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Palestinian-only buses serve to incentivize segregation

Neither Palestinians nor Israelis should be fooled into believing that separated bus lines are part of an overall policy that benefits Palestinian workers.

Palestinian workers with Israeli work permit stand in a line to broad a Israel bus line only for Palestinians, after they crossed the Eyal checkpoint, near the West Bank city of Qalqilya, March 4, 2012.

The announcement that Israel’s Ministry of Transportation would begin a “Palestinian-only” bus service from the Eyal checkpoint in the West Bank might appear to be a harmless policy. Indeed, many Palestinians working in Israel may be inclined to use the new service. If the advertisements are correct, Palestinians might avoid overcrowded buses, save hundreds of shekels from cheaper tickets, and even avoid unnecessary scuffles with Jewish settlers on the bus.

The catch is that these messages are being used by Israel to force Palestinians to conform to a rather twisted agenda. Despite the Ministry’s attempts to sugar-coat the initiative as a policy to help the workers, neither Palestinians nor Israelis should be fooled into thinking otherwise: the government is incentivizing segregation. In this case, the segregation is born out of the desire to keep the occupied population at a distance, away from the state’s infrastructure and its settlers.

The new bus service is an institutionalization of this racist agenda, adding another feature to a system described at best as a segregationist society, and at worst an apartheid regime. Fears that Palestinians will be forced off the original bus lines and required to use the Palestinian-only buses are a disturbingly real prospect; disturbing for its moral reprehensibility and for the social-economic dynamics it shapes.

This is certainly not the worst case of state-sanctioned discrimination in the Occupied Territories, and it won’t be the last. What makes the bus case notable, however, is that it starkly presents the pervasiveness of the state’s segregationist mentality by evoking the memory of the infamous buses under the Jim Crow laws of the southern United States, when black Americans had to sit at the back of public vehicles, or were forced to give up their seats for white passengers.

It is in the spirit of that memory that this writer, alongside many other activists and citizens, would appeal to the Palestinian population to emulate the Montgomery Bus Boycott of the Civil Rights Movement against Israel’s new bus service – a “Qalqilya Bus Boycott”. Palestinians should instead continue to use the original bus lines, in defiance of the attempt to separate passengers by their nationality. It not only sets a principled stance against the idea of segregation, but also condemns the Israeli state for bowing to the wishes of the settler population – and for entrenching the occupation’s policies ever further.

Such a boycott demands sacrifices and steadfastness from the Palestinian workers. But these are the same costs that were endured by black American boycotters in Montgomery, Alabama, whose nonviolent struggle succeeded in abolishing racial segregation on public transportation, a significant step forward in the movement for freedom and equality.

It is that same foresight and dedication that Palestinians must employ against Israel’s separate bus services at the Eyal checkpoint. It is not the most important issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor will it create drastic changes. But it is a symbolic battle that Palestinians should confront to reveal to Israelis just how far the occupation’s racism goes, and to show that Palestinians refuse to accept Israel’s incentives to make them tolerate that racism.

Amjad Iraqi is an International Advocacy intern at Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author’s and do not represent the views of Adalah or +972 Magazine.

Photos: Israel’s new ‘Palestinian only’ segregated bus lines

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    1. Mitchell Cohen

      Have they conducted a survey of settlers asking if they would have an issue sitting next to an Arab or Palestinian on a bus? Or are they just assuming that most settlers are racist? Because this settler can think of worse things in life then sitting next to an Arab or Palestinian on a bus, even if I am not exactly going to vote for Balad in the next elections. Maybe that’s just me.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Palestinan

      Palestinians shouldnt work in the settlements nor inside the Green Line but unfortunately Israel and the corrupted PA have created this bad position where people are forced to work for Israeli companies and employers.Its like you steal someone’s food ,watch him starving knowing that sooner or later he will beg you for help.This is how villainous people function and unfortunately Palestinians have been stuck with them for decades !

      Reply to Comment
    3. Lauren

      Rosa Parks, will you please sit down in the front seat of the “Jewish” bus line? Segregation is segregation is segregation.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Yaron

      After the Palestinians get their own country, everything will be ‘segregated.’ Then, suddenly, it is called self-determination. Reality is: Arabs live here, Jews live there: segregated, because that is what they want. And it is like that all over the world between all peoples, even in he case that people are free to move anywhere like in the US or EU. Btw, I am wondering why the Pals didn’t start their own bus company if they were so dissatisfied with the service. I wonder if, in that case, they would allow settlers on the bus…

      Reply to Comment
    5. Zephon

      I wouldn’t mind a bi-national Israel. Nor would I mind living in Palestine as a Jewish minority. I’m a diaspora I’m already a minority anyway. By default I am a minority as a person who follows Judaism – so it’s not a big deal to me whatsoever. It’s again the imbecilic Zionist ideology that thinks otherwise; and uses victimization as a means of justifying it’s bastardization of Judaism for its perversions.

      I wouldn’t care what state I lived in so long as I can watch my children play with Palestinian children, do to the same schools; and have their families over for coffee and a good football game.

      But again Zionist Israel wants to keep Judaism enslaved and Palestinians the scapegoats.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Miriam

      You are a nice person Zeph. You say you live in the diaspora. So where exactly do you live? As in which country?

      Don’t answer if you don’t want to but it would be interesting to know.

      Reply to Comment
      • Oscar

        No Miriam, your Zeph is not a nice person. He is a candidate for the Darwin Awards. You have heard of the Darwin Awards, haven’t you?

        “The Darwin Awards are a tongue-in-cheek honor, originating in Usenet newsgroup discussions circa 1985. They recognize individuals who have contributed to human evolution by self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization due to their own (unnecessarily foolish) actions.”

        The trouble is that he wants to drag Israelis with him but of course there are not too many Israelis who are interested. Tough luck Zephie.

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