[News] Israel arrests "Freedom Riders" challenging apartheid road system
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 17 17:21:25 EST 2011
Israel arrests "Freedom Riders" challenging apartheid road system
15 November 2011
Im a Freedom Rider! Im just trying to go to
Jerusalem! shouted Palestinian activist
Arraf Tuesday evening as a live Internet video
feed showed Israeli police officers dragging her
off a bus linking Israeli settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem.
Arraf and five other Palestinian activists
boarded segregated Israeli public bus number 148
which connects the illegal Israeli settlement
of Ariel to Jerusalem on Tuesday in an act of
civil disobedience aimed to draw attention to
Israeli colonial and apartheid policies and the
lack of basic human rights Palestinians are afforded under this system.
After sitting peacefully on the bus at Israels
Hizma checkpoint, just outside the northern
entrance to Jerusalem, and nonviolently resisting
attempts by the Israeli authorities to get them
off the bus, all six Freedom Riders were
eventually removed by force and arrested for
illegally entering Israel without permits.
Another Palestinian Freedom Rider was also
arrested while attempting to ride the segregated
buses, and according to a Freedom Riders press
release, was taken with the six other activists
to Atarot police station
Freedom Riders On Their Way to Jerusalem
Violently Arrested on Israeli Settler Bus).
Their protest action was inspired by the Freedom
Riders of the civil rights movement in the United
States, who nonviolently challenged segregation
in the American South in the 1950s and 1960s.
Its going to be a challenge for Palestinians
and for every human being for their morality.
Its going to be a challenge for the whole world
to really take action against the Israeli
crimes, Palestinian Freedom Riders spokesperson
Hurriyah Ziada told The Electronic Intifada on Monday.
While Palestinians are not explicitly barred from
boarding Israeli public transportation in the
West Bank, since most buses pass through Israeli
settlements that are off-limits to Palestinians,
the system is de facto segregated.
Our challenge is going to be on the ground
dealing with the settlers, but on the other hand,
were waiting for the peoples reactions and the
worlds reactions. Enough talk; we need real
action on the ground and for people to take a
side, taking a rightful side against Israeli discrimination, Ziada said.
Tense hours at the checkpoint
The Freedom Riders left
Tuesday afternoon and headed to a bus stop in the
occupied West Bank, which serves Israeli
near the Israeli settlement of Psagot. After a
few buses drove past the Palestinian activists
without stopping, six Freedom Riders, and a large
group of journalists, managed to board a bus.
The bus was reportedly followed along its route
by Israeli soldiers and police, and was stopped
shortly after arriving at the Hizma checkpoint.
Once there, Israeli settlers who had been on the
bus got off, and Israeli soldiers and police
officers boarded to check passengers IDs,
according to images broadcast on the Freedom Waves live Internet video feed.
The Israelis cant take the wait and so they are
getting off the bus. Let them see what we have to
go through and let them ask why this is
happening, and why it has to happen this way in
order to try to change things, said Freedom
Rider Huwaida Arraf, as the settlers stood up and
began leaving the bus, as documented in the Freedom Waves video feed.
Whether theyre corralled in pens at checkpoints
or held up and detained, not told why, arrested,
held for days, weeks, sometimes months without
any kind of legal justification at all
happens to Palestinians every day, she said.
I want people to see the apartheid system here
The Electronic Intifada spoke directly with
Mazin Qumsiyeh, one of the Freedom Riders, at
approximately 4:20pm local time on Tuesday, as he
sat on the bus at the checkpoint.
Were on the bus. They just moved us a few yards
beyond the [Hizma] checkpoint. We are in a
parking lot and the soldiers are asking us to
come down from the bus. The people refuse to come
down from the bus. They are telling [us] that
[we] are detained and [we] have to come from the
bus. We dont know yet what they are going to do.
They took one person from the bus. Theres
[Israeli] special forces, border police, regular
police and soldiers surrounding the bus, Qumsiyeh said.
I dont know [what will happen] but I think we
will be punished severely, Qumsiyeh, who was
later arrested with the five other Freedom
Riders, added. I want [people] to see that we
have an apartheid system here. There are illegal,
colonial settlements in our land. These
settlements have their own buses and they get to
Jerusalem without anybody checking them, yet we,
the native Palestinians, are not allowed to get to Jerusalem.
Freedom of movement severely restricted
Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank,
including East Jerusalem, are illegal according
to international law, including the Geneva
conventions. It is estimated that approximately
500,000 Jewish Israelis currently live in illegal
settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The Israeli human rights group
estimates that from 1967
Israel imposed its military occupation of the
West Bank and Gaza Strip to mid-2010, the
Israeli government established 121 settlements in
the West Bank that were officially recognized by
the Israeli Ministry of Interior.
In that same period, approximately 100 settler
outposts, considered illegal under both
international and Israeli laws, were erected,
while twelve so-called neighborhoods of
Jerusalem were built on land illegally annexed by
Israel and are thereby also illegal under international law.
According to BTselem, Israel has created a
system of separation and discrimination, with
two separate systems of law in the occupied West Bank.
One system, for the settlers, de facto annexes
the settlements to Israel and grants settlers the
rights of citizens of a democratic state. The
other is a system of military law that
systematically deprives Palestinian of their
rights and denies them the ability to have any
real effect on shaping the policy regarding the
land space in which they live and with respect to
their rights, BTselem states on its website
(<http://www.btselem.org/settlements>Land expropriation and settlements).
Restrictions on Palestinian freedoms do not end
at the settlements themselves, however. Instead,
Palestinians rights are also violated by the
infrastructure built to accommodate Israeli
settlers, especially private, Israeli-only roads.
In October 2010, there were 232 kilometers of
roads in the West Bank that Israel classified for
the sole, or almost sole, use of Israelis,
primarily of settlers, says BTselem
Physical Obstructions, and Forbidden Roads).
Israel also prohibits Palestinians from even
crossing some of these roads with vehicles,
thereby restricting their access to nearby roads
that they are ostensibly not prohibited from
using. In these cases, Palestinians travelers
have to get out of the vehicle, cross the road on
foot, and find an alternative mode of
transportation on the other side, according to the human rights group.
Veolia a boycott target for serving settlements
Egged, Israels largest public transportation
company, operates the bus that the Freedom Riders
boarded in the West Bank Tuesday. French company
also operates bus lines serving illegal Israeli
settlements throughout the occupied West Bank.
According to the
BDS National Committee (BNC), which organizes
around the 2005 Palestinian call for
divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel as
a way to end Israeli violations of international
law and promote Palestinian rights, Egged and
Veolia are complicit in Israels violations of
international law due to their involvement in and
profiting from Israels illegal settlement infrastructure.
Palestinian Freedom Rides Spokesperson Hurriyah
Ziada told The Electronic Intifada that promoting
the BDS call and the specific boycott of and
divestment from Egged and Veolia is a major aim
of the Freedom Rides movement.
Were trying to support the BDS campaign,
Ziadah said. Negotiations have been going for
too long and we havent been achieving anything
on the ground. Everybody knows that these
settlements are illegal on our land, but nobody
is doing anything. Israel is not paying any cost
for any of its actions. They have to pay a price
by people boycotting them and by highlighting how
racist they are. We ask for human rights and freedom, justice and dignity.
In the civil rights movement, they were fighting
against racism, Ziadah added, but were going
to be fighting against racism, discrimination
[and] occupation. Were going to be fighting to exist.
Jillian Kestler-DAmours is a reporter and
documentary filmmaker based in Jerusalem. More of
her work can be found at <http://jkdamours.com>http://jkdamours.com.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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