Palestinian Freedom Riders
On Tuesday afternoon in the West Bank, a group of six Palestinian Freedom Riders inspired by the US Civil Rights movement attempted to ride segregated settler buses headed to Jerusalem and were violently arrested for their actions.
From their earlier press release:
In the 1960s U.S. South, black people had to sit in the back of the bus; in occupied Palestine, Palestinians are not even allowed ON the bus nor on the roads that the buses travel on, which are built on stolen Palestinian land.
In undertaking this action Palestinians do not seek the desegregation of settler buses, as the presence of these colonizers and the infrastructure that serves them is illegal and must be dismantled. As part of their struggle for freedom, justice and dignity, Palestinians demand the ability to be able to travel freely on their own roads, on their own land, including the right to travel to Jerusalem.
Palestinian activists also aim to expose two of the companies that profit from Israel’s apartheid policies and encourage global boycott of and divestment from them. The Israeli Egged and French Veolia bus companies operate dozens of segregated lines that run through the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, many of them subsidized by the state. Both companies are also involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail, a train project that links illegal settlements in East Jerusalem to the western part of the city.
From their recent press release:
In a scene reminiscent of the early U.S. civil rights movement, border police and army surrounded and shut down Jerusalem Bus 148, blocking the Freedom Riders at the Hizmeh checkpoint. The action clearly highlights the injustice and dispossession that Palestinians face under Israeli occupation and apartheid. The six freedom riders who boarded the bus originally as well as an additional rider, were arrested and are currently at the Israeli Atarot police station.
Reading about this I started thinking about the Australian Freedom Ride in 1965, and how powerful this kind of action and image can be, even around 50 years after the original Freedom Rides in the US. Here is Charlie Perkins talking about the Australian Freedom Ride (via Koori History Web):
For more on this…
Mondoweiss describes why transportation is such an important issue in Palestine:
In my visit to Palestine this past June, the problem of transportation was discussed in virtually every conversation. The limits on transportation for Palestinians tell you virtually all that you need to know about the racist Occupation. One graphic example is that there are different license plates for Israeli settlers from those of the Palestinians. A car with Palestinian plates cannot travel into Israel. And, in fact, there are roads within Occupied Palestine, on which Palestinian vehicles are prohibited. Another graphic example, which relates directly to the matter of the Freedom Rides, was explained to me at a border crossing where Palestinian workers were going into Israel for their jobs. I was informed that once in Israel they had to ALREADY have their transportation arranged. Naively I assumed that they could simply hop on a bus and go to work. Not so fast, it turns out. The Israeli buses will not stop to pick up Palestinian workers.
The Palestinian Freedom Rides aim to dramatize that there is no freedom of movement for Palestinians. They are a population suffering from an on-going occupation that has become, as I have asserted previously, a slow-motion annexation. Discriminatory transportation policies which privilege the freedom of movement of Israelis, and Israeli settlers in particular, are part of the low-intensity violence experienced by the Palestinians on a daily basis aimed at further and further marginalizing them until they feel forced to abandon their own land.