HaShomer HaChadash, an Israeli non-profit organization that deals with guarding open fields against criminals, assisting farmers, and educating about Zionism and agriculture, on Tuesday issued an alarming report on crime, protection extortion, personal security, and agricultural terrorism in Israel. Based on anonymous responses from farmers and business owners across the country, the group’s annual report, for the first time, sheds light on the extent of mafia protection. It also proposes plans to address these issues.
Modeled after the Hashomer Jewish defense organization that was founded in 1909, HaShomer HaChadash was founded in 2007 in response to the Shai Dromi affair. Dromi, an Israeli farmer, shot and killed an intruder and wounded another in self-defense, and was charged with manslaughter. He was eventually acquitted of manslaughter but was convicted on charges of illegal possession of a weapon. The public uproar that followed in response resulted in the “Dromi Law,” which considers opposition to criminal intruders to be self-defense, in one’s home or agricultural facility. The law defined any criminal intrusion as life-threatening.
Mafia protection is a widespread national calamity, affecting almost every area and every business owner in Israel. According to the HaShomer HaChadash survey, 73% of respondents across the country reported experiencing attempts to extort protection payments, with around 40% admitting to paying. Business owners and farmers in peripheral areas are particularly vulnerable to protection and blackmail. Many reported that were forced to handle the situation on their own: 55% of respondents said they did not report blackmail attempts to the police due to concern for maintaining their anonymity and mistrust in the police’s ability to offer adequate protection. In southern Israel, citizens live in a constant state of fear for their lives, with half of those surveyed expressing high levels of concern regarding the criminal activity associated with protection extortion.
HaShomer HaChadash’s personal security survey reveals that in 2022, more than 38% of the Israelis surveyed experienced a decline in their sense of security. Specifically, Jews report feeling less safe when walking in Arab cities (89%), and driving on Negev roads (80%). The Arab community is facing an even more significant deterioration in their sense of personal security, with a decrease in feeling secure when walking in Jewish cities from 70% in 2021 to 46% in 2022, in their residential areas (39%), and regarding property damage (46%).
The survey reveals that personal security was a significant factor in citizens’ voting decisions in the November 1 election, with 79% saying that it influenced their vote.
A survey focused on establishing a National Guard to address internal security concerns, the number of individuals willing to volunteer to this outfit grew from 27% in May 2022 to 33% in January 2023. Also, 70% of respondents believe the country is not adequately prepared for future incidents of violence, an 11% increase from the previous survey conducted in May 2022.
Agricultural terrorism impacted 80% of the surveyed Israeli farmers in 2022. HaShomer HaChadash’s report shows that farms suffered an average of 15 incidents of agricultural crime in 2022, and the damage to each farm is estimated at tens of thousands of shekels.
Arson and extortion of protection money are the primary causes of Israeli farmers’ financial losses, amounting to more than NIS 500,000 in damage from arson and NIS 120,000 from protection payments. Unfortunately, most farmers who report such incidents to the police do not receive satisfactory attention. Consequently, farmers demand changing the existing laws, with 91% believing that the penalties for agricultural crimes are not enough of a deterrent.
HaShomer HaChadash volunteers made a significant impact in 2022, leading to a decrease of 42% in reported damages by farmers who received assistance from the organization. Farmers reported that the active presence of these volunteers was most effective in reducing criminal incidents.
CEO and founder of HaShomer HaChadash Yoel Zilberman said: “The State of Israel has long neglected the development and construction of personal security measures, which has brought us to the brink of an abyss. This period has been marked by a severe crisis of public trust and numerous challenges that threaten our sense of unity and trust in a common future. The country is experiencing a loss of governance, a proven formula for disaster. It is crucial to come together and take joint action that bridges our divides. The loss of personal security poses a significant threat, but it also offers a tremendous opportunity for our society.”