Activists seek to reenact the US civil rights movement’s campaign in order to highlight Israel’s segregation policy in the West Bank
Palestinian activists are increasing their efforts to expose Israel’s segregation policy in the West Bank, as well as violations on their civil and human rights. In a message to the press, the Popular Struggle Committee announced that on November 15, Palestinian activists “will reenact the US Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Rides to the American South by boarding segregated Israeli public buses in the West Bank to travel to occupied East Jerusalem.”
Palestinians in the West Bank have lived under Israeli military control since 1967. Among other restrictions, they can only vote in elections to the Palestinian Authority, which has very limited power on the ground. They cannot travel out of the West Bank or receive visitors without Israeli permits, and they are tried in military courts, which curtail the rights of defendants. Jews living in the West Bank enjoy full citizenship rights.
The occupation is often portrayed as a diplomatic problem of war and peace between two equal parties, Palestine and Israel. The Freedom Riders campaign is part of an effort to emphasize the nature of the Palestinian problem as a human rights issue.
The message from the Popular Struggle Committee states that:
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.
Last week it was also reported that international activists intend to challenge Israel’s effective blockade of the West Bank with a new “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, designed to take place next April. Over a hundred activists were arrested and deported last spring, after flying to Israel and declaring their intention to visit the West Bank.