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Palestinians to launch "Freedom Rides" campaign on Israeli buses

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.

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    1. Richard Witty

      A brilliant effort. Please encourage activists to pick one issue at a time in their actions and in their public comments.

      To the extent that the communication gets muddied, it will diminish in effectiveness.

      There is no way that ethnicity is a valid basis of discrimination of use of a public service.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Borg

      Palestinians are welcome to ride Israeli buses, provided that they leave the bombs, guns and knives at home. I dont recll Rosa Parks blowing up the buses, like Jerusalems no 18 bus has been blown up several times. I suspect the temptation to blow up Jews will be too strong for the Palestinians to resist. After all, killing Jews is a UN sanctioned cultural activity

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben Israel

      Once again, the falsehood: “Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal”.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ben Israel

      I see it is time for a history lesson. During the period of full Israeli occupation of the West Bank, 1967-1993, Palestinians in the West Bank had pretty much full freedom of movement through tje area AND across the Green Line to Jerusalem, and between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Egged buses travelled through the Arab towns and Palestinians travelled on them. There was and is, of course, an Arab bus service that also travels between the Arab towns and Jews would ride on them as well. The change started in 1992, during the Israeli election campaign. A girl, Helena Rapp, was stabbed to death in Holon by a Gaza Arab, and Haim Ramon appeared in a Labor Party ad saying “when we win the election, you won’t see Arabs around here anymore since we are going to pull out of those areas”. After the Oslo Agreements, Israel did pull out of those areas and increased the restrictions on the Palestinians crossing the Green Line and into Jerusalem. When Arafat was brought to the country, he promised his people a violent terrorist campaign which he assured them would bring Israel to its knees. He felt ready for it and unleashed it in 2000-2001. THE TERROR CAMPAIGN HAD WHOLE HEARTED SUPPORT OF THE PALESTNIAN CIVILIAN POPULATION. In reaction, Israel greatly increased the number of checkpoints between the Arab towns and Israel put up the security wall (what you call the “apartheid wall” and what are called in Belfast, Northern Ireland “peace walls” between the Catholics and Protestant neighborhoods). This was done in direct reaction to the Arafat’s suicide bomber campaign. Thus, if the Palestinians don’t like the wall and the restrictions on movement THEY HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME BUT THEMSELVES. They are the ones who decided on war instead of constructive peace activities . All this ‘freedom rider’ stunt will do is make the buses stop at the checkpoints and the police will make the Palestinians get off. Like all the other stunts, like the PA’s activities at the UN, it will have no effect whatsoever.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ben Israel – no, that’s correct. They are illegal under international law, which forbids importing the occupier’s population into the occupied territory – doubly so when said importation is done into apartheid settlements where the local population can’t live. But it’s ok. You’ve won. Settlements are irreversible by now, as is the demise of Israel as a democratic, majority-Jewish state. Congrats!

      Borg – we’ll see. We’re talking about buses in the West Bank, not in Israel proper.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben Israel

      This has been argued many times but I will repeat it once more. The West Bank is “disputed territory” in legal terms. Jews lived in the West Bank and Gaza Strip before 1948 according to the British Mandate. Jimmy Carter said the settlements were “illegal” but the international law dept. of the US State Dept. told him that was not true and NO President since then, including Obama has said they are “illegal”.
      Sure, there are other bodies who may say they are illegal, but who cares? They have no jurisdiction.
      Your throwing around the “apartheid” word is nice for generating an emotional reaction but has no basis in reality, unless you want to accuse the Arabs of apartheid too….see what happens if a Jew wants to buy a house in Rahat or Um el-Fahem.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Mariana

      Thank god we have Ben Israel to give us History Lessons. Now we’re saved and illuminated people. God save Ben Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    8. BI – does it only matter what Americans call “illegal” or “legal”, or do other people have a say in the matter? Just wondering, I didn’t know they were the “deciders” in all things legal around the world. Are they the go-to-guy on these things?
      For example, if Bananstan says settlements are illegal, does the U.S. trump that?

      Reply to Comment
    9. RichardNYC

      As if it matters whether settlements are legal or not. Only very few people who argue against them on that basis properly understand international law or care about it for its own sake. Can we all please stop pretending that legality is the issue? The issue is, as Rechavia suggested, demographics. Seems like a waste of time to spend years haggling over the Geneva Convention when obviously there’s no power to enforce it, and many other countries likewise ignore it (e.g. Turkey). The pragmatic argument is stronger anyway, so let’s just stick with that.
      PS: It seems like this move might backfire, since Palestinians getting on buses gives everyone a chance to think about bus bombings again, and, as the piece notes, the buses aren’t actually segregated by race in the first place. Seems like this might just make the huge differences between Palestinian nationalism and the civil rights movement even more obvious.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Ben Israel

      As I asked above, who has jurisdiction anyway?
      Look at the Golan Heights…..even according to the criteria that I mentioned regarding Judea/Samaria, the settlements on the Golan would be “illegal” because Israel had no existing claim to them before 1967, unlike the situation in Judea/Samaria where there was no internationally recognized power in control of the territory (only Pakistan and the UK recognized Jordanian sovereignity there). Still, UN Security Council Resolution says the status of the Golan will be determined in future negotiations between Israel and Syria. If Syria agrees to allow continued Israeli control of the settlements there, they will become retroactively “legal” and if Israel gives up the territory, then they will be gone (G-d forbid). We can then transfer this argument to Judea/Samaria even if you want to say that the settlements there are “illegal”.

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    11. David44

      Ben Israel wrote:
      “Jimmy Carter said the settlements were “illegal” but the international law dept. of the US State Dept. told him that was not true and NO President since then, including Obama has said they are “illegal”.”
      My God, what a corrupted version of history! You have it exactly the wrong way round. The US State Department under Carter, on April 21, 1978, publicly issued an official legal opinion(written by Herbert J. Hansell, the State Department’s legal advisor), saying that the settlements WERE illegal. (You can see Hansell’s opinion at http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/2DFED17DC7DFAE2A852563A9004C4055 – it’s quoted in full at paragraph 84.) That is the ONLY legal statement that the State Department has ever issued on the question: it has never been superseded, and hence remains the authoritative legal view of the US government.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Ben Israel

      My understanding is the one I reported above. I know that Eugene Rostow wrote an important opinion that they are NOT illegal. In any event, no President since Carter has said they are “illegal” so that DOES seem to be the “official” position in the US.

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    13. David44

      “My understanding is the one I reported above.”
      Then your understanding is 100% wrong. I gave the evidence for you – that Carter’s State Department lawyers said exactly the opposite of what you claimed. It would be nice if you had the honesty to look at that evidence and admit you were wrong.
      “I know that Eugene Rostow wrote an important opinion that they are NOT illegal”.
      Eugene Rostow’s opinion was written long after he had ceased to work for the State Department, and hence has no bearing on this question.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Herbert J. Hansell in the opinion cited by DAVID44, calls the territories occupied. He gives no reason for that usage. As I understand, “occupied” may be a country not just a piece of land. So I am weary of Mr. Hansell’s opinion.

      Further, I believe people’s and country’s actions should have consequences. The 1967 war on the part of Israel was defensive. Had it not been attacked, there would not be “occupied” territories. The map of Europe has been redrawn after the WWII. Why would same be wrong for Israel?

      The Arabs had their chances. Why have not they used them? Their intransigence is to blame for their misery. Israel pays now for the mistake of Oslo. Should not the Palestinians take responsibility for their mistake?

      Reply to Comment
    15. @BI: The problem with the whole “settlements are legal” argument is that if Israel does have a legitimate permanent claim to the territory, than the regime it implements cannot be called anything but Apartheid.


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    16. Ben Israel

      There are numerous articles that have been written showing the settlements are not illegal, based on international law. I have read some. The claim I made about the US State Dept. was mentioned in all the articles I saw. I will have to do some homework. In any event, I again have to ask that if Hansell’s opinion is the definitive one, why have Presidents who are superhostile to the settlements like Bush I and Obama not calling them “illegal”?

      Reply to Comment
    17. David44

      “The claim I made about the US State Dept. was mentioned in all the articles I saw.”
      I frankly doubt that – at least, if the articles were written by actual international lawyers rather than by people ignorant of the subject.
      So I’m going to make a bet with you: when doing your homework, you will not find ONE article written by ANY professional international lawyer, regardless of their view on the settlements, which claims that Carter’s State Department (or indeed the State Department of any other President) issued a ruling that the settlements were legal. I think you (or perhaps some equally ignorant people you were reading) unconsciously made that up because it was what you (or they) wanted to hear.

      Reply to Comment
    18. RichardNYC

      “@BI: The problem with the whole “settlements are legal” argument is that if Israel does have a legitimate permanent claim to the territory, than the regime it implements cannot be called anything but Apartheid.”
      Seems you’re suggesting that the settlements’ being legal means that the land they’re on is not occupied territory, which doesn’t necessarily follow. I see the intuitive appeal of this argument, but the international community has held, for so long, that the OPT are occupied that it would be totally unthinkable for the world to reverse course and recognize Israeli annexation as legal. I agree with the gist of what you’re saying, but its more of a principled argument than a legal one.
      The “legal” character of the debate seems mostly counterproductive to me. Pro-Palestinian hardliners use legal arguments to rule out compromise on Pisgat Ze’ev and Beitar Illit, while Israel ignores the international community totally on this issue (and BDS is not going to do change that). The whole international law debate seems like a sideshow – ppl arguing technicalities and labels and getting nowhere. Nobody believes than either side respects international law for its own sake. The whole game is just a way to avoid speaking pragmatically. Whether it technically makes sense to some ppl to call the occupation “apartheid” isn’t going to resolve anything. Its masturbatory.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Base


      “Further, I believe people’s and country’s actions should have consequences. The 1967 war on the part of Israel was defensive. Had it not been attacked, there would not be “occupied” territories.”

      See, it doesnt really matter what you believe. The law states that regardless of why the occupation started, it is illegal to annex the land, to import your population, or to export the occupied population. It is 100% unambiguous.

      The only argument here that could make any legal sense is that there is no occupation. And that – as 98% of the planet knows – is total BS. There is an occupation, the entire planet knows it, and if it weren’t for the US protecting them for all of the wrong reasons, then Israel would have its ass handed to them in the UN.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Lana

      oh well Ben Israel,
      There are 4.5 million people who live in the 21st century without any right to self-determination (Please don’t bring up the PNA now). There are 6.5 million Palestinians who are displaced (Please don’t bring up the Arab World as an alternative home for the Palestinians). There are 1.2 million Palestinians who live as third-class citizens in your “democratic” state (please don’t bring up the dictatorships in the Arab World). The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have lived for decades under your “civil” administration, so that your state steal land, water, natural resources like any other colonial power. So excuse me if I don’t care whether you and the U.S. don’t find the Israeli settlements illegal. The world no longer minimizes the Palestinian struggle into suicide bombs and rockets, thanks to your state policies of occupation, collective punishment, land confiscation, house demolition, water theft…etc which all have been going on for decades. Your god “chose you and promised you this land” but not the world. So please, do save us this sense of superiority of yours!

      Reply to Comment
    21. RichardNYC

      The Arab world already is the alternative home for all those Palestinians. Insisting otherwise is, pragmatically speaking, a more permanent denial of civil rights than Israel’s occupation.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Lana

      Then the concept of modern Israel was a more permanent denial of civil rights in Europe! Pragmatically speaking, which Arab country does accept Palestinian refugees as citizens?! Lebanon? and btw, civil rights is an ongoing fight for refugees whether they are accepted as citizens in their hosting countries or not.

      Reply to Comment
    23. RichardNYC

      uh, well the Jews are in Israel now so I don’t think the analogy quite works. My point is that the Palestinians outside the territories are going to remain there, so its counterproductive, from a rights-based perspective, to continue blaming their ordeal on Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Resistance doesn’t die just because you murder its entire family, bulldoze its home, and lie about the whole thing to the rest of the world. I remember reading about some notable Polish Jews in Warsaw (it’s weird to me that Israeli Jews so often refer to themselves as Jews instead of Israelis/Israeli Jews — it’s unbecoming of a nation which receives all its military backing from an empire which espouses to separate churches and states (yes, I see the humor there)) who taught us exactly that during the big second war which didn’t last six days because it wasn’t fought by a hyper-modernized US Air Force which was caught by Egyptian cameras bombing Cairo. Oops. Conspiracy theorist in the hizzy. No but really though, only crackheads insist that Israel actually won its little 1967 tennis match without the help of the US Military (which was just getting busy in Vietnam).

      Reply to Comment
    25. Joe

      What a stupid discussion with this Ben Israel. Do you want Israel to keep the territories? Keep them, but give Israeli citizenship to Palestinians (and right to go on Israeli buses and go back to Jaffa and Haifa) and the right to vote for the country that’s deciding their future and governing their lands.

      You don’t want to do that? Then give them the territories, go back to your “legal” boundaries and shut up. It’s either one or the other if you care minimally about democracy and Human Rights.

      Reply to Comment
    26. @purplehelen

      I hope Palestinians ride those buses in memory or Rosa Parks. You are making the same statement. Hopefully apartheid will end soon in Israel/Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Ben Israel

      The first clause in the Palestinian Constitution says that the Palestinians are an integral part of the Arab people and that the Palestnians will work for unity of the Arab world. Are they part of the Arab world or not?

      Reply to Comment
    28. Asaf

      Stupid question:
      If Rosa Parks would have completed here ride without interaptions, I guess she would have been happy and considered it a triumph. Why do I get the feeling that if the palestinians will go on the bus and off the bus without problems (and I guess they wouldn’t), they will be dissapointed and it will be considered a failure?
      That’s the difference between public relations act, and a true civil right activism.

      Palestinians can not go on Israeli busses (and some roads etc) not because of racism or apartheid (they did ride those busses twenty years ago), but because of security issues. And you forget that Israelis can not either go into Palestinian busses, and cities.

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    29. Lana

      I like when the Israelis pretend to be naive. Maybe when Israel becomes “an integral part of the EU” you stop bringing Jews from Europe and put them in Settlements?

      it wasn’t counterproductive, from a rights-based perspective, to continue blaming your ordeal on the Roman empire 3000 years later. Why don’t we let the Palestinians try the same?

      Reply to Comment
    30. Lana

      You are right; it is a stupid question.

      Reply to Comment
    31. AYLA

      I hope this Freedom Ride campaign gets a LOT of mainstream and international press. Let’s do all we can to insure its coverage.

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    32. RichardNYC

      “it wasn’t counterproductive, from a rights-based perspective, to continue blaming your ordeal on the Roman empire 3000 years later. Why don’t we let the Palestinians try the same?”
      –>Because, when Zionist immigration started, Israel wasn’t the most densely populated country in the developed world. If you think that 6 million or however many Palestinians should bet their future on reconquering Israel, that’s on your conscience. Nobody thinks its going to happen.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Jay Jaxon

      You can’t keep other people from being heard by talking over them. Therefore: BEN ISRAEL – get off of this thread you troll !

      Reply to Comment
    34. Lana

      I don’t recall mentioning the word “reconquering”, but one day, when it becomes completely impossible to dismantle Israeli settlements, and whether you like or not, it will become a one state for two people.

      Anyway, the Zionists with their Haganah and Palmach expelled 800,000 Palestinians back then. They are now 6 millions. It was dense enough back in 1948 as it is now. What an argument to build on “wasn’t the most densely populated country in the developed world”.

      Besides, It is not the Arab countries’ responsibility to end their suffering. The Jews asked Europe to take responsibility for what they did in the Holocaust (lucky Palestinians!).. it’s the Israeli state’s turn now to take responsibility for what they have done to the Palestinians.

      Reply to Comment
    35. David44

      RICHARDNYC wrote:
      “Because, when Zionist immigration started, Israel wasn’t the most densely populated country in the developed world.”

      It still isn’t – not even close. There are plenty of developed countries more densely populated than Israel: the Netherlands, Singapore, and Taiwan for three, as well as territories like Hong Kong and Bermuda. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories_by_population_density. Taiwan is an especially interesting case, because most of the island is uninhabitable, yet it still manages to sustain a population density almost twice that of Israel’s. Even if one adds the Occupied Territories to Israel, and includes the maximum number of returned Palestinian refugees, it would barely exceed Taiwan in density, and would be well below most of the others I named.
      The bottom line is that there may be good reasons for denying all or most of the Palestinians the right of return, but population density isn’t one of them.

      Reply to Comment
    36. RichardNYC

      If you think Israel can absorb 6 million hostile Palestinians w/o there being a big civil war, you’re not being serious.
      There’s no practical reason most settlements need be dismantled for there to be a Palestinian state. You’re still not addressing my point, which is pragmatic. Talk all you want about what you think Israel is responsible for, right of return isn’t happening w/o military reconquest of Israel. Think about those odds. If you want to bet Palestinians’ future on that happening, I don’t think anyone would believe you care much for Palestinians. Pigs will fly first. Don’t bother talking anymore about what you think Israel should do because its irrelevant Palestinians’ actual choices.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Asaf

      I was on reserve duty on the west bank last summer, and one of the missions was a checkpoint. A lot of activists were around most of time (summer break on Europe I guess). They had a habbit of coming to the checkpoint with a Palestinian and video cameras, and trying to get some “good shots” of soldiers abusing the Palestinian. Since we were a bunch of old, relaxed, mostly left-wing soldiers, they were quit disappointed. They had an alternative strategy: some of them dressed like IDF soldiers and made a fake checkpoint so distance away, and when a turkey bus came, the put up a show of soldiers abusing a palestinian woman. Turned out this is a known thing.
      My point is that activists took activism too far and turned it into public relations, and websites like this are more into the making-news business than the reporting news one.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Lana

      By generalizing and calling 6 million people(regardless who they are) “hostile”, there’s no point of arguing with you anymore.

      So? There are people who say that the Holocaust has become an industry, does this mean it didn’t happen? Please! and if you find this discourse PR you really don’t have to read it.

      Reply to Comment
    39. DAVID44

      RICHARDNYC wrote:
      “If you think Israel can absorb 6 million hostile Palestinians w/o there being a big civil war, you’re not being serious.”
      I didn’t say that. I said that even if true, this has nothing to do with population density, and that you were talking rubbish when you claimed that Israel is (I quote) “the most densely populated country in the developed world”. I find it interesting (though, sadly, unsurprising given your track record) that when your factual error is pointed out you prefer to change the subject rather than admit a mistake.

      Reply to Comment
    40. Ben Israel

      I wonder about all the “settlers abusing poor Palestinian farmer” stories we are regaled with as well.

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    41. Ben Israel

      Just because pro-Palestinian advocates choose to forget or ignore the massive Palestinian suicide bomber campaign that killed or wounded thousands of Israelis IN ADDITION TO the ongoing indiscriminate rocket fire into Israeli population centers DOESN’T MEAN THEY DIDN’T HAPPEN. These are the reasons for the security wall and road checkpoints, NOT “racial discrimination”.

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    42. RichardNYC

      I’m so happy for you that you discovered I was technically wrong about Israel being the most densely populated country in the developed world. It is still a very densely populated country not capable of absorbing 6 million ppl (this was the refugee figure originally cited by LANA, which I was responding to). Thanks also for the childish, creepy, petty personal comments about my track record. You’re earning a lot of respect with those.

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    43. Hostage

      @Ben Israel RE: The West Bank is “disputed territory” in legal terms.

      Can you cite the Court where Israel appeared and disputed the status of the West Bank in “legal” terms?

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    44. Dan Kelso

      Lana, IT’S NOT ABOUT LAND, STUPID!! It’s about the fact that the hostile nations surrounding Israel hate Jews and do not want ANY Jewish presence AT ALL in the Middle East ! –

      A new settlement plan!
      Palestine Today reports of a nefarious new Israeli initiative, where it plans to build some 1400 new apartments in what it called a “settlement plan.”

      Some 228 acres will be expropriated for this scheme.

      And where is it planned for?


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    45. Dan Kelso

      Lana, Israel did not expel 800,000 Palestinians.
      The Palestinians left at the calls of the Arab leaders cause they thought they would be in the way, when the Arab armies anihilated the Jews.
      Then the Palestinians thought they would come back and get the spoils of war.
      Read for yourself this great article.

      Reply to Comment
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