A recent graduate of my university was arrested last week for participating in a protest in the West Bank. The videos below tell much -- but not all -- of the story.
As he was being arrested, he was pepper sprayed (the orange color on his face in the video) and his head hit the bumper as he was pushed into the vehicle. This was on February 23rd, Fadi's 24th birthday. Fadi is, to the best of my limited knowledge, currently being held in Ofer military jail under "administrative detention," the process by which Palestinians can be held without charge. If he is charged, it will be on counts of pushing an Israeli soldier, which the video does not show and which is contrary to Fadi's reputation as an advocate of nonviolence.
A second video, brought to my attention from the page of Robert Wright, a senior editor at The Atlantic magazine, seems to confirm that Fadi did not physically engage the Israeli border police, a contention Wright appears to agree with.
The argument occurs when the border police bark at Fadi to move back, which he refuses to do since they are on what is universally recognized as Palestinian land in the West Bank. When Fadi challenged their authority to give orders outside of Israel, they arrested him in the violent manner seen above.
Professors, students, friends, and fellow activists have begun a concerted effort to demand his immediate release and are circulating this petition to that effect.
Fadi grew up in the West Bank and graduated from Stanford with a double major in physics and international relations. He returned to the West Bank after graduating to work in the clean energy sector there and to continue his activism. He has always been an unyielding advocate of nonviolent resistance in the vein of Martin Luther King and Ghandi, and spent three weeks in India at Ghandi's ashram to learn the actual tactics and strategies of a nonviolent resistance campaign.
In addition to doing interviews with the New York Times, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, and other news outlets, Fadi's activism was the topic of a March 2011 Time magazine story that described him as "the face of the new Middle East."
"He is a Palestinian who has returned home to start an alternative-energy company and see what he can do to help create a Palestinian state. He identifies with neither of the two preeminent Palestinian political factions, Hamas and Fatah. His allegiance is to the Facebook multitudes who orchestrated the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and who are organizing nonviolent protests throughout the region."
I had met Fadi in my first months at Stanford, but I doubt he would remember -- at the time I was still a freshman struggling to get my footing in the brave new world of college while he was an established and vocal activist on campus. He came in to speak to a class I was in, International Human Rights Documentaries, on the Palestine-Israel conflict (an Israeli student also came to speak from the other perspective). I also saw him at several other events, some were Palestine-related, others were not; sometimes he was on the stage and sometimes in the audience.
Despite the fact that ours was a vague and perhaps one way acquaintanceship, I feel comfortable making the following assertion: Fadi would not want there to be an international outcry over his detention if there were not a similar -- in fact, greater -- outcry over the detention of the 4,800 other Palestinians languishing in Israeli prisons after being denied trials in civilian courts, and the 300 who are imprisoned and not even charged with any crime. He happened to be an alumni of an institution prestigious enough and his work was prominent enough that his story caught fire in a way most Palestinian detentions would not.
However, Fadi's detention is not an exception, as some reports imply. The implication is not overt, but rather by the omission of certain facts -- that Palestinians are regularly arrested for participating in demonstrations; that Israel's military occupation of what little is left of Palestine has been ongoing for nearly 45 years; that Israel can and does deprive Palestinians of due process by detaining them without charge (as the U.S. can now do under Title X of the National Defense Authorization Act); and that the colonial expansion of settlements is widely recognized as illegal under various international laws.
These omissions have had the effect of limiting much of the activist work after Fadi's arrest to simply freeing Fadi. That is, of course, not in itself a bad thing -- freeing one detainee is better than freeing none, and Fadi's unshakeable commitment to nonviolence make him particularly worthy of our attention. But this atmosphere of increased political awareness resulting from Fadi's arrest could be harnessed to make a broader impact. The fact that a 66-day hunger strike by Khader Omar, a Palestinian detained without charge, ended in Israel agreeing to let him loose next month shows that the state is susceptible to the influence of bad publicity. The key is to use that strategy to effect change at the policy level, rather than on a case-by-case basis.
Fadi has done an excellent job of leveraging the clout his hard work has earned him for the cause of peaceful coexistence -- brought about by nonviolent means -- between Israel and Palestine. He is an important piece of the movement for a free and independent Palestine, and as such deserves any and all efforts we can muster to release him. I encourage you to visit www.freefadi.org to sign the petition calling for his release, and to "like" the Facebook page, "Free Fadi Quran" to be kept abreast of his situation. The best place for real time updates on his condition and case will be this page curated by his friend and fellow alum Jake Horowitz.
As important as it is to get Fadi back outside so he can continue the struggle, we must not forget that he is not fighting for his freedom, but the freedom of all Palestinians. Our work should not be limited to releasing Fadi, but must include leveraging this attention so that the freedom to peacefully protest is protected in Occupied Palestine.
A version of this article also appeared in the Stanford Progressive on February 28th.