Every day, thousands of Palestinians go to work in Israel by taking the same buses as Jewish settlers. The buses are mostly driven by Israelis. This forced co-existence is becoming increasingly tense, as we can see in a video filmed by a FRANCE 24 Observer.
In the video, a Palestinian returning to the West Bank is barred from boarding by the bus driver for no apparent reason. He is made to wait for Israeli police to arrive before he is allowed on board. Palestinians with permits to work in Israel – permits obtained every morning after thorough security checks and only valid until the evening – are regularly refused boarding by bus drivers under pressure from Israeli passengers who fear acts of terrorism.
A Palestinian worker is denied boarding a bus in Tel Aviv. Video by eranvered.
In response to these tensions, the Israeli Transport Ministry has recently proposed separate bus lines. This way, the argument goes, Israeli commuters will no longer feel threatened by the presence of Palestinians, who some consider to be potential terrorists. This sentiment has strengthened ever since 28 people were wounded in an attack on a bus in Tel Aviv during the Israeli military’s recent “Operation Pillar of Defence” in Gaza. The ministry argues that a special transport route for Palestinians would help them save time, since they would no longer need to change buses at each checkpoint as is the case today.
However, the Transport Ministry’s suggestion has outraged human rights organisations. Jessica Montell, the executive director of the B’Tselem NGO, says: “Arguments about security and decongestion shouldn’t be used to hide the latent racism [of the government’s proposal].”
“This happens two or three times a week”
Hannah Zohar lives in Tel Aviv, where she works for Kav LaOved, an Israeli NGO working to protect workers’ rights, including those of Palestinian workers. She and a colleague recorded the video above.
We filmed this video on October 16 at Tel Aviv’s central bus station. I was called by the Palestinian worker in the video who told me that he had just been denied boarding a bus. So I decided to go there with a colleague. We agreed with the worker that we would get on the bus before him, and film discretely as he tried to get on the bus again. The plan went perfectly, as the bus driver refused to let him onto the bus.This man works near Tel Aviv and lives in the West Bank. He makes this journey every day, and as he shows in the video, he has a work permit that allows him to travel between Israel and the Occupied Territories. The driver therefore has no right to refuse to let him board.It wasn’t easy to film. As you can see, the driver and the security guards ordered us to stop filming, but we retorted by saying what we were doing was legal because we were in a public space.“Creating two bus lines would further segregate the two communities”I can confirm that this sort of thing happens two or three times a week. When the drivers refuse to let Palestinians board, it’s often because of pressure from Israeli passengers, who say they won’t feel safe otherwise. However, all of the Palestinians who board these buses have been forced to go through a security check point, whether they’d be returning to Israel from the West Bank, or the other way around.I think creating two separate bus lines is a dangerous idea. If the government does this today to Palestinians going from the West Bank to Israel, what would stop them from doing the same thing tomorrow to Palestinians travelling within Israel, and eventually to all Israeli Arabs? Creating two lines would further the segregation of the two communities that already exists in so many areas of life. This makes me think of the segregation of blacks and whites that happened in South Africa and in the United States, and it’s very worrying.