International Solidarity Movement » Freedom Riders Nonviolence. Justice. Freedom. Sat, 20 Dec 2014 21:06:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In Palestine, to exist is to resist Tue, 24 Jan 2012 15:00:01 +0000 by Melinda Tuhus

24 January 2012 | In These Times

Behind the headlines, Palestinians are using nonviolent direct action to protest the status quo.

WEST BANK, PALESTINE – On November 15, Mazin Qumsiyeh and other Palestinian activists boarded public bus number 148, an Israelis-only bus that normally takes Jews from the Israeli West Bank settlement of Ariel to Jerusalem. The bus took the group to the Hizma checkpoint, just outside the northern entrance of Jerusalem, where activists resisted authorities’ efforts to remove them. Eventually, as a camera broadcast the action online, eight people were pulled from the bus and arrested. They were charged with “illegal entry to Jerusalem” and “obstructing police business.”

Qumsiyeh hopes this recent “freedom ride” – possible because a bus driver let them ride by mistake, he said – will spark the same kind of response that its namesake did across the United States in the early 1960s, when interstate bus trips helped end racial segregation in the South. Qumsiyeh, author of Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment says other examples of nonviolent resistance says, include protests of the separation barrier (which many Palestinians call an “apartheid wall”) that has effectively turned 10 percent of Palestinian land into Israeli land since its construction began in 2002; school girls holding class in the street when they can’t get to their schools because of Israeli interference; and farmers braving Israeli intimidation to harvest olives. “For us to exist on this land is to resist,” says Qumsiyeh, who teaches at Bethlehem and Birzeit universities.

Most readers of mainstream media in the United States think of the First Intifada (1987-92) as the stone-throwing uprising and the Second Intifada (2000-2004) as the attack of the suicide bombers. They may have heard of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, started in 2005 by more than 170 Palestinian civil society groups. (The movement aims to curtail benefits accruing to businesses that benefit from the occupation.) But few are aware of Palestinians’ longstanding creative efforts to use nonviolent direct action in their struggle for self-determination. Those efforts, from the tax revolt in Beit Sahour during the First Intifada to creative actions led by Palestinians like Qumsiyeh, are often supported by both international and Israeli activists. And they are proliferating.

Ghassan Andoni, cofounder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and a leader of the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People, says nonviolent direct action by Palestinians opposed to the Israeli occupation started before the First Intifada. “Activities included throwing military identity cards issued by the occupation as a way to tell the occupier that we don’t recognize your authority and there is no contract between us,” Andoni said in an interview in Bethlehem in mid-November. “Then we stopped paying taxes and submitting monthly reports saying, ‘No taxation without representation.’”

The First Intifada also saw the creation of autonomous communities all over the West Bank. “We established our own economy to detach from the occupation,” Andoni explained. Large protest marches and solidarity campaigns were also organized with international activists and Israelis. ISM has staged “die-ins” in front of Israeli tanks, and its members have chained themselves to homes the Israeli government wants to demolish, and obstructed the Israeli army from imposing a curfew. As popular resistance among Palestinians has spread, Andoni increasingly sees ISM’s role as supporting local nonviolent initiatives.

Bil’in, a village near Ramallah, is one such initiative. Residents of Bil’in have mobilized against Israel’s West Bank security barrier. Since construction of the fence began there in 2005, villagers have staged various events. After the release of the film Avatar, with its story line of the occupation of Pandora and the rape of its resources, Palestinians painted themselves blue to look like Pandorans. On another occasion, they lugged a television to the fence and cheered their favorite teams during a World Cup tournament to show that normal life would go on.

Bil’in activists photograph and videotape every protest. “The camera is our gun,” says Iyad Burnat, who heads the resistance committee in the village. In 2011 the barrier was moved a short distance away from its initial location in Bil’in, on orders from the Israeli High Court. But much of the village remains on the Israeli side of the fence, and protests continue.

What is the ultimate goal of nonviolent action, beyond stopping the security wall and ending the occupation? “One state or two states?” is not the right question to start with, Qumsiyeh says. “The right question to ask is, ‘What is the right thing to do that will guarantee the safety and security and peace and humanity of everybody in the long run?’ Once we can agree, we’ll work toward that.”

Melinda Tuhus is an independent journalist with 25 years of experience in print and radio, including In These Times, The New York Times, Free Speech Radio News and public radio stations.

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Freedom Rides to Jerusalem Thu, 17 Nov 2011 18:00:16 +0000 by Anne Paq

17 November 2011 | Chroniques de Palestine

Click here to view the embedded video.

On the 15th of November, Palestinian activists from the West Bank boarded a segregated Israeli bus used by Israeli settlers to Jerusalem in an attempt to highlight the regime of discrimination on freedom of movement in place in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the fact that Palestinians cannot access Jerusalem freely. After boarding the bus without incidents, the bus was stopped at the Hizme checkpoint, where all the activists were arrested and violently forcibly removed from the bus.

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A visual chronology of the Freedom Rides Thu, 17 Nov 2011 16:00:51 +0000 by Dena Elian

16 November 2011 | Sixteen Minutes to Palestine

On November 15, 2011, six Palestinian Freedom Riders boarded a settler-only bus traveling to occupied East Jerusalem to openly challenge Israel’s apartheid policies towards Palestinians and its minority populations. The following is a visual chronology of the events.

Photo: Dena Elian, Sixteen Minutes to Palestine - Click here for more images

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Freedom Riders: “I felt like I was witnessing history” Wed, 16 Nov 2011 16:52:00 +0000 by Ben Lorber

 15 November 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, West Bank

Earlier today, 7 Palestinian activists were arrested as part of the Freedom Rides attempt to board segregated buses going from the West Bank into occupied East Jerusalem.

Freedom Riders - Click for more images

Palestinians, Israelis and ISM activists waited at a bus stop outside the illegal settlement of Psagot, while four settler buses pulled up and drove away, refusing to open their doors. Israeli police and occupation army surrounded the activists, while a group of settlers massed to observe. Finally, a bus took the activists aboard, and the bus made its way to Hizmeh checkpoint, trailed by army jeeps and police vehicles.

At Hizmeh checkpoint, occupation forces stopped the bus, refusing to allow it to pass. During this time, border police attempted to enter the back of the bus and violently drag one Palestinian off the bus. When both attempts failed, border police commandeered the bus, and forced it to park by the side of the checkpoint.

After about half an hour, border police entered the bus, and forcibly dragged the six Palestinian Freedom

Riders off of the bus. “When they pulled them out of the bus, it was not gentle,” said ISM activist Crystal. “A girl next to me was almost crying.” Activist and lawyer Huwaida Arraf was rendered unconscious by the forcible removal.

The Palestinian activists were arrested and taken to Atarot prison, on the grounds that they had entered Jerusalem illegally.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Later that night, ISM activists held a demonstration outside of Atarot, demanding that occupation forces release the prisoners.

“I felt like I was witnessing history,” said ISM activist Wajed.

Ben Lorber is an activist with International Solidarity Movement and writer with Alternative Information Center.

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Freedom Riders: I witnessed six Palestinian activists demand freedom Wed, 16 Nov 2011 16:38:35 +0000 by Holly

16 November 2011 | Carbonating Change

Yesterday I witnessed six Palestinian activists demand freedom, justice and dignity as they defied Israel’s apartheid policies when the group successfully boarded settler-only buses and attempted to enter East Jerusalem, where they were eventually brutally dragged off and arrested by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF).

At the press conference and in the lead up to the event, the activists described how they had taken inspiration from the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and the heroic actions of Rosa Parks. Drawing on the struggles of African Americans who fought against segregation and inequality in the Unites States, and South Africans who battled against apartheid, the Palestinian Freedom Riders aimed to draw the world’s attention to the similarity of the struggle faced by the Palestinian people on a daily basis.

However, it must be recognised that the formation and continued policies of Israel’s apartheid state have far superseded the actions of both the Jim Crow South in the U.S. and the white supremacists in South Africa. Only last week when visiting Ni’lin, I was told of how when the wall was being built (which stole 30% of Palestinian land from the people of this small village), the IOF imposed a four day curfew on the village. This was enforced night and day, and if the people tried to leave their homes, tear gas and sound bombs were fired relentlessly into the narrow streets.

In South Africa, the white settlers sought to dominate the native population by incorporating them as inferior citizens in a state under exclusively white control. Zionism is founded upon a similarly colonialist ideology, but goes further in its attempts to establish a Jewish demographic through an ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their land.

Unlike in the American South of the 60s, you will not see signs around the settlements or at the checkpoints stating “No Palestinians here” – Israel manages its PR machine far too well for such overtly racist statements to be witnessed by the other “democratic” countries which fund its existence. Similarly, Palestinians are technically allowed to ride “settler-only” buses and drive on “settler-only” roads, something repeated by the Israeli media and the settlers who came off the buses yesterday.

But the segregation, inequality and the denial of Palestinian’s rights to enter their own land is implemented in a far more covert way by Israel. Whilst Palestinians may be able to travel on the buses and roads, these buses lead either into the internationally recognisedillegal settlements, or into East Jerusalem where Palestinians are forbidden to enter. East Jerusalem is the intended capital of a future Palestinian state, yet Israel has denied the majority of Palestinians access to the city without a permit, which are almost impossible to obtain.

As a result, Israel has been able to continually expand the settlements in East Jerusalem, particularly in the highly contentious area of Sheikh Jarrah, and this has lead to the annexing of Palestinian populated areas in the city so that it is surrounded by Israeli settlements, systematically destroying the possibility of having a Palestinian controlled capital.

As I hope is becoming evident, the Palestinian Freedom Riders movement is not simply about the segregation of buses, the problem here is much larger. Palestinians face an apparatus of military control over Palestinians that needs to be dismantled, along with the settlements themselves.

The Israeli government will continue to defend their denial of Palestinians into East Jerusalem and the segregation of settler buses and roads because of the “security” threat from suicide bombings, their continual excuse and reasoning behind the occupation of Palestine. However, Israel’s colonialist project and abhorrent treatment of Palestinians began long before the first suicide bombing took place, and the continued occupation will do nothing to deter the desperate and destructive acts of suicide bombers.

However, the violence that has blighted the region for many years was far from the minds of anybody who witnessed the Palestinian Freedom Rides yesterday, as they took part in a determinedly non-violent resistance that attempted to demonstrate the popular, direct action movements which have been been gaining momentum in Palestine to resist Israeli occupation.

Yesterday’s action was a well orchestrated media circus, with hundreds of journalists swarming around the riders trying to get the best shots and interviews for their stories. However, in order for the Freedom Rides to have a true impact on Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, they will need to engage the wider Palestinian community and encourage these acts of civil disobedience in the next waves of the Freedom Rides. I have every faith that the activists involved in the initial wave will continue tirelessly to do so, facing arrest by the Israeli forces and attack by the settlers at every turn.

Furthermore, the onus is now on people around the world not to co-operate with the apartheid policies of the Israeli regime and to take action against them, starting with the boycott of companies – such as Egged and Veolia who run the settler buses – who profit from Israel’s illegal apartheid system.

This protest was not about the UN Statehood Bid. It had nothing to say about armed struggle. Instead, this is one of the most inspiring acts of people power I have seen since arriving in Palestine. The Freedom Riders are demanding that their very basic human rights are upheld in accordance with international law, and to demonstrate that they will continue to engage non-violently to win the freedom, justice and dignity for which the Palestinian people have struggled for so long.

Holly is a volunteer with International Solidarity Mvoement.





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