The Bus as Vehicle of Resistance in Palestinian Protest Actions

By Maryam Griffin
Submitted to Session P5103 (Resisting Enclosure Movement Restrictions, the Built Environment, and Immobility in Palestine, 2018 Annual Meeting
West Bank;
Arab-Israeli Conflict;
LCD Projector without Audio;
As Israeli settler colonialism has deepened and spread across the West Bank, enclosure as a modality of Israeli rule seeks to deny Palestinians the right to self-determined mobility. This control extends to the physical movement of people but also the movement of ideas. As an anti-colonial response to this program of enclosure, Palestinians use public transportation to connect their fragmented communities and also to communicate the details of their struggle to the outside world.

In this paper, I examine the role of the bus in three sensational acts of Palestinian resistance to Israeli settler colonialism: the Palestinian Freedom Rides of 2011, the torching of a new segregated bus line in 2013, and the annual, mobile Palestinian Freedom Bus workshop. Each of these actions was directed at both a domestic and an international audience to one extent or another.

The selection of the bus as the vehicle, literally and symbolically, for these events was a matter of strategy in three ways. First, by choosing a mobile venue, each of the actions implied a demand for the right to self-directed mobility, rejecting enclosure as one of the central features of Israeli settler colonialism. Second, using the bus in these actions enabled Palestinian organizers to develop international solidarity by invoking analogies to other historical instances of racial segregation, now defeated in part due to international campaigns to provoke the disapproval of global civil society. Third, and most importantly, the bus as a universally recognized symbol of mass transit allowed the organizers to elicit an educated solidarity. They used the bus to teach their audiences about the conditions of Palestinian life in the West Bank with a particular focus on Israeli control over movement.