Amid shouts of “apartheid” and “racism,” police on Tuesday evening arrested six
Palestinian activists who tried to ride an Egged bus into Jerusalem in an effort
to highlight their inability to travel freely on the state-run transportation
system in the West Bank.
Activists were forcibly dragged off the bus and
placed in waiting police vans.
It was the end of a four-and- half-hour
protest that began in Ramallah and ended in a dirt parking lot on the
northeastern outskirts of the capital.
Event organizers compared
themselves to the freedom riders from the 1960s US civil rights
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“We see this as the first of many freedom rides,” said activist
Huwaida Arraf, as she stood in Ramallah surrounded by more than 50 reporters and
photographers. Their goal, she said, was to highlight what she called Israel’s
discriminatory bus system, which does not allow Palestinians without Israeli
identification cards to freely ride public buses into east Jerusalem and many
West Bank settlements.
Palestinians with the proper permits can use such
buses to travel, but the activists said they believed they should enjoy the same
rights as Israelis, who do not need such permits to ride the
Although Palestinians need special permits to enter areas of
Israel within the pre-1967 border as well, the activists chose to focus on the
issue of freedom of movement in regions they believe are under “occupation” and
should become part of a future Palestinian state.
At 1 p.m., six
activists wearing white T-shirts with slogans such as “To Jerusalem we go,” and
black and white keffiyehs around their necks, drove to a bus stop by near the
Kochav Ya’acov settlement off Route 60, the main north-south road in the West
Here they stood and waited surrounded by dozens of
At one point they stood side by side and held signs reading
“Freedom” and “Dignity.”
A number of police officers stood by and
Some six buses passed before one, which had come from the Ariel
settlement, stopped and allowed the Palestinians to get on.
scores of journalists crowded on after them. Many others trailed the bus in
separate vehicles until it was stopped at the Hizma checkpoint outside of
As the bus stood there, one of the activists held a sign
against a window that said, “Boycott apartheid.” Another activist briefly held
up a Palestinian flag.
Soldiers and police entered the bus and asked the
activists to leave, but they refused. One policeman spoke to them in Arabic to
explain that they would be arrested.
As the bus stood there for an hour,
Arraf described her interaction with the police to journalists.
wanted to see IDs. They asked for permits. We said, ‘It’s our right to go to
Jerusalem.’ They tried to get us off the bus. We refused,” she said.
one point, the soldiers tried to drag activist Badee’a Dweik off the bus, but
left him on the floor. He spoke briefly with reporters as he lay there before
going back to his seat.
“Why do I need to leave the bus,” he asked. “Why
not ask the settlers to leave the bus?” To the soldiers who gave him the option
of walking out the door, he said, “I have a right to be on this bus.”
some point, under army and police orders the bus driver simply shut off the
engine, saying he had not understood what was happening when he picked up the
“If I had,” he said, “I would not have
Israeli passengers on the bus got off and were able to get onto
other buses or find rides into the city. One, a woman named Esther, was
“I do not know what they are talking about,” she
It is Israelis who have issues with transportation because of fear
of terror attacks, she added. These are buses that are protected against stones
and bullets in case of Palestinian violence.
“It’s not racism, it is
security,” she said.
“When I can walk freely in Ramallah with my
children, they can ride on my bus.”
Another passenger, Haggai Segal, who
wore a skullcap, said he had asked the Palestinian activists, “‘Can I go on a
bus in Ramallah as a Jew?’ They answered: ‘I could not.’” He shook his head at
the comparison to the civil rights movement.
“This is not a Martin Luther
King bus,” Segal said.
But the Palestinian activists themselves said they
understood the comparison was not exact. The point, they said, was that the West
Bank and east Jerusalem belonged to the Palestinians, not Israel, and as such
they should have the right to travel freely.
Eventually, the police drove
the bus into a parking lot just above the checkpoint, where they waited until it
got dark before boarding and dragging out the activists, in some cases
One pro-Palestinian supporter yelled at the police, and at
the soldiers guarding them.
“We all have human rights,” she
“You are being paid by a Fascist state to engage in racist
I do not think this is how you were raised. It
sure isn’t the Jewish way.”
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