Next month in Jerusalem: that’s the goal of 22 bicycle activists who passed through Istanbul this week. The community organizers, artists, farmers and ordinary cyclists have been visiting communities across Europe where local residents are forced to fight for their land and human rights, gathering and spreading news of the disparate struggles. The group calls itself P.E.D.A.L.: Popular resistance movements, Environmental justice, Direct action on BDS, Art & culture, and Linking stories of struggle.
It’s an ambitious agenda, and P.E.D.A.L.’s members are determined to carry it out in each country through which they pass. They arrived in Istanbul after biking 5,000 kilometers through 15 different countries, including France, Austria, Slovenia and Kosovo.
P.E.D.A.L.’s members chose to make the journey on bicycles in order to “promote travel without relying on fossil fuels — an issue which is especially relevant in a region in which fossil fuel economies exacerbate conflict on a global scale,” according to its website.
Eco-activists have been growing in number throughout the Middle East, and Israel/Palestine in particular, over the past several years. They represent a variety of political and cultural alignments, from Palestinian eco-activists in Jerusalem and the West Bank to a Jewish group in Israel offering an ecological yeshiva experience. In addition, bicycling is increasingly emerging as an eco-friendly alternative for travelers hoping to see new places in a less fuel-intensive way.
P.E.D.A.L. represents the confluence of these two trends: eco-activists spreading their message across a continent on bicycles. The overarching purpose of P.E.D.A.L.’s journey is to raise awareness about what it perceives as Israel’s social and environmental exploitation of Palestinians.
In Istanbul, the cyclists visited the headquarters of the Turkish IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, one of the sponsors of last summer’s Freedom Flotilla aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. That voyage notoriously ended in a barrage of bullets by the Israeli army, which left nine activists dead.
At a press conference held by P.E.D.A.L. and the IHH in Istanbul, British cyclist and social worker Rachel Lawrence told reporters that she and other members had been deeply inspired by the courage of those aboard the Mavi Marmara.
“It’s up to global civil society to take meaningful action in solidarity with people in Palestine,” since international organizations and coalitions have failed to resolve the crisis, Lawrence continued.
In Palestine, the group will be particularly focused on the Jewish National Fund’s land-holding activities, which are greenwashed to appear benign but actually deprive many Palestinians of human and environmental rights, according to P.E.D.A.L.
Read more about cycling and eco-activism in the Middle East:
Image via P.E.D.A.L.