Israel’s Transportation Ministry is under fire for creating what appear to be racially segregated bus lines in the West Bank. According to the ministry, these newly-created lines will transport Palestinian workers to central Israel and are intended to mitigate passenger traffic for Jews on the existing lines. The Palestinian-only routes will officially be considered “general bus lines,” and the ministry contends that Palestinians will still be legally allowed to ride the regular lines on which Jews travel.

However, several bus drivers told Israel’s Ynet that Palestinians who choose to ride on the normative, “mixed” lines would now be asked to leave them and opt for the Palestinian-only lines, which have only been advertised in Palestinian villages via signs in Arabic.

While the Transportation Ministry is claiming that the new bus lines have been created merely to relieve congestion and provide Palestinians with more affordable commuting options, the move is clearly an attempt to further segregate Jews and Arabs in the West Bank, with a ministry source admitting that the move came in part due to complaints from Jewish passengers about Palestinians posing security risks.

According to Ynet (with emphasis mine):

The ministry reportedly considered several alternatives before deciding to opt for designated lines – knowing that the issue of so-called “Palestinian lines” would be highly controversial.

Legally, however, there is no way to stop Palestinians from boarding “regular” lines: “We are not allowed to refuse service and we will not order anyone to get off the bus, but from what we were told, starting next week, there will be checks at the checkpoint, and Palestinians will be asked to board their own buses,” a driver with Afikim – the company that holds the routes franchise for the area – told Ynet.

The volatile nature of the decision was not lost on the driver: “Obviously, everyone will start screaming ‘apartheid’ and ‘racism’ now. This really doesn’t feel right, and maybe (the ministry) should find a different solution, but the situation right now is impossible.

The creation of these new, Palestinian-only bus routes – and the intended segregation they represent – are surely evocative from an imagistic standpoint. In truth, though, they are simply a metallic reflection of the separate systems of justice and service that have existed for some time in the West Bank – systems that will continue until and unless the occupation ends.

Follow David Harris-Gershon on Twitter @David_EHG


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