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Bus company backs driver who refused Palestinian passengers on board

An Israeli bus driver refused to take Palestinian passengers on board, was ordered to do so by police, and took his revenge by forcing them off the bus at the entrance to a settlement. The bus company: “The driver acted exactly as expected of him.”

Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, Thursday, two weeks ago: a bus driver on the 286 line that goes to the settlement of Ariel refused to allow a group of Palestinian workers on board who wanted to get back home to the West Bank. After a short argument the driver called the police, asking for the Palestinians to be escorted away from the door of the bus. A policewoman who arrived shortly after talked to the would-be passengers, and then told the driver the Palestinians all had valid permits to be in Israel, all went through security checks at the entrance to the station, and that he therefore must allow them on the bus.

Tel Aviv Central Bus Station platform (Wikimedia/public domain)

“The driver told her she was wrong and took her name and badge number so that all guilt would be on her head, and also said that he would drop them off half way, but the policewoman insisted,” says Neria Mark, a passenger who witnessed the scene. “Eventually he let them on, and even took some more Palestinian passengers outside the station so the bus became quite packed. The great heat and the Ramadan fast made many of them fall asleep, and so we drove on.”

However, when the bus reached the industrial zone outside the settlement of Barkan the driver called the guard at the gate, and had him order all the Palestinians to get off the bus. Two people who were accidently missed were ordered off by another guard at a later point along the route. “They all went down without a fight, some protesting verbally against the treatment and reminding both the driver and the guard that they’re fasting. All this time one of the passengers was encouraging the driver to do this ‘cleansing’, and once the deed was done the driver told him: ‘That’s the only way they’re going to learn. Anyone who boarded the bus today won’t dare to do it again.’”

According to Mark, from that point on the driver didn’t make the stops where Palestinians were waiting along the road. In a letter she later sent the Ministry of Transportation, Mark wrote that “the driver’s behavior was racist and in violation of the policewoman’s orders. He humiliated people just in order to teach them a lesson.”

The law requires drivers to take Palestinians, but makes it impossible at the same time (Activestills)

In the bus company where the driver works, however, nobody seems to see anything wrong with this story. “The driver acted exactly as expected of him,” says Ben-Hur Akhvat, CEO of Afikim. “The official policy is simple: anyone who can pay the fare can go on the bus. This means we have no choice but to also take Palestinians on board in Israel and drive them to Judea and Samaria, even though it always causes problems with the Israeli passengers, and both sides start verbal and physical slights with the other.”

According to Akhvat, any driver in the company has the mandate to decide that Palestinians look suspicious and call the police, but has to obey the police as the driver in this case did. “Inside Judea and Samaria the case is different, as Palestinians are not allowed inside the Israeli settlements without a permit by local security and an armed guard even if they do have an entrance permit to Israel, so the driver did the right thing in forcing them off. Every now and then Palestinians fall asleep on the bus and get unnoticed, and when they wake up at the last stop inside Ariel we have to call the police to show them the way out.”

Akhvat also wishes to remind us that army orders forbid Palestinians from entering or leaving Israeli borders through the same checkpoints as Israelis. “These people are supposed to go only through the Eyal checkpoint. On their way in they don’t have a choice, but on their way back they make it easier on themselves by taking our buses through the Cross-Samaria Checkpoint which is only meant for Israelis. Unfortunately we are not authorized to enforce the law they are violating.” Akhvat also mentions 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,” he says.

> To read more on the Eyal checkpoint and The Wall click here

Mark is unsurprised by this. “After I got to Ariel, all stunned, I was picked up by Palestinian friends from Nablus and told them the story. They all just nodded, and treated it as the most natural thing in the world. They think it’s normal, but I think there’s nothing normal about this reality.”

Police: Palestinians allowed on buses. Settlement: True, but not inside settlements

The IDF Spokesperson response is that the issue does not fall under military jurisdiction. An army source adds that there is no regulation forbidding Palestinians from riding on Israeli buses. The Tel Aviv Police says that the policewoman acted appropriately and that there is no regulation that forbids drivers from taking Palestinians on board. The Ministry of Transportation corroborated this.

“IDF regulations forbid Palestinians from entering industrial zones and settlements unless they have a specific working permit for that place,” says the spokesperson for the Samaria Regional Council. “This is why guards are placed at the entrances, to keep people out, including passengers on public transportation. A permit to enter Tel Aviv does not allow a person to enter Barkan. The Barkan industrial zone has some 3,000 Palestinians working there, entering it daily with the required security permit.”

It’s interesting to see how everybody’s right in this story. The official state bodies – ministry, police and army – all stick to the dry question of whether or not Palestinians are allowed on the bus in Tel Aviv. The answer here is indeed yes. But the people who have to live daily with the reality of occupation – Palestinians and the settlers (including the bus company, which has its headquarters in Ariel) – expose the deeper layers of Apartheid: the separate checkpoints for different people, the racial profiling security system, the permit regime, and the route of the bus which is planned only for Israelis.

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This story was originally published in Hebrew in Zman Tel Aviv and NRG, and is based on Neria Mark’s report in MySay.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Aaron

      What if it were not apartheid, but rather a belligerent occupation? Imagine that scenario. Then the discrimination would not be racial: it would be between occupier and occupied. (In my scenario, Palestinian citizens of Israel would be able to travel to the same places as Jews.) Furthermore, imagine a scenario not just of belligerent occupation, but an occupation resisted by the occupied population. In that scenario – admittedly, it’s difficult to imagine, but stay with me – there would actually be a security reason to prohibit members of the occupied population from entering communities of the occupant population.

      But of course all that’s just fantasy. It’s not a belligerent occupation: it’s apartheid. Actually, it’s not even apartheid: it’s Apartheid, some sort of metaphysical state created by capitalizing (“haloizing”) the word. Therefore, it’s all race, and Israel is no different from South Africa.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haggai Matar

        Who ever said that occupation and apartheid cannot reside together? Yes, it is an occupied territory which is administered with apartheid systems, i.e. separating residents of that area by race. Jews get to play the occupier of you scenario, Palestinians are deemed to always be the occupied.
        As to resistance – well, yes there is that. But without getting into the whole story and ethical questions of resistance to an occupying force one can examine this specific story wherein the passengers have permits to enter Israel and do so on a regular basis after going through checkpoints, and got to the bus after going through yet another security check. So what security reasoning exactly justifies throwing them off the bus when they reach the settlements?

        Reply to Comment
        • Aaron

          Seems to me a necessary condition for apartheid – sorry, Apartheid – is separation by race. I might be wrong (correct me if so), but I think the separation is by citizenship. Palestinian citizens of Israel can enter the settlements freely; Palestinian non-citizens cannot.

          Reply to Comment
          • And Jewish ancestry is the primary criterion for obtaining Israeli citizenship, which means that Palestinians living under Israeli military law could never qualify it (and now there is even a law in place to stop them from obtaining it through marriage, a law that targets Palestinians only). This enterprise is defined on ethno-religious lines.

            As for Palestinian Israelis, you know that they aren’t viewed as ‘Israeli’ in the same way that Jews are. From the outset, they received their citizenship on sufferance – you can see that in the choice of language that was used to describe the internally displaced (‘present absentees’). Now they routinely get presented as a demographic threat, a potential fifth column, and for two decades they lived under martial law that reflected those beliefs. The effects of that segregation didn’t just melt away when the military rule on them was lifted in 1966. As we’re talking about transport, take a look at the Egged journey planner. Available in Hebrew, English, and Russian – not Arabic, supposedly an official language of the state – it will show you the appalling transport service Palestinian communities in Israel receive. Try typing in the names of some Palestinian Israeli towns and see what you get. ‘אין ישובים’ Again and again. While Palestinian Israelis might enjoy the privilege of being on the bus, their communities receive such a poor service that this perk has limitations – unless they want to go for a happy picnic in a settlement, as per your suggestion, which they may or may not be allowed to do depending on the driver’s whim. Debates over whether they can use the bus are pretty much hypothetical if services are often restricted to areas with a Jewish population and the bus isn’t prepared to drive out to where the wild things are.

            I don’t think the situation of Palestinians in Israel can be classed as apartheid in the formal sense of the term, severely unequal though it is. The situation of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, definitely, and the (sketchy) travel rights of Palestinian Israelis are an insufficient figleaf to cover that up.

            Reply to Comment
      • William "Skull-crackingly literal minded" Burns

        Name another “belligerent occupation” that’s gone on for forty-five years. And settlement of an occupied territory is a violation of international law, but of course you already knew that.

        Reply to Comment
        • Aaron

          There’s no time limit to belligerent occupation. A forty-five year occupation can be every bit as temporary as a forty-five day occupation.

          Reply to Comment
          • William Burns

            If its belligerent occupation, then the settlements, all of them including Jerusalem, are illegal.

            Reply to Comment
      • Pollo

        Oh I see that makes it a whole lot better. Yeah, Palestinians may have no rights, their access to basic supplies may be controlled by Israel, they lose their homes and land to expanding settlements but that’s ok, because they are playing the part of the oppressed.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Matsgz

      “Akhvat also mentions 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,” he says.”

      So, it’s not real apartheid.
      Yet.
      But we are working on it …

      Reply to Comment
      • Elisabeth

        So, it’s not real apartheid.
        Yet.
        But we are working on it …Unbelievable isn’t it?

        They don’t want to see Arabs… You wonder what they are doing in the Middle East.

        Reply to Comment
        • Aaron

          Maybe they were born there?

          Reply to Comment
      • aristeides

        I’ve often said the better term would be “segregation.” In the segregated, Jim Crow American South, the blacks were allowed onto the bus but had to sit in the back.

        In Israel, it’s the Jewish women who have to sit in the back of the bus and the Arabs aren’t allowed to ride at all.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Piotr Berman

      Aaron may be correct that this is not apartheid but a separate crime against humanity: the creation of settlements of occupant population.

      However, this seems like hair splitting. To me it seems that the chief characteristic of the Jewish state is that there is a gradation of how good Jews are. The more pure Jews of the settlements can enforce higher purity in their mini-states as than more normal Jews in Tel-Aviv.

      As one Israeli writer pointed out, in Israel he is more Jewish than in the diaspora (presumably, this means better), and clearly settlers are yet more Jewish.

      Reply to Comment
      • Rorr

        One of the tenets of being an honorable human being is not betraying your people. You fall seriously short on that level.

        Reply to Comment
        • sh

          “One of the tenets of being an honorable human being is not betraying your people”

          Depends of course whom you call your people, Rorr. Seems to me there are two main kinds of people one could call “my people”. There are those who share one’s interests and those who share one’s country, all of them, no matter what religion they happen to be born into or even if they have no religion at all. I don’t see any betrayal of either in these columns and comments.

          Who are your people?

          Reply to Comment
          • Aaron

            The word “people” is singular here. Does that help?

            Reply to Comment
          • sh

            No. What is a people?

            Reply to Comment
          • Piotr Berman

            “People! People! Soylent Green is made of people!”

            Now I need to check if these are my people.

            Reply to Comment
        • William Burns

          On the contrary, betraying your people is often an ethical imperative. Marlene Dietrich, a German, actively supported the allies in the Second World War. Was she an honorable human being?

          Reply to Comment
      • Aaron

        I’ve never seen any implication that settlers are purer Jews. Then again, maybe I’m such an impure Jew that I just missed it.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Paul Rutten

      Interesting to watch so much work being done to enhance inequality. The ongoing inhumane treatment of people is truly beyond belief. Shame upon these thugs and their supporters, at every level.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Since the Ministry of Transportation affirmed that there is no regulation precluding Palestinian boarding, the Tel Aviv police acted to enforce equal access in the State of Israel. The IDF says it does not interdict Palestinian travel using this path. The settlement says it has its own security system, but it is under Israeli law. The Palestinian passengers traveled under Israeli law, with security checks. So the settlement must honor Israeli law, law which covers the settlement. The passangers were therefore illegally removed.
      .
      “Security” is used to locally void law, racially applied. This is an usurptation of the law. That Palestinians may use this route to avoid delays through other exit is irrelevant. Both the bus company and the settlement have violated State law. The IDF could interdict, but does not; “occupation” is not at issue–race is.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haggai Matar

        The settlement and bus company are actually right, and even Palestinians with working permits valid for Israel are not allowed in the settlements, which are outside Israel proper and have different laws and regulations.

        Reply to Comment
        • William Burns

          Outside Israel proper, huh? I guess that’s why Israel and its supporters have no objection to products produced in the settlements being labeled differently from products produced in Israel. Oh wait, they do!

          Reply to Comment
          • Piotr Berman

            In effect, settlements are superior communities with their own laws. The “proper Israel” is happy that settlements allow to be subsidized, protected with troops that have to defer to settlers. Settlements may have their own pass system and security forces, and often a mini-separation barriers of their own.

            We just have two incidents: a “wilding” of ordinary Jews from Jerusalem and a firebombing by a settler. Ordinary Jews will probably be punished, but the settler probably will not be. Of course, if you do not want to be punished, it helps if you do not brag on Facebook what you did. But a while ago settlers from Anata (sp?) beat up ordinary Jews and get photographed, and I never heard about anything happening to them. The beaten up Jews were actually below “ordinary level”, i.e. the leftist.

            Reply to Comment
          • Piotr Berman

            [new improved comment system is eating parts of comments]

            … but the settlers in Anatot beat up ordinary Jews (or worse than ordinary, The Leftist) and we can see it on videos and I never heard about any punishment. Therefore I concluded that in Israel there are different grade of Jews and the State treats them according to their grade.

            Reply to Comment
        • Then shouldn’t these Palestinians be escorted off the settlement upon their legal arrival? The bus company is not right; it exists under Israeli law, and Israeli law forceably placed the Palestinians on the bus. If the settlement is allowed autonomous entry control, removal should be upon arrival; that is where the protection of transport law ends–not on the road somewhere. Settlements are super-municipalities, but their ability to make local law is derived from the State; they can make such law solely consistent with Israeli law, which means, I think, removal upon arrival.

          Reply to Comment
    6. Bluegrass Picker of Afula

      now let us imagine a country that has series of Treaties creating two different classes of citizens. The one category has to obey all laws and regulations; but the other category of citizens is EXEMPT from gambling laws, and thus is free to set up money-making casinos. And again, this latter category of citizens is EXEMPT from Fish & Game laws, and can kill animals for recreation or for the larder, anytime, without any license in hand.

      Gosh; I wonder which country that might be?

      Reply to Comment
      • Bluegrass, Native American Reservations are remnants of (mostly) previously autonomous nations, forced onto often inferior land. Reservations are derivitive of the Federal Government and so immune from most action by the States they are embedded in. When you enter the Navajo reservation, you are subject to its laws, and these must be consistent with Federal law. The settlements and Native American Reservations have absolutely nothing in common; indeed, the former are rather the reverse image of the latter.

        Reply to Comment
        • Bluegrass Picker of Afula

          Hello Greg. So you admit that American law upholds the principle of different privileges for different categories of citizens, based on racial descent? And that it doesn’t bother you?

          Reply to Comment
          • Reservations are mostly treaty determined. As such, they are protectorates of the Federal Government being forced onto that land. New Mexico may have different fish and game laws than Arizona. So too may the Apache Nation. The difference you are citing is that US citizens may travel across States and be subject to the same laws, while a non Apache cannot enjoy the same privileges as an Apache on the reservation; nor can an Apache enjoy such on Navajo land. Native Americans hold a kind of dual citizenship. I do not know if a single tribe has dissolved itself, but it is possible.

            Israel is the victor, not the vanquished. Nor is it willing to uphold the autonomy of the vanquished. The settlements are intrusions–exactly what the Federal reservations are designed to prevent, not enable (after centruies). Where you want to go is somewhere quite different.

            Reply to Comment
          • second part: The Treaties with tribes exist. Treaties are the law of the land. Yes, that does mean Native Americans have a sanctuary you likely do not. They are, however, no more than your equals off reservation, and reservations differ widely in living standards. Does all of this bother me? It is structual by treaty, a structural bias, a stop on further encroachment, the remnant of American expunging. Barring a constitutional amendment, only a tribe may dissolve itself (there may be minimum number criterion used by Interior). It used to bother me, but forced assimulation would destroy ways of life; and their presence does not harm others off reservation; mostly, no one else wanted to live there. Newly discovered resources may alter the value of once useless land; luck of the draw.

            Read the Israeli Declaration of Independence and get back to me. You will discover that there is no structural bias against equality in it. The law gives you a place to start. Where you start can determine much of what you become.

            Reply to Comment
          • Bluegrass Picker of Afula

            >> Native American Reservations are remnants of (mostly) previously autonomous nations

            No need to confine our discussion to your cherry-picked examples in the Lesser 48. In Alaska, those deemed to be Natives never comprised a nation, or a single language group, or even were canonically at peace with each other (not to mention that they INVENTED clubbing baby seals to death for their pelt, and still do it till this day). None of them were ever displaced from their villages or nomadic season-stations. These folk have an AMAZING set of privileges and immunities. And not a treaty in sight. And all based on a PURELY RACIAL
            definition of who they are.

            But this doesn’t seem to concern anyone’s sense of “social justice”… Because there’s no Hebrews around to criticize.

            Reply to Comment
          • I know nothing of Native law in Alaska. If there are no treaties proper (if), I suspect common law use rights prevail, based on precident. I suspect similar common law use rights define native reservations in the continguous US. The Supreme Court recognized such rights as international interaction; with the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, natives were unambiguously US citizens; combining the prior use right with citizenship, you have reservations with local autonomy. And I have absolutely no doubt that many use right areas were overtaken (lost) from the 1800s to 1950s and maybe beyond. You will find one reason for these racial categories is that the “whites” wanted none of them and took their land/use rights as they could. Remind you of anywhere else?

            Reply to Comment
    7. Easmon

      Lovely country!

      Reply to Comment
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