A Black Heart: Israel's Apartheid Buses

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As if it wasn't enough for an increasingly segregated Israel to claim their lands, lives and freedom, Palestinians have now been forced off the bus under a new edict from Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who evidently kowtowed to "an aggressive campaign" by settlers to ban Palestinian workers from buses traveling directly between Israel and the West Bank at the end of their work day. Few Palestinians are able to find work in Israel; if they do, they can only earn the requisite work and entry permits after undergoing exhausting security checks, followed by body checks at the border. That's probably why even the IDF says they pose no security threat. The reason for the new ban, Ya’alon said, was security concerns.

To avoid the charges of racism and apartheid - and the inevitable potent analogies of Jim Crow and South Africa - Ya'alon's decision was carefully clothed in language that defines separate Palestinian checkpoints, not buses, which coincidentally happen to be accessible only by different routes from those that both Jewish and Palestinian commuters usually take, and thus require separate buses. A similar rule was passed last year to segregate the morning commute. "We’re working for you," Palestinians who shouldn't have to argue to Israelis, "I am a person just like you." Still, they say, settlers "look at us like we’re not human."

Ya'alon's order is facing blowback: He has been asked to provide legal justification for the change, and liberal editorials have blasted a decision that "reeks of apartheid" and tears at "Israel's remaining shreds of morality." But many Israelis don't see it that way.

“Riding these buses is unreasonable," argues Knesset member Moti Yogev of the far-right Habayit Hayehudi party. "They are full of Arabs.”

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