Beginning this week, the Israeli Transportation Ministry will operate buses in the West Bank that appear to be designated as â€œPalestinian-only,â€ a development that has led some activists to allege racial discrimination.
The bus lines, operated by the Afikim bus company, will begin operating an apparently Palestinian-only service from West Bank checkpoints to Gush Dan, according to Haaretz.
A ministry statement claims â€œthe new lines will lessen the burden that has formed on buses as a result of the increase in numbers of working permits provided to Palestinians,â€ Haaretz reported. The statement went on to say the buses will â€œcontribute to the improvements of services, for the betterment of Israelis and Palestinians as one.â€
However, while the new buses may technically be classified â€œgeneral bus lines,â€ advertisements for the service have only appeared in Palestinian villages, according to Ynet.
A driver for Afikim told Ynet that although legally there was no way to prevent Palestinians with the correct documentation from boarding buses, â€œstarting next week, there will be checks at the checkpoint, and Palestinians will be asked to board their own buses.â€
â€œObviously, everyone will start screaming â€˜apartheidâ€™ and â€˜racismâ€™ now,â€ the driver continued. â€œThis really doesnâ€™t feel right, and maybe (the ministry) should find a different solution, but the situation right now is impossible.â€
Haaretz added that watchdog groups, including Machsom Watch, have documented an â€œongoingâ€ trend of Palestinians being forced to leave buses traveling to Israel, for no apparent reason.
Israeli human rights group Bâ€™Tselem was quick to criticize the governmentâ€™s plan, according to RT.
â€œThe attempt at bus segregation is appalling, and the current arguments about â€˜security needsâ€™ and â€˜overcrowdingâ€™ must not be allowed to camouflage the blatant racism of the demand to remove Palestinians from buses,â€ Bâ€™Tselem executive director Jessica Montell said.