Palestinian activists will attempt to board Israeli buses in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday in an action inspired by the American civil rights movement.
"Palestinian activists will reenact the US Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Rides to the American South by boarding segregated Israeli public transportation in the West Bank to travel to occupied East Jerusalem," organizers said in a statement.
In 1961, American activists rode buses into the southern US to challenge laws enforcing segregation. The act of civil disobedience provoked a violent response from Ku Klux Klan, aided by police.
Dozens of Israeli public bus routes around the West Bank running between Israeli-only settlements, Jerusalem and Israeli cities are effectively segregated, as Palestinians are banned from entering settlements.
While Israelis are free to settle in the West Bank, Palestinians cannot enter Israel without a permit from Israeli authorities.
"The Freedom Riders seek to highlight Israel’s attempts to illegally sever occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, and the apartheid system that Israel has imposed on Palestinians in the occupied territories," the activists say.
"Palestinian Freedom Riders will be asserting their right for liberty and dignity by disrupting the military regime of the Occupation through peaceful civil disobedience."
Many roads in the West Bank are forbidden to Palestinians and classified for the sole use of Israelis.
The Israeli rights group B’Tselem notes that Palestinians are forbidden from even crossing some of these roads with vehicles, "thereby restricting their access to nearby roads that they are ostensibly not prohibited from using.
"In these cases, Palestinians travelers have to get out of the vehicle, cross the road on foot, and find an alternative mode of transportation on the other side."
Prolonged checks and searches at some of the checkpoints, humiliating treatment by soldiers, and long lines deter Palestinian drivers from using some of the roads still open to their use, B’Tselem says.