Palestinians to “Reenact the U.S. Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Rides” on Israeli Buses

Cross-posted from Tikkun Daily.

Palestinian activists in the West Bank are expanding their nonviolent protest efforts against civil and human rights abuses with a new campaign set to launch next week.

As Noam Sheizaf reports in +972 Magazine:

Palestinian activists are increasing their efforts to expose Israel’s segregation policy in the West Bank, as well as violations on their civil and human rights. In a message to the press, the Popular Struggle Committee announced that on November 15, Palestinian activists “will reenact the US Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Rides to the American South by boarding segregated Israeli public buses in the West Bank to travel to occupied East Jerusalem.”

Palestinians in the West Bank have lived under Israeli military control since 1967. Among other restrictions, they can only vote in elections to the Palestinian Authority, which has very limited power on the ground. They cannot travel out of the West Bank or receive visitors without Israeli permits, and they are tried in military courts, which curtail the rights of defendants. Jews living in the West Bank enjoy full citizenship rights.

This effort joins several other creative, nonviolent protests that Palestinian activists have launched in recent months. One such protest – called “Welcome to Palestine” – saw participants fly to Israel and declare their desire to visit the West Bank. This resulted in over 100 people being detained and deported. (Another “Welcome to Palestine” protest has been scheduled for the spring.)

The Popular Struggle Committee – which is organizing the upcoming “Freedom Rides” – describes its initiative set for next week in this way:

Several Israeli companies, among them Egged and Veolia, operate dozens of lines that run through the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, many of them subsidized by the state. They run between different Israeli settlements, connecting them to each other and cities inside Israel. Some lines connecting Jerusalem to other cities inside Israel, such as Eilat and Beit She’an, are also routed to pass through the West Bank.

Israelis suffer almost no limitations on their freedom of movement in the occupied Palestinian territory, and are even allowed to settle in it, contrary to international law. Palestinians, in contrast, are not allowed to enter Israel without procuring a special permit from Israeli authorities. Even Palestinian movement inside the Occupied Territories is heavily restricted, with access to occupied East Jerusalem and some 8% of the West Bank in the border area also forbidden without a similar permit.

While it is not officially forbidden for Palestinians to use Israeli public transportation in the West Bank, these lines are effectively segregated, since many of them pass through Jewish-only settlements, to which Palestinian entry is prohibited by a military decree.

With the Arab Spring still reverberating, Occupy Wall Street blooming and the Palestinian Authority’s U.N. statehood bid still on the table, expect similar efforts to be born as Palestinians in the West Bank continue to embrace nonviolent resistance to the occupation.

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About David Harris-Gershon

David Harris-Gershon – a blogger for Tikkun magazine and a freelance writer on Israel, the Middle East and America’s role in the region – has recently published work in The Jerusalem Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, AlterNet, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Colorado Review and elsewhere. His memoir – What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? – is forthcoming from Oneworld Publications (2013). He received his MFA from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and has worked extensively as an educator, teaching creative writing and Israeli History / Jewish Studies in university and high school classrooms. Follow David on Twitter @David_EHG

Posted on November 11, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I wonder how effective it wud be if the ‘Riders’ wore 50s-60s clothing like the African Ameri-
    can Freedom Riders did–and sang hand-clapping ‘spirituals and civil rights songs’? Before
    departing on a ‘Ride’, they shud meet at a Church or Mosque to prepare mentally for the or-
    deal they might encounter…They shud view films/videos of the rides and confrontations the
    original Riders experienced. Hopefully, the LOI will get the message and lighten up on the
    restrictions and delays the Pal-Riders must endure for ‘They will overcome–one day!’..
    Aaron Allen…

  2. [Aaron, again]: I had another thot for ‘Pal Freedom Riders’…At a stop in their journey, the
    Pals gather around while one of their leaders give a peaceful, yet morally-guided ‘sernon’
    type speech [like Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I had a dream”]…He/She delivers it in sentences
    or clauses and the ‘Riders’ repeat each utterance [like the ‘human PA-system’ technique
    heard recently in the ‘strikes against greed’ demonstrations of late? If effective, every few
    statements are ‘summarised’ by a sentence in Hebrew or English? If helpful, the ‘speech’
    is scripted with the Speaker and the ‘Riders’ being furnished copies [and with a backup
    version on hand-held devices [recorded earlier, so cannot be jammed or harmed by Izzy GIs, cops, or goons?..Aaron Allen…

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