The headlines roll out, the journalistic warfare continues, and the Jewish State once more is cast in the starring role of “evil, Apartheid empire.” This time the story is that Israel is forcing the Arab Palestinians to ride separate buses from the ones Jewish Israelis ride.
The reality is exactly the opposite – there are no “Palestinian only” buses. Instead, with its new bus routes, Israel is reducing crowded buses, attempting to relieve ethnic tensions and security concerns, and is assisting Arab Palestinians enter Green Line Israel to work. But we’ll get to the facts – which exonerate Israel from “Apartheid” charges – in a minute. For right now you can rest assured that despite efforts to cast the Arab Palestinians in the role of Rosa Parks, a closer fit would be to cast the purveyors of this latest attack as peddlers of the Big Lie.
First, the hysteria:
One headline, from the magazine formerly known as Newsweek, and now known as – more accurately – the Daily Beast, “West Bank Buses Only the Latest in Israel’s Segregated Public Transport,” and one from the uber-leftist +972, “Israel’ new ‘Palestinian only’ segregated bus line,” and even the Israeli news media outlet YNet fans the flames: “Ministry launches ‘Palestinians only’ buses.”
The claims are exactly as you would expect them, and made by those whom you would suspect. For example, Jessica Montell is the director of the anti-Israel, pro-Arab B’tselem Rights group. “Creating separate bus lines for Israeli Jews and Palestinians is a revolting plan,” Montell told Army Radio. “This is simply racism.”
And the far-leftist political Meretz party chairwoman Zahava Gal-On reamed Transportation Minister Israel Katz, demanding that he “immediately cancel the segregated lines in the West Bank. Separate bus lines for Palestinians prove that occupation and democracy cannot coexist,” she said.
What are the facts?
First of all, all Israeli citizens are permitted to ride all Israeli transportation vehicles, whether they are Arab, Finnish or Lithuanian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian or Buddhist.
Second, any non-citizen of Israel, just as is the case with every other country in the world, has to show identification when entering Israel’s official borders – it is true for American citizens entering Canada and Mexico, just as it is the case for citizens of the Palestinian Authority who wish to enter Israel.
Third, Israeli citizens who live in Judea and Samaria pay taxes, a portion of which subsidize the transportation infrastructure and vehicles, whereas Arabs who live in the PA towns do not. In fact, taxes paid by Arabs in Israel are turned over to the PA to support their infrastructure, which includes – or should – transportation services for their residents.
One consequence of the preceding points is that the Israeli bus lines travel from and to all areas in which tax-paying Israeli citizens live – from Jerusalem to Shilo, from Tel Aviv to Efrat, and so forth. The Israeli bus companies do not stop at, for example, the Arab town of Ramallah, just as they do not stop at non-authorized Jewish towns such as Givat Har-el.
WHAT IS NEW?
The bare fact: the Israeli government added two bus lines (so far, there was overcrowding on Monday, March 4, the first day the service was instituted, and the Transportation Ministry said more buses will likely be added) that will serve Arab Palestinian towns with transportation into central Israel. The Israeli bus lines previously did not stop in towns controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Despite the efforts of BDS advocates, there are tens of thousands of Arab Palestinians who work in different parts of Israel. Arab Palestinians with work permits would previously have to travel first to a place where the Israeli buses stop, or would be dependent on the much higher-priced Arab buses to get into central Israel.
So why the hysteria? Because some see this as an evil plot to segregate Jews and Arabs. But non-citizens are not entitled to use Israeli public transportation into central Israel without showing border identification, and prior to the provision of these new bus lines, Arab Palestinians were dependent on transportation services by “pirate” (Arab, by the way) companies which charged the Arabs far more than the Israeli lines do.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus