Umm al-Fahm
Umm al-FahmYahi Gavarin/TPS

In conversation with Israel National News, the Israeli professor of Arab culture, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, addressed the rising violence in Arab society, what drives it, and what the political echelon is missing in its desire to fight the current wave of violence: "We have to make a cultural change here. It is not a one-stroke solution."

Dr. Kedar first addressed the question, “Do we truly understand the internal issues in the Arab society?” and answered: "I think the policemen in the field and the enforcement agents understand this because they deal with crime every day. I am not sure how much the public and the politicians understand the problem. Everyone knows how to recite the fact that there are 159 fatalities. The question is what is behind this number, and there are several factors here."

"First of all, there is a lack of enforcement measures, such as spyware and manpower, etc., but in the Arab society there is a cultural issue. First, the unfortunate and very common matter of murdering girls on the grounds of family honor, something that almost does not exist in Jewish society. Second, the issue of clans – because the Arab society is clan-based, the criminal gangs are like that. Why is this important? Because it is very difficult to penetrate such a clan, when everyone knows everyone else from the age of zero. The police can occasionally introduce an undercover agent into Jewish crime families, gather information, and file charges. But it is very difficult to do this with the Arab families, because they don't accept anyone into their midst."

"Third – there is a kind of chain reaction. A large part of the violence in the Arab sector stems from collecting debts through violence. People who do not repay debts, and then violent people come and hurt them. This is a very interesting story. An Arab who needs money, for example to build a house, the banks hardly provide mortgages, because if a person does not pay back the mortgage, the bank sells the house, etc."

Regarding buying houses in Arab communities, he said: "In the Arab world, if a person does not keep up with payments, no one will buy the house, because no one will dare to live in a house that someone else built. Whoever owes the bank may also harm that potential buyer. Therefore, banks in the Arab communities do not like to give mortgages, and the loans are taken out in the gray market, which, as mentioned, is very violent in matters of collection."

"Another issue is the story of tenders in local government. Most villages are not comprised of one clan, but 2, 3 or even more. And as soon as someone from one clan attains a position in local leadership, he will provide sustenance for his family, through contracts, etc. Where is the problem? The clans of the other families are infuriated as to why all the money and tenders go biasedly to only one family. Then they start fighting. After all, for what purpose did that family bring that person to power? To have money for work."

Dr. Kedar commented on the timing of the current wave of violence and murders, shortly before the local government elections this coming October: "The local government elections in the Arab communities are highly charged, because of their tremendous economic significance. Unfortunately, this violence always erupts right before elections. An election year in the Arab sector is always extremely sensitive. Another thing is the issue of voting in 'Balkim' – the night before the elections, suitcases full of money circulate among the residents of the village, as an election bribe so that entire families vote for a certain candidate. The crime families check this in different ways, and if the people who received the money did not vote for the candidate they were paid to vote for, a wave of violence begins."

At the end, Dr. Kedar explained the actions that need to be taken, which he believes will bring about the long-awaited change: "There is something to be done, but it is a long-term investment. There is a need for a cultural change here. It is not a one-stroke solution. The moment it stems from culture, it is impossible to carry out different actions and still expect the change to come. In addition, of course, there is the issue of enforcement, which creates strong deterrence in Arab society. To have the Income Tax Authority demand answers from them; to ask a person how it is possible that he is unemployed but buys a Mercedes for NIS 800,000; to hand out fines and pressure the crime families in this sense. The break in this wave of violence, unfortunately, will only come after the elections. As long as we are still preceding the elections, we will continue to see this severe wave of violence."