In the hierarchy of Things That Are Bad, rockets and bombs flying/being flown across borders is right near the top. It’s possibly unsurprising, then, that no one has had much to say about the West Bank lately, other than to note that the Ramallah-based government of PA President Mahmoud Abbas is in trouble.
Still, the West Bank continues to trundle along under Israel’s military occupation, whether we take note of it or not. And in case that were in any doubt, consider this item from today’s Haaretz:
Police have begun ordering Palestinian laborers with legal work permits off buses from the Tel Aviv area to the West Bank, following complaints from settlers that Palestinians pose a security risk by riding the same buses as them.
The Transportation Ministry says it is considering adding bus lines between West Bank roadblocks and central Israel; these would be geared toward Palestinian laborers.
Anyone who knows anything about the occupation knows that it boils down to an enormous system of racial profiling, wherein Living While Palestinian is a suspicious act.
Yet it is occasionally enlightening to see that attitude given such clear and unequivocal expression. To wit: Palestinian laborers who have been granted a work permit by Israel’s extensive, exhaustive, and frankly Byzantine permit system—that is: laborers who have been vetted and re-vetted and likely re-re-vetted by the Israeli military itself—are a security risk, by virtue of their being Palestinian. Not so much of a security risk that we can’t let them perform manual labor for us, of course, but God forbid we ride the same buses!
However, it’s important to note that separate bus lines would in many ways simply represent the codification of an ad hoc system already in place. Haaretz reports that West Bankers are frequently ordered off of buses well ahead of their destinations, forced to walk several miles to the nearest official checkpoint and then, having already paid for the bus, pay for a taxi to get home. +972 reported a case in August in which an Israeli bus driver travelling from Tel Aviv to Ariel, the West Bank’s largest settlement, refused to allow Palestinians to board, and “was then instructed by police that he had to by law, but ultimately kicked them off later on anyway.”
Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem has already issued a statement calling the idea of bus segregation “appalling,” adding “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”—and any who might question the “racism” angle would be wise to consider comments left regarding the topic on the Facebook wall of Ron Nachman, Ariel’s mayor:
Commenters left offensive responses…with one referring to the Palestinian passengers as terrorists and another as monkeys.
"On the Ariel lines there are more terrorists than Jewish residents," said one. A woman wrote that she couldn't visit her parents in Ariel because she was too scared to get on the bus, and another commenter said "finally you remembered that we have buses filled with Arabs?"
And so yes, the very idea of establishing one bus line for Jews and another for Palestinians is appalling. And racist. And unfair. And wrong.
But here’s what it’s not: Shocking.
Because this is what occupation looks like. Appalling. Racist. Unfair. And wrong.