Israel opens Palestinians-only bus lines in West Bank

Move introduced for security reasons, which Israeli rights groups denounce as racist

Israel launched two Palestinians-only bus lines in the occupied West Bank on Monday, a step an Israeli rights group described as racist and which the Transport Ministry called an improvement in service.

The left-wing Haaretz daily reported the ministry opened the lines, to be used by Palestinian labourers travelling between the West Bank and Israel, after Jewish settlers complained that Palestinians on mixed buses were a security risk.

"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."

The Transport Ministry said the two new lines would "improve public transport services for Palestinian workers entering Israel" and replace pirate buses charging them "exorbitant prices".

"The Ministry of Transport has not issued any instruction or prohibition that prevents Palestinian workers from travelling on public transport in Israel nor in Judea and Samaria," it said, referring to the West Bank.

"Furthermore, the Ministry of Transport is not authorised to prevent any passenger from using public transport services."

Rights groups, however, voiced concern that Israeli police at checkpoints in the West Bank would remove Palestinian passengers from regular bus lines and order them to use the new ones.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said all Palestinians returning to the West Bank would be searched for stolen property, describing this as a routine Israeli precaution.

He said he did not know whether and how this might affect Palestinian travel on regular buses.

Herzl Ben-Zvi, mayor of the Karnei Shomron settlement, said the new lines "answer the needs of all passengers - Palestinians and settlers" because they would relieve overcrowding on buses in the area.

Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war and maintains a network of roadblocks in the territory. Palestinians seek the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, for a future state - a claim supported by most world powers, which view the settlements as illegal.

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Posted by: Carmen

This reminds me of Rosa Parks in Alabama, and how she refused to give up her seat to a white American, during a time of racial segregation in the USA (ex: segregated seating on buses). It is just as ridiculous and unacceptable, and the Israeli excuse of creating new bus lines to avoid overcrowding and lower security risks is shameful and disrespectful.

Posted by: Vincent

One more unacceptable segregationist move from israel, what will be the next step and what about international community response to this ? Nothing just nothing. One more attempt to show to palestinian citizen that they are "second class" citizen in their own country and the constant policy from Israelwhich steadfastly refuses to assume its international obligations as occupying power and is continuing its extreme policies of looting and destruction of Palestinian property and resources and of annihilation of the Palestinian people.

Posted by: Frank

A small country at the southern tip of Africa tried this policy for a while. Needless to say it ended in tears.

Posted by: Hisham

It's also reminiscent of a large European country that once put a large number of people on segregated freight trains. That one also ended in tears. I think what amazes everyone is how people with a scar that's being kept fresh 70 years on can do the same thing to others what they themselves never want to experience again...

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