar, Euro-Med’s communication and media officer, said that the “campaign in Saudi Arabia of arresting Palestinians is but one in a long series of human rights violations in the country.”

The family of one of the Palestinian detainees in Saudi Arabia told the organization that they were prevented from asking about his fate or the place of detention. “My biggest heartache is not knowing anything about my husband,” the detainee’s wife complained. “I don’t know if he is alive, dead, healthy or tortured, and this made his disappearance more painful for my children, his parents and his siblings.”

Another Palestinian family whose son is being held in Saudi Arabia said they lost contact with him last July. Since then, they have heard nothing about his fate or whereabouts. During the same month, the Saudi authorities also arrested a 60-year-old Palestinian businessman who has been living in Jeddah for decades. Even Palestinians who went to Mecca for the Islamic pilgrimage (hajj) have fallen victim to the Saudi “security-motivated” detentions.

The Saudi authorities have offered no explanation for the widespread campaign targeting Palestinians in the kingdom. It appears that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his officials in Ramallah fear that any criticism of this behavior would jeopardize the financial handouts and political support they receive from Saudi Arabia. Abbas and the PA leadership have long tip-toed around any Arab country that mistreats Palestinians or subjects them to discriminatory laws, as in Lebanon.

Abbas was scheduled to arrive in Riyadh this week for talks with King Salman bin Abdel Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on ways of strengthening bilateral relations. The issue of the Palestinian detainees in Saudi Arabia seems to have missed the agenda of the discussions. For Palestinian leaders, Saudi money and political backing far outweigh the fate of a few dozen Palestinians held without trial in an Arab country.

It is only Palestinians who are held by Israel for terrorist-related crimes who Abbas and his friends remember to mention in their endless litanies of complaints. Why spoil relations with Saudi Arabia, one of the PA’s prime cash cows, because of a handful of Palestinians who, together with their families, are being denied basic rights in an Arab country that continues, in public, to state its full support for the Palestinians and what they perceive as their rights?

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

Posted on October 18, 2019

Source: (Excerpt from an article originally published by Gatestone Institute on October 17, 2019. Time-related language has been modified to reflect our republication today. See original article at this link.)

Photo Credit: VOA News/YouTube/screenshot