Apartheid in buses, Thursday 3, January 2013 PM

Observers: 
Irit Sela and Daphne Banai
Jan-3-2013
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Afternoon
Seriously? Does this make us safer?

Oranit Bus Depot, Thursday 4:15 p.m.

2 minutes after we arrived at the site, a police car came and 3 black-clad policemen disembarked.

A minute later, bus no.286 arrived, coming from Tel Aviv's central bus station, destination Ariel colony in the West Bank. The bus stoped at the station. One of the policemen got on through its front door, another through the back, and then, slowly, Palestinians began to disembark - one, then another one, and another... about 20 men. Some take out their bags from the luggage compartment, others carry their ragged plastic bags.

A policeman lines them up in front of him and orders them to show their IDs and permits.  I ask whether he is the one who took the Palestinians off the bus. He affirms. "Why?" I ask. "To check whether they have entry permits into Israel".

 

The other passengers, the privileged, members of the Chosen People, some wearing skullcaps (yamulkas), others in the uniform of the 'most moral army in the world', some secular women, others Ethiopian Jewish women with headscarves, watched the show indifferently. They do not see human beings who have worked hard all week and are dying to put their feet up at home with a little child in their lap. They see "Arabs". It does not concern us... Well, perhaps a bit - now there's more room to stretch our legs in the bus, it's less crowded... And anyway, "they" could even blow themselves up inside the bus, God forbid...

 

The bus drives off and I ask the policeman how these people are going to continue their journey, after all they had bought a ticket. He told me not to worry, while one of the Palestinians gestured a walking man with his fingers...

When I tell the policeman that he is committing an unlawful act, he angrily orders me to show him my ID, and if I don't shut up, he'll detain me. All the Palestinians wave their entry permits, and the policeman says they now have to come with him to "Yoav Crossing", several kilometers further (the checkpoint blocking the village of Azoun Atme), for they were supposed to exit Israel through the Eyal Crossing, where they had entered. One of the men shows the policeman his permit, which specifies they mustenter Israel at Eyal, but not a word about their having to exit there as well (or any other specific checkpoint). The policeman, however, ignores him and silences him roughly. Another bus arrives, destined for Ariel, but the policeman tells them they cannot board another bus because "this is a border crossing, and like any other border crossing, you must not cross it!" He collects all their IDs and permits. All the while, another policeman stands by him, his gun pointed, and another policeman remains seated inside the car.

I called Ofra and loudly asked her to alert the media. The policeman hastily finishes his ID check, returns the documents to their Palestinian owners, and within minutes he boards the police car, and disappears.

 

The Palstinians remain standing at the depot. It is already dark and cold. I offer them a ride to "Yoav Crossing", a short drive away. Some of them join me, others prefer to try their luck with the next bus.  When I return to the depot and my friend says they must have boarded a bus. We head for Tel Aviv. On our way, about 200 meters from the station, in the direction of Tel Aviv, I see all the Palestinians who had been forced off the bus earlier, marching back east-bound towards the bus depot - apparently (I'm only guessing!), under pressure to get home and fear they would not be allowed to ride, they never noticed they were boarding the 286 bus going in the opposite direction - to Tel AViv. When they realized their mistake, they must have stopped the bus, descended, and begun to march back towards the depot, not at all certain whether they would make it home tonight.