SJP at U of Chicago endorses the newest generation of Freedom Riders

Student activists at the University of Chicago stands in solidarity with the Palestinian Freedom Riders challenging Israeli apartheid in the occupied territories and towards its minority populations

CHICAGO, IL (November 15, 2011)—On November 15, Palestinians in the West Bank will reenact the U.S. Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Rides in the American South by boarding segregated Israeli public transportation and traveling to occupied East Jerusalem. By nonviolently challenging the apartheid that governs their lives, Palestinian students, activists, and community members demand their right to justice and self-determination. As members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of Chicago, we stand with them.

SJP at the University of Chicago is founded on the principles of human rights, justice, and self-sovereignty. This ethic transcends cultural, religious, and geopolitical boundaries, and the Freedom Rides of the 1960s serve as a model example of SJP’s ultimate mission to restore and promote the dignity and equality of all people. It is this very same ethic that compels us to stand with the Freedom Riders in Palestine who seek to challenge the status quo, the segregation, the apartheid, and the blatant violation of human and civil rights reminiscent of the daunting actions of the original Freedom Riders.

The Freedom Riders’ intentional act of defiance against the systematic apartheid enforced by Israel within the occupied Palestinian territories and against its minority populations carries significant risk. It is possible that the activists will be arrested for months or years without trial, as is common under Israeli martial law, and it is plausible that their nonviolent actions will be met with violence from both Israeli soldiers and illegal settlers. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his letter from Birmingham jail, “we know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” We stand in solidarity with the newest generation of Freedom Riders who refuse to shrink in the face of immense risk and oppression.

Here is a series of key points contextualizing the dire need for this action:

Buses in the West Bank resemble buses in the American South during the 1960s – separate and unequal.

Bus and train stations are located in illegal Israeli settlements and outposts where Palestinians are not permitted to enter.

Israeli settlers enjoy free movement in the West Bank while indigenous Palestinians are restricted to checkpoints, closed borders, regular road blocks.

“Fortunately, history does not pose problems without eventually producing solutions.  The disenchanted, the disadvantaged and the disinherited seem, at times of deep crisis, to summon up some sort of genius that enables them to perceive and capture the appropriate weapons to carve out their destiny.  Such was the peaceable weapons of nonviolent direct action. . .”

Martin Luther King, Jr.
From ‘Why We Can’t Wait’

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