[News] Israel arrests "Freedom Riders" challenging apartheid road system

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 17 17:21:25 EST 2011



Israel arrests "Freedom Riders" challenging apartheid road system

<http://electronicintifada.net/people/jillian-kestler-damours>Jillian 
Kestler-D'Amours
http://electronicintifada.net/content/israel-arrests-freedom-riders-challenging-apartheid-road-system/10595#.TsWICvLSRBk
<http://electronicintifada.net/location/jerusalem>Jerusalem
15 November 2011


“I’m a Freedom Rider! I’m just trying to go to 
Jerusalem!” shouted Palestinian activist 
<http://electronicintifada.net/people/huwaida-arraf>Huwaida 
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 Israel’s 
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 
(“<http://palfreedomrides.blogspot.com/2011/11/palestinian-freedom-riders-on-their-way.html#%21/2011/11/palestinian-freedom-riders-on-their-way.html>Palestinian 
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.

“It’s going to be a challenge for Palestinians 
and for every human being for their morality. 
It’s 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, 
we’re waiting for the peoples’ reactions and the 
world’s 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 
<http://electronicintifada.net/location/ramallah>Ramallah 
Tuesday afternoon and headed to a bus stop in the 
occupied West Bank, which serves Israeli 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/settlers>settlers 
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 can’t 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 they’re 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 
 this 
happens to Palestinians every day,” she said.

“I want people to see the apartheid system here”

The Electronic Intifada spoke directly with 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/mazin-qumsiyeh>Dr. 
Mazin Qumsiyeh, one of the Freedom Riders, at 
approximately 4:20pm local time on Tuesday, as he 
sat on the bus at the checkpoint.

“We’re 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 don’t know yet what they are going to do. 
They took one person from the bus. There’s 
[Israeli] special forces, border police, regular 
police and soldiers surrounding the bus,” Qumsiyeh said.

“I don’t 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 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/btselem>B’Tselem 
estimates that from 1967 ­ 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/1967-war>when 
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 B’Tselem, 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,” B’Tselem 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 B’Tselem 
(“<http://www.btselem.org/freedom_of_movement/checkpoints_and_forbidden_roads>Checkpoints, 
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, Israel’s largest public transportation 
company, operates the bus that the Freedom Riders 
boarded in the West Bank Tuesday. French company 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/veolia>Veolia 
also operates bus lines serving illegal Israeli 
settlements throughout the occupied West Bank.

According to the 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/bnc>Palestinian 
BDS National Committee (BNC), which organizes 
around the 2005 Palestinian call for 
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/BDS>boycott, 
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 Israel’s violations of 
international law due to their involvement in and 
profiting from Israel’s 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.

“We’re trying to support the BDS campaign,” 
Ziadah said. “Negotiations have been going for 
too long and we haven’t 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 we’re going 
to be fighting against racism, discrimination 
[and] occupation. We’re going to be fighting to exist.”

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours is a reporter and 
documentary filmmaker based in Jerusalem. More of 
her work can be found at <http://jkdamours.com>http://jkdamours.com.




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