Opinion: The Arab sector’s crime problem is an outgrowth of decades of discrimination and neglect, and the incoming national security minister’s brute-force approach is unlikely to solve for that

Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is poised to become the next national security minister, is sounding the alarm on the supposed breakdown of law and order in Israel.

Of course he does. The more he talks about it, the more it legitimizes him appropriating more authority to his ministry. Desperate times, he’ll say. And too many are buying into it.

איתמר בן גביר
Itamar Ben-Gvir (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)


Let’s look at some statistics, shall we?

Compared to most of the world, Israel’s crime rate is relatively low, and especially in the Jewish sector.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), as of halfway through 2022, Israel’s violent crime rate stood at 32.2 points. Now compare that with France’s 54.4, or Sweden at 48.8, the U.S. at 48.4, Greece at 48.0, the UK at 46.6, Italy at 46.2, Canada at 43.6, Germany at 37.0, Spain at 35.0 and ever-so-peaceful Norway at 33.5.

Out of 136 nations measured, Israel’s crime rate ranked at 104. What a pleasant surprise.

A surprise nonetheless, though, if various sociological and psychiatric theories about Israeli society are to be believed. After all, we’re a multi-ethnic and multi-racial society with an eclectic makeup of people, that is also exerting much effort to keep another people, who basically live right among us, under control. We’re supposed to rank much higher than 104, shouldn’t we?

תיעוד מפעילות מעצר סוחרי הסמים ע''י המשטרה במזרח ירושלים
Police have been hard at work lowering the crime rate (Photo: Israel Police)


But there is a caveat. The distinction between the Jewish and Arab sectors reveals a wide gap. Crime rates among Jews are indeed quite low thanks to Israeli police forces and other law enforcement agencies who have been hard at work dismantling crime syndicates as well as cracking down on street crime for the past two decades.

That is a stark difference from what’s going on in the Arab sector. Over 40% of Arab youth are neither studying nor working. That, in itself, creates a fertile ground for crime. Those who engage in do not view themselves as criminals. They’re survivalists, doing what is incumbent upon them to feed their families and have a sense of purpose. To that end, they will resort to protection rackets, extortion, death threats and, if required, actual killing sprees.

Over time, the killings, retributions and non-stop cycle of violence shake the ground under the existing social order. Violence, like a cancer, grows. It bleeds into other communities. No one is immune. This phenomenon is by no means exclusive to Israel. It happens in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia and the United States. Now we have it too.

מבצע "שערי שמיים"
Weapons seized in a police operation (Photo: Israel Police)


There are no simple solutions. Even the best-trained and best-equipped police force in the world can’t just stop crime in Palestinian and Arab circles. It is an undertaking that requires both national and local leadership.

It requires expanding and deepening employment opportunities for Arabs with lower levels of education (already underway with industries such as infrastructure, logistics and health), all in conjunction with local Arab leaders to help fill in vacancies. It can’t work without them.

Do we really believe Ben-Gvir is even remotely capable of establishing such a far-reaching, ambitious operation? Can he remove barriers of animosity and apprehension to make it work, or will he only serve to make it worse?

Time will obviously tell, but I, for one, will not be holding my breath.

As reported by Ynetnews