Cycling for peace is the newest campaign by European peace activists who hopped on their bikes Saturday and set out across Europe to petition their governments to bring an end to the ‘cycle of violence’ perpetuated by Israeli human rights violations.
"Many people have talked about standing up against injustice, but how many people have got on their bikes for it?" asks the motto for Peace Cycle, which gathered more than 30 people to ride the 124 miles (199 kilometers) from The Hague to Brussels to deliver a petition calling for the European Union to suspend trade ties with Israel.
The Right Reverend Riah Abu al-Assal, former Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, was set to lead the group and present evidence to the EU proving that Israel had breached section two of the Association Agreement, which allows signatories privileged trading terms on the condition that they respect human rights.
Laura Abraham, Peace Cycle director, said Israel has repeatedly violated the terms and said the group would provide evidence gathered during several trips to Israel, West Bank and Gaza.
"We believe that we have witnessed extreme violations of human rights in the occupied territories and we are going to the European Parliament to tell MEPs what we have witnessed and to ask them to suspend the association agreement," Abraham, who is also a co-founder of Peace Cycle, told AlArabiya.net.
The peace intiative comes at a time of growing concern in Europe that economic ties to Israel are perpetuating the illegal situation of occupation.
The objective of the cycle is to raise awareness of the occupation of Palestinian territories and call for its end, Abraham said, adding that it was also a demonstration of peaceful coexistence as Christians, Jews and Muslims joined forces to ride for justice.
‘Cycle of violence’
Abraham said that the most recent trip to the Occupied Territories was last month when members from the Peace Cycle joined the Viva Palestina convoy, headed by British MP George Galloway, which drove 9000 across Europe and North Africa to deliver supplies to Gaza.
Last year the campaign cycled from Amman to Jerusalem and across Israel and the West Bank, visiting villages in Nazareth and Haifa and meeting with Arab-Israelis to hear their accounts of living in Israel.
In 2004 the group organized a cycle from London to Jerusalem, where they met with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and filmed a documentary of the cycle.
One of many divestment initiatives
Cycling for peace is the latest in a series of European grassroots divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel, many of which gained momentum after Israel's three-week assault on Gaza in January.
In 2005, 180 Palestinian organizations and unions called for a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel in response to the building of the Apartheid Wall. The call has mobilized academic, trade, and cultural boycotts of Israel.
Foremost among the trade boycotts is the U.K.-based Boycott Israeli Goods (BIG), which organizes protests against major Israeli corporations like Caramel Agrexco.
The EU is Israel's largest importer of goods, and its second biggest exporter. In 2006, the total traded between the EU and Israel amounted to 23 billion Euros ($ 31 billion), according to the Peace Cyclist's petition.
* See related video at http://evideo.alarabiya.net/ShowClip.aspx?ClipID=2009.03.29.16.12.55.647