Palestinians light candles to honor the late South African leader Nelson Mandela as they mourn in Gaza City, Gaza, Dec. 8, 2013.
LEFT: Marwan Barghouti in Tel Aviv District Court on the opening day of his trial, Aug. 14, 2002; RIGHT: Nelson Mandela is released from prison, Feb. 11, 1990.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August 2012, Page 65
A Legacy of Hope: Fahim Qubain (1924-2012)
By Dale Sprusansky
The Guilford College student who, in the late 1940s, stood up to confront a Christian minister delivering a pro-Zionist, anti-Palestinian speech at his school was not a naïve, bloviating young activist caught up in the righteousness of his ideals. Rather, he was a leader, an action taker and a problem solver in the making. His actions on that day foreshadowed who he would become and what his legacy would be.
On April 16, 2012 that former student, Fahim Qubain, 88, died at his home in Lexington, VA of an infection resulting from a hip fracture. A scholar, author and activist, Qubain spent his life advocating for an array of causes and promoting the power of education. His enduring legacy is the Hope Fund, a non-profit organization he co-founded in 2000 that provides full four-year college scholarships to young Palestinians living in refugee camps (see November 2011 Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, p. 36).
Qubain was born April 5, 1924 in the Jordanian town of Ajlun to a Palestinian father who had migrated to Jordan (then Trans-Jordan) from Nazareth in the late 1800s. At the age of 12, the young Qubain departed for Ramallah, where he attended the Quaker Friends Boys School for six years. During that time he himself became a Quaker.
Upon his graduation in 1942, Qubain, unable to afford a college education, had one-year stints with the Arab Legion as an office clerk, and the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, before moving to the United States on May 23, 1946.
As he recalls in his 2007 autobiography, published in Jan.-March 2007 issue of The Link, Qubain quickly "concluded that the only way [he] could achieve [his] ambitions was to obtain a university education." He took a bus to Greensboro, NC, where he "walked over unannounced to the [university] president's office....told him [he] was a graduate of the Ramallah Friends School, that [he] had no money for tuition, but wished to enroll." Without hesitation, the university president welcomed him to the Quaker-run Guilford College.
Qubain never forgot the generosity and opportunity that the university's president extended to him. Little did Qubain know that one day he, too, would be passing on such an opportunity to another generation of bright but needy Palestinians.
After graduating from Guilford, Qubain went on earn his Ph.D. in political science and international relations at the University of Wisconsin.
In 1956, Qubain moved to Washington, DC, where he became deeply involved in the world of Middle East academia, serving as the Middle East Institute's research director, teaching at George Washington University and doing scholarly work for governmental departments such as the State Department. In 1964 he married his wife, Nancy.
A decade later the couple moved to Lexington, VA. There they "became involved activists in support of the Palestinian cause and a peaceful and just settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," Qubain recalled in his autobiography. He began to lecture and write about U.S. policy in the Middle East.
In 1991, Qubain became a public advocate against the profiling of Arab Americans after the FBI visited his home to question him about his opposition to the Gulf War and Israel's occupation of Palestine. In a letter to The Washington Post, Qubain asked then FBI Director William Sessions "to leave us Arab Americans alone." He explained that "these visits are demeaning, intimidating and humiliating. But the supreme insult is that they set us apart from the rest of our fellow citizens in our respective communities in this country."
After reading an article in the Feb. 14, 1999 Washington Post Magazine that told the story of a 15-year-old Palestinian named Ra'ed, who wanted to attend college but could not afford the tuition, Qubain was so moved that he immediately began to lay the foundations of the Hope Fund.
The article, titled "Arms and the Boy" and written by Geraldine Brooks, was "the inspiration for what I hope will be the most important legacy for which I pray I will be remembered," Qubain wrote in his autobiography.
After some initial start-up troubles, the Hope Fund had a major breakthrough in 2000, when Roanoke College agreed to provide full four-year scholarships to two students sponsored by Qubain's organization. In return, the Hope Fund agreed to process student applications, procure their visas, and arrange and pay for books, student health insurance and travel to the U.S.
In August 2001, the Hope Fund accepted its first two students for the 2001-2002 academic year. Ten years later, it enabled 32 Palestinian students to attend universities across the U.S. during the 2011-2012 school year.
Happily, Qubain lived to see the fruits of his labor. In May 2005, the first two Hope Fund students both graduated with cum laude honors. Following his graduation, one of those students, Khaled El-Nemr, shared with Qubain just how much the Hope Fund had affected his life. "Now I have a better chance to…help uplift [Palestinian] society one step at a time," he said.
In June 2011, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) awarded Fahim and Nancy Qubain the Alex Odeh Memorial Award for their dedication and commitment in empowering young Palestinians through education.
Upon learning of his death, Samer Anabtawi, a Hope Fund student who recently graduated from Illinois College as the valedictorian of his class, said that Qubain "gave me that one-in-a-lifetime opportunity that has transformed my life….[his] efforts and message will never die."
To make a contribution, please contact The Hope Foundation, 752 Forge Road, Lexington, Virginia 24450.
Dale Sprusansky is the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,'s editorial assisstant.