A video shows an Israeli public bus driver blatantly refusing to allow some passengers on her bus just because they are Palestinians.
A Palestinian laborer from the occupied West Bank, carrying an Israeli occupier permit to be in Tel Aviv, was trying to ride back home.
The driver refused to allow him to board, saying, “Palestinians don’t ride to the territories with me.”
According to the video, this worker and several others were detained and harassed for two hours before police finally let them board the bus.
The incident was filmed at the Tel Aviv central bus station in October by Eran Vered for the organization Kav LaOved (Worker’s Hotline) which describes itself as a group “committed to protecting the rights of disadvantaged workers employed in Israel and by Israelis in the Occupied Territories, including Palestinians, migrant workers, subcontracted workers and new immigrants,” and which is “committed to principles of democracy, equality and international law concerning human and social rights” (website).
The video opens with shots of clippings from recent Israeli media reports about popular pressure to ban Palestinians from public buses.
“Security” excuse for blatant racism
Last Week Haaretz reported that Israeli police were systematically removing Palestinians from buses and that Israel’s transport ministry planned to set up segregated bus lines for them:
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.
Apologists for such racist practices take comfort in the “security” excuse, citing past bombings of buses by Palestinians as a justification.
But this video shows how this is merely a pretext. If “security” were the actual concern, then searching all passengers boarding the bus (without discrimination) would be one solution and, however inconvenient, would be much more efficient than the hours of argument that occurred.
And if these particular passengers posed a risk, then why did the driver and others seem so unconcerned about their own safety during the hours the Palestinian men were on, and close to the bus while they argued for the right to ride it?
Violent attacks on Palestinians riding transport
The safety of Palestinians is also at stake. While violent Israeli attacks on Palestinians are far more frequent than Palestinian attacks on Israelis, they usually do not take place on public transport.
However this is not unheard of. Last August, six Palestinians, including two young children were horribly burned, when a firebomb was hurled at the taxi they were riding near the Jewish settlement of “Bat Ayin” in the occupied West Bank. Israeli police arrested three settler teens in the attack.
In 2005, Israeli soldier and West Bank settler Eden Natan-Zada shot dead four Palestinian citizens of Israel aboard a bus in the northern city of Shefa Amr and injured 10 others.
In a prime example of its Jim Crow-style justice, Israel never bothered to properly investigate the murders by Natan-Zada, but eventually charged Palestinian survivors who stopped his murderous rampage by killing him, with “attempted murder.”
Given the frequency of settler attacks on Palestinians, it is the Palestinian workers who are at greatest risk riding buses with settlers.
While such blatant, unapologetic racism is disturbing, it is also important to step back and see how this fits into the larger apartheid economy. These bus lines are meant to serve Israeli colonial settlers living on occupied, stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank. These settlements are illegal under international law.
Palestinian laborers from the West Bank are members of an occupied population with virtually no rights or protection. They are exploited to do low-paid work in Israel’s apartheid economy, and then subjected to Jim Crow-like discrimination. Unlike Rosa Parks, they are not even given the back of the bus. They can’t ride the bus at all.
That, sadly, is a perfect metaphor for what life is like for Palestinians in their native land under the racist rule of the so-called “Jewish and democratic” state.