Dozens of Palestinians were thrown out of a bus in Tel Aviv after three Jewish passengers got on and refused to travel with non-Jews on board. The incident, which is the latest of many racist practices exposing the crime of apartheid committed by Israel, happened on Thursday last week on a number 288 bus, which travels from the Israeli capital to the Jewish-only illegal settlement in occupied West Bank.
Eye witnesses are reported saying that about 50 Palestinian workers were on board when the bus stopped in the Bnei Brak area inside Israel, where three Jewish passengers got on. After boarding they refused to travel with the Palestinians and demanded that the driver force the non-Jewish passengers off the bus.
“After a few buses went by and didn’t stop – because Bus 288 is reserved for Jews only – one that was empty of Jews stopped for us and we got on,” M. one of the Palestinian passengers is reported saying in the Israeli Haaretz. “Three Jews boarded in Bnei Brak and demanded that all the Arabs be taken off.”
The driver stopped the bus under a bridge and made a phone call to his superiors, according to M. Following the call, he asked all the Palestinians to get off. “The driver told us to ‘get off and figure it out’ who then drove off with the settlers,” said M.
The firm operating the bus route rejected claims that it had a policy of discrimination and appeared to deflect responsibility for the apartheid practice to a “new driver”. Apparently “a new driver on Bus 288 fell victim to a shameful manipulation of a passenger who impersonated an employee of the Transportation Ministry,” said the company.
Under Israeli law, transport operators are not allowed to operate segregated services. Nonetheless Israel has many laws and practices which human rights groups have cited in labeling the country an Apartheid State. It also came close to adopting a policy of separating Jews from non-Jews on public transport, and only the fear of a global backlash, given the history of segregated buses in the US, prevented the racist policy from being endorsed. Yielding to pressure from Jewish settlers who have long campaigned to travel on Jewish-only buses, a 2015 rule was introduced by the Israeli defence ministry which separated passengers on the basis of race.
The policy sparked outrage. “When something looks like apartheid and smells like apartheid, then it’s apartheid,” said Yariv Oppenheimer, from the campaign group Peace Now, which is one of many rights group to oppose the racist policy. The policy was finally blocked by the then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As commentators have pointed out, Israel rarely practices the more overt expressions of apartheid known as petty apartheid, such as those found in South Africa and in the United States in the Jim Crow-era south. Things like waiting rooms and bathrooms marked “Blacks only” and “Whites only”, and making black people sit at the back of the bus. In other words, enforced racial segregation at the most micro level.
There is nevertheless increasing signs that Israel could be moving towards such an overt, micro-level of petty apartheid, as indicated by the segregated buses policy and also a move by an Israeli mayor to ban Palestinian Arab citizens from a public park.
Broadly speaking, the practice of apartheid has been delineated into petty apartheid, which entailed the segregation of public facilities and social events, and grand apartheid, which dictated housing and employment opportunities by race, which critics say Israel is very clearly guilty of practicing.
In the years since, nearly every major human right group has labelled Israel and Apartheid State. They cite amongst many other things, Jewish-only roads that connect Jewish-only illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank in accusing Israel of committing the crime of apartheid, which is a crime against humanity. They also cite the country’s Nationality Law which denies non-Jews the right to self-determination as well as the dozens of other laws and practices such as the installation of race based legal systems in the occupied West Bank.