Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Support the New Freedom Riders


Fifty years ago, Freedom Riders braved beatings and arson by supremacists intent on maintaining apartheid in the Jim Crow South.  By challenging segregated transportation through nonviolent action, these African American and white activists set in motion a process that ultimately dismantled segregation. While the struggle for racial justice continues, at least this shameful chapter of formal racial discrimination is history.

Reflecting on this anniversary, Rep. John Lewis, one of the main organizers of the Freedom Rides, noted that they “changed America. Before the movement…people were afraid….That fear is gone. People can walk, live, work and play with a sense of dignity and a sense of pride.”

Fired by the same drive for dignity and pride, six Palestinian nonviolent activists boarded last week an Israeli settler bus to draw the world’s attention to the segregated transportation systems and apartheid conditions they endure living under Israel’s brutal 44-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem. Channeling Frederick Douglass, spokesperson Hurriyeh Ziadah asserted, “Our rights will not voluntarily be handed to us, so we are heading out to demand them.

While attempting to ride from the occupied West Bank into occupied East Jerusalem, nonviolently demanding their right to benefit from infrastructure created by Israel on their land,  Israeli military stopped the bus, physically removed and arrested the riders who held signs reading “Freedom,” “Dignity,” and “We Shall Overcome.”

For the benefit of 650,000 Israeli settlers living in Israel’s illegal settlements in these occupied Palestinian territories, Israel has constructed–in violation of international law–a vast, alternative infrastructure of roads and bus lines from which 2.5 million Palestinians are all but effectively banned. Palestinians are often confined to their village or town due to hundreds of temporary and permanent Israeli roadblocks, checkpoints, walls, and other barriers that prevent Palestinians from exercising their right to freedom of movement.  When Palestinians are allowed to travel by their Israeli occupiers, they must do so on circuitous, inferior roads to bypass Israeli settlement infrastructure, making even the most mundane trip a grueling trek. Separate is never equal.

Looking back on his achievements since the Freedom Rides, Rep. Lewis is not yet satisfied. “I would like to, before I leave this little piece of real estate, do a little more for the cause of peace. To end the violence here at home and violence abroad. We spend so much of our resources killing each other.”

To do a lot more for the cause of peace, Rep. Lewis and his Congressional colleagues should end U.S. weapons transfers to Israel and redirect those resources to better uses at home.  Between 2009 and 2018, the United States is scheduled to provide Israel with $30 billion in taxpayer-funded weapons which will be used by Israel to perpetuate this apartheid system the Palestinian Freedom Riders are challenging.

Not only do U.S. weapons to Israel entrench its illegal military occupation of Palestinian territories, allow Israel to expand its illegal settlements, thwart efforts to establish a Palestinian state, and injure and kill Palestinian civilians on a horrific scale (according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, Israel killed nearly 3,000 unarmed Palestinians during the 2000s); they also deprive our communities of funds for unmet needs.

Of this $30 billion, residents of Atlanta, many of whom are represented in Congress by Rep. Lewis, are expected to provide Israel with nearly $110 million of their hard-earned money to finance U.S. weapons for Israel.  This same amount of money could fund instead each year more than 1,300 low-income Atlanta families with affordable housing vouchers, or provide more than 3,200 at-risk Atlanta school children with early reading programs.

Palestinian Freedom Riders are seeking their rights to be treated as equal human beings free to move about in their own land. They are not seeking the type of “charity” provided by U.S. economic aid that often functions to entrench the very system of Israeli apartheid against which they are protesting.  A 2010 report by the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem found that one-third of roads funded and built by the U.S. Agency for International Development reflect Israel’s priorities for constructing an inferior and segregated transportation system for Palestinians.

If Rep. Lewis helped end the immorality of segregation in the United States, then half a century later he can also contribute to ending discrimination in Israel/Palestine by stopping U.S. weapons transfers that sustain Israeli apartheid toward Palestinians.

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”