Monday, March 04, 2013


A mother and child on a segregated bus in Alabama in 1955.
Photo by Alexander M. Rivera Jr., courtesy of N.C. Central University.

If Israel wanted to prove it was running an apartheid Jim Crow operation what better could they do to symbolize this then SEGREGATE the bus lines.  Not only is this racist, wrong, immoral, and all that, it is just plain STUPID.  But when it comes to policy decisions made by the State of Israel, stupid is normal.

When the Israeli Transportation ministry announced that it would begin operating "designated" lines for Palestinians in the West Bank, somewhere in their graves a horde of dead Southern Governors put a grin on their bony skulls.

The Ministry, of course, tried to put a friendly face on this.

 "The new lines 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."

Thank God, and whew for the Ministry of Transportation which is always looking out for the Palestinian People.

However, the truth is that complaints from Israeli settlers about having to share buses with Palestinians led to the decision, not some kind hearted attempt to make life easier for those same Palestinians.  

And while the Transportation Ministry says the plans do not amount to segregation and that Palestinians can ride any bus they want, YNet News reports several bus drivers told them that Palestinians who choose to travel on the so-called "mixed" lines, will be asked to leave them.

There are other reasons why the State wants to stick Palestinians on their "own" busses.  According to

Bus drivers assigned to the new routes have reportedly expressed concern about driving “Palestinian only” buses, saying that they fear the new routes could create a new series of problems, potentially being targeted by settlers and security forces as a convenient place to find a lot of Palestinians clustered together outside of their villages.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade, Workers and Labour Unions has already announced that it will lodge a complaint with the International Labour Organization (ILO).  Shaher Sa’ad, the President of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade, Workers and Labour Unions told Gulf News:

 “Separate bus lines for Jews and the Arabs is a discriminatory crime which violates all labour standards and movement freedom.” 

 Sa’ad said that the federation will get in immediate contact with labour syndicates in Israel to condemn the Israeli procedure and force a reversal of the decision.  That should be interesting.

One thing to keep in mind here is that while we are all in an uproar over this disgusting decision, we should keep in mind as +972 writes: shouldn’t overshadow the fact that, if we consider Israel/Palestine as one continuous territory under a system that privileges Jewish Israelis, there is already de facto bus segregation on the ground in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Mya Guarnieri, who is not a Palestinian writes from experience of the segregation that has long existed, 

...  I experience this segregation every day because I work at a Palestinian university in Area B. Every morning, I make the trip to East Jerusalem, where I head towards the “Palestinian buses.” Sure, there are Israeli buses that head into the West Bank, too. But they only serve the settlements. They do not serve all of the people who are under Israeli control...

 It starts with the station itself. While the Arabic and Hebrew signs say that it’s the “Central Bus Station,” East Jerusalem’s tachana merkazit bears little resemblance to the one Israeli settlers use to go to the West Bank. That Central Bus Station, which is located in the city center, is indoors. It is air-conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter. It’s clean...

In East Jerusalem, a lone street sweeper does his best to keep the Central Bus Station clean. There is an overhang to protect passengers from the rain as they wait for the bus. But the station is open otherwise—hot in the summer, cold in the winter...

While Israeli buses destined for the West Bank leave on schedule regardless of whether or not they’re full—because they’re heavily subsidized—the Palestinian buses have to wait until there are enough passengers on board that it’s worth it. This can make punctuality difficult. It also adds extra time onto the trip. As the bus to school leaves when it’s full, I get there early so I don’t miss it. A handful of students and I usually end up sitting half an hour...

And the two separate and unequal lines enter the West Bank, passing settlements, and then they split as the Palestinian bus heads towards Area B. There’s the illusion of autonomy, save for the occasional Hebrew road sign. But it doesn’t last for long—while Area B is under Palestinian administration, it is also Israeli security control and Israeli soldiers and military jeeps are a common sight here. The army can “serve” the area. But the bus lines can’t.

Meanwhile, let's get back to the uncanny and disturbing parallels with the history of the American South.  This little anecdote, I found on Mondoweiss, tells about the experience of one man and how his personal experience of Jim Crow changed his life.

In June 1961, the Freedom Rides were heating up, and the late William M. Kunstler was traveling cross-country when the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union asked him to stop in Mississippi "and tell the black lawyer that's handling cases that the ACLU stands behind him."

Kunstler told the story of his visit to Sarah Kunstler and Aimee Pohl-Deming. It was published by Michael Steven Smith in his book Lawyers We Love (Smyrna Press, 1999).

I landed in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 15, 1961, and the next day I went to the office of Jack Young. I said, "I'm here to offer you the regards of the ACLU."

He replied, "I don't want regards, I need lawyers. I'm going crazy. If you want to see something that will make you want to do this, go down to the Greyhound bus terminal. There's going to be an arrest."

More than a hundred Freedom Riders had been arrested in Mississippi and Jack Young was the only lawyer working for them.

He sent me down to the Greyhound bus terminal and the place was filled with cops. CORE [the Congress of Racial Equality] had this action called Operation Mixer and Captain William Ray from the Jackson Police Department had the whole place ringed with police officers. I went to have something to eat at the lunch counter and wait, and then the police ordered everyone, including me, to clear the waiting room. All of a sudden, the back door opened and in came five young people, three white young women, a white man, and a young black man, all scared to death. They went and sat down at the lunch counter I had just left, and then they were swooped up and arrested because they had ridden on an interstate bus together. The mayor had ordered the police to arrest the bus riders.

Once I saw that, I went back to Young's office and I said, "I'm yours. I'm going to be a lawyer, not just bring you regards from the ACLU." That was the start of it. I never forgot that day, my brother's birthday, June 16, 1961. I didn't realize it then, but there was going to be a change in my whole life.

I knew I had to get those five young people out of jail....

When I arrived in Jackson, 111 riders had been arrested, and before I left in late August, over 400 had been arrested. It was impossible to get a fair trial for the hundreds of arrested riders given the hostile climate of the South at that time.

He knew had to do something as any simply decent human being  would have known as well...Let's hope that there are a whole lot of decent Israeli citizens who recognize that they, too, are called upon to "DO SOMETHING."

The following is from Desertpeace (and YNET News).


Israeli elections were held almost two months ago. To date, a new government has not been formed. The Israeli Ministry of Transport announced on Saturday that there would be segregated bus lines for Jews and Arabs in the Occupied West Bank. These lines of apartheid started to operate today. We can see from this what the priorities are …

Peace Now activists also protested the operation of these lines and said, “the decision to (operate) separate bus lines in the territories is shocking and turns racism into the norm. A Palestinian Rosa Parks is needed to insist upon sitting on Jewish bus lines, (someone) who won’t surrender to discrimination.”

Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff


Separate but equal bus lines?

Palestinian workers travelling between West Bank, Israel to use separate public transportation after settlers complain of potential security risks. Leftists call these ‘apartheid lines’, Transportation Minister Katz says ‘Palestinians entering Israel will be able to ride on all public transportation lines’
Reuters, Itamar Fleishman*

Tension, delays and chaos ensue on the first day segregated, Palestinian-Israeli bus lines are operated in the West Bank.

On Monday morning, a riot broke out at the exit point of the Eyal crossing, adjacent to Qalqilya after numerous Palestinian laborers could not get to work within the Green Line. They protested the fact that as of now, they must arrive at the crossing from far-off places in the West Bank since the new bus lines are their only means of entering central Israel.

In response, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that “Palestinians entering Israel will be able to ride on all public transportation lines, including all those already existing in the West Bank.”

In addition, according to a Transport Ministry announcement, Katz instructed that all new Afikim bus company lines will be reinforced immediately according to demand. “In light of the great overflow on the few lines operated this morning, the ministry will asses the possibility that lines will leave from additional West Bank points, making it easier for the travelers.”

נאבקים על מקום באוטובוס. הבוקר במעבר אייל (צילום: EPA)
Monday morning at the Eyal crossing (Photo: EPA)

Israel launched two Palestinians-only bus lines in the West Bank on Monday, a step an Israeli rights group described as racist and which the Transport Ministry called an improvement in service.

The ministry opened the lines, to be used by Palestinian laborers travelling between the West Bank and Israel, after settlers complained that Palestinians on mixed buses were a security risk.

The separate Palestinian bus line initiative aroused a wave of reactions from both sides of the Israeli political spectrum. Leftists called upon the Transport Ministry to cancel what they call “Apartheid lines.”

Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On turned to Katz and demanded that he “immediately cancel the segregated lines in the West Bank. Separate bus lines for Palestinians prove that occupation and democracy cannot coexist,” she said.

According to Gal On, the decision to separate between Jews and Arabs stems from settler pressure and not from the desire to improve upon services for the Palestinians. “Separation on buses based on ethnicity was customary in the past in racist regimes around the world and is unacceptable in a democratic country.”

Peace Now activists also protested the operation of these lines and said, “the decision to (operate) separate bus lines in the territories is shocking and turns racism into the norm. A Palestinian Rosa Parks is needed to insist upon sitting on Jewish bus lines, (someone) who won’t surrender to discrimination.”

Conversely, Karnei Shomron Regional Council Chairman Herzl Ben-Ari, one of the leading pressure-putters on the Transport Ministry for finding a solution to the overload and the tension on the regular West Bank bus lines commented as well.

Ben-Ari said that “the situation in the past few months in which Israeli citizens have been compelled to ride on bullet-proof buses under IDF instruction and find buses full of people from the Arab population, is absurd, not to mention the security risk involved. On the other hand, the Arab population is compelled to pay a fortune for unlicensed drivers to pick them up straight from the crossing. The current solution is good for all. It allows Arabs to ride cheaper and regulated buses.”

“Creating separate bus lines for Israeli Jews and Palestinians is a revolting plan,” Jessica Montell, director of the B’Tselem rights group, said on Army Radio. “This is simply racism. Such a plan cannot be justified with claims of security needs or overcrowding.”

עומס בעלייה לאוטובוס. הבוקר במעבר אייל (צילום: גור דותן)
Overload on Palestinians-only buses (Photo: Gur Dotan)

Ibrahim, from the West Bank village of Bidya said, “it is impossible for to make it all the way here. I need to leave an hour and a half earlier because I live far from the Eyal crossing, and if I miss the bus – my whole workday is gone.”

Fauzi, who lives in the village of Zaita, adjacent to the West Bank city of Ariel, requested to arrive to work in Israel and was also delayed at the Eyal crossing. He expressed his frustration regarding the situation and said “this chaos is unclear to me. I need to drive an hour and a half just to get to the bus, and now it is not clear if there are even enough buses.”

"לא ברור אם בדרך חזרה נספיק להגיע לאוטובוס" (צילום: גור דותן)
No room on buses (Photo: Gur Dotan)

Additional laborers who arrived at the crossing, verbally confronted Transport Ministry and Afikim bus company representatives, who were guarded by police officers who arrived at the scene to maintain order.

“The Ministry of Transport has not issued any instruction or prohibition that prevents Palestinian workers from travelling on public transport in Israel nor in Judea and Samaria,” it said, referring to the West Bank.

“Furthermore, the Ministry of Transport is not authorized to prevent any passenger from using public transport services.”

Rights groups, however, voiced concern that Israeli police at checkpoints in the West Bank would remove Palestinian passengers from regular bus lines and order them to use the new ones.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said all Palestinians returning to the West Bank would be searched for stolen property, describing this as a routine Israeli precaution.
He said he did not know whether and how this might affect Palestinian travel on regular buses.

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