At 11:00 AM on November 15, 2011, Palestinian activists in the West Bank will board Israel’s segregated transportation services en route to occupied East Jerusalem to defy institutionalized prejudice the same way the Freedom Riders did during the United States’ civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Five decades after Black Americans challenged the status quo by riding interstate buses through the segregated South, Palestinians will employ the same method of civil disobedience to further the dismantling of the customs, laws, and military directives that implement the forceful suppression of Palestinian rights. The targeted transportation lines are typically state-sponsored, and they serve to connect illegal Israeli settlements and outposts dotting the West Bank. Although, as Philip Weiss makes clear, Palestinians are not officially prohibited from boarding Israeli public transportation networks built in the West Bank, the lines stop only in Jewish settlements and oftentimes cut through entire Palestinian towns. In order to board a bus in the West Bank, Palestinians, unlike Israelis, must present a virtually unattainable military order to enter the settlement in which a bus or train station is located. While Israelis can rely on guaranteed busing service to reach Jerusalem, Palestinians are forced to take unpaved backroads that usually feature a checkpoint or two.
These are the shameful standards being challenged by the Palestinian Freedom Riders in the coming days.