Monday, 5 December 2016

Just Another Example of Everyday Israeli Racism - Announcements will no longer be made in Arabic on Be’er Sheva Buses

All it took were a few  complaints for the Government’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to act 

A bus going to Be'er Sheva stops in the Bedouin town of Hura, August 4, 2016. Eliyahu Hershkovitz
In Israel Arabic is officially a language alongside Hebrew.  However like all things in Israel, equality is more a matter of public relations than actuality.  When the Mayor of Be’er Sheva Rubik Danilovich asked Transportation Minister Katz to ban announcements in Arabic, he was more than willing to comply.
Illustrative photo of a Dan bus. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
You see Israel is a Jewish state and what can be more natural than to ban announcements that aren’t in Hebrew?  This comes hot on the heels of government legislation to ban the use of loud speakers in the Muslim call to prayer.  This was classified as ‘noise pollution’.  You will be happy to know that the fears of Orthodox Jews that this could also be used to ban similar announcements by Jewish religious authorities were soon allayed.  The bill made a specific exception for announcements for the Jewish religion!

It's interesting that Breibart News, the far-Right news site associated with the Alt-Right and Trump's government covered this under the heading Israeli Bus Company Suspends Arabic-Language Announcements Amid Complaints

The conduct of the Transportation Ministry and Be’er Sheva’s mayor creates a dangerous precedent, whereby the writers of a few posts are given the power to withhold other citizens' basic rights.

Haaretz Editorial Dec 01, 2016 1:28 AM
An Israeli bus company has removed Arabic from its buses in a southern city following public pressure [File: Ammar Awad/Reuters]
Be’er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich is extremely sensitive to the needs of his city’s Jewish residents. When a few of them wished to see a halt to the use of Arabic announcements on the Dan company’s Be’er Sheva bus lines, Danilovich quickly implored the Transportation Ministry to remove the offending “hazard.” The Transportation Ministry, headed by MK Yisrael Katz, willingly complied and ordered the bus company to cease using Arabic-language announcements.

It took just one week, since this bus company began operating in the city, for Be’er Sheva residents, the mayor and the Transportation Ministry to erect a dam to keep Arabic out of the city’s public space. All it took was a few angry posts from residents – “As far as I know, Be’er Sheva is not an Arab city;” “It looks like I’m living in Hebron,” and others – to spur the mayor to action. Danilovich’s explanation: “When bilingual announcements are implemented throughout the country, they will also be implemented in Be’er Sheva.”
Al-Omeri mosque in Lod, Israel, a city of Arabs and Jews. A proposal backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would authorize the government to ban the use of loudspeakers by mosques and other houses of worship across the country. Credit Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times        
Be’er Sheva, a metropolitan center for tens of thousands of Arab citizens, is not keen to serve as an example for other cities. The Arab citizens who live in and around the city will continue to “enjoy” the status of tourists who aren’t entitled to announcements in their language, which is also an official state language.

The problem with the conduct of the Transportation Ministry and Be’er Sheva’s mayor isn’t just that it removes an important aid for Arab citizens who use the city’s public transportation. It also creates a dangerous precedent, whereby the writers of a few posts are given the power to withhold other citizens' basic rights. This is certainly a basic right, also considering that some of this population is not literate and is not adequately served by the written signs in Arabic.

Worse, this precedent is a warning signal to all public transportation companies that dare consider introducing Arabic announcements on their buses. The position taken by the Transportation Ministry — that signs and announcements in Arabic will be implemented in locales where more than half of the residents are Arabic-speakers, is also unacceptable. Arab citizens also use bus lines outside of Arab areas.

This stance shows that the Minister Katz and the Transportation Ministry are trying to circumvent the law concerning the status of the Arabic language, and in so doing serve as an example to other government ministries. The position taken by Mayor Danilovich, who takes pride in his activity on behalf of the Bedouin in the Negev, is also disappointing. This wrongheaded policy should be immediately reversed. The Transportation Ministry should rescind its directive to the Dan Be’er Sheva bus company, and Be’er Sheva’s mayor should restore the Arabic language to the city’s buses

See Israeli bus company bows to pressure, drops announcements in Arabic Palestinians in Israel decry removal of Arabic on buses

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