Actually, they were merely on the bus as it entered Jerusalem, which is confrontation enough. Free and democratic Israel has such a convoluted and restrictive system of permitting for Palestinians going anywhere that Arabs living in what are considered Jerusalem outskirts are not allowed to ride the Jews-only bus into town without their papers, please. For security purposes, of course.
This morning six Palestinian activists, accompanied by a phalanx of journalists, were barred from entering Jerusalem. Police ordered them off the bus, but they refused. After about an hour, they were arrested and pulled off the bus.
“My point isn’t go to jail — my point is to have the freedom to get on a bus,” said 38-year-old civil servant Badia Dwaik.
The activists call themselves “Freedom Riders” after the bus desegregation actions of the 60s in the United States, whose most well-known icon was Rosa Parks.
Palestinians are not allowed to enter the West Bank Jews-only settlements in which certain bus companies exclusively run. One settler was angry the activists had boarded: “This is our bus,” she said, adding: “Quite simply, we are afraid of them.” One wonders why, then, she moved to Palestine.
The interaction between the checkpoint policeman and Dwaik is a textbook example of the banality of evil, but also of calm courage in the face of an uncaring bureaucracy.
“I am not going to obey your discriminatory law,” Dwaik told the policeman, speaking Arabic.
“So you are detained,” the policeman said, also in Arabic.
“Fine. I am not moving.”