Israel Debuts Segregated Bus Lines Re-Sparking Apartheid Debate
(MintPress) – The Israeli government has debuted two ethnically-segregated bus lines in the West Bank to be used only by Palestinians, an undeniable transition to a full blown apartheid duality 46 years after the start of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.
As the U.S. unveils a monument to Rosa Parks, the Obama administration maintains unabashed support for Israel, a country that increasingly resembles the Jim Crow South through its separate and unequal facilities administered based upon the ethnicity of citizens, while receiving $3.1 billion in military aid annually from the United States.
Ethnically-segregated bus lines
“I know you don’t like the word apartheid, but what do you call a system that gives an [Israeli] settler 50 times as much water as a Palestinian?” asked Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian politician and political activist during a 2012 speech.
The parallel struggle of African-Americans to achieve equal rights in the U.S. has only begun to be celebrated. President Obama helped unveil a life-size statue of Rosa Parks last week, honoring the Alabama woman who refused to give up her seat to a White patron. This action helped spark the Montgomery bus boycott, an early action in the civil rights movement.
“This morning, we celebrate a seamstress, slight of stature but mighty in courage,” said President Barack Obama during the unveiling ceremony. “Today, she takes her rightful place among those who shaped this nation’s course.” The statue marks the first time an African-American women has been honored in the Capitol.
While honoring an individual who opposed an apartheid bus system in the Jim Crow South, Obama remains silent on a new segregated bus lines in Israel that resemble the system that Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King struggled valiantly to oppose.
The new bus line is but the latest policy highlighting the legal duality that heavily favors Jewish settlers residing illegally in the West Bank, to the detriment of the millions of ordinary Palestinians. Officially any individual can use the buses, but the Arabic-only advertising in majority Palestinian areas of the West Bank shows that the announcement is designed to create a second, Palestinian-only bus line.
The bus service reportedly will transport workers from the Palestinian town of Qalqiliya across the border of the West Bank towards Tel Aviv, the largest city in Israel. The Palestinians who have received work permits issued by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will be allowed to ride on the new bus lines. The Israeli government contends that this will improve bus service for Palestinians.
“The new lines are not separate lines for Palestinians but rather two designated lines meant to improve the services offered to Palestinian workers who enter Israel through Eyal Crossing,” the ministry said in a recent statement.
The bus lines were proposed when Israeli settlers complained that mixed buses transporting Jewish-Israelis, Arab-Israelis and Palestinians posed a security risk. The Palestinian-only bus lines will transport mostly day laborers going into Israel for construction work.
The plan has been vociferously opposed by human rights advocates claiming that separate bus lines will result in further restrictions on Palestinian movement.
“Creating separate bus lines for Israeli Jews and Palestinians is a revolting plan,” Jessica Montell, director of the B’Tselem rights group, said on Army Radio. “This is simply racism. Such a plan cannot be justified with claims of security needs or overcrowding.” B’Tselem is an Israeli human rights organization working to record acts of violence in the occupied territories.
Palestinians are already denied basic freedom of movement because of the 97 Israeli Defense Force (IDF) permanent checkpoints and 699 closure obstacles throughout the West Bank.
Restricting freedom of movement is in violation of international law, specifically Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country,” the Article states.
The West Bank has been ruled by Israeli military occupation since the 1967 war when Israel captured the territory from Jordan. The occupation was supposed to be temporary with the intent of either returning the territory to Jordan or allowing Palestinian leadership to establish an independent state. After the collapse of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, the Israeli occupation has become permanently entrenched as approximately 500,000 Jewish settlers now populate the territory in illegal settlements.
Shortly after capturing the territory, high-level commanders in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) opposed a permanent occupation of the West Bank believing that Israel would cease to be a democratic country by trying to illegally obtain the West Bank, a territory that Palestinians hope will form part of their future state.
David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, openly opposed any long-term occupation of the West Bank, believing that Israel’s internationally recognized 1948 borders should be the basis of the Jewish state. This policy would have left open the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Unlike the occupied Golan Heights, the West Bank has not been formally annexed, nor have the non-Jewish citizens been extended formal rights and citizenship by the Israeli government.
Apartheid policies plainly evident
Jewish Israelis have already acknowledged that their government uses practices akin to apartheid South Africa in the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza strip.
An October 2012 opinion poll published by Israeli Newspaper Haaretz found that three out of four Israelis are in favor of segregated roads for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Fifty-eight percent of respondents believe that Israel already practices apartheid against Palestinians and more than two-thirds favor denying the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank voting privileges.
Print This Story