Security guards pulling Arabs off public buses at entrance to Israeli medical center

Human rights NGOs call on Israeli Supreme Court to halt racist security checks on public bus that passes through Ashkelon's medical center.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. along with Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and the Israel Religious Action Center’s Racism Crisis Center petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court on 11 September  2019 to demand a halt to the discriminatory and racist security checks on “Dan In the South” #18 bus line, which stops at Barzilay Hospital in Ashkelon.


The petition was filed by Adalah Attorney Sari Arraf and ACRI Attorney Anne Suciu from ACRI.


As outlined in the petition, hospital security guards stop the #18 buses at the entrance to the hospital and search the passengers before the bus may proceed. They demand that passengers who seem to have an “Arab appearance” show their national identification cards. If the passengers are not citizens of Israel, they must get off the bus and wait outside the hospital grounds until the bus completes its route through the hospital grounds.


In early 2019, ACRI contacted the Barzilay Hospital management, the Israeli State Attorney’s Office, Health Ministry, and Transportation Ministry on this matter, none of whom responded to the claims of illegal behavior, and stated abstractly that the practice is based on Israel Police procedures. The hospital recently responded, stating that it reviewed the security check - in partnership with the Health Ministry - and found it to be “acceptable.”


The petition claims that racial profiling based on Arab passengers’ ethnicity creates a degrading and insulting experience, labels individuals as dangerous simply because of their national and ethnic identity, and infringes on Arab passengers’ fundamental right to dignity, equality, and privacy. The petition goes on to claim that this practice, which includes heightened security and forcing Arabs who are residents of the West Bank and Gaza to get off the bus, is done without the appropriate authority.


ACRI Attorney Anne Suciu: On the one hand State authorities are trying to eliminate the ugly phenomena of profiling against Israelis of Ethiopian origin and other groups within the population, while on the other hand they condone unprecedented, degrading racial profiling of Arabs. Sadly, the #18 bus protocol is just the tip of the iceberg, which represents the daily life of Arabs in all encounters with security guards at entrances to public places.


Adalah Attorney Sari Arraf: The many partners in this severe transgression of racial profiling in this instance completely ignore the sweeping prohibition given to such practices in the past, while attempting to present baseless arguments that they believe justify this humiliation. It is sad that we must petition the court, as the most senior echelons of the hospital and government offices who are responsible for preventing the distinction between different groups in the general public have legitimized racist behavior, refraining from taking a moral stand that should have been clear. This is a testament to deep, systemic racism.


(Photo by Muhannad Anati/ACRI)