Opinion |

Are Israelis More or Less Violent Than Their Potential?

The high levels of violence in Israeli society reflect the reality in the occupied territories.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Israeli soldiers making arrest of Palestinians in Hebron, West Bank.
Israeli soldiers making arrest of Palestinians in Hebron, West Bank. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The reports of a rise in the levels of violence in the education and health systems in Israel have also reached those living in the black hole beyond the Israel Defense Forces pillboxes. They too hear and read about the of use of violence by high-school students against their teachers, students against other students, a patient against nurses or doctors. So much so that protests and warning strikes were held in both systems recently.

Those living in the black hole do not understand the astonishment behind those protests. The only appropriate astonishment, in their opinion, is that there are not more expressions of violence in Jewish-Israeli society.

If we judge according to the personal and social estimations in Israel, then physical violence has indeed risen in recent years, and along with the spread of the social networking culture, verbal violence has increased too.

The national index of violence released by the Public Security Ministry in 2014 found that from 2003 to 2010, some 620,000 crimes of violence were committed every year on average. Between 2010 and 2012, this number may have fallen, according to the index, but they were more serious. The 18-to-44 age group committed most of the violent crimes reported to the Israel Police, and in most of these cases – what a surprise – the attackers were men. In addition, both the attackers and their victims were usually of the same religious background.

We must now wait for the release of the new national violence index in order to see if it proves, or refutes, our subjective emotions, and to again compare our situation to that in the other OECD countries. Based on the 2014 index, Israel’s rate for robbery was lower than in the rest of this prestigious club of developed nations, but the level of violent assaults was much higher: 700 incidents per 100,000 people, compared to only 300 per 100,000 on average in the OECD.

Those living behind the barbed wire fences attribute the violence in Israeli society directly to the regular, routine violence that was used, and is being used, in the building, reinforcement and maintenance of the separation regime (apartheid in Afrikaans).

This violence is not included in the statistics of the police reports.

These natural commentators on Israeli conduct say that many generations of Israelis were raised on the conclusion that aggression and violence pay off. As reality proves. Aggression and violence have become their mother tongue, they are an integral part of their gestures and human relations, in their way of thinking. They are not exceptional, so are not considered aggression and violence.

Why should Jews, certified land thieves, not provide inspiration to those who rob the elderly as they leave the bank with their piteous National Insurance Institute allowances (and this comes in addition to the official capitalistic thievery that is included in unjust wages)?

Why should someone who for three years of their lives, at least, the most natural gesture was to load a rifle and aim it at a civilian population, not conclude that attacking women is their birthright, and those who signed demolition and expropriation orders not upgrade them to embezzlement and computer crimes? And why should someone who attacks a nurse or teacher who they feel has caused them injustice expect to be punished, when thousands of armed Israelis who killed and wounded hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are not only not put on trial as murderers, but are defined in spoken Zionism as heroes?

Yet, it is also possible to deny the linear relationship between the two phenomena. To the same extent, it is possible to conclude that the levels of violence are actually lower than their potential levels in Jewish-Israeli society.

Soldiers who regularly threaten Palestinian children in Hebron do not become beaters of their own children, and architects who forced walls, bypass roads and luxury suburbs only for Jews onto the Palestinian social fabric are not more violent than average toward their neighbors and wives. The pleasure of violence is satisfied, and the aggression regularly exhausts its usefulness in ways that enjoy social and institutional encouragement.

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