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Friday, March 8, 2013

Segregated Buses

Much has been written about the launch on March 4th of two bus lines (Numbers 210 and 211). The bus company (Afikim or Ofakim depending on the article source) opened the new lines in order to facilitate the movement of Palestinian workers into Israel from areas that had previously been untouched by Israeli transport services.

As background to this story, Israeli bus companies do not service towns controlled by the Palestinian Authority.  Unscrupulous Palestinian drivers charge workers extortionate amounts of money to ferry them to the border with Israel.  So practically speaking these buses served a purpose that was beneficial to Palestinians.  Non-Israeli’s do have to show ID at the border crossing between Israel, and Judea and Samaria.

This is the case for national border crossings anywhere that international boundaries are defined by physical barriers.  The transport ministry issued a statement declaring:

“The ministry has not issued any instruction or prohibition
that prevents Palestinian workers from travelling on public
transport in Israel nor in Judea and Samaria.”

A spokesman for the bus company stated: “we are not allowed to refuse service and we will not order anyone to get off the bus”. There is no legal basis for preventing Palestinian workers from travelling on public transport either in Israel, or in Judea and Samaria.  But unfortunately, this does not mean that it does not happen.  In the first article I read on this issue the final comment by an observer destroyed, in a single line, the moral basis for Israeli outrage.  That one line was a link to a You-Tube video showing an Israeli bus driver telling a Palestinian he could not return from work to his home, on an Israeli bus.  Excrement happens. But let us not be proud when it does and let us not excuse it.

The new bus service was intended to serve some 1,300 people daily.  It would have hugely relieved pressure on Palestinian workers who travel into Israel each day.  The way in which it was rolled out and subsequently hijacked by anti-Zionist propaganda has created immense damage to Israel’s failing reputation, again.

The Transport Minister, Yisrael Katz, should have taken ministerial responsibility for this disastrously executed plan and resigned. Of course, he did not.  Bus drivers refusing equal service should have been dismissed.

I have an issue with both sides of the controversy, but primarily with fellow supporters of Israel and I explain why below.

Segregation, whether deliberate or by circumstance is controversial!  In Israel today, and for now I am excluding Judea and Samaria, Ultra-orthodox Jews segregate themselves from Secular Jews in case they are tainted by the latter groups paucity of faith; they segregate women from men (so that they are able to focus solely on their prayers); and they segregate themselves from each other out of misguided ideological purity that fears dilution, or worse, corruption, if they permit opinions to be heard that lie outside of their own congregation.  We must not omit from this list the relative value placed on Western Jew compared with Mizrahi Jew, Born again as compared with Natural born, Orthodox compared with Reform, and so on.

And I are not going to discuss Arab Israeli’s who like their Arab brothers and sisters elsewhere know that they are superior to us all because their Prophet graced them with his military-religious philosophy as a unique and eternal racial endowment.  Nor will I discuss Islamic scorn as a theological aspect of faith based superiority that mandates discrimination and justifies violence against non-Muslims, or the apartheid that exists in Arab towns guaranteeing that in Jewish Israel, such towns are Judenfrei.

Segregation is a curse.  There is an argument that girls perform better academically in all-girls schools (while the same is not true for boys educated in boys-only schools).  Prisoners, by the choices they have made have already demonstrated an inability to control their actions or to consider the negative impact their behaviour has on society.  The prisoner is penalised by society through enforced segregation from the mainstream.

But an argument for segregation cannot ever be made for the rest of society.  A group that feels so insecure, so threatened by the equality of their neighbour that it demands separation has an existential problem that will not be confronted by estranging themselves from the rest of society or by failing to address their own neurotic culpability.  And the problem has considerably worsened as the built in dysfunction within the Israeli electoral system grows.  It has empowered the Ultra-orthodox with ever greater levels of control over Israeli society in ways that distract the general public from addressing real issues of national survival.

The sickness of exclusion has taken hold within Israel and must be vigorously opposed. In Israel, those that turn a blind eye to or actively encourage discrimination are complicit if not actively responsible for breaking the law and must be brought to justice before the courts.  It is unacceptable that female soldiers (any female) should be refused equal access to buses, or abused in the streets of Israel’s towns and cities, as is now happening with increasing frequency.  It is symptomatic of an escalating contagion within society and the failure to address this contamination of the body politic signals a fundamental weakness of the institutions that bind the citizen to the state.

A mixed society confronts its differences.  A segregated society repels, and with ever greater disdain, tries to justify its privileges.  At its ‘purest,’ assimilation annihilates separate identity. I am not going to rail against the right to national self-determination exercised by nation states everywhere on the globe but that the racist advocates of BDS (boycott) refuse uniquely to grant Israel.  Only a fool views the violence and intolerance in the world around us and proclaims that the time is NOW to abolish borders.  But nor should we place barriers to integration or assimilation within our national borders.

The way in which the narrative of ‘segregated buses’ was permitted to unfold is a national shame and a blot on the Zionist enterprise.

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