U.S. Media Ignore Palestine’s Freedom Riders

The Irish Freedom Flotilla boat “Saoirse” attempts to run the Israeli blockade of Gaza earlier this month.

by Fatemeh Shahkolahi

You’ve probably heard of the 1961 Freedom Riders in the United States. But you may not have heard of the Palestinian launch of the Freedom Rides campaign.

In an effort to expose Israel’s segregation policy in the West Bank, Palestinian activists plan to board segregated Israeli public transportation (intended for Israeli settlers only) on November 15. This non-violent act of civil disobedience is inspired by the Freedom Riders of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. That’s right, the same Freedom Riders who were honored just days ago by the National Women’s Law Center. It’s been fifty years since a group of American civil rights activists boarded interstate buses to challenge the enforced segregation on public transportation in the American South. Yet the riders are still remembered to this day. On November 10, President Barack Obama honored the activists during a speech at the National Women’s Law Center’s awards dinner.

What’s interesting, here, is the lack of American media coverage on this issue.  Palestinian activists are seeking to reenact a movement that inspired many other civil rights groups in the United States and resulted in equality for all Americans, regardless of race. You would think our media would recognize a civil rights movement that was inspired by the United States.

Yet our media have failed to acknowledge this movement and this comes as no shock. Earlier this month, our media turned a blind eye to the events of the Canadian and Irish Freedom Waves flotillas that sailed to the Gaza Strip, only to be intercepted and seized by the Israeli Navy. The coverage of the European financial crisis dominated our newspapers, televisions, and computer screens as pro-Palestinian activists were arrested and jailed in Israel, temporarily, for attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Independent journalists and media outlets including Bikya Masr, an international news website based in Egypt; +972, an Israeli blog-based web magazine; and the Ma’an News Agency, an independent media organization in Palestine, are among the few that have reported on the event. All the while, American media have remained silent.

With just a day before Palestinian activists reenact the Freedom Rides with their trips to East Jerusalem, I can’t help but wonder if the media will recognize the significance of this movement.

(The photo of the Saoirse is from the Israel Defense Forces via Flickr and is in the public domain.  To see a report about the Freedom Waves Flotilla from Democracy Now, please check below.)

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3 Responses to U.S. Media Ignore Palestine’s Freedom Riders

  1. Pingback: The American Media Blackout Israeli Apartheid Week Again | Sutradhar's Market

  2. For those following this story, this twitter post has a link that (for the time being) connects to video: http://twitter.com/#!/palinoia/status/136430962748829698

  3. Fatemeh says:

    The Associated Press has picked up the story this morning: http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/palestinian-activists-locked-bus-standoff-14955777#.TsKCCs125rF

    If you’re interesting in following the developments as they occur, search #freedomrides on twitter.

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