One hundred Palestinian bus drivers in the capital have quit their jobs because of such violence from Jewish racists.
If you’d asked me how many East Jerusalem Palestinian bus drivers in the capital had quit their jobs because of the violence they’d faced from Jewish assailants, I’d have said oh, maybe three. When I read in Haaretz on Sunday (truly a must-read) that the number is roughly 100 — or one out of three Palestinian bus drivers in the capital — I was amazed. East Jerusalem Palestinians, on the whole, are poor; driving for Israel’s giant Egged bus cooperative is a very, very good job for an ordinary eastside resident, paying about three times the average East Jerusalemite’s salary. When 100 of these drivers quit their jobs because of the menace of racist Jewish marauders, it means that that menace is overwhelming.
I had no idea. And I keep up with the news and I’m extremely alert to stories about Jews abusing Arabs. I knew from the Israeli media that on the nights after Palestinian terror killings, bands of young Jews would roam the streets on Jerusalem’s Jewish westside, attacking Arabs in their path and chanting “death to the Arabs.” After the death of Egged driver Yousef Hassan al-Ramouni a month ago — he was found hanged in his bus in what Israeli forensic pathologists ruled a suicide, but which Palestinians commonly believe was a murder — there was a story or two about East Jerusalem drivers complaining about Jewish attacks. But with those rare exceptions and the story of the murder by burning of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, the only Jerusalem violence you hear about in the Israeli media lately is Palestinian-on-Jewish — the murders by car and knife, the stoning of the light rail, the violent protests against the police.
But Jewish violence against Arabs in Jerusalem? As far as we Israeli Jews can gather from the news, these are not exactly isolated incidents, but they’re not a “phenomenon,” either. Nothing to make a normal Palestinian bus driver quit his job.
I didn’t know, we didn’t know. In Israel, any incident of Arab-on-Jewish violence is a big story, while a plague of Jewish-on-Arab violence has to be going on for years and years, like the “price tag” settler attacks, before it qualifies for sustained media attention.
The resignations, formal or effective, by the 100 Palestinian bus drivers have come only in the last month, since the driver Ramouni’s hanging death, said Tamir Nir, the Jerusalem city councilman in charge of local transportation. In a Sunday interview on TLV1 radio, he told me that Jewish attacks on Palestinian drivers have become a full-blown phenomenon in the last six months, growing especially intense in the last two.
Most of the assaults have been verbal, he added, but “about 40” were physical. However, a Palestinian attorney representing many of the former Egged drivers painted yet a much bleaker picture for Haaretz’s Nir Hasson:
“The situation is catastrophic,” said attorney Osama Ibrahem, who represents more than 40 drivers who have been attacked — mainly in the past four months. “Not a day passes without a physical assault,” he said. “I’m not talking about verbal assaults. They don’t even count those; that’s something they’ve learned to live with.”
Hasson reported that Egged buses are frequently stoned in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, regardless of whether the driver is Jewish or Arab. He also wrote that “Jewish drivers complain of passengers who suspect them of being Arabs and demand to see their identity cards before boarding.”
I asked Councilman Nir if Palestinian passengers were also attacking Jewish drivers. “No, I don’t know about it, I don’t think that they are,” he said. “But as you know there are attacks on the train.” Yes, about that we know.
“We also have problems with Arab taxi drivers,” the councilman continued. “They suffer too, from violence, and not only violence — some people don’t want to drive with them, don’t want to pay them.”
He said Egged plans to install security cameras in the buses, and that he’s lobbying to get barriers put up between drivers and passengers, but until now no measures have been taken to protect Palestinian drivers, who have been under ongoing attack for the last half year. “Unfortunately, I heard about the issue only about three weeks ago,” he said. “It came up only after the death of the driver. I didn’t know about it before, nobody told me about it.”
I believe him. That’s how pathetically in the dark Israeli Jews are about Jewish-on-Arab violence: even the head of transportation for the Jerusalem Municipality didn’t know that local Palestinian bus drivers had been getting attacked regularly until one of them was found hanged in his bus last month.