In Memoriam: Bernie McFall
October 20, 2012
On Tuesday morning, October 16, Bernard McFall, one of Farouk Abdel-Muhti's closest friends, died at age 76 in Elmhurst Hospital, near his home in Queens.
The LeFrak City dwelling where Bernie ended his days was the same home he opened to Farouk and his son Tarek for some months until Farouk was detained in 2002. Viewers of the documentary Enemy Alien have seen much of this apartment: it's where Bernie retells the brutal early-morning arrest of Farouk, and the setting where Tarek playfully brandishes a sword, unwittingly instigating his own arrest by counterterrorism agents gripped with the anti-Muslim hysteria of the post-9/11 era.
But much of Bernie's story was left out of the film. Days prior to Farouk's arrest, Joint Terrorism Task Force agents came to his home demanding to know where Farouk was, and Bernie replied, "I know where he is, but I'm not going to tell you." Bernie's defense of his friend provoked furious retaliation from the NYPD.
Officers threatened to throw him out of his high-rise apartment window, and tried to arrest him until it became clear they had no authority to go through with it. An official attempted to have Bernie prosecuted and fired from his job for his outspoken support of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the party Farouk favored. And shortly after an NYPD officer made a dire threat of violence to Bernie, he was mysteriously ambushed outside his home by an unknown assailant and brutally beaten.
Yet none of this retaliation altered Bernie's support for Farouk and Palestinian human rights in the least. He continued to attend every meeting of the Farouk support committee and stand up at public demonstrations for his release for the nearly two years of Farouk's detention.
And in the film Bernie gladly served as a chief storyteller of Farouk's life, together with Farouk's departed friend Sharin Chiorazzo. Though this writing is by no means a complete account of who Bernie was, it's a testament to his generous and courageous soul, and the best hope I can have after his passing is that the qualities he had will live on.
For a complete obituary, visit Bernie McFall obituary, Weekly News Update on the Americas
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