Please find below the original press release issued by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, as well as an updated media release which includes more information on the campaign, as well as background information about the apartheid policies that the Palestinian Freedom Riders will be challenging. The Palestinian Freedom Riders will be joined by internationals and Israeli activists.
As the second release notes, the aim of the rides is not "desegregation" (as was the aim of the US civil rights movement campaign) but instead a dismantling of the apartheid system and the infrastructure that supports it. It also seeks to shine a spotlight on companies profiting from Israeli apartheid and occupation.
In 1965, similar style freedom rides took place in Australia to highlight the racism and segregation faced by Aboriginal Australians.
Monday, 7 November 2011
Palestinian Freedom Riders to Challenge Segregation By Riding Settler Buses to Jerusalem
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.
When: Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
Meeting point: the Ramallah Cultural Palace at 1:00 PM
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.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
For Immediate Release
Inspired by the Freedom Rides of the US Civil Rights Movement Palestinian activists will attempt to board segregated Israeli settler buses to occupied East Jerusalem
[Ramallah] Groups of Palestinian Freedom Riders will attempt to board segregated settler buses heading to Jerusalem through the occupied West Bank this Tuesday November 15, in an act of civil disobedience that takes its inspiration from the US Civil Rights Movement Freedom Riders aim to challenge Israel’s apartheid policies, the ban on Palestinians’ access to Jerusalem, and the overall segregated reality created by a military and settler occupation that is the cornerstone of Israel’s colonial regime. While parallels exist between occupied Palestine and the segregated U.S. South in terms of the underlying racism and the humiliating treatment suffered then by blacks and now by Palestinians, there are also significant differences. 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.
This Tuesday, Palestinian Freedom Riders will head to Jewish-only bus stops in the West Bank and attempt to board the settler buses. Palestinians understand that this act of nonviolent disobedience may result in violent attacks and even death at the hands of Israeli settlers that are to Israel what the Klu Klux Klan was to the Jim Crow South, or the authorities that protect them. Nonetheless, the Freedom Riders believe that this act of civil resistance is necessary to draw the attention of the world to the immorality of Israel’s occupation and apartheid system as well as to compel justice-loving people to take a stand and divest from Egged, Veolia, and all companies that enable and profit from it.
The Freedom Riders will be joined by activists from all around the world who will stage activities in their cities that highlight the systematic oppression of Palestinians and the need to divest from Egged and Veolia.
In July 2011, an Egged subsidiary won a public tender to run bus services in the Waterland region of the Netherlands, north of Amsterdam. The company makes money from trampling on the rights of Palestinians and has been a target of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which is endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society. The Freedom Riders call on the people of the Netherlands to sever all dealings with companies, like Egged, involved in human rights violations.
Veolia, has been a target of an international divestment campaign or running bus lines through the West Bank connecting settlements to Jerusalem and for its involvement in the Jerusalem Light Rail which connects Israel’s illegal settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem to the western part of the city, thereby directly servicing the settlement enterprise.
Over 42 percent of Palestinian land in the West Bank has been taken over for the building of Jewish settlements and their associated regime (including the wall which was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004), depriving local communities of access to their water resources as well as agricultural lands. Settling Israelis in the occupied Palestinian territory constitutes a war crime according to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Settlements' infrastructure includes hundreds of kilometers of segregated roads that are forbidden for Palestinians to use. They carve deep into the West Bank further separating Palestinians and their cities and villages from each other.