Skip to main content

Settler demand to keep Arabs off buses no surprise in light of the two separate legal systems for settlers and Palestinians in the Occupied Territories

Woman getting off a bus serving Palestinians only, Eyal Checkpoint. Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters, 4 March 2013
Woman getting off a bus serving Palestinians only, Eyal Checkpoint. Photo: Baz Ratner, Reuters, 4 March 2013

Now that the Israeli prime minister has instructed the Minister of Defense to freeze the pilot plan to keep Palestinians off the buses used by settlers, the most explicit and blatant manifestation of the segregation and discrimination regime will temporarily be put on hold, probably due to the negative fallout for Israel’s public image. However, the policy of segregation and discrimination against Palestinians has existed on the ground for a long time and it is the direct continuation of the regime of occupation and settlement. During the past 48 years the State of Israel has created two separate legal systems in the Occupied Territories, one for settlers the other for Palestinians. It also has imposed an official policy of segregation in downtown Hebron and, elsewhere, has set up a system of separate roads for use by Palestinians and settlers. It is therefore no surprise that the lords of the land are now demanding racial segregation on buses.

The flimsy excuses cited to rationalize this separation policy are entirely unconvincing. Particularly recalling the military’s past assertions that Palestinian workers who have undergone all the general and individualized security checks pose no security risk to settlers on the busses. Moreover, internal discourse among settlers unequivocally indicates that the demand for segregation comes from their interest in removing Arabs from the buses.

An official policy intended to segregate buses under the guise of security is not only morally repugnant. If implemented, the segregation policy will cause tangible harm to individual Palestinian workers with permits who are trying to earn a living and support their families. To get to work on time, these workers must arrive at the entry checkpoints in the wee hours of the night. They then spend hours on end waiting in line because of crowding at the checkpoint which is the result of the policy of authorities to keep down costs at the expense of the Palestinians workers, by not staffing enough booths at the checkpoints. After this interminable wait, the workers put in a long day of labor for low wages, often denied social benefits. The planned segregation will mean that the already long trip to work will be up to two hours longer for some of the workers.