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Crime and Legal Control: The Israeli Arab Population During the Military Government Period (1948-66)

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 40 Issue: 4 Dated: Autumn 2000 Pages: 574-593
Alina Korn
Geoffrey Pearson
Date Published
20 pages
This paper deals with crime and criminalization of the Israeli Arab population during the military government from 1948 to 1966; the author contends that the instrumental use of criminal law, both in terms of content and methods of enforcement, played a role in creating crime and delinquency among Arabs.
Contrary to previous research that has ignored the unique political and legal status of Palestinian citizens of Israel, the paper examines the relationship between crime, law, and politics and focuses on offenses that increased in number as a result of military rule. Most of these offenses were violations of restrictions imposed on Arabs throughout the period of the military government, based on the Defense (Emergency) Regulations of 1945, and offenses against laws that defined as illegal the very presence of many Arabs within the boundaries of the State of Israel. Most Arab citizens did not take the risk of traveling without a permit or exceeding the permit's terms. In addition to penalties imposed, anyone caught without a permit was targeted and was subjected to possible refusal of a permit in the future. However, travel restrictions constituted a heavy burden that the Arab community was not able to bear and violations were virtually inevitable. Arab citizens were arrested in areas where they were forbidden to go and were continually indicted and convicted for offenses exceeding the terms of their permits and for exit or entry into forbidden areas. From the early 1960's to the end of the decade, there was a marked decrease in conviction rates for these offenses. Beginning in August 1959, travel restrictions were progressively removed and the military government was abolished in December 1966. However, despite the reduction in convictions for offenses against the Defense Regulations, these continued to be characterized as political status offenses even in the years following abolition of the military government, with numerous Arabs being convicted for these offenses. In 1967, use of the Defense Regulations decreased inside Israel but was extended in areas under the jurisdiction of the military government in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The author indicates that travel-related political offenses constituted a major part of crime among the Arab population in the 1950's and 1960's and contributed to high crime rates but does not believe that high crime rates among Arabs can be explained only by objective social differences between Arabs and Jews. Further, the author maintains that legal control has been an important mechanism for regulating relations between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority. 72 references, 20 footnotes, and 2 tables