CPT and Palestinian “freedom riders”

 Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) have been present since the 1980s in some of the world’s most troubled locations, including Iraq, Colombia, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, as well as on a dozen first Nations in Canada and the United States. Members of CPT teams either stand between opposing sides in conflict or accompany the weak in their encounters with the strong. CPT’s stated goal is to “get in the way,” but it is always done in a non-violent and peacemaking manner.

Recently, CPT personnel accompanied six Palestinian “freedom riders” as they boarded Israeli only buses and were later arrested by Israeli soldiers and police. Their story was covered widely by international press and exposed the segregated transportation system of the occupation.

CPT member Jo Ann Fricke was there and wrote about it in the following excerpt, which is used here by permission of the Christian Peacemaker Teams.

Freedom Riders - CPT photo

On Tuesday, 15 November 2011, six Palestinians stood at a bus stop outside the Israeli settlements of Psagot and Migron, and boarded a bus used by settlers to travel to Jerusalem. Three CPTers accompanied the “Freedom Riders,” as the activists referred to themselves.

Although no law explicitly forbids Palestinians from boarding Israeli buses in the West Bank, racial and ethnic discrimination and the fact that Palestinians are not allowed to travel to Jerusalem where the Central Bus Station is located create a segregated system of transportation that is off-limits to Palestinians.

The six boarded the bus successfully, but Israeli soldiers and police stopped the bus at the first checkpoint. After about 45 minutes the bus moved just down the road to a parking lot where it sat for at least another hour before police carried the six Palestinians off the bus and arrested them.

The event was widely covered by international media. Spokeswoman Hurriyeh Ziadah read a from a press statement before the Freedom Riders boarded the bus.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. said: ‘Those who passively accept evil are as much involved in it as those who help to perpetrate it. Those who accept evil without protesting against it are really cooperating with it.’

“We urge the people of the world not to accept the evil that is our occupation, dispossession, and oppression, and to divest yourselves and your governments from the corporations that enable Israel to continue doing this to us. Egged and Veolia are two transportation companies that serve Israel’s segregated, colonial, infrastructure. By passively accepting their presence and not protesting against them, you are all indirectly complicit in the crimes they commit against us, and the profits they make from the violation of our rights; violations that the Freedom Riders will expose today. Our rights will not voluntarily be handed to us, so we are heading out to demand them.”

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Dennis

Dennis Gruending is an Ottawa-based writer, blogger and a former member of Parliament

4 thoughts on “CPT and Palestinian “freedom riders””

  1. Thanks, Dennis for flagging the important work of CPT.They have been outstanding in their humble witness of accompaniment. Would that PM Harper might walk a mile in their shoes and understand the reality of the Palestinians oppression. This piece should be read by all those naive Christian groups who go to Israel and fall in love with stones and hills and miss the living Christ in the humiliated faces of the Palestinians.

    Dennis replies: Thanks Ted. I always appreciate your comments.

    1. Hi Ted:
      It is indeed a bitter irony that, as you say, “naive Christian groups … go to Israel and fall in love with stones and hills and miss the living Christ in the humiliated faces of the Palestinians.” Jesus was, of course, a Palestinian Jew living in a country under military occupation. He was also,for a time, a homeless child refugee whose family had flee Palestine for Egypt.

      During Jesus’ tenure on the earth, he was rejected by the powerful and wealthy. His life and ministry can be described as a ‘preferntial option for the poor.’ And that’s why Jesus is rejected by the rich and powerful today. You cannot serve God and wealth.

      Those ersatz Christians who do not see Christ in the faces of oppressed people everywhere, not to mention the homeless, sick, etc., are pitiful creatures. Jesus told the leaders of his day that the prostitutes and other sinners would enter the Kingdom of Heaven ahead of them. I don’t see any reason why he would say anthing different to our leaders today.

      The Romans Jesus dealt with were quick to build armies and prisons to be used as instruments of oppression. The ‘Romans’ Jesus’ disciples must confront in our own time also like to spend big bucks on prisons and armaments.

      The shortest verse in the Bible reads “Jesus wept.” His tears are still falling.

  2. The actions of these Palestinian Freedom Riders are as relevant in this first quarter of the twenty-first century as were those of the American Freedom Riders in the third quarter of the twentieth.

    People of every generation are called to reveal their values thru their actions. Thus we can make our faith expressions real!

  3. Dennis, I heard a bit of that interview on New Year’s Day and liked what I heard.

    This article is so relevant; thanks much for revealing the prejudice that reigns in the “Holy Land.” And is it true that Israeli women must go to the back of the bus, just as all blacks had to do that in the US? I heard something like that on a recent news broadcast.

    Dennis replies: Thanks for your comment Marian. I have heard and read stories recently about how some Israeli women (in one case a soldier) were asked by male orthdox Jews to sit at the back of a bus. This bus apparently passes through a neighbourhood inhabited mainly by orthodox people. The soldier in question was not amused and refused, but said she would likely avoid that bus in future because she does not want the hassle.

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