Footage: Racially-charged exchange on Israeli bus further contextualizes hanging of Palestinian bus driver

On Sunday night, Yusuf Hassan Al-Ramouni’s body was found hanging inside of a transit bus in Jerusalem. The 32-year-old Palestinian father of two worked for Egged, an Israeli transit bus company, and his shift was set to begin at 9:20 pm. But his bus never left the depot, and in the middle of it hung his body by a thin cord.

Despite initial reports that Yusuf had been attacked and lynched, the Israeli police ruled the death a suicide. The police later issued another statement saying that an autopsy report revealed no evidence of foul play.

However, a medical expert speaking anonymously told Ma’an News that the autopsy suggested Yusuf was the victim of “an organized murder”. Aside from his intact first verebtra, which would have likely been dislocated in the case of a sucide by hanging, Yusuf’s body also showed that livor mortis was found in the buttocks of the body, indicating that he was sitting rather than hanging when he died.

Additionally, photographs circulating the internet purport to show extensive bruising on Yusuf’s body.

Several of Yusuf’s colleagues have spoken up about the abuse faced by Palestinian bus drivers on Israeli transit services. But Palestinian drivers are not the only individuals at the receiving end of racially-charged abuse.

Footage published online just days before Yusuf’s death shows a group of Israeli passengers ganging up against a Palestinian citizen of Israel. The Israeli passengers demand that the Palestinian give up her bag to be checked. There appears to be no reason why she is being targeted except for the fact that she is Arab. It is not clear which city the bus is driving through.

Toward the end of the exchange, one of the two armed Israeli soldiers on the bus attempts to be a voice of reason and says that because he has studied “a lot about Islam and Qur’an,” he can “identify” with Arab culture and, presumably, with the Palestinian passenger. He goes on to say that “Israelis are in a very tense situation now,” as if to reassure her that there is justification behind the intimidation.

The Palestinian passenger insists that she will not give up her bag and that there is no reason why she should be the subject of suspicion.

That same week, Israeli train operator Benny Levy publicly encouraged fellow compatriots to run over Palestinians as an ‘investment’ for the state of Israel.

Considering the hostility encountered by Palestinians on Israel’s public transport system as well as wherever Israel’s police or military has jurisdiction, it is not unreasonable to accept the finding that Yusuf’s hanging was part of a violent assault on his body.

There are 10 comments

  1. LionAroundWriting

    Total disgrace.
    Israelis should be disgusted with their general actions.
    To try and humiliate a Palestinian woman, on her own, where she cannot escape is not only racial, it is morally wrong on so many levels.

  2. tim74836

    I think the cop/soldier did the right thing given his responsibilities and the environment he has to live in. Remember, hes talking to psychos, he has to respond to them in a manner they will listen to. If he was a real humanitarian he would have apologized for the bad behavior of the bus freaks after telling them to sit down and shut up, but the scorn would be off the charts. To the Palestinian women, I hope she is well and never has to share a bus with psychos again.

  3. Michael

    We don’t see the beginning of the filmed incident, so there is no way to tell what lead to the situation. I also haven’t seen weapons in the footage, so it is not clear whether the soldiers are armed, as suggested here.

    As to the death of the bus driver, the authorities are conducting their investigation. As we’ve seen before, the Israeli law enforcement agencies are doing their job well, like in the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, where the police have arrested the suspects within days.

    1. tim74836

      Michael,
      There were two men who felt they were the authority and needed to search the Palestinians passengers personal belongings. It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to read from the woman’s dialogue that if they were threatened in any way they needed to call the police. The rest of the video is the Palestinian woman attempting to keep the men back until the police arrived. She was being attacked, threatened, and her peace was grossly disturbed. She played by the rules and still gets treated like garbage. The Police are not their to protect Palestinians, but this one cop/soldier at least showed some semblance of respect even when insulting the Palestinian because he had to demean her in the eyes of her oppressors. He studied Islam. Whatever.

      1. Michael

        They do have the authority. They are soldiers, security personnel in charge of public safety.

        The security personnel in Israel, soldiers, and the general public, are instructed to act upon situations they judge as threatening the public. So no, they were not supposed to sit and wait for a policeman. There have been too many bus bombings to call the police and wait in case of perceived danger. As I’ve said, we don’t know what was the trigger of the situation, but the threat of a suicide bomber is real, and having your bag inspected is a routine in Israel, at the entrance of every shopping mall. It is not an insult, and not racist – Jews have their bags checked as well.

  4. tim74836

    “…having your bag inspected is a routine in Israel…”. If this means that a perfect stranger has the right to infringe on the privacy of someone else because they perceive a possible threat, then this situation is much worse than previously accepted. The rights of citizens in Palestine have been completely and totally removed by the Apartheid state when a stranger can legally demand they show their papers, or rifle through their belongings, and then set them up as a threat to onlookers placing the victim in jeopardy of gang violence. Thank you for the clarification.

    1. Michael

      Having your bag inspected is a routine in Israel, when you’re entering a public place like a university or a shopping mall. Usually it is done by civillian security personnel. Citizens are called to be alert for possible bombings and to be proactive – it has saved lives before. As I said, we haven’t seen the beginning of the incident. If it was indeed unprovoked, then it is a disturbing situation, and if the woman filed a complaint with the police, I am sure it will be investigated.

      Since it is a bus in Israel, driving through Israel, with Israeli citizens (I assume the woman wearing the head scarf is an Israeli Arab, based on her good knowledge of Hebrew), I don’t know how this is connected to rights of citizens in Palestine. At best, it is an issue within the Israeli society.

      The woman sounds educated, by the way, well-aware of her rights, so pretty emancipated for a “rights-deprived” person. I wonder what would be the reaction in Turkey or Egypt, if she’d refuse a request by soldiers to check her belongings.

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