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.
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.”