Abdeen Jabara Papers

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Abdeen Jabara papers

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Abdeen Jabara record group held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the collection's online finding aid.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

A New York attorney originally based in Detroit. Abdeen Jabara is concerned with issues of the civil rights of Arab Americans, the effects of September 11th nationally and globally, and the contentious relationship between Arab and Israeli organizations. The Jabara papers also pertain to various litigation procedures and case files, including those in Michigan, with the federal government, and those involving various humanitarian projects. In particular, Jabara challenged the practice of law enforcement agencies to collect information and maintain surveillance of Arabs and Arab Americans. He was involved in the murder trial of Sirhan Sirhan and the extradition case of Ziad Abu Eain. Materials are organized into litigation and case files, as well as topical files pertaining to Arab American activism, organizational involvement, participation in the Middle East delegation of the National Lawyers Guild, and other pertinent global and national events highlighting Arabic issues.

Abdeen M. Jabara was born in Mancelona, Michigan in 1940 to Lebanese parents who had immigrated to the United States in the early 20th century. Jabara took an interest in Middle Eastern affairs throughout his youth and upon high school graduation (1958), he decided to attend the University of Michigan primarily because the school offered courses in Arabic and had a large Arab student population. During his early undergraduate years, Jabara determined that in order to learn the Arabic language properly, he would have to immerse himself in the culture - spending five months in Cairo. He then journeyed by freighter to Lebanon to visit his father's village, where he met his uncle for the first time.

Upon returning from this trip, Jabara's focus centered more on the completion of his undergraduate education at Michigan than on Middle Eastern issues. However, during his years of law school at Wayne State University in Detroit, he gradually became more involved with civil rights and founded a local chapter of the Civil Rights Research Council. He graduated from law school in 1965 and returned to Lebanon to further develop his Arabic language skills.

Jabara returned to Detroit in 1966 to open his law practice. In 1967, the Arab-Israeli war and the anti-Arab sentiment it created prompted Jabara to become more involved with Arab-American issues. Academics of Arab heritage met at the University of Michigan to discuss the political situation and formed the Association of Arab-American University Graduates (AAUG) in 1968. The mission of the AAUG was to promote educational and cultural activities and provide information about the Arab world and Arab-American community. Jabara served as the first executive secretary and was later elected president of the group in 1972.

In 1970, Jabara joined the law firm of Lafferty, Reosti, Jabara, Papakhian, Stickgold, James, and Smith in Detroit. For the next decade and a half, he would fight for the rights of Arabs living or traveling in the United States, as well as for political activists in general. He did so by challenging the practice of collecting information and maintaining surveillance of Arabs and Arab Americans by such institutions as the Detroit and Michigan State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Secretary of State. Jabara's own case against the FBI, for which he enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), finally ended in victory in 1984. The FBI agreed to destroy his file and acknowledge that collecting the information found within the file violated his constitutional rights.

Throughout his legal career, Jabara would take on nationally prominent cases of Arabs and Arab-Americans. Such cases included Sirhan B. Sirhan, convicted for the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, and Ziad Abu Eain, wanted for extradition to Israel for a 1979 Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) bombing. Jabara also worked as part of the defense team for Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman, who was accused of plotting to destroy New York City landmarks and the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Jabara was also involved in the National Lawyer's Guild (NLG), an organization founded as an alternative to the more conservative American Bar Association. In 1977, he traveled to Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the Occupied Territories as part of the NLG's Middle East delegation to report on the condition and treatment of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories. Jabara became president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in 1986. The ADC, founded by former Senator James Abourezk in 1980, devoted itself to the protection of the rights of people of Arab descent and the promotion of their cultural heritage. In 2002, Jabara worked for the ADC Research Institute in Washington D.C. He served as president of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, former board member of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and former co-counsel with Lynne Stewart for Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. As of January 2016, Jabara is a member of the legal advisory board for the American Muslim Council and an active member of the National Lawyers Guild.

Please note:

Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

Access to digitized sound recordings may be limited to the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library, located on the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan.

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