Photo Credit: David Cohen/FLASH90
Israeli Arabs protest against violence, organized crime and recent killings in their communities, October 3, 2019.

Dr. Nohad Ali, Academic Advisor for Safe Communities at Abraham Initiatives, presented to a Knesset committee a survey he conducted which indicates that only 16.7% of Arab Israelis are pleased with the Israel Police efforts to fight organized crime families that are also connected to the grey market and financial crimes in the Arab sector.

The Special Committee on Eradicating Crime in Arab Society, chaired by MK Mansour Abbas (Joint List), convened last week to discuss the fight against organized crime, and specifically financial crimes in the Arab sector’s grey market.

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“I am particularly concerned because families take out loans, and, in Arab society, it is difficult to get bank loans. Loans in the grey market are available on every Arab street corner and are sometimes given at the home, and these loans will have to be returned,” said Committee Chairman MK Abbas. “This is very worrying. The collection will take place, as usual, with threats, extortion, arson, shooting, and stabbings, and if we do not do something now, we will regret it when a crime wave the likes of which we have never seen before will come in a few months, and we will pay a heavy death toll.”

Sharon Friedman, head of economic enforcement at the State Prosecutor’s Office, said the phenomenon can be curbed by issuing fines to citizens who take out loans in the grey market. “The phenomenon can be fought through the pocket,” he said. “Over the past few months, intensive work has been carried out in Arab society, and to achieve results, long-term intelligence must be gathered, which will eventually bring very respectable results.”

Prof. Badi Hasisi, Chair of the Institute of Criminology at Hebrew University, argued that increasing punishment will not necessarily eradicate the problem. “The discussion surrounding crime in Arab society is reminiscent of the discussions that were held in Italy about Sicily – what stood out was lack of governance, which led to the broken windows theory. This, essentially, invites disorder,” Hasisi said.

“What’s important is to solve the problem from its root,” he continued. “And at the root is, essentially, the internal conflict. The soldiers of the [crime] organizations are the reason they take over. These are young people who are members of the population, who are lured with high pay. They forget about their future, the importance of education, and other things,” he told the committee.

Prof. Hasisi suggested locating at-risk youngsters and removing them from the circle of crime organizations. “These youngsters are the soldiers of the families that sit in the community and are supported by the community itself,” he said.

Committee Chairman MK Abbas said the committee would hold another hearing on the issue after the Jewish holidays.

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