Following complaints by West Bank settlers that Palestinians posed a "security risk" to fellow bus riders, the Afikim bus company will begin running separate buses for settlers and Palestinians traveling into the State of Israel, beginning this Monday morning. The bus plan has been in the works since last fall. Israeli officials insist that this segregation of bus passengers is not actually segregation:
Transportation Ministry officials are not officially calling them segregated buses, but rather bus lines intended to relieve the distress of the Palestinian workers.
The distress of the workers that they are most likely referring to is the reported harassment of Palestinian workers by Israeli police officers. Machsom Watch, an advocacy group that monitors the checkpoints that Palestinians must pass through on their way to work, reported a typical scene of harassment:
"Police officer Advanced Staff Sergeant Major Shai Zecharia stops the bus at the bus stop. Soldiers order all the Palestinians off the bus. The first thing they do is collect all their identity cards as they get off. One by one, the Palestinians are told to go away from the bus stop and walk to the Azzun Atma checkpoint, which is about 2.5 kilometers away from the Shaar Shomron interchange. All of them responded with restraint and sadness, at most asking why. Here and there they received answers such as, ‘You're not allowed on Highway 5' and ‘You're not allowed on public transportation.' Advanced Staff Sergeant Major Zecharia gave some vital information to one of the older Palestinians who had arrived there, telling him: You should ride in special vans, not on Israeli buses."
Several bus drivers told the Israeli news website Ynet that "Palestinians who will choose to travel on the so-called 'mixed' lines, will be asked to leave them."