The gaps between Jews and Arabs revealed by a new report that analyzed Israel’s enforcement of the laws against incitement over the past seven years are too large to be viewed as strictly quantitative. This data, compiled by the Israel Religious Action Center, shows a qualitative difference as well. That isn’t surprising, but it’s nevertheless hard to swallow.
The report’s findings ought to keep all Israelis who care about democracy awake at night. In fully 77 percent of the indictments the prosecution filed for incitement to either violence or racism in recent years, the defendants were Arabs. With regard to incitement committed by Jews, the report said, “The data clearly show an insufficient enforcement policy” (Or Kashti and Chen Maanit, Monday).
When it comes to Arab inciters, indictments are filed in record time; half of Arab defendants were charged within a month. But when it comes to Jewish inciters, the system has time – one to six years after the crime was committed. According to the report, the prosecution’s handling of incitement complaints against Jews is “characterized by foot-dragging and delays.”
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The discrimination is also blatant in conviction rates. With only two exceptions, all the indictments against Arabs during the years in question ended in conviction, compared to only two-thirds of the indictments against Jews. And it’s better to be Jewish when it comes to sentencing as well. For instance, 54 percent of convicted Jews weren’t sentenced to any jail time, which was true for just 1 percent of convicted Arabs.
Yet another disturbing finding in the report is that even though most of the incitement complaints submitted to law enforcement agencies in recent years were against public figures, only eight such people were actually charged. And here too, if you’re a public figure accused of incitement, it pays to be Jewish. Six of those eight were Arabs – five Muslim clerics and one poet, Dareen Tatour. According to the report’s authors, there has been “a long, thunderous silence about the wild, unbridled incitement of rabbis who pretend to base themselves on Jewish law.” But this policy of restraint doesn’t apply to Muslim clerics, the report noted, and it is not applied equally to Jews and Arabs.
The gaps in the treatment of Jewish and Arab inciters are so dramatic, with regard to the rate at which indictments are filed, the conviction rate and the severity of the sentences, that there’s no choice but to conclude that de facto, there are two parallel legal universes here – one reserved for Jewish Israelis and the other for Arab Israelis. These gaps show that in the eyes of the law enforcement agencies, Arab Israelis are more dangerous than Jewish ones. And the message they send to Jewish Israelis is “incite to your heart’s content.”
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.