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Date posted: March 04, 2013
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

The culture of hate and the demonization of the other on which Israel was established has taken on scary new levels recently. Back in 1948, the only way Jewish, and later Israeli troops and gangs could have committed massacres and driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes was if they deemed them less than human.

The trend has continued over the past 60-plus years and has, frighteningly enough, become part of the Israeli mainstream, government and public alike.

Yesterday, the Israel transportation authority introduced new bus routes for Palestinians. The official line is that this new measure would ease traffic and transportation pressures and ease travel for Palestinian passengers in Israel, mostly West Bank workers. We know better though.

Settlers and other Israelis have long complained that they do not like Palestinians traveling side by side with them on their buses. Mind you, settlers travelling in the West Bank are illegal squatters, even according to international law. There has been more than one instance in which Palestinians are asked to get off the bus and countless instances when they are harassed by Israeli passengers. Now, the government is solving the settlers problem for them, kowtowing once again, to the manic and racist extremism taking over Israeli society.

The transportation ministry insists that no Palestinian will be asked to get off the bus, be we all know about persuasion and coercion. The Israelis want total separation and that is what their government is giving them. Israels government has learned a lot from colonialist and racist experiences throughout history. Apartheid aside, is this not reminiscent of a segregated United States when African-Americans had separate buses (or at least had to sit in the back), separate restaurants and separate bathrooms? At least white America called a spade a spade at the time. Israel does not even have the gumption to do that.

Still, the indoctrination of hatred is more than apparent in the mentality of its younger generation. Last week, a Jewish Israeli teenager physically assaulted a Palestinian woman at one of the light-rail stations in Jerusalem. Apparently, the Israeli walked up to the woman and asked her if she was Arab. When the woman, identified as Hana, responded in the positive, saying you can tell by my clothes [she was in traditional Muslim dress], the Israeli teen began punching, slapping and spitting at her. When other girls joined in, they tore off Hanas headscarf, a Muslim womans symbol of modesty.

The policy of segregation and separation has become so ingrained among Israelis, it sometimes seems difficult to envision any coexistence between the two. East and west Jerusalem are two very different sides to the same city but, barring Palestinians in west Jerusalem shopping malls and Palestinian workers in Israeli shops and construction sites, the two peoples hardly mix. There is a distinct line between them, both literal and invisible. The seam line between east and west cuts, not only through geographic, but racial and social lines, revealing a stark difference between the residents of both sectors. When Palestinians and Israelis do meet at bus stops or light rail stations, the mood is often tense, uncomfortable and foreign. And sometimes, the real feelings of the increasingly right-wing society in Israel rears its ugly face. Hate crimes against Palestinians are becoming all too common in Jerusalem in particular, with the perpetrators receiving a slap on the wrist, at best.

If there is any sort of just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict it will have to be more like a divorce settlement than a marriage. With this kind of racist mentality, which is unfortunately becoming the norm rather than the exception in Israel, Palestinians will certainly welcome their own bus lines and light rails not en route to shabby Israeli jobs, but to locations in an independent Palestine.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at mid@miftah.org.

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