Op-Ed: Our connection to events in Palestine

Feb. 27, 2012, 12:30 a.m.

Fadi Quran, a person of tremendous courage and wisdom, a 2010 Stanford graduate, my friend and the friend of many others at our University, a Palestinian dedicated to the struggle for justice and human dignity, a man absolutely committed in theory and practice to nonviolence, appeared Friday in an Internet video, his face discolored and bruised, being beaten, handcuffed and dragged by soldiers in the course of a demonstration in Hebron. As his friends and members of his community, many of us are working to help him, to free him, to protect him.


Helping Fadi in this moment of pain and danger is an imperative that comes from our hearts. But many of us are also allied with him in his larger purpose – to end the terrible conflict between Israel and Palestine, to lift the cruel military occupation, the long ordeal of homelessness, the wall, the settlements, the checkpoints, the house demolitions, the destruction of agriculture, the separation of families, the choking off of the very means of survival, the treatment of a whole nation of nationless people as less than human.


As a brilliant graduate of Stanford in physics and international relations, Fadi could have done just about anything he wanted to. But personal success and power were not on his list. He was 20 when I met him in 2008; by that time he had already put himself on the line many times, and had suffered for it. His resolve to follow a path of nonviolence was clearer than ever after he participated in a Stanford overseas seminar in India, led by Prof. Clayborne Carson and me. We called the seminar “Gandhi and his legacy: Nonviolence in India, America, and the World.” In his last year at Stanford, Fadi worked for divestment. That campaign, like the one before it at Stanford and the one after it (unfolding at this moment) aroused extreme feelings and strong opposition as well as alliance and support. With his deep convictions about the necessity of dialogue, reconciliation and love, Fadi reached out to Jewish individuals and organizations and earned great respect even from those who disagreed with him. After graduation he returned to his home in Ramallah. He was featured in a March 31, 2011, article in Time magazine: “A New Palestinian Movement: Young, Networked, Nonviolent.” He is also featured in a film in progress called “Martin Luther King, Jr. in Palestine.”


Last November, when Americans were honoring the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Freedom Riders with TV specials and public events, Fadi and his companions in Palestine were giving new birth to the concept of Freedom Riders.  While Palestinians must follow a tortuous route through checkpoints to get to East Jerusalem, if they can get there at all, residents of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank ride segregated buses over segregated roads on which Palestinians are not permitted. The Freedom Riders boarded one of these forbidden buses and rode till they were dragged off and arrested. This story was widely covered in the world press, with a picture showing Fadi in the bus with his sister, holding up a sign that says, “WE SHALL OVERCOME.”


As I write this, Fadi is in a military prison. His friends are mobilizing to get support from Stanford and elsewhere to secure his release and to keep him safe.


A powerful nonviolent movement is building in Palestine. Many understand that this is likely to be the most potent movement of all. Effective nonviolent leaders can be a particular threat to entrenched powers. It’s up to us to stand with brave and visionary nonviolent leaders and movements – not to be silent bystanders. We are connected to Israel and Palestine in more ways than we know.


Linda Hess ’64

Senior Lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies

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