News / Middle East

    Israeli Bus Line for Palestinians Causes Stir

    Palestinians laborers board a Palestinian-only bus on route to the West Bank after working in Tel Aviv, March 4, 2013.
    Palestinians laborers board a Palestinian-only bus on route to the West Bank after working in Tel Aviv, March 4, 2013.
    Scott Bobb
    A decision by the Israeli government to bus Palestinians from the West Bank to jobs in Israel has sparked controversy. The Israeli government said it launched the bus program for Palestinian workers Monday to relieve overcrowding and as a gesture of goodwill.
     
    Nearly 40,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank have permission to travel to Israel to work, and thousands of Israelis living in West Bank settlements also travel by bus to jobs in Israel.
     
    But the move has already drawn harsh criticism from Israeli rights activists such as Jessica Montel, director of B'Tselem, who told Israeli radio the bus program segregates people by race and nationality.
     
    “The idea that you would have separate bus lines for Palestinians as opposed to Israelis is appalling," she said. "It's hard to see it as anything other than racist.”
     
    Uzi Itzhaki, director of Israel's Transportation Ministry, denies the new service harbors any racial motives.
     
    "Public transportation is open for everybody," he said. "The Palestinian workers who enter Israel tomorrow or today can use any public transportation including the settlers' buses in the West Bank."
     
    According to news reports by Reuters and The New York Times, however, some Palestinians have been forcibly removed from established bus routes at highway security checkpoints and told to board different buses specifically designated for Palestinian commuters.

    More than 300,000 Israelis reside in West Bank settlements, often close to Palestinian neighborhoods; many Palestinians consider them occupiers and there are frequent clashes between members of the two communities.
     
    News reports say the Israeli government began studying additional buses for Palestinians after complaints from Jewish settlers that they feared for their safety on the bus routes.
     
    Palestinian workers who travelled on the first new bus lines seemed to approve of them, saying that on the old bus lines they were often abused by settlers and some had been kicked off and forced to walk.
     
    B'Tselem's Montell noted that separation according to nationality, race or gender is against the law in Israel and said her group would be monitoring.
     
    “Anyone who tries to get on a bus and is prevented because of their nationality, we would document that case, we would file a complaint," she said. "That clearly is a violation of the law, telling a person that they can't ride a bus because of their ethnicity or nationality.”
     
    Most Western governments consider the settlements illegal under international law, which the Israeli government disputes.

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    Comments
         
    by: Sapporo from: Yoshi
    March 07, 2013 4:44 AM
    It is my surprise that such a large number of Parestinians go to work with Isaraeli companies.

    by: Ben
    March 06, 2013 2:11 PM
    VOA turned into anti-Israel dirt gatherers. There are enough Jewish antisemites everywhere, so Israelization of the anti-Israel cold war became the habbit.

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    March 05, 2013 6:39 PM
    The buses run to and from the West Bank, Israelis are not allowed to build in Ramallah, but in the future the buses will be able to serve Israelis and Palestinians, once they are allowed to build in Ramallah and the other Palestinian settlements. As part of the two State solution, it is expected that the future Palestinian state will be the only Arab multi-ethnic and multi-religeous state, where Jews and Muslims will be allowed to prosper and live side by side as they do in Israel proper. Right now, the Palestinians use the service to get to and from Israeli provided jobs; but as unemployment goes up, in Israel, maybe the buses will no longer be required.
    I guess Israeli and foreign tourists could take the buses to Ramallah and other Palestinian setlements in the WB, when there is peace and once it is safe for them to go there.

    by: Denis Marx from: Israel
    March 05, 2013 4:20 PM
    I guess the media hasn't mentioned the pervasive stabbing incidents just because most of the victims are elderly Russian and African immigrants... God forbid if the victim will be an American Immigrant... only then CNN might be interested...

    by: Sandra from: UK
    March 05, 2013 2:04 PM
    why did you omit to mention the rate of Arabs Palestinians who stab and slash elderly Israelis on these buses without any provocation??? A stabbing incident occurs at least twice a week on these lines. The poor Palestinians stab elderly women and slashed the faces of young Israeli girls at an increasing rate. why won't you mentioned it???

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