Criminalization of a Political Conflict:
Crime within the Israeli Arab Population in the Fifties
Dr. Alina Korn

The essay deals with crime within the Israeli Arab population during the  period of the military government (1948-1966).Unlike earlier studies, which have ignored  the special political and legal status of Arab  Israeli citizens, this essay examines the general relationship between crime, law and politics. It focuses on the increasing number of offences due to the submission of the Arab population to military rule.

The major existing theories about crime among the Israeli Arab minority, which have been developed by Israeli criminologists, need some revision. The models of culture conflict and anomie – increasing social disorganization and value confusion resulting from modernization – are not irrelevant, but rather redundent and one-dimensional to explain the realities of Arab crime and delinquency. The general criminological literature, discussing the historical and political meaning of crime within the colonial context, or within the context of a conflict between different ethnic groups, might be relevant as well, since those accounts analyse the relationship between crime and the political system, and examine the ways in which a dominant group makes political use of legal mechanisms and criminalization, in order to control another ethnic or national group and to impose political, social or economic changes.

The essay explicates the political context in which patterns of crime among adult Arab Israeli population appeared and were constructed. The data is based on official criminal statistics, as recorded in police files between 1948 and the end of 1967. Unlike the official statistical classification, which ignores the existence of many political offences specific to Arabs, I suggest a different classification, which distinguishes between three broad categories of offences: (a) "pure" political offences (b) "conventional” criminal offences and (c) "political status" offences.

The category of “political status offences” refers to offences that are related, by their definition and application, to the political status of their perpetrators. These offences are the result of legislation which defined certain actions as criminal only when performed by Arabs, or offences which were enforced almost exclusively upon Arabs. Hence, it is necessary that the “political status” offences be differentiated from both the "conventional" criminal offences and the "pure" political offences. Most of the offences in this category are violations of the restrictions imposed upon Arabs through the military government, based on the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, 1945, and offences against laws restricting the entry of non-citizens to Israel which defined the very presence of many Arabs within the boundaries of the state as illegal.

The findings exhibit that political status offences constituted a major part of the crime among the Arab population in the 1950's and 1960's, and contributed largely to its high crime rates. An examination of the content of convictions for offences against the Defence (Emergency) Regulations shows that only few of the offenders (approximately 5%) violated the regulations with malicious or criminal intent, or with any intent to harm the state's security. Most of the convictions were an unavoidable result of the political control, which was imposed on most areas of Arabs' lives.