Alex Hamasaki, Student InternLast Modified: 20:10 p.m. EDT, 5 March 2013
WEST BANK, Israel - The Israeli government announced today that it is introducing two segregated bus line in the occupied West Bank.
Aljazeera reports that the Transport Ministry in Israel called this move “an improvement in service.” The Transport Ministry also said that the new bus lines would “improve public transport services for Palestinian workers entering Israel,” and save Palestinians from being charged “exorbitant prices” by pirate buses.
The ministry claims, according to Haaretz, that “the 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,” and that the buses will “contribute to the improvement of services, for the betterment of Israelis and Palestinians as ones.”
For any of those unfamiliar with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the Israelis and Palestinians are currently engaged in a conflict over land rights. The “start date” of the conflict is argued heavily among scholars.
Both groups have historical, cultural, and religious claims upon the land the Arabs and Jews are fighting over. The following is an abbreviated history of the recent Israeli/Palestinian conflict; however, in the interest of expediency several major events have been omitted.
The Balfour Declaration of 1917 by British Foreign Secretary Aruther James Balfour in a letter to the Zionist Federation’s President Lord Rothschild, declared that British would “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national Jewish peoples.” There have been several other papers and agreements that altered British support of the Jewish peoples, such as the White Papers of 1922 by Winston Churchill. Eventually, British handed the problem of Israel/Palestine to the United Nations (UN) in 1947.
The UN implemented a plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into two separate states with “a special international regime for the city of Jerusalem.” Through the Camp David Accords, Israel agreed to give Palestinians more autonomy in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Currently, Palestinians mostly occupy the West Bank and the Gaza strip, while Israelis occupy the rest of the territory. However, throughout the entire country, there are communities of Jews and Palestinians littered throughout the territory.
Both groups are currently vying for international sympathy in order to justify their claims toward the entire territory of the current Israel/Palestine. This recent event currently sways some sympathy toward the plight of the Palestinians.
According to the Guardian, the buses will run from the Eyal checkpoint by Qalqiliya across the border of the West Bank toward Tel Aviv. For passengers who have been granted permits by the army to enter Israel, they can only enter during the day to work. Further, Police spokesman Micky Rosenfield said that Palestinians returning to the West Bank would be searched for stolen property.
Although, Palestinian/Israeli relations are extremely complex and heavily influenced by regional and religious dynamics, this newly implemented plan to segregate Palestinian passengers is eerily reminiscent of Jim Crow laws.
The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws in the United States enacted between 1876 and 1965. They mandated de jure racial segregation in all public facilities in Southern states of the former Confederacy, with, starting in 1890, a "separate but equal" status for African Americans. The separation in practice led to conditions for African Americans that tended to be inferior to those provided for white Americans, systematizing a number of economic, educational and social disadvantages. De jure segregation mainly applied to the Southern United States.
Human rights groups are fearful that Israeli police at the checkpoints in the West Bank will remove Palestinian passengers from the regular, non-segregated bus lines and order them to use the segregated bus lines, which could potentially inflame an already marginalized population. This newest legislation is incendiary at best, and racist at worst.
It remains to be seen if this suppression will spur passive resistance such as demonstrated by Rosa Parks, who in 1955 refused to sit in the 'Blacks Only' section of the bus. Her resistance and subsequent arrest led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and was a pivotal moment in the American Civil Rights Movement.
Though not a one-to-one comparison, nothing good can come from segregating people.Follow Alex Hamasaki on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Student Intern: @aghamasaki Sources: Haaretz, Aljazeera, Inquisitr, Wikipedia