#FreeFadi: Homage to a Friend Behind Bars


Born on Feb 23, 1988 Fadi Quran grew up among a privileged class of Palestinians. He is among other things, a physicist, an alternative-energy entrepreneur, a political activist, but also my best friend since the age of five. We grew up together in war-torn Ramallah, where we developed our grandiose dreams for dignity, freedom, and most importantly, justice. Fadi always stood-out; I still remember when he ran for president of our high school's student government on the promise of freeing a political prisoner by mobilizing support in the local community and hiring a team of lawyers that will bring justice to one of the many of those residing in Israeli Jails. And like many youthful dreams, this remains unfulfilled. 

In our near-daily late-night walks, we talked about the powerless across the globe, in apartheid South Africa, in colonial India, and French controlled Algeria. We talked about the Vietnamese, the civil rights movement, and many other examples of powerless turning fortunes and achieving freedom and justice. We explored the ideas of the Zionist movement, trying to understand the opposing ‘other,’ and the rationale of its occupation and its discriminatory polices. We came into direct confrontation with vehement supporters of those ideas in our college years. We learned that the tragedy of the Holocaust is fundamentally inter-connected to our own history. We discussed the irony that Israel, a state built on the promise of security for those who who long-suffered under profoundly anti-Semitic societies, harms our own sense of security and dignity in its quest for security. And we came to the conclusion that non-violent massive mobilization is the only way forward. We understood that even non-violence might not be enough, for the powers involved might be larger, stronger than the will of an entire people, especially if not supported by citizens from across the globe. We understood that our freedom is directly connected to freeing the Israelis from the legacy and the trauma that the Holocaust and anti-Semitism have left on the psyche of an entire society. We understood that our quest was perhaps overly naïve. But unlike me, Fadi never wavered.

Our dreams are met today with a harsh reality, with Fadi undergoing a trail for allegedly pushing a soldier, an act which I am sure he did not do (this video clearly indicates he never did so). 

I have also witnessed the brutality of a banal occupation and the humiliation it inflicts on all of us. Stories abound of loved ones separated by racist laws, or those who die inexplicably in the demonstrations across the territories; their crime is a yearning for justice, and their punishment is an end of life. While the world sympathizes with those dying across the Arab world yearning for the same freedoms the Palestinians desire, they somehow fail to sympathize with us. We are called an ‘invented,' even diabolical people. We are viewed as on the frontline in the apocalyptic clash of civilizations. We are derided for taking too much airtime compared to other causes and other global issues, as I am faithfully reminded by many of friends at my own university, Johns Hopkins University-SAIS.

But, we are none of the above. As I and Fadi have come to realize, we only seek simple inalienable rights: freedom, justice, and dignity. Today, Fadi fights for his own freedom. Since Fadi has been my friend for the past 20 years, I know that he would want me to point out the arrests of those with him in Hebron, as well as the death of a 25-year-old Talaat Ramia near Jerusalem, shot cold-bloodedly in the chest. 

Fadi was 'celebrating' his birthday on the day he was arrested, marking 24 years of living under occupation. It seems that the Israeli authorities might let him out. But, there are 300 current administrative detainees who reside in jails with no trial nor due process, as well as 4800 that reside in Israeli prisons indicted through a military 'justice' system rather than a civilian one, which unlike Palestinians all Israelis enjoy.

Fadi is fortunate; he is afterall an American citizen and a graduate of Stanford University, a place he cherished and loved where he made many friends among professors and students. The thousands of Palestinians without electricity in Gaza, and the thousands in jail, and many thousands that paid the ultimate price are not as lucky. 

Fadi's personal story is a reminder to the world of many thousands of untold stories just like his.

Photo Credit: Free Fadi Quran