Palestinian workers forced to get off Israeli bus

An Israeli public transport firm has apologised after it was revealed that 50 Palestinian workers were forced to get off one of its buses.

The incident happened in an ultra-Orthodox suburb of Tel Aviv after three Jewish passengers got on and refused to travel with Arabs on board.

The bus firm, Tnufa, said one of them had posed as a transport ministry official and threatened the bus driver.

Israelis and Palestinians used the bus to go to and from the West Bank.

Under Israeli law, transport operators are not allowed to operate segregated services.

More than 100,000 Palestinians in the West Bank have permits to cross into Israel and West Bank settlements, where they are employed as gardeners or construction workers.

The incident happened on Thursday last week on a number 288 bus, which travels from Tel Aviv’s central bus station to the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

About 50 Palestinian workers were on board when the bus stopped in the Bnei Brak area, where three Jewish passengers got on and immediately began urging the driver to make the Palestinians get off, witnesses said.

Tnufa said the driver was new to the job and had been intimidated by “racist manipulation”.

It said a passenger had impersonated a Transportation Ministry employee and falsely claimed that the ministry had ordered the removal of Palestinian passengers from the route.

“The new driver said he argued with the imposter, but he told him that he could lose his job or receive a large fine if he did not follow the instructions immediately,” Tnufa said.

“The company apologises to the passengers for the unfortunate incident,” said Tnufa Chief Executive Officer, Mikhael Kopilovsky, adding that “many of our drivers and workers at the company are Arabs”.

He said Tnufa provided “full and equal service” to all its passengers.

In 2015, Israel briefly brought in rules that would have had the effect of separating Palestinian and Jewish passengers on buses travelling to the West Bank.

However, the rules were withdrawn within hours after then Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said they were “unacceptable”. -BBC

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