By Lia Tarachansky, The Real News Network – 17 Nov 2011
Drawing a comparison to American civil rights fighters, Palestinian activists boarded Israeli settler buses in the West Bank.
On Tuesday six Palestinian activists boarded Israeli buses in an attempt to challenge the system of segregation in the West Bank. They were arrested at Hizmeh checkpoint, interrogated by Israel’s internal intelligence agency, the Shabak [Shin Bet], and released. In the West Bank, segregation is both visible with the separation wall, fence, and separate cities for Israelis and Palestinians and invisible with separate legal and security systems for the two peoples. The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. The Real News’ Lia Tarachansky spoke with Fesal Al Hatib, a Palestinian living in Hizmeh, a village divided in half by a road and the Wall.
Photo Credit: Anne Paq, ActiveStills.org
LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN: On Tuesday, six Palestinian activists boarded Israeli buses in an attempt to challenge the system of segregation in the West Bank.
HUWEIDA ARAF, COFOUNDER, INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT: We’re going to try to ride segregated Israeli settler buses that are traveling on roads that were confiscated from Palestinians and the Palestinians today aren’t allowed to travel on. And they’re serving these illegal settlers that are sitting on our land. At the same time, we want to expose the companies that are complicit in Israel’s policies, and two that we’re highlighting today are the bus companies Egged, which is an Israeli company, and Veolia, which is a French company.
TARACHANSKY: The Palestinian activists call themselves Freedom Riders after the American movement that began with Rosa Parks in 1955 and whose aim was to challenge the Jim Crow laws that legislated race-based segregation in the United States. In the West Bank, the wall Israel began constructing nearly a decade ago is only the most visible form of separation. While pockets of the West Bank are under civil administration by the Palestinian Authority, the entire territory is under Israeli military occupation since 1967. In that time, Army commanders have issued hundreds of orders legislating segregation. Palestinians and Israeli settlers here live entirely separate lives. Jewish citizens live in Israeli colonies, such as here in Anatot, while Palestinians live in Palestinian areas, such as in the the neighboring refugee camp of ‘Anata. While Israeli settlers are subject to Israeli civil law, Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law, which means that while the two people live in the same area, if an Israeli and Palestinian commit the same crime, they can be judged in separate courts and sentenced different sentences. On West Bank roads, Israelis and Palestinians are often separated by the road itself. The two have different license plates, and travel for Palestinians is severely restricted with walls and checkpoints. The two also use separate transportation systems, bus companies such as Veolia and Egged, to service Israeli settlers, while Palestinian buses, taxis, and minibuses service Palestinians. … is a Palestinian living in Hizma, a village divided in half by a road in the wall.
(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Israelis have yellow license plates. And for people who have a Palestinian ID card, they have a license plate that’s green. Most of the roads have checkpoints. These checkpoints–for example, on mixed roads–they only stop Palestinians. They detain them, check them, check their cars. And the wall and fence separates us. I know many Palestinians who live two to three meters from each other but are separated by the wall. There are mixed roads. Israelis and Palestinians drive together on them. But it’s under the control of the Israeli army. The Israeli-only roads are also under Israeli army control. And the third kind of roads are under the control of the Palestinian Authority.
TARACHANSKY: Prohibited roads also vary in the level of restriction, and in the past, the Israeli army even forbade Palestinians from riding inside Israeli cars. New Israeli-only roads are built with funds from USAID, the American foreign aid agency.
(SUBTITLED TRANSL.): Here [in the territories], if an Egged bus passes a village, if I want to board at a stop, the driver himself will ask me for an ID or permit to enter Israel. So the driver acts as a policeman.
TARACHANSKY: It is this system of segregation that the activists attempted to challenge.
AVIGDOR SHATZ, SETTLER SECURITY OFFICIAL: Not civil rights. We deal with terrorists. That’s all.
ARAF: They’re always throwing up these excuses of security. We’re obviously not a security threat. We’re sitting here peacefully, saying we want to go to Jerusalem.
TARACHANSKY: They were refused entry on three separate buses before boarding a fourth. When the bus reached the checkpoint of Hizma, north of Jerusalem, all six activists and two Palestinian supporters were arrested. They were questioned by the Israeli internal intelligence agency, the Shabak, and released later in the day. For The Real News, I’m Lia Tarachansky, from Hizma checkpoint in the occupied West Bank.