A society at the breaking point - مركز مساواة لحقوق المواطنين العرب في اسرائيل

A society at the breaking point


After the third death in October in one village, thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel are taking to the streets


The crisis that is engulfing Arab society in Israel is social, political and economic. The casualties thus far have amounted to the size of a village: more than 1,385 dead and thousands wounded. Tens of thousands of children are growing up in a cycle of violence and fear. On top of this, the shadow of curfews loom over entire villages, students are afraid to go to schools and courses, while families live in fear of vengeance.


Any society that is excluded from decision-making processes and neglected in the distribution of resources is bound to feel disconnected from the law of the land. A society that has almost no banks allows crime syndicates, often organized along family lines, to monopolize the functions of a bank. A society that has no legal infrastructure and a dwindling social justice system is forced to comply with rules imposed by family crime. A society deprived of cultural institutions is susceptible to a culture of gangs.  A society without basic road safety will lose drivers to roads accidents. A society without vocational training for its workers will face avoidable deaths on its construction sites.  In a society undergoing rapid and forced modernization, it is women who too often pay the price of murder, violence and exclusion. In Arab areas, crime syndicates intervene in disputes, as well as setting laws and prices. Crime syndicates force security upon to businesses. In Arab society, anyone who insists that the police will protect his business will be met with an unpleasant surprise from the crime syndicates. Those who report the threats are at risk of revenge attacks.


The new cash law passed in 2018 and the financial transparency directives approved by the Knesset deepen the black market in Arab society. In the absence of a well-organized banking system, businesses and individuals are turning to black market loans. In a town like Jisr az-Zarqa, where more than 14,000 residents live, there is no branch for any bank. As a result of Mossawa’s advocacy, Bank Hapoalim recently agreed to reach the town with mobile service every two weeks, but many remain without banking services. Meanwhile, dozens of businesses have become money lenders for people who need cash. People who held cash in their homes would not be able to deposit the funds in arranged banks after the cash law. The ultra-Orthodox have proposed a gradual transition to the implementation of the law by the Ministry of Finance and the Bank of Israel. Without a legal outlet, law-abiding Arab citizens have begun transferring funds to purchase apartments in Turkey, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. The crime syndicates that have accumulated hundreds of millions worth of money have injected the funds into the markets and began offering loans to anyone in need. The money from drugs, firearms and other deals went back to the markets in the form of loans for families and businesses. Meanwhile, anyone who did not meet the refund conditions could be subject to violence. Those who refuse to repay their debts become risks serious injury or even death. Often their families are forced to pay their debt. The concept of insolvency does not exist in the Arab localities. Recurring checks are handed over to the crime syndicates by the victim’s families and these are extracted to the last cent.


In every ordinary society, there are criminals. The vast majority, however, are law-abiding citizens who are more concerned with the daily challenges of life. Unemployment among young Arabs and young people dropping out of the education system is a key driving force behind these crime syndicates. The crisis has reached a point whereby an assassination can cost you NIS 10,000, while injuring somebody costs half the price.


We have reached this new low as a result of two processes. The first is the Netanyahu government’s attempt to show that all Arabs "are like that." As the threat from the usual suspect - Hamas, Hezbollah and Fatah – diminishes, the Palestinians next door become the object of their incitement. The political convenience of Arab-on-Arab violence fuels the authorities’ inaction. Their excuses that these localities are “no-go zones” do not stand up to scrutiny. A police force that is able to find the murderers of a Jewish merchant in Arab city of Kafr Qasim is surely able to find the hundreds of murderers who killed 1385 Arab civilians. The political echelon and the Israeli media have not created the necessary pressure on law enforcement systems. From their response, it can be understood that crime and violence will occupy Arab society and keep it away from political pursuits. Secondly, in the absence of resources for equality and integration into the labor market, it is expedient for the Arabs to fight among themselves. The Treasury Department understands that the Arab community provides 25% of the country’s young manpower and that its marginalization is slowing economic growth.


In the absence of political will to address the crisis in Arab society, we are faced with two alternatives: The first is to wait for the series “Fauda” to end so that the Shin Bet could return to their work. The second option is to reach a settlement and formalise the Arab banking system. The public outcry this week means the top monitoring committee must produce results. If this battle is lost, it will create two legal and financing systems in the same country.


Jafar Farah, Director of the Mossawa Center, the Advocacy Center for Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.

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