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 and transnational 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.