A Telegraph report by Jerusalem correspondent James Rothwell on the crime wave in Israel’s Arab communities was largely fair and thorough in laying out the multiple factors at the root of the problem.
The piece (“Israel’s prime minister orders sweeping crackdown on mafia warfare”, Oct. 3) noted that more than 90 Arab-Israelis have been killed in violence so far this year, which is “often centre on personal feuds and disputes over protection rackets and drug trafficking in a growing underworld which has terrorised Arab citizens of Israel”. Though citing accusations that Jerusalem has often turned “a blind eye” to problem of crime in Arab-Israeli communities, it also reports that the current government is taking action.
Rothwell, in noting the statistical disparity in the percentage of murders Israeli police solve in the Arab and Jewish communities, also acknowledges that the lower rate of resolved crimes in Arab towns “may be linked to reluctance in Arab communities to testify in Israeli courts, for fear of reprisals from gang members”.
However, Rothwell then adds the following:
But Arab activists say the government must first address more fundamental issues surrounding anti-Arab discrimination and the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict if it hopes to stop the killings.
Left unexplored is the question of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can conceivably influence crime among Arab citizens of Israel that typically involves Arab gangs, personal feuds and “disputes over protection rackets and drug trafficking in a growing underworld”.
Later in the article, Rothwell suggests another contributing factor:
Another source of tension is Israel’s nation state law, which declares that only Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel. The law, passed in 2018, has deepened a perception in Arab communities in Israel that they are treated like second class citizens. Israel insists all of its citizens benefit from the same legal rights.
Though the wording is vague, stating merely that the (symbolic) nation state law is a source of “tension”, Rothwell certainty seems to suggest that the spike in crime within Arab communities since 2018 is somehow related to the legislation. Though he doesn’t elaborate on his hypothesis, there are actually figures which undermine such a causation.
For instance, polls by the left-wing IDI (Institute for Democracy in Israel) in 2017 and 2019 on trust in Israeli state institutions shows that Arab Israelis’ trust in the police actually increased a little in the year after the Nation State law was passed. That same poll showed that their trust in other Israeli institutions (such as the Supreme Court, the IDF, etc), whilst lower of those in the Jewish community, didn’t decrease during that period.
IDI also shows that the percentage of Arab Israelis who are proud of their Israeli citizenship increased from 2018 (the year the law passed) and 2019, from 50.6% to 65.3%.
Though these numbers of course don’t tell the whole story, and it is certainly the case that most Arabs opposed the nation state law, the suggestion by Rothwell that the law negatively impacted the Arab-Israelis community’s sense of belonging, thus creating “tensions” adversely impacting crime rates, is simply not born out by the evidence