freedom riders Huwaida Arraf and Fadi Quran on Israeli Bus 148. (Photo: Activestills)
The following statement was made at the start of the Freedom Ride protest this morning:
My name is Hurriyeh Ziadah. I am the media spokeswomen for the Palestinian Freedom Rides campaign. Thank you all for being here today.
Fifty years ago brave African American civil rights activists challenged the racist and unjust laws of Jim Crow by boarding buses to the segregated South, thereby embarking on a campaign of civil disobedience and direct action.
In less than an hour, Palestinian activists, taking inspiration from the Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Rides, will embark on a similar civil disobedience campaign to challenge Israel’s regime of colonial Apartheid in Palestine.
Although the tactics and methodologies differ, both white supremacists and the Israeli occupiers commit the same crime: they strip a people of freedom, justice and dignity. In undertaking this action we do not seek the desegregation of settler buses, as the presence of these colonizers and the infrastructure that serves them is illegal and must be dismantled. As part of our struggle for freedom, justice and dignity, we demand the ability to be able to travel freely on our own roads, on our own land, including the right to travel to Jerusalem.
We also aim to expose two of the companies that profit from Israel’s apartheid policies and encourage global boycott of and divestment from them. The Israeli Egged and French Veolia bus companies operate dozens of segregated lines that run through the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, many of them subsidized by the state. Both companies are also involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail, a train project that links illegal settlements in East Jerusalem to the western part of the city. By facilitating population transfer into occupied Palestinian territory, Egged and Veolia are actively and knowingly complicit in Israel’s settlement enterprise, which the International Court of Justice has determined to be a breach of international law.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
We urge the people of the world not to accept the evil that is our occupation, dispossession and oppression, and to divest yourselves and your governments from the corporations that enable Israel to continue doing this to us. Egged and Veolia are two transportation companies that serve Israel’s segregated, colonial, infrastructure. By passively accepting their presence and not protesting against them, you are all indirectly complicit in the crimes they commit against us, and the profits they make from the violation of our rights; violations that the Freedom Riders will expose today.
Our rights will not voluntarily be handed to us, so we are heading out to demand them.
We know that in undertaking this action we risk arrest, vicious attacks by Israeli settlers, abuse by Israeli soldiers, and even death. We take this risk upon ourselves as a step towards ensuring Freedom, Justice, and Dignity for future generations of Palestinians and all people in the region.
The six Freedom Riders who were arrested are Nadeem Al Sharbate, Badee Dwak, Huwaida Arraf, Basel Al Araj, Fadi Quran, and Mazin Qumsiyeh. They were all take to the Atarot prison. Here are some background and updates there were posted on the Palestinian Freedom Riders Facebook page:
Nadeem Alshirbaty, one of the arrested Freedom Riders from Hebron, is 33 years old and one of the founders of Youth Against Settlements group. He visited Jerusalem 14 years ago, and when asked why is he riding the bus said “This is our duty to defend our rights and land, even if it is the last day of our lives.”
Basel Al-a’raj , another freedom rider was arrested. Basel is 28 years old pharmacist and a youth activist from Walajeh village in Bethlehem district. Today Basil tried to disturb the settlers road traffic, his friends heard him shouting as he was arrested “lets boycott Israeli… Freedom to Palestine”
Bassel Al Araj’s last words before arrest: “I am Bassel Al-Araj, a Palestinian Freedom Rider. Boycott Egged Boycott Veolia!”
Fadi before arrest: Please divest from all companies that benefit from the Apartheid regime!
Fadi Quraan , one of freedom riders was also arrested. Fadi is a 23 old Palestinian from Ramallah. He was born in Jerusalem and he is currently a graduate student at Birzeit University finishing his master degree in Democracy and human rights. This morning when he his asked about his motivation for riding the bus , he said: “ I believe that our generation will free Palestinian through every possible way of popular resistance.
Badi’ Dweik, one of Freedom Riders, 38 years old and from Hebron detained is one of the founder of the International Campaign to Revive the Shuhada Street in Hebron. When asked why is he boarding the bus, he said that this is a means of resisting the Israeli occupation…he said: “ I am a believer in the justice of our cause, we will be free if we each do our duty…we should try all resistance means to end the occupation”
Mazen Qumseyeh from Beit Sahour, is 54 years old. He is a Professor and researcher at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities. He was several publications on Palestinian struggle and Popular resistance in Palestine.
Huwaida Arraf, one of the arrested Freedom Riders, is 35 years old and a member of the International Solidarity Movement. She is the coordinator of the Freedom Flotilla and is responsible for the “Free Gaza” movement that initiated the Freedom Flotillas demanding to lift the siege over Gaza.
Update — The Freedom Riders campaign just sent out the following press release:
Earlier today, seven Palestinian Freedom Riders were violently arrested while attempting to ride on segregated Israeli public transportation taking settlers 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.
Asserting their own aspirations for freedom, justice and self determination, six Freedom Riders boarded a settler bus at 3:30 pm in the occupied West Bank near the illegal Jewish-only colony of Psagot. In a scene reminiscent of the early U.S. Civil Rights Movement, border police and the army surrounded and shut down Jerusalem Bus 148, blocking the Freedom Riders at the Hizmeh checkpoint.
The action clearly highlights the injustice and dispossession that Palestinians face under Israeli occupation and apartheid. The six freedom riders who boarded the bus originally (as well as an additional rider) were arrested and are currently at the Israeli Atarot police station.
Badee’ Dwak from Hebron, who was arrested during the ride said: “Companies operating Israeli buses, like Egged and Veolia, are directly complicit in Israel’s violations of our rights. They transport settlers in and out of our occupied land, on roads that we often can’t use into places that we can’t reach, including Jerusalem. They need to be divested from and boycotted. Not just here, but around the world. It is a moral duty to end complicity in this Israeli system of apartheid.”
In December 2010 Human Rights Watch released a 166-page report (i) on the “two-tier” legal system that Israel uses to administer in Area C and East Jerusalem. The report made clear that Israel’s legal system enables and facilitates the theft of Palestinian land and openly discriminates against Palestinians. West Bank Palestinians are prohibited from driving on certain roads and are limited in their housing choices. Police and army brutality are a fact of life.
Huwaida Arraf, also among those arrested, stated: “The U.S. Congress repeatedly claims it is for the rights of people around the world facing oppression and injustice. But when it comes to Palestinian rights and Israel’s decades-old denial of them they are notably silent. In fact, they continue to provide Israel with the most deadly weapons, money and diplomatic cover to maintain its oppression and protect it from international sanctions. Too many lack the courage to even criticize Israel for the racism on display here today.”
Basel al-Araj commented prior to his arrest: “The settlers are to Israel what the KKK was to the Jim Crow South – an unruly, fanatic mob that has enormous influence in shaping Israeli policies today and that violently enforces these policies with extreme violence and utter impunity all over the occupied Palestinian territory, especially in and around Jerusalem.”
Hurriyah Ziada, one of the event’s organizers said: “Israel’s occupation and apartheid system must end and all of Israel’s Jewish-only colonies that sit on stolen land must be dismantled. As the Arab Spring spreads across the region, rekindling hope for freedom, social justice and democracy to replace tyranny and repression, we struggle on the ground for the basic, comprehensive rights of the entire Palestinian people. We call on people of conscience around the world to compel Israel into complying with international law by applying creative, sustainable, and context-sensitive boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) initiatives. We too deserve freedom and justice.”
Among prominent international figures who have endorsed the Palestinian Freedom Riders campaign, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker wrote: “Board the buses to Everywhere. Sit freely. Go into Jerusalem with my blessing. Like many of my country people, I have witnessed this scenario before and know where it can lead. To a straightening of the back and a full breath taken by the soul. Some of us have shed blood, others have shed tears. Some have shed both. All sacred to the cause of the dignity we deserve as beautifully fashioned citizens and Beings of this Universe.”
Several Israeli and transnational companies, among them Egged and Veolia, operate dozens of lines that run through the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), many of them subsidized by the state. They run between different Israeli illegal settlements, connecting them to each other and to Israel. Some lines connecting Jerusalem to other cities inside Israel, such as Eilat and Beesan (Beit She’an), are also routed to pass through the West Bank.
Almost no limitations are imposed on the freedom of movement of Israelis in the occupied Palestinian territory. On the contrary, the Israeli government allows and even encourages its citizens to settle in the West Bank (especially in and around East Jerusalem), in violation of international law. Palestinians, in contrast, are not allowed to enter Israel without procuring a rarely granted special permit from Israeli authorities. Even Palestinian movement inside the Occupied Territory is heavily restricted, with access to occupied East Jerusalem and some 8 percent 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 military decree. This is one aspect of Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid (ii) against the Palestinian people.
The buses that the Freedom Riders boarded are operated by Egged, the largest Israeli public transportation company. Another prominent public transportation company in the Occupied Territory is the French transnational company Veolia. Both companies are complicit in Israel’s violations of international law due to their involvement in and profiting from Israeli’s illegal settlement infrastructure. Palestinian Freedom Riders endorse the call for boycotting both companies, as well as all others involved in Israel’s violations of human rights and international law. (iii)
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 for running bus lines through the West Bank connecting illegal Israeli colonies to Jerusalem and for its involvement in the Jerusalem Light Rail which connects illegal settlements in and around occupied East Jerusalem to the western part of the city, thereby directly servicing the settlement enterprise. (iv)
Israel has laid its military control over 42 percent of the occupied West Bank for the building of illegal Jewish settlements and their associated regime (v), 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 (vi) and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. (vii)
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.
i HRW report: Israel/West Bank: Separate and Unequal; Available at: link to www.hrw.org12/18/israelwest-bank-separate-and-unequal
ii In its most recent session in Cape Town, South Africa, the eminent jury of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine concluded that, “Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.” http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/sessions/south-africa
iii Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS, available at: http://www.bdsmovement.net/call.
v B’tselem Report: “By Hook and By Crook, Israeli Settlement Policy in the West Bank, July 2010; summary available at: http://www.btselem.org/publications/summaries/201007_by_hook_and_by_crook.
vi See “Israel’s settlement policy is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention,” The Palestinian Center for Human Rights, Gaza, highlighting the relevant articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention to support the determination that settlements are a war crime, at http://www.pchrgaza.org/Intifada/Settlements.conv.htm; see also “Demolitions, new settlements in East Jerusalem could amount to war crimes – UN expert,” UN News Centre, June 29, 2010, at link to www.un.orgstory.asp?NewsID=35175&Cr=Palestin&Cr1.
vii Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court prohibits “[t]he transfer, directly or indirectly, by the Occupying Power of parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”