Photo: Removing Freedom Riders while waving the banner of apartheid

Updated: Quick — they are going to make an argument. Critics of the Palestinian Freedom Rides, the ones who take aim at anything that challenges the established forces of injustice and occupation, are bound to argue that this isn’t an issue of apartheid or segregation, that Palestinians are allowed on settler buses, that Palestinians are beating a dead horse.

Here, then, is Huwaida Arraf being removed from a public settler bus traveling the roads of the occupied West Bank. She and five other Palestinian Freedom Riders were forcefully removed from Bus 148 initially headed to Jerusalem.

“She was removed not because she’s Palestinian but because she didn’t possess proper travel documents. This isn’t apartheid, this is civil law,” the very same critics will caption. But let us not forget that Jewish settlers unlawfully residing in Palestine don’t require these travel documents — documents that are nothing short of permission slips selectively issued by the Israeli government.

The settlers aboard Bus 148 were carefully moved to another bus that quickly made its way through the Hizmah checkpoint and out to Israel. Meanwhile, the six Freedom Riders were driven to a police station where they were removed and detained by Israeli soldiers and officers. They have since been released, but not after facing verbal abuse, fines, and the implementation of tactics and techniques once seen wherever apartheid and segregation existed.

To the critics, the staunch defenders of Israeli policy, this photograph defines the realities of institutionalized injustice and the valiant efforts to elevate humanity. Huwaida was removed because she is Palestinian, because as a Palestinian, she isn’t allowed to move freely between the neighborhoods and cities of her own home, because as a Palestinian, she is denied the right to travel by an Israeli government proudly waving the banner of apartheid.

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