Fadi Quran

A friend and fellow Stanford physics grad, Fadi Quran, a Palestinian with US citizenship, was pepper sprayed in the face, thrown against a Jeep, dumped on the ground, and arrested on Friday, February 24, his 24th birthday.

The Israeli soldiers who did this to him accused him of assaulting a soldier, even though video evidence from at least two angles contradicts this.

It happened in Hebron, a Palestinian city whose heart has been nearly emptied of tens of thousands of Palestinians so that 500 settler fanatics can have the run of the place guarded by 2,000 Israeli soldiers. It is truly one of the most surreal scenes in the world, a post-apocalyptic ghost town sprayed with racist and violent anti-Arab graffiti.

The main commercial street of Hebron, Shuhada Street, was closed to Palestinians after an American settler named Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Muslims at worship in the nearby Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994. You heard right – the settlers were effectively rewarded by the Israeli government for committing a massacre.

Fadi was protesting this unjustifiable 18-years-and-counting closure, unarmed and non-violent, miles inside Palestinian territory, when Israeli soldiers approached him and pushed him back, saying in broken Arabic, “Go back!”

Fadi replied, “You go back! What do you want from us? This is Palestine! You go back!”

One of the soldiers yelled again, “Go back!” and immediately grabbed him violently. Another soldier sprayed him in the eye with pepper spray. They then bum-rushed him to their army Jeep and threw him on the ground next to it, banging his head against the rear bumper on the way down. They stood over him while other soldiers started roughing up the people trying to record this event.

This post at The Atlantic shows two videos of the event from two different angles.

It’s obvious from the videos that the charge against Fadi is not only untrue, it’s completely backwards. As usual, though, evidence doesn’t matter when it comes to Palestinians. Soldiers can do what they like to Palestinians, charge them with whatever they like, throw them in jail however long they like. It doesn’t have to be true. Doesn’t even have to make sense. All they have to do is say it.

Under Israeli military law, they can hold Fadi for as long as they like — forever if they want to — without charging him with any crime or, if they do charge him, without giving him a public trial (or any trial at all).

Luckily in Fadi’s case, it seems he will be released on bail due largely to the fact that thousands of people, including “Noam Chomsky, Stanford Middle East professors Joel Beinin and Khalil Barhoum, and Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research Institute Clayborne Carson,” signed petitions and joined Facebook pages demanding his release.

But there’s no guarantee. The latest word seems to be that “Quran was not released and was moved to Ofer prison in the West Bank. He will face a second hearing Tuesday morning.”

While at Stanford, Fadi took part in a three-week academic seminar in Ahmedabad, India, where he studied nonviolence at Gandhi’s ashram. TIME magazine profiled Fadi last March, calling him 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.”

Fadi says in the article, “I think about the dogs unleashed on Martin Luther King in Birmingham. I think about the beatings. That’s what it took for Americans to see the justice of his cause. We will be risking our lives, but that is what it takes.”

I spoke with Fadi last time I was in Ramallah, and he had no illusions. He knew very well that he may be beaten, arrested, financially ruined, or killed for nis non-violent resistance to occupation. So when I saw the videos of soldiers assaulting and arresting him, I can’t say I was surprised, and he probably wasn’t surprised, either. He knows the reality. But it’s still sickening that so many people are forced to endure such pain and indignity merely to try to regain their fundamental human rights, their only weapons being cameras to record it, reporters to report it, and the conscience of the world.

If anyone ever again dares to ask, “Where’s the Palestinian Gandhi?” I hope you will tell them about Fadi, one of thousands of Palestinian Gandhis.

The Stanford Daily ran at least two articles about his detention, and The Atlantic came out with a piece about Fadi’s arrest called “The Arab Spring comes to Israel.”

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Palestinian prisoners, many of them committed non-violent activists like Fadi and/or imprisoned for reasons just as bogus, are not Stanford graduates, not as networked, not profiled in TIME Magazine. Hundreds of Palestinian Gandhis still languish in Israeli jails with no timeline for their release, no hope of a fair trial.

Khader Adnan, another Palestinian jailed without charge or trial, recently ended an unbelievable 66-day hunger strike in exchange for Israel agreeing to let him go after “only” four months of detention without due process.

He was willing to get dangerously close to death, which garnered worldwide media attention in the last days of his hunger strike, to defend his dignity and basic rights as a human being. And if he hadn’t, he might have been jailed for life with no legal recourse whatsoever.

This is just another tiny slice of what occupation means for millions of people.

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If you would like to learn more about the situation in Israel and Palestine and how to impact it positively, and you live in the Bay Area, a conference called Breaking the Barriers to a Just Peace in Israel/Palestine will be held in Sunnyvale on March 24-25, hosted by Friends of Sabeel. (Sabeel is a grassroots Palestinian Christian movement for peace, justice, and freedom.) The exciting program will include many fabulous speakers, some of whom are friends of mine, including Palestinian entrepreneurs.

You can register here.

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