An Israeli Arab bus driver from Kafr Qasem said Wednesday that three Jews attacked him, one using pepper spray, after he refused to let them bring their electric bicycles onto the bus.
Adham Badir, 38, has been driving the number 5 bus (run by a company called Afikim, not the national bus company) between Petah Tikva and Kafr Qasem for two years. He said the three Israelis cursed him and one sprayed him with the pepper spray. Badir has complained to the police in Petah Tikva, who are investigating.
Badir relates that when the three wanted to embark, the bus was packed. "Three youngsters who looked like settlers, with electric bicycles, wanted to get onto the bus. I told them they couldn't because the bus was full and that they had to fold up their bicycles," he said, adding that he told the three they could get on the next bus in ten minutes.
"Then one cursed my mother," Badir said. "I opened the door and went down to him and he took out a bottle of pepper spray and sprayed my face with it. They continued to curse me and assault me with the gas."
The confrontation continued inside the bus, according to Badir. Even though the bus was full, only one other passenger tried to help him, also an Israeli Arab.
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After the incident, Badir continued on the route to its last stop, Kafr Qasem, then reported the incident to his superiors, who had him taken to hospital by ambulance. Upon his release, he complained to the police.
Badir said he has never encountered anything like that in the two years he has been driving a bus. "Their behavior has no explanation aside from belligerence and racism," he said, adding that he hopes the police catch the perpetrators.
The police stated that they view the incident very seriously and cannot comment further on the open investigation.
Nidel Othman, head of the Coalition Against Racism in Israel, commented that this isn't the first time an Arab bus driver has been attacked for racist reasons. "We demand that the police take vigorous action to locate Adham's attackers, and demand that the companies employing the drivers take steps to assure the drivers' safety."
The Israel Racism Crisis Center stated that it expects the police to find the perpetrators and expects Afikim to ensure proper treatment of the driver. Information in the organization's possession indicates that Arab drivers routinely suffer from violence, it stated, and called on all the bus companies to install cameras in the buses.