Removal of Palestinians from buses in Israel sparks human rights concerns

Fri, Nov 30, 2012, 00:00

Human rights groups have reacted angrily to reports that Israel’s transportation ministry is considering operating separate buses for Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank.

The move follows recent complaints from Jewish settlers who claimed that Palestinian day labourers returning to the West Bank posed a “security threat”.

Almost 30,000 Palestinians, all with valid work permits obtained after stringent security checks, travel from the West Bank to Israel each day and are required to return the same evening. In a few cases, police ordered the Palestinian workers off crowded buses, following complaints from settlers.

Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said the transportation ministry, like all other governmental bodies, could not provide services on a discriminatory basis and there was no legal justification for separating Palestinians from Israelis.

B’Tselem executive director Jessica Montell said state-provided services must be available on an equal basis to all.

“The attempt at bus segregation is appalling, and the current arguments about ‘security needs’ and ‘overcrowding’ must not be allowed to camouflage the blatant racism of the demand to remove Palestinians from buses,” she said.

Herzl Ben-Ari, head of the Karnei Shomron regional settlement council, said the proposal was not racial segregation, but rather a practical solution to a problem of overcrowding.

Ron Nachman, the mayor of the West Bank settlement of Ariel, wrote on his Facebook page that he has spoken with the army, police and transportation ministry about “stopping Palestinians from boarding the buses that go to Ariel” and a solution was being worked out.

The transportation ministry stressed that no decision has been taken to allocate buses exclusively for Palestinians, and that Palestinians with work permits won’t be barred from riding whatever public transportation is at their disposal.