Separate but Equal: Implications of a Divided Israel
March 5th, 2013
|Commuters boarding a bus outside of Tel Aviv|
Earlier this week, the Israeli government launched a program that will offer special Palestinian-only bus lines. The busses travel between the occupied West Bank territory into central Israel and there will be separate lines for Jews and Arabs. The official story, according to Israel’s Transportation Ministry, is that the divide is meant to improve efficiency and lower fares for travelers. (The Times of Israel) Another potential factor is pressure from the former mayor, Ron Nahman, who has claimed that residents feel that sharing busses with Palestinians constitutes as a security risk. (Al Jazeera)
This new program has been met with a lot of controversy as public officials on both sides of the conflict argue that the separate bus lines are nothing short of government-sanctioned racism and will only serve to increase tension between the two nations. There may be some truth to this, as two of the Palestinian busses were set fire during a protest just days after the program’s inception. (Fox News)
The response to this new initiative by the Israeli government is going to create a precedent for future policies and the results are either going to be constructive or disastrous. If this venture is successful and doesn’t lead to violence, we may see the inclusion of more “separate but equal” policies across Israel that could alleviate tensions and strengthen the possibility of a peaceful state.
|A bus destroyed by a bomb in Tel Aviv|
On the other hand, if this really is the “systematic racism” that opposition leaders claim, then it could lead to even more violence and conflict in the West Bank. Historically, similar policies enacted in the American South and in South Africa have only caused more problems and prompted massive uprisings. It is possible that this separation would only continue to marginalize the ethnic Arab population and may drive them away from peaceful resolutions if they perceive themselves as being excluded. Local insurgents are bound to take advantage of the separate bus lines and it will be far easier for extremists to target exclusively Arab or Jewish civilians.
The prudent course of action, in light of historical and contemporary evidence, would be to abandon the idea immediately. The program, while possibly well intentioned, has angered parties on both sides of the conflict and has increased the tensions that it was meant to improve. The situation in Israel is a complicated one, but marginalizing the Palestinian people with a program reminiscent of Apartheid is not the answer. Institutionalizing the fears of racists will only make those thoughts a reality and will remind the Palestinian people that the government does not serve it’s citizens equally. As we have seen in other ethnic tensions, groups that do not believe they can solve problems through legitimate channels will often opt for violence and revolution to achieve their goals.
1. Al Jazeera. "Israel launches segregated bus service - Middle East - Al Jazeera English." Al Jazeera English. N.p., 4 May 2013. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://www.aljazeera.com/>.
2. Associated Press. "Uproar in Israel over Palestinian-only buses reflects messy situation in West Bank | Fox News." Fox News. N.p., 4 May 2013. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://www.foxnews.com/>.
3. Friedman, Ron. "Two buses torched in Kafr Qasim | The Times of Israel." The Times of Israel. N.p., 4 May 2013. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://www.timesofisrael.com/>.
4. Huffington Post. "Israel's 'Palestinian Only' Buses Set On Fire." The Huffington Post. N.p., 5 Mar. 2013. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com>.
5. Levinson, Chaim. "Israel introduces 'Palestinian only' bus lines, following complaints from Jewish settlers Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper." Haaretz Israeli News Source. N.p., 3 May 2013. Web. 6 Mar. 2013. <http://www.haaretz.com/>.