Fadi Quran ‘10 returned to campus Monday for the first time since being arrested during a protest in Israel. Quran, a rising leader supporting non-violent protest in the Israel-Palestine conflict, spoke to students alongside U.S. Civil Rights movement lawyer Clarence Jones and international conflict expert Allen Weiner.
“We wanted to regain our rights, our ability to move freely, and to secure justice for ourselves and for our people. We wanted to use nonviolence to challenge the balance of power and bring awareness of the injustice of our situation,” Quran said, noted activist and self-proclaimed “Palestinian Freedom Rider” Monday night.
“So,” he continued, “we got on a bus.”
Quran, who Time Magazine hailed as “the face of the new Middle East,” spoke as part of a talk held by Students for Palestinian Equal Rights (SPER) titled, “Freedom Rides in Palestine,” which brought together a diverse group of individuals to speak about nonviolent activism and its role in bringing a solution to the lingering Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Joining Quran were Jones, Martin Luther King Jr.’s lawyer and close confidant, and Weiner, co-director of the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation.
The event took its name from an act of nonviolent resistance orchestrated by Quran several weeks ago that drew inspiration from the activism of the Freedom Riders of the early 1960s. Quran was arrested for his resistance, leading to outcry for his release.
The actions of the 1960s Freedom Riders, who rode interstate buses to the segregated South to further the cause of desegregation, were the impetus for Quran’s own activism and philosophy, which he elaborated on during the discussion. Referring to “the burgeoning Palestinian rights movement,” Quran spoke of his “universal principles of justice,” which he described as the foundation for his nonviolent approach to activism.
Citing “large imbalances of power” in the region, Quran elaborated on the various “matrices of control” — legal, infrastructural and military — which he argued were imposed on the Palestinian people by the Israeli government.
Recounting the sometimes humorous and sometimes tragic narrative of his experience illegally taking a bus to Jerusalem, he spelled out the aims of his nonviolent activism as “demonstrating to the opposition that you are human” and as “making the oppression of the other side more costly.”
Quran promised that “more is to come” and articulated his goals as the pursuit of “freedom, justice and dignity.”
“The arc of the moral universe is tending towards justice for the Palestinians,” Quran said, paraphrasing King.
Jones praised Quran, calling him a “young hero” fighting for “legitimate universal aspirations.” Jones described the challenges to the Palestinian liberation movement as being “whether or not they can awaken the conscience of the world,” showing “that peace is the mutual interest of both parties.”
Jones shared his experiences from the Civil Rights movement and said that with “discipline, durability and unwavering morality, one can challenge the impossible.”
He praised Quran’s use of technology in broadcasting the events of his detention to “shock the conscience of those watching” and stated his confidence in the “supremacy of nonviolence.”
Weiner provided a theoretical underpinning to the talk, discussing his work in the field of international conflict, and posited an idea that for the movement to be successful it must “incorporate and engage Israeli voices.”
Weiner praised the activism as “speaking to the Palestinian community and giving agency and power to young Palestinians.” He offered advice to Quran, his former student at Stanford, using empirical research to assert that any movement that brands itself as requiring “justice, and not engaging the goodwill of the opponent” has little chance of success. He concluded with the notion that any peace would have to emerge from arriving at a “mutually-bearable future.”
The various perspectives of the panel members resonated with the audience.
“The historical allusion was incredibly pertinent and useful because the reference points of both activities are the common values of freedom, justice and dignity, values that are understood and cherished dearly by all,” said Sahar Kahn ‘13.