Three Jewish passengers who boarded a bus on its way to the West Bank forced the removal of dozens of Palestinians. The bus operator claims that one of the passengers pretended to be a Transportation Ministry official and threatened the driver.
Tnufa Transportation Solutions operates public transport lines in the Jerusalem corridor and the West Bank. One of the company's routes travels from Tel Aviv's Central Bus Station to the West Bank settlement of Ariel. This route also serves Palestinians who work in central Israel with work permits and commute home at night or on the weekends.
Last Thursday, about 50 Palestinian workers were made to get off the bus in the city of Bnei Brak area in order to accommodate three Jewish passengers who refused to ride with them and demanded the driver to force them off.
"After a few buses went by and didn't stop – because Bus 288 is reserved for Jews only – one that was empty of Jews stopped for us and we got on," M. one of the Palestinian passengers claimed. "Three Jews boarded in Bnei Brak and demanded that all the Arabs be taken off."
The driver stopped the bus under a bridge and made a phone call to his superiors, according to M. Following the call, he asked all the Palestinians to get off. "The driver told us to 'get off and figure it out' who then drove off with the settlers." said M.
Transportation operators are prohibited by law from separating Jews and Arabs. It is illegal to restrict Jews and Arabs from riding a particular route.
The CEO of Tnufa refuted the claims of segregation: "We have no separate routes for Palestinians or Jews… There are lines that go to the crossings [between Israel and the West Bank] and naturally Palestinians use them more, but if a Jew wants to get on, there's no restriction," he said.
"At Haaretz's request, the company conducted a comprehensive inquiry," Tnufa responded. "It was found that a new driver on Bus 288 fell victim to a shameful manipulation of a passenger who impersonated an employee of the Transportation Ministry. The imposter got on the bus and demanded that the driver remove the Palestinian passengers on the false pretext that these were the new instructions of the Transportation Ministry for this 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. It seems, that because of the pressure put on him, the driver gave in to the racist manipulation and was forced to leave the passengers at the bus stop. The driver did not report on it to his employer,” added Tnufa.
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“After the incident, the company filed a complaint with the Israel Police and reported to the Transportation Ministry about the imposter. Tnufa operates dozens of routes in Judea and Samaria and provides full and equal service to all its passengers. It is not superfluous to note that many of the company’s drivers and employees are Arabs. The company apologizes to the passengers for the unfortunate incident,” said the bus company.