Rosa Park’s First Memo to Thomas Friedman

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Dear Thomas,

As the bus became crowded, I was ordered to give up my seat to a white passenger. When I remained seated, the white bus driver warned me, “Well, I’m going to have you arrested,” and I replied, “You may go on and do so.”

Thomas, I did not get on the bus to get arrested, I got on the bus to go home. In Montgomery blacks were required to pay their fare to the driver, then get off and reboard through the back door. Sometimes the bus would drive off before the paid-up customers made it to the back entrance. If the white section was full and another white customer entered, blacks were required to give up their seats and move farther to the back; a black person was not even allowed to sit across the aisle from whites. These humiliations were compounded by the fact that two-thirds of the bus riders in Montgomery were black.

The bus driver had me arrested for violating the law.

Just like black women in the civil rights movement in the United States, Palestinian women have played a key role throughout the struggle against occupation and discrimination. As happened with me in 1955, many of these brave women have been arrested. They are held in solitary confinement, forced to give birth in their prison cells, tortured, verbally and sexually abused and threatened. These women have been subjected to extreme brutal and violent conditions, deprived of basic human needs and prisoner’s rights, in violation of well-known and internationally recognised human rights.

Since the end of September 2000, five Palestinian women were arrested, totaling the number to ten Palestinian women in Israeli detention, among them two minors, Su’ad Ghazal (17) and Sara ‘Issa Amro (15). Palestinian women have experienced an escalated and widened arrest campaign by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians.

Differences of race, nationality or religion should not be used to deny any human being citizenship rights or privileges.

When I remained seated back in 1955, that simple decision eventually led to the Montgomery bus boycott. This successful protest, which lasted a year, marked the disintegration of institutionalized segregation in the South. In December of 1956, the Supreme Court decided that bus segregation violated the constitution. The civil rights movement was put into motion, which led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Today all Americans, whatever their race, nationality, or religion, must be given equal treatment under the law.

Palestinian women today, just like black women in the United States are equal human beings. They resist racial discrimination and illegal imprisonment. To this day I believe we are here on the planet earth to live, grow up and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom.

Think about it, Thomas, just think about it.

The author is a Dutch-Palestinian political scientist, human rights activist and is affiliated to the the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (Al-Awda) and ElectronicIntifada.net

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