| HIZME, West Bank
HIZME, West Bank Nov 15 Calling
themselves "Freedom Riders", six Palestinians boarded a bus used
by Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, but the
end of the line was Israeli police detention.
The protest, streamed live over the Internet, followed
attempts earlier in the year by sympathisers to sail to the
blockaded Gaza Strip and hold fly-in demonstrations at Israel's
main airport to drum up support for the Palestinian cause.
"My message is that Israel conducts a racist regime," said
protester Badi Dweik before he was dragged off the bus by police
at Hizme checkpoint north of Jerusalem.
Dweik said he had been barred from nearby Jerusalem for 12
years while settlers could travel freely to and from the Holy
City. Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 war and
annexed it as its capital, a move not recognised abroad.
Israel has no law barring Palestinians from its public
transport in the West Bank, where it has a network of military
checkpoints that it describes as a security precaution after
more than a decade of violence including suicide bus bombings.
Palestinian-registered buses and taxis are often subjected
to intense scrutiny and barred from East Jerusalem and Israel.
Palestinians see Israel's soldiers and settlers as an obstacle
to their hoped-for statehood in the West Bank.
The protesters wanted to be seen as emulating the civil
rights activists, black and white, who rode together on buses in
the American south in the 1960s to challenge racial segregation.
"This is the kind of pressure that is needed to force Israel
to back down from these illegal policies. This is popular
resistance," said another Palestinian activist.
The U.S. comparison was lost on Hagai Segal, one of the few
Israeli passengers aboard the bus, and who disembarked upon the
orders of police before they removed the Palestinians and
detained them for interrogation as "illegal aliens".
"It was like theatre in there," Segal said. "During the bus
ride, they were talking about Martin Luther King. But as far as
I know, (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas is no MLK."
Some 500,000 settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians live in
the West bank and East Jerusalem. Most world powers deem the
(Editing by Dan Williams)