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I have a parallel blog in French at http://anniebannie.net

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November 16, 2011

Honored as a Freedom Rider

Nov 16, 2011

I was honored to be a freedom rider and it was team effort at its best (those who rode and the many who worked behind the scenes). Two other Palestinians were also arrested with us who were there as a reporters/observers not participants. All eight of us were released eventually pending potential trials. Fajr kindly gave us a ride to the edge of Beit Sahour from Ramallah (we were released at Qalandia checkpoint) where my wife met us there with my car and then she and I gave a ride to Nadim and Badi’ to Hebron. I thus arrived home at 1:30 AM and the phones started ringing again at 7 AM. I am extremely tired and with a headache but wanted to send you a brief report and links to stories about this amazing and inspiring experience. While released, we are still charged with “illegal entry to Jerusalem” and with “obstructing police business” pending potential trial.

This was one of the most heavily covered media events I ever participated in. It was also streamed live on the internet and nearly 100,000 people signed a petition of support for us freedom riders (https://secure.avaaz.org/en/palestine_freedom_riders/?aerQkcb). Thus, I do not need to write to you in detail about how three buses refused to let us board and then one driver (who later told journalists he did not know what was going on otherwise would have also refused) allowed us on the bus and what happened on and off the bus.

Below are some links to stories published that give you a taste of this. Note especially the signs that we carried and showed before we rode the bus and from the windows of the bus (I am the one with the “DIGNITY” sign). Perhaps I will write more personally when my mind is clearer and I have had some sleep. But there are two anecdotes that happened that are kind of unusual and funny and in some way worth telling while they are fresh in my mind:

-They took me to the Shabak (“Israeli intelligence”) guy before they took me to the investigator for the bus issue. The Shabak guy did not ask me about the bus at all. He introduced himself as head of the Shabak area of Ramallah (and previously of Nablus and Jenin). He asked me if I was abroad recently. I said yes. He said what happened when you came back. I said I was interrogated at the bridge.

He said “come-on interrogating is a big word”. I said I do not know what else to call an 8 hour delay including 2 hours of actual questioning. He said what else they told you. I said that the interrogation would continue and that there is a captain “Suhail” or “Suhaib” or something like that who will call me later. He said that that it is him and his name is “Shihab”! I said “well then maybe we will save another visit”! He told me that is not likely as I seem to continue to “cause problems and violate laws”.

I said there is something called international laws and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Denial of freedom of movement and entry to Jerusalem while allowing colonial settlers to live on our land and have freedom to travel in and out of Jerusalem on segregated buses is a violation of the International Convention Against the Crime of Apartheid. We also engaged in a political discussion and I explained about why Israel now has no incentive for peace (the three main sources of income for it would all dry up if there is peace) and my views of a democratic, pluralistic country for its entire people.

-One young Ashkenazi soldier was very arrogant and even called me “Professor Teez” (Teez is arabic for “ass”). We all (freedom riders) laughed it off and I told him that I did not insult him and that when someone insults me they demean themselves first. When he repeated it after my interrogation by the Shabak, I stood up and confronted him and the Druz officer intervened and the soldier moved away. There were other incidents with other people similar showing that our collective attitude was strong, defiant, and resilient. We all had Palestinian Kuffiyyas and kept wearing them. Fadi even wrapped himself in the Palestinian flag the whole time except when they did the full body search. We have some video from inside the compound which I will share later.

I came out to find the news that the Zionist mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg ordered the clearing out of the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters for now; a very important protest *. But my reading of history and trends tell me that the global intifada will only accelerate as a result of repression by the powers to be.

Freedom Riders odyssey:

http://electronicintifada.net/content/israel-arrests-freedom-riders-challenging-apartheid-road-system/10595#.TsNplD3z3qE

http://www.avaaz.org/en/palestine_freedom_riders/?cl=1388878149&v=11131

http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=245717 (there is a picture here of me being taken off of the bus)

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/15/1036888/-We-Shall-Overcome-A-Photo-Diary-of-Todays-Freedom-Riders?via=sidebar

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2011/11/israel-palestinians-freedom-riders.html

http://www.flickr.com/photos/activestills

http://www.europalestine.com/spip.php?article6642&var_mode=calcul

http://mondoweiss.net/2011/11/follow-the-freedom-rides.html

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/palestinians-embark-on-civil-disobedience-protests-against-demographic-segregation-1.395820

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15744576

http://theonlydemocracy.org/2011/11/statement-of-the-palestinian-freedom-riders/

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/11/14/177154.html (Arabic)

*Arundhati Roy: Occupy Wall Street is “So Important Because It is in the Heart of Empire”

http://www.democracynow.org/2011/11/15/arundhati_roy_occupy_wall_street_is

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The Freedom Riders of Bus 148

Nov 15, 2011 11:33 pm | Mariam Al-Barghouti and Deema Al-Saafin

outsidebus
(Photo: Activestills)

The Palestinian Freedom Rides movement was inspired by the Civil Rights Act of 1961, when African Americans and Americans alike boarded buses and road throughout the south in order to break segregation marked by Jim Crow laws. This act branded them the name “Freedom Riders”.  Segregation of the 1960’s revolved around a direct schism between “blacks” and “whites” in every aspect of life imaginable; education, public eating, public transportation, and housing provinces. This began the Freedom Riders movement where Americans, “blacks” and “whites” alike, rode segregated buses . Inspired by such a movement, six Palestinian activists decided to do the same regarding segregated Israeli buses, in which they would be non-violently defying illegal Israeli settlements, and Israeli segregation.

freedomsigns
Freedom Riders waiting for the bus. (Photo: Ann Paq/Activestills)

Earlier Tuesday November 15th, 6 Palestinian activists as well as people of the press headed to the illegal Israeli settlement of  Kohav Yakov, where they attempted to board  segregated Israeli buses headed to Jerusalem in defiance of Israeli apartheid and segregation. The first bus passes the activists however, the driver keeps driving on. The second bus, and the third pass, to no avail. Five buses passed the activists without stopping to allow them to get in as passengers; instead they completely ignored their existence. Whilst they were waiting for a bus to stop, an IOF military jeep came to the location of the Freedom Riders.  It wasn’t until the sixth bus, bus number 148 that the Palestinian Freedom Rides activists were able to board. Illegal Israeli settlers boarded the bus with the Freedom Riders. At this point, history had already been made, as Palestinians had physically got onto segregation buses headed to Jerusalem. Aboard the bus, the Palestinian flag was flown.

During the first and second Intifada, the waving of the Palestinian flag was an action enough to land a person in jail. During the weekly demonstrations in villages such as Nabi Saleh, Bil’in, Ni’leen and Walaja, waving the Palestinian flag can bring a person an arrest, or worse as in the case of Ashraf Abu Rahmah, administrative detention.

A settler aboard attempted to grab and confiscate the Palestinian flag, but his attempt was defied.

fadiquran
Fadi Qura’an facing the Israeli Border Police.
(Photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills)

Bus 148 began its move to its perceived destination: Jerusalem. The driver of the bus was following an Israeli police vehicle, while the bus was accompanied by Israeli Occupying Forces from behind. The bus was led to Hizmah checkpoint, which is one of 522 checkpoints that are spread throughout the West Bank. Upon arrival to Hizmah checkpoint, Israeli Border Police as well as Israeli soldiers boarded bus 148 which carried the six Palestinian Freedom Rides activists: Nadeem Al-Sharbate, Huwaida Arraf, Dr.Mazin Qumsieyeh, Fadi Qura’an, Basel Al-Araj, and Badee’ Dwaik, as well as several journalists documenting the event. The Police asked all the settlers on board and the driver to leave the bus, to which they obeyed but not before remarking to the activists still on board that “this is our land.” The settlers were able to board another bus heading to Jerusalem without any harassment from the Border Police. However the activists were asked for their ID’s, and confiscated them in an attempt to get the Freedom Riders to exit the bus. “I will show them my Palestinian ID card and say I want to go to Jerusalem. We’ll see what happens,” said Dr Mazin Qumsiyeh. However the Freedom Riders were determined to remain on the bus, saying over and over again “We are headed to Jerusalem.”

Journalists were then kicked out of the bus and fined 500 Israeli Shekels for “parking on the side of the road”. This is merely an attempt to punish those who spread the word of Israel’s apartheid regime and its racist implications to the rest of the world.

signsoutsidebus
(Photo: Activestills)

At this point, Freedom Riders had begun chanting, “We are not getting off, even if you throw us in jail”. They knew that they could be arrested but remained defiant, and most importantly, non violent. Palestinian activist, Badee’ Dwaik, resisted by nonviolently laying on the floor of the bus. He asked the Israeli Border Police “Why didn’t you ask a settler for his permission slip into Jerusalem? Is his blood red and mine blue?”

When journalists and settlers were removed from the bus, only IOF and Israeli Border Police remained with the Freedom Riders. The bus then began its move to a police station.

Once at the police station, Israeli Border Police began forcibly removing Freedom Riders one by one. (Due to the camera shooting the live stream footage running out of battery, we were only able to see three arrests (Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh, Huwaida Arraf and lastly Fadi Quran’s). Israeli Border Police tried to negotiate with activists Huwaida Arraf and Fadi Quran, if negotiating meant saying “You are here illegally. Yallah, you will be taken off the bus.” The Freedom Riders remained in their seats, staring straight ahead. IOF and Border Police then began to violently grab these activists one at a time forcing them off the bus. Whilst being arrested, Huwaida and Fadi both introduced themselves as Freedom Riders and said “We are only trying to go to Jerusalem.” Alongside the activists, Fajr Harb was also arrested, even though he was not on board the bus, nor part of the Palestinian Freedom Riders group, he was merely arrested for showing support for the cause, and being Palestinian. As Fadi Quran said as he was being arrested “We only want our freedom, justice, and dignity.” The activists and Fajr Harb were taken to the detention center of Atarot, where they remain now until further notice.

boycottapartheid
(Photo: Oren Ziv/ Activestills)

This post originally appeared on the website WrittenResistance. All the Freedom Riders have since been released from Israeli custody.

Mariam Al-Barghouti is a Palestinian-American graduated from high school May 2011, currently taking a gap year in attempt to bring more awareness to the Palestinian cause.

Deema Al-Saafin is from both Gaza and West Bank,she also holds a British passport. She graduated from high school May 2011. She is continuing her studies at Birzeit University, where she is majoring in public administration. 

Arrest of Palestinian Freedom Rider Fadi Quran

Families Of Former Detainees Prevented From Visiting Them In Exile

author Saturday November 12, 2011 11:55author by Mais Azza – IMEMC & Agencies

The Israeli authorities are preventing dozens of Palestinian families from travelling to meet their sons, who were released from the Israeli jails last month under the Gilad Shalit prisoner-swap deal, and were sent into exile in Syria, Turkey, Qatar, and the Gaza strip, the Palestine News & Info Agencies (WAFA) reported.

Image by almoltaqa.ps
Image by almoltaqa.ps

The European Network to support the rights of Palestinians prisoners, UFree, issued a statement revealing that the Israeli army prevented Palestinian men, women and children from travelling through the Allenby crossing connecting Palestine with Jordan, whilst trying to visit their recently-released family members.

UFree added that Israel prevented the families of the former detainees of Mahmoud Qawasmeh, Ayman ‘Qfesheh, ‘Ala ‘Qfesheh, Murad Al-Rajoub , Majdi al-Jo’ba, Saed Shallada, Abdullah ‘Arra, Iyad ‘Obeyyat, and ‘Ubadah Bilal, from travelling to visit their released family members.

The Network slammed Israel’s claims for preventing a child identified as Sara Ayman ‘Qfesheh, 14, from travelling to see her father for what Israel labelled as “security concerns”. Sarah has never met her dad, and only knows him from photos.

The child said that she hopes she will finally be allowed to travel with her family in order to visit her father. She also voiced an appeal to human rights groups for help and assistance to enable her to finally meet her father.

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