Security guards remove the activists for protesting a new policy that singles out Palestinians on a public bus line in southern Israel.
Security guards at an Israeli hospital detained 10 Arab and Jewish activists Sunday for an act of civil disobedience protesting a policy to single out, remove, and inspect Palestinians on a public bus line in southern Israel.
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The activists, from the grassroots protest movement Standing Together, were removed from the bus at the entrance to Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, after refusing to show their identification cards and demanding to know why non-Arab passengers weren’t asked to show theirs.
For several months now, security guards at the hospital have been asking passengers deemed to appear Arab to show their IDs. If they are Palestinian, the guards make them step off the bus and are only allowed back on as it leaves the hospital premises, Local Call first reported last week. The hospital and bus company both confirmed that the new practice is taking place, but insisted it is “carried out respectfully.”
On Sunday morning, a security guard boarded the number 18 bus as it approached the Barzilai Medical Center premises, approached Gadir Hani — a Palestinian citizen of Israel who wears a hijab and is active with Standing Together, and asked for her ID card.
Video footage shows Hani asking the security guard why she was being singled out, and demanded that he ask every passenger to show their ID. The other Arab passengers aboard the bus also refused to present their ID, after which several more security guards stepped aboard.
When the activists pulled out signs, the guards told them they were being detained and removed them from the bus. A few minutes later, a more senior hospital official arrived and released them.
“This kind of segregation is exactly what those behind the Jewish Nation-State Law had hoped for: to show Israeli society that there is legitimacy for discrimination in all aspects of life between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel,” said Standing Together activist Uri Weltmann. “We won’t accept racial segregation — not on buses nor anywhere else.”
Standing Together, the activist group behind the protest, published the following video of the protest:
Following the Local Call report on the discriminatory practice, more than 3,000 people signed an online petition demanding the hospital cease singling out and removing Arab passengers from the bus line.
The hospital and bus company insist that only Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza are singled out for extra inspection and removed from the bus line as it enters the hospital, justifying the practice on ambiguous security grounds. One local resident who regularly rides that particular bus line, however, told Local Call that she has also seen Palestinian citizens of Israel pulled off the bus on numerous occasions. (Palestinian residents of the West Bank have green ID cards, while Israeli residents and citizens, including Palestinians, have blue IDs.)
Since the practice was first publicized in a Facebook post last week, a number of Israeli human rights organizations have demanded that the hospital, the bus company, Israeli Health Ministry and Transportation Ministry, immediately stop the practice.