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The Freedom Riders of Bus 148

(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.

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.

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.

(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.

(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.

Mariam Al-Barghouti and Deema Al-Saafin

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 graduated from high school May 2011. She is continuing her studies at Birzeit University, where she is majoring in public administration.

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35 Responses

  1. Boycott Israel on Campus on November 15, 2011, 11:38 pm

    I hope this encourages campuses to demand immediate resolutions to boycott Israel:

    Boycott the Apartheid State now!

  2. Chaos4700 on November 16, 2011, 12:06 am

    If American Jews were banned from buses in the United States, there would be hell to pay. It is thoroughly criminal that there are buses that are operated in Palestine, for which it is illegal for Palestinians — non-Jews, ostensibly, since that’s how these buses are run as a practical matter — to board.

    Freedom of movement and freedom from discrimination is a basic human right. It seems Israeli Jews feel they’ve had nothing to learn from the true horror of the Holocaust — what it’s like to be thought of like cattle, or vermin, instead of human beings. And why it is wrong to treat other human beings that way.

    • Avi_G. on November 16, 2011, 4:48 am

      November 16, 2011 at 12:06 am

      If American Jews were banned from buses in the United States, there would be hell to pay.

      ||| ||| |||

      Bear in mind that oppression stems from the lack of power while the oppressor is always the powerful party.

      So there is no way that American Jews could be treated this way in the U.S. given their current standing.

      Incidentally, FBI Reports Dramatic Spike in Anti-Muslim Hate Violence.

  3. annie on November 16, 2011, 12:51 am

    love love love! i love you freedom riders. love you.

  4. annie on November 16, 2011, 12:53 am

    is Fadi Qura’an the most beautiful of beautifuls or what? hello.

  5. seafoid on November 16, 2011, 5:45 am


    “Last week, as Israel marked the watershed of the assassination of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, I was thinking about the place this could have been. The Israel, for example, that was the promise of the Rabin government.
    A government that related seriously to the needs of Israeli Arabs. A government that more than doubled the education budget for all Israeli children. A government that fostered construction of thousands of homes for young couples and families within Israel, that invested millions in depressed outlying towns rather than new settlements, that dramatically expanded ties with the Muslim world, and with developing nations.
    I want my nephew to meet my heroes, the people who have made it through wars and tragedy and this government and who still believe in that Israel whose future is one of social justice and peace.
    I want my nephew to know that most Israelis believe that settlements do little other than ruin their lives, stain their country, and block the way to peace.
    I want my nephew to see that people here have let down their guard and have let the people in power run and ruin their lives. When scouts in the Book of Numbers called this a land that eats away at its inhabitants (13:32), they knew what they were talking about.
    I want my nephew to meet my heroes, the people who still believe in the Israel that can endure. Not one big ghetto of a doomed settlement, but one modest jewel of a country. People who hope for good, people who see all people as deserving of respect, safety and freedom, are heroes. And, for the time being at least, they’re still here.”


    “Last week emotional speeches were delivered in the Knesset against “the radical fringes.” This is pathetic lip service. We are not talking about fringes, but rather about a renewed and powerful show of the Jewish Diaspora, which abhors sovereignty and responsibility and prefers seclusion and separatism. In contrast to the historic Haredi model, the nationalist extremism of Hardaliyut [Hebrew acronym for national ultra-Orthodoxy] draws its inspiration from Western fascist movements, despite their anti-Semitic indoctrination. Its strict adherence to Jewish law, its hatred of free speech, and its phobia of sexuality drink from the same dark postmodern sources of inspiration as its beloved American evangelism and its detested radical Islam.
    The national-religious public was long ago swept out to this sea and swallowed up. The only ones who are fighting are the direct victims of the undertow, the women. While putting themselves and their families at real risk, they are attempting to stop it. But the general public, religious and secular, is not adding its voice to theirs. Abandoning them to fight this battle alone means consciously committing mass suicide in the sea of the twisted new Judaism.”

    These freedom rides are not just for Palestinians. They are also for Israel’s Jews. Especially the descendants of the soldiers. Anything to stop the car crash.

    • kalithea on November 16, 2011, 9:36 am

      Burston is an unrepentent Zionist with a serious identity crisis. I have no pity for the man who refuses to admit that the problem begins with his inability to distance himself from the initial injustice that led to Apartheid.

      • seafoid on November 16, 2011, 12:51 pm

        St Paul saw the light as well in time. Burston knows the whole show is in danger.

  6. on November 16, 2011, 6:50 am

    Great job.
    Oh, how much Israel does not like being in such a unfavourable spotlight.
    They kicked out the journalists first ,because they hate when their brutal,racist treatment of Palestinian people is well documented and broadcasted all over the world.
    In the shadow, everybody is dark, in the light one starts seeing ,who is really who.

  7. kursato on November 16, 2011, 7:55 am


    • kalithea on November 16, 2011, 9:38 am


    • kalithea on November 16, 2011, 10:23 am

      I’m sorry, my comment was not meant for you personally. I should have stated, Zionist Ignorance.

  8. patm on November 16, 2011, 9:33 am

    [Boycott the JNF, I say. They’ve played a huge role in creating the lunacy that is Apartheid Israel. “The JNF’s historical concept of exclusively Jewish land is wholly anachronistic,” says Dan Leon. see below.

    The Jewish National Fund: How the Land Was ‘Redeemed’ by Dan Leon

    “The Jewish National Fund was founded more than a century ago by the fifth Zionist Congress at Basle in 1901 for the purpose of land purchase and development in Palestine.

    The JNF (Hebrew: Keren Kayemeth Leyisrael, KKL) was more than a charity for it saw itself as ’the custodian of the land for the Jewish people’, according to the biblical injunction that ’the land shall not be sold in perpetuity’ (Leviticus 25:23).

    It was to become the most prominent Zionist symbol for Jews everywhere before the establishment of the State of Israel.

    Hundreds of thousands of collection boxes would be placed in Europe, the US and elsewhere – altogether forty countries – where ’the kopecks, pennies and centimes went into the little blue box.’ After 1948, its role changed but its importance was not diminished.”

    • seafoid on November 16, 2011, 5:19 pm

      The exclusively Jewish land concept is a crock of shit.

      Without the Holocaust there would have been no Zionist state. Pre war most Jews wanted nothing to do with Zionism. Even after the war the Zionists had a massive job to get enough people to make their audacious takeover possible.

      Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Morgan, who was put in charge of UNRRA’s DP operations in Germany and Western Europe, was one of those Englishmen who felt that Jews were always pushing themselves ahead of the queue. He was also given to describing Jews who annoyed him as “of the traditional Shylock aspect” or “one of the most revolting Jews I have ever had the misfortune to meet.” .

      David Ben-Gurion was already thinking about the survivors, and where they would go. In his words, “the ability to exploit the disaster and the price that could be extracted from it were wholly dependent on their attitude to Zionism.” Soon after the war, he visited a number of DP camps in Germany, making speeches about Palestine. “What happened in Poland,” he said, “could not happen in Palestine. They would not have slaughtered us in synagogues. Every boy and every girl would have shot every German soldier.”

      This was propaganda, of course, and his politicking among the desperate sounds more than a little ruthless. >b>Ben-Gurion’s intention, in the words of his biographer, Shabtai Tveth, quoted by Shephard, was “to see for himself to what extent the power of [the survivors’] adversity could be used in his battle to establish the Jewish state.” And yet his brand of Zionism served as a much-needed tonic, for it offered people whose lives were wrecked a future, a vision of redemption, something to live for.

      Kibbutzim were formed in former concentration camps and prisons such as Belsen and Landsberg, where Hitler had written Mein Kampf. Inevitably, Zionist politics were marked by factional squabbles, and also a type of militancy that betrayed, in the view of one American official, “perhaps unconsciously the effects of living for many years under Totalitarian rule.” Yet it also restored a degree of discipline and raised morale among people who now felt they had a place to go.

      Ben-Gurion’s aim was to get a million Jews to move to Palestine, by all possible means, legal or illegal. This put the British in a dilemma, largely of their own making. In the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the Jews were promised a homeland in Palestine. But Arab goodwill had to be courted to secure Arab support in the war against Germany. And so, the British tried to stem Jewish emigration to Palestine, despite their earlier promises. On the face of it, some of the Foreign Office arguments were not foolish. Was the insistence on sending Jews to Palestine not “by implication to admit that [the] Nazis were right in holding that there was no place for Jews in Europe”? Ernest Bevin even “felt passionately that there had been no point in fighting the Second World War if the Jews could not stay on in Europe where they had a vital role to play in the reconstruction of that continent.”

  9. Kris on November 16, 2011, 9:39 am

    This is an excellent report, written by two young women who graduated from high school last May–kudos!

    • patm on November 16, 2011, 10:35 am

      You are right, Kris. It is an excellent report. Here is the final worrisome para:

      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.

      • annie on November 16, 2011, 10:50 am

        i heard they were all released yesterday. is that incorrect?

      • patm on November 16, 2011, 11:41 am

        Hope so, annie. I know nothing but what is in the article.

  10. patm on November 16, 2011, 9:55 am

    I forgot to mention this haaretz article which arrived from my newsgroup and prompted the search that led me to Dan Leon’s historical account of the JNF. As a Canadian, I cringe every time I hear or see the words “Israel’s Canada Park.”

    update: The url in my above post to Dan Leon’s article does not work. This should:

  11. kalithea on November 16, 2011, 10:05 am

    The Jerusalem Post reported on this protest initiative and the comments section is rife with Zionist delusion, stupidity, the usual distorted analogies and twisted logic, and reeks of racism and undiluted hate, all in character mind you.

  12. dahoit on November 16, 2011, 10:26 am

    On the sixth bus the Zionists figured out how to deny the Palestinians coverage of their protest.And as with Yahweh,everything turned out imperfect.

  13. mudder on November 16, 2011, 11:13 am

    It’s disappointing that Detroit and Michigan newpapers have ignored this story. Huwaida Arraf was born and raised here and still has family here–last year the local press interviewed her younger sister when Arraf’s flotilla boat was attacked on the way to Gaza. And Rosa Parks lived most of her life here.

    • annie on November 16, 2011, 11:29 am

      yes, very disappointing. maybe someone should call the papers. there must be an alternative press there. in fact i recall detroit has a fairly progressive paper that covered the vote theft of ohio during the bush/kerry election.

    • Boycott Israel on Campus on November 16, 2011, 11:44 am

      You can ask the “Michigan Daily” newspaper why they failed to cover the story of these arrests. Their chief editor’s email is [email protected]

      The “Daily” serves 40,000 students at the University, from which Huwaida Arraf actually graduated!

      Huwaida Arraf’s arrest was described at last night’s meeting of the University of Michigan student government (“Michigan Student Assembly”), 11/15/2011. All the details were announced, including the fact that she was arrested by “Israel” for trying to ride what amounts to a Whites-Only bus.

      The Michigan Daily reporter and photographer were handed a full copy of the Mondoweiss story on the arrest of Huwaida and the other Freedom Riders.

      At that meeting, the Daily was publicly challenged to report what happened to Huwaida, a 1998 graduate of the University of Michigan. The reporter said that she would “ask my editor”.

      The assembly was also reminded of how Apartheid South Africa and Apartheid Israel were closely allied.

      A member of the Michigan Student Assembly got the whole assembly to vote to extend speaking time so that he get this point clarified: that in fact six Freedom Riders were arrested by Israel, simply for being on that Israeli bus and for being Palestinian.

      Three speakers at the assembly, including a Professor of African American studies, spoke emphatically for boycott and disinvestment against Israel.

      Finally, the assembly was told that “we will boycott Israel until the apartheid state is abolished and a Palestinian can walk unmolested from one end of Palestine to the other.” This boycott campaign has been pushed continuously at the Michigan Student Assembly since 2008:

      Yet the Michigan Daily has refused to report on the boycott-Israel campaign from 2008 until today.

      In today’s Michigan Daily, not one word was printed about Huwaida’s arrest, nor about the calls for boycott of Israel.

      Here is the contact information for the Editor in Chief of the “Michigan Daily”, as listed in the newspaper:

      Editor in Chief
      734-418-4115 ext. 1251

      [email protected]

      Congratulations, Mazin, Huwaida, Fadi, Fajr, and every Freedom Rider, on getting so much publicity focused on Israeli Apartheid.

      What a shame that Huwaida’s old school newspaper in Michigan is refusing to print a word about it.

      • mudder on November 16, 2011, 12:54 pm

        Thank you. I will write the editor.

      • Boycott Israel on Campus on November 16, 2011, 1:26 pm

        Great. I wonder what excuse the Daily will give for dropping a spectacular story about such an active University of Michigan graduate.

        The Daily can’t claim that Huwaida’s arrest is not newsworthy. The Daily covered Huwaida’s co-founding of the International Solidarity Movement ten years ago:

      • mudder on November 16, 2011, 2:35 pm

        The McClatchy-Tribune News Service, which supports The Cleveleand Plain Dealer and other major newspapers, has picked up the story, including this quote from the UM alumna about the Freedom Riders:

        “We are like them, exactly like them,” said Huwaida Arraf, who holds dual American and Palestinian citizenship and was one of the organizers of Tuesday’s protest. “They saw an inequality. They saw segregation and racism, and they fought it through nonviolent actions. We want to show how unfair the Israeli system is, the system we are forced to live under.”

  14. ramzijaber on November 16, 2011, 11:32 am

    I salute the “Freedom Riders”! The only way to liberate Occupied Palestine is for ALL Palestinians under occupation and outside Palestine to take up non-violent resistance in addition to BDS, all day… every day… everyone together. When hundreds of thousands or millions of us lock arms in ALL streets of Palestine every day, the occupation will be over in a matter of weeks. It seems President Abbas is moving in this direction as per Haaretz today.

    Abbas calls on Palestinians to mount non-violent resistance against Israel

  15. Doesnt matter on November 16, 2011, 11:56 am

    Nice Article, really good job, but abt the Name “Freedom Riders”, aint the “Freedom Riders” move that was in the early sixties in US was started by an agreement from both races “African americans and white ppl” how is this like it ? as i understand from ur article there were no settlers involved in this move, (i mean as involved; that they got in the bus knowing abt this move and decided to participate in the process), otherwise its really great, i really enjoyed reading this =;)(

  16. Opti on November 16, 2011, 2:39 pm

    From WaPo comment section:

    “Can someone explain why the palestinians deserve a thing?? How have they bettered humanity in the least. They have not. They have created inventive new ways to murder unarmed civilians, and besides that- literally nothing. Prove it you deserve a state and you shall receive one.”

    So Israel became a state because Zionism bettered Humanity… how did I miss this. Are they still doing bettering the world? What a fool….

    • seafoid on November 17, 2011, 4:56 am

      “How have they bettered humanity in the least. ”

      The best Israeli food is all Palestinian.
      Gefilte fisch doesn’t hold a candle to it.

    • Woody Tanaka on November 17, 2011, 9:37 am

      “How have they bettered humanity in the least. They have not.”

      What bullshit. At the very least, they have demonstrated proud determination, bravery and steadfastness in the defense of their land and in opposition to the oppression of the vile theiving and murderous Zionists.

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