Like many Palestinians who decided to take part in the campaign against the Israeli transportation system to expose their discriminatory practices, Palestinian-American activist Howaida Arraf was one of the several campaign members to board Israeli buses meant just for Jewish settlers.
Arraf, who is the organizer of the Freedom Rides campaign, was arrested by the Israeli occupation forces.
Arraf was ready to take the risk in order to expose the racism of the Israeli occupation and to fight for the rights of the Palestinian people, said one of her fellow activists and campaign member Jonathan Pollak.
“She is the iron woman, an activist who is at once peaceful and suicidal and who dedicates all her time to the Palestinian cause at the expense of her life and her family,” he told Al Arabiya.
“Although she is the only woman in the Freedom Rides campaign, she is as strong as a hundred men.”
Pollak added that in addition to initiating the Free Riders campaign, Arraf also took part in organizing the Waves of Freedom flotilla that was intercepted by the Israeli authorities before reaching Gaza and founded the Free Gaza movement which started organizing trips for ships to defy the blockade on the strip and the International Solidarity Movement which leads worldwide boycott campaigns against Israel.
Before her arrest, Arraf said the purpose of the Freedom Riders campaign was to expose the racism of Israeli occupation.
“We are Palestinian activists who want our nation to be liberated from this injustice and we will use all the available peaceful ways to end the occupation of our land,” she told Al Arabiya.
Arraf became one of the most prominent Palestinian activists in 2010 when she took part in the Freedom Flotilla which was attacked by Israeli forces and resulted in the death of nine Turkish activists.
Arraf has also become the embodiment of the strength of Palestinian women and their struggle against the occupation after a video, of which Al Arabiya obtained a copy, showed her standing courageously in front of Israeli forces trying to shoot Palestinian demonstrators and demanding that they stop.
Arraf, 35, was born in the village of Miilya in Upper Galilee and is married to an American. She is credited for exposing Israeli practices in front of the international community and for changing the narrative on Palestinian struggle being violent and basically linked to terrorist operations.
For many Palestinians, a campaign like Freedom Riders contributed to giving a new voice to the Palestinian cause by coming up with creative ideas to face the occupation and to make the injustice from which Palestinians are suffering under the Israeli occupation known to the whole world.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)