Palestinian 'Freedom Riders' detained after boarding Israeli bus near settlement

Ahram Online , Wednesday 16 Nov 2011

Six Palestinian activists naming themselves 'Freedom Riders' board an Israeli bus in an act of defiance against the racist nature of settlements and segregated transport links that cut through the West Bank

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Israeli border police officer detains a 'Freedom Rider'Palestinian after removing him from a bus at Hizme checkpoint on the edge of Jerusalem, Tuesday (Photo: Reuters)

In a bold statement of protest to highlight the racist nature of Israeli occupation in the West Bank, a group of six activists, calling themselves the Freedom Riders, boarded an Israeli bus near the illegal settlement of Psagot.

The Freedom Riders boarded the settler bus operated by the Israeli bus companies Egged and Veolia at 3.30pm on Tuesday.

This was in an attempt to evoke memories and the struggle of the US civil rights movement in the 1960s by a group of activists aiming to abolish racism in the country.

Bus companies like Egged and Veolia are subsidised by the state and run between illegal settlements, ferrying people to other Israeli cities.

The riders were stopped before entering Jerusalem at the Hizmeh checkpoint, half a kilometre outside the city. They are currently being detained at the Atarot police station in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) posted a statement of solidarity on Tuesday with the six Freedom Riders.

Badee’ Dwak who was arrested during the ride, stated that the bus companies “transport settlers in and out of our occupied land, on roads that we often can’t use into places that we can’t reach…they need to be divested from and boycotted… It is a moral duty to end complicity in this Israeli system of apartheid."

“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,” said Basel al-Araj, another detainee, commenting on the act as being reminiscent of the civil rights movement.

Illegal settlements have been mushrooming exponentially, consuming 42 per cent of the West Bank, according to the BNC statement.

These Bantustan-like territories comprise of hundreds of kilometres of segregated roads forbidden to Palestinians.         

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