Freedom Rides in the 21st Century

Western media lamentations of Palestinians needing figureheads such as a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King to effectively resist the Israeli occupation are self-righteous and uncalled for. An occupied people under international law can resist in any way they want. However, raising awareness and challenging the occupation in creative ways definitely doesn’t hurt the Palestinian cause, and so a group of Palestinian youth announced that on Tuesday, 15 November (incidentally, the PA’s self-designated Palestinian Independence Day) they will replicate the 1960s American civil rights movement, specifically the Freedom Rides —which celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.

Just as the American freedom riders — black and white — boarded segregated buses together, defying Jim Crow segregation, the Palestinian freedom riders will board segregated Israeli  buses that pass through Jewish-only settlements.

This act will highlight the apartheid realities of Israel which govern the Palestinians, the same laws and practices that Judge Richard Goldstone so readily dismissed in his recent op-ed in the New York Times. By drawing comparisons with the US civil rights movement, the Freedom Rides of the 21st century will undoubtedly prove how all oppressed societies are ultimately connected. Palestinians on those buses risk putting themselves in danger, that is if the three-pronged fury of fanatical settlers, the Israeli army, and other Israeli citizens rains down upon them like the wrath of an exclusivist God. They also risk being arrested for days or months or years under Israel’s military law. The press release is below: 

7 November 2011 

On Tuesday, November 15th, 2011, Palestinian activists will reenact the US Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Rides to the American South by boarding segregated Israeli public transportation in the West Bank to travel to occupied East Jerusalem.

Next Tuesday, Palestinian activists will attempt to board segregated Israeli public transportation headed from inside the West Bank to occupied East Jerusalem in an act of civil disobedience inspired by the Freedom Riders of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s.

Fifty years after the U.S. Freedom Riders staged mixed-race bus rides through the roads of the segregated American South, Palestinian Freedom Riders will be asserting their right for liberty and dignity by disrupting the military regime of the Occupation through peaceful civil disobedience.

The Freedom Riders seek to highlight Israel’s attempts to illegally sever occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, and the apartheid system that Israel has imposed on Palestinians in the occupied territories.

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.

Updated on November 8, 2011



Linah Alsaafin

Linah Alsaafin's picture

22 years old, from both Gaza and the West Bank. Writer and editor based in Ramallah. 

Twitter: @LinahAlsaafin