Israel to Segregate Palestinians on West Bank Buses
The Israeli Transportation Ministry has announced the launch of segregated bus lines for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, drawing charges of racism and apartheid from critics.
Ynet reports that the segregated buses, operated by the Afikim company, will transport Palestinians from the West Bank city of Qalqiliya to Israel. The Transportation Ministry insists that the buses “are not separate lines for Palestinians but rather two designated lines meant to improve the services offered to Palestinian workers who enter Israel through Eyal Crossing.”
But according to an Afikim bus driver interviewed by Ynet, “starting next week… Palestinians will be asked to board their own buses.”
“Obviously, everyone will start screaming ‘apartheid’ and ‘racism’ now,” the driver said. “This really doesn’t feel right, and maybe (the ministry) should find a different solution, but the situation right now is impossible.”
Another Afikim driver told Ynet that he didn’t like the idea of Palestinian-only buses, but for a different reason.
“Driving a bus full of only Palestinians might turn out to be tricky. It could be unnerving and it might also create other problems. It could be a scary thing,” he said.
The Israeli Transportation Ministry claimed that the imminent segregation is for the benefit of Palestinian passengers.
“The new lines will replace irregular, pirate lines that charge very high prices from Palestinian passengers. The new lines will reduce congestion and will benefit Israelis and Palestinians alike,” a ministry statement claimed.
Afikim echoed the Israeli assertion that the buses would be beneficial to Palestinians.
“This plan aims to ease travel for Palestinian passengers and offer a solution that counters pirate bus companies that charge exorbitant prices,” the company said in a statement. “As for any question about removing Palestinian passengers from buses – that has to be addressed by the enforcement and security bodies.”
Under Israeli law, any Palestinian who holds an Israeli entry permit is legally allowed to use public transportation in the Jewish state. Samaria and Judea District Police officials told Haaretz that they do not plan on barring Palestinians from riding other buses, but the paper has reported past incidences of ejections. According to Ofra Yeshua-Lyth of Machsom Watch, a movement of female Israeli peace activists, Palestinian workers have been ordered off buses and told to use alternative modes of transportation.
The Guardian reports that Palestinian activists were arrested after boarding Israeli buses in the occupied West Bank to protest segregation.
The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem slammed the Transportation Ministry’s move as “racist.”
“The attempt at bus segregation is appalling, and the current arguments about ‘security needs’ and ‘overcrowding’ must not be allowed to camouflage the blatant racism of the demand to remove Palestinians from buses,” B’Tselem executive director Jessica Montell said.
Critics of the bus segregation called the policy the latest development in what they call Israeli apartheid. While many Israelis and their supporters in the United States bristle at the apartheid analogy, many prominent international observers have called Israel’s treatment of the illegally occupied Palestinian people by that name. Desmond Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting apartheid in his native South Africa, has recognized that Israel’s apartheid is worse than what he experienced in his country.
Tutu isn’t the only Nobel Peace laureate to condemn Israeli policies and actions: former US President Jimmy Carter and Northern Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire have also voiced their opposition to what they call Israeli apartheid.
Tagged Afikim bus company, b'tselem, Eyal crossing, Israel, israel apartheid, Israel bus segregation, israel racism, Israel Transportation Ministry, Machsom Watch, occupied West Bank, Palestine, Palestinian-only buses, qalqilya