Police order Palestinian workers off buses to West Bank, at request of Israeli settlers

12:00 Nov 27 2012 Bus routes from Tel Aviv area, Israel, into West Bank

Police order Palestinian workers off buses to West Bank, at request of Israeli settlers Police order Palestinian workers off buses to West Bank, at request of Israeli settlers
When separate roads, infrastructures and legal systems are the norm, it should come as no suprise that separate buses are next in line. (photo: Activestills)

Carmel settlement near Um el-Hir, southern West Bank (photo: Mairav Zonszein)


Settlers say these Palestinians pose a security risk; Transportation Ministry says it is considering adding bus lines between West Bank roadblocks and central Israel; these would be geared toward Palestinian laborers.

By Chaim Levinson for Haaretz

Police have begun ordering Palestinian laborers with legal work permits off buses from the Tel Aviv area to the West Bank, following complaints from settlers that Palestinians pose a security risk by riding the same buses as them.

The Transportation Ministry says it is considering adding bus lines between West Bank roadblocks and central Israel; these would be geared toward Palestinian laborers. Still, such a plan would take at least a few months to go into effect.

Earlier this month a bus operated by Afikim, a company with a government tender to serve West Bank settlements, pulled up at a police roadblock near the settlement of Elkana. The police, who later cited security reasons, ordered all the Palestinian passengers off - leaving them to walk several kilometers to the nearest checkpoint and pay for a taxi home, said an Israeli army reservist who was posted at the checkpoint.

He told Haaretz that the laborers, most of whom work in the Tel Aviv area and usually take the bus home, were angered by the incident. That wasn't the only time the workers were pulled off the bus, though.

"Friends at the checkpoint told me that the same thing happened the next day," said the reservist. "The police confiscated their ID cards, brought the IDs to the checkpoint, and the Palestinians had to get off the bus again and walk several kilometers to the checkpoint."

When asked about the incidents, the police said they wanted to make sure Palestinian workers were returning to the West Bank from the same place they left it. They said it was necessary to "close the circle" to ensure the Palestinians weren't staying in Israel overnight, which requires a separate permit.

"The fact that a laborer has a legal work permit doesn't allow him to travel directly to the territories without going through an established crossing point," the police said in a statement. "That's why there is enforcement activity, for security purposes."

The number of Palestinians working in Israel has increased in the past two years to 29,000 a day, up from 22,000 in 2010.

Palestinian workers generally do not enter the settlements to get on and off the bus, since that would require special authorization. Usually they get on and off along the Trans-Samaria Highway (Route 5).

All the same, Ron Nachman, the mayor of the West Bank settlement of Ariel, has announced on his Facebook page that he has spoken with the army, police and Transportation Ministry about "stopping Palestinians from boarding the buses that go to Ariel."

"All of them are working on this problem, and we hope that they will soon find a solution to the reality that is bothering our people," he wrote.

Commenters left offensive responses to the post, with one referring to the Palestinian passengers as terrorists and another as monkeys.

"On the Ariel lines there are more terrorists than Jewish residents," said one. A woman wrote that she couldn't visit her parents in Ariel because she was too scared to get on the bus, and another commenter said "finally you remembered that we have buses filled with Arabs?"


Israel's Transportation Ministry mulling separate buses for Palestinians

by By Mairav Zonszein for +972

Bus lines created exclusively for Palestinians is another step in the fortification of the de facto system of segregation imposed by the Israeli government between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

Thousands of Palestinians travel from the West Bank to work in Israel every day using Israeli public transportation. The buses are overcrowded. At times there are tensions and even confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians. And Israelis can’t stand the sight of Palestinians anyway. So why not create a separate bus line for them? This is the logic behind a new proposal being considered by the Ministry of Transportation: Additional bus lines for Palestinians that go between checkpoints in the West Bank and central Israel, as Walla reported on Monday (Hebrew).

Last August, Haggai Matar reported about an Israeli bus driver on his way from Tel Aviv to Ariel who refused to take Palestinians on board, was then instructed by police that he had to by law, but ultimately kicked them off later on anyway. At the time, Haggai reported that Ben-Hur Akhvat, CEO of the Afikim bus company, which serves the settlements, said that the company regularly receives complaints from Jewish passengers who don’t wish to see Palestinians on the bus. “We are in ongoing negotiations with authorities regarding a possible alternative solution to the problem,” Akhvat told Haggai at the time.

Apparently they have found the solution, and authorities claim this is a win-win situation for all involved: For Israeli settlers, it is ideal since they won’t have to come into contact at all with Palestinians (the same Palestinians they have chosen to live next to/on top of). For Palestinians who have work permits, it will ease their travel time by eliminating the need to transfer buses at the various checkpoints where they must undergo security checks.

Herzl Ben-Ari, head of the Karnei Shomron regional council in the West Bank, told Walla the proposal is not racial segregation, but rather a practical solution to an problem of overcrowding. According to the report, the Transportation Ministry insists that no decision has been taken to allocate buses exclusively for Palestinians, and that Palestinians with work permits won’t be legally barred from continuing to ride whatever public transportation is at their disposal.

That may be so, but in order to solve the problem of overcrowding, why not simply add more bus lines for everyone? Why the need to specify who they are for? And according to Haaretz, the nearly 30,000 Palestinians from the West Bank who come to work in Israel every day are increasingly being forced off the buses by police, who say it is due to complaints by Israelis that they are a “security risk.” The police claim they must ensure Palestinian workers who enter Israel in the morning also exit in the evening and go back where they came from.

This is similar to the controversy regarding ultra-Orthodox Israeli men who try to force women to sit in the back of buses, I think the answer is the same: If you don’t want to see women, don’t ride the bus. If Israeli settlers don’t want to see Palestinians, then they not only shouldn’t be riding the buses, but shouldn’t be living in a settlement in the first place – shouldn’t actually be living in this region at all.

But lucky for them, Israel has gone to great lengths to build separate roads, separate water and sewage system, separate legal system, separate everything so settlers can live in total denial. Settlers even build their houses with no windows, so as not to have to see their “enemy;” so as not to face the people on whose human rights they are trampling all over. So at this point, separate buses really doesn’t seem that far-fetched a move, does it?
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