This article in The Intercept says that the police response to the recent surge of violence in Israel has been "almost exclusively" against Palestinians (Israeli Arabs), even though "both sides were accused of mob violence":

Now, with the dust beginning to settle on the worst of the violence, the very discrimination that gave rise to Palestinian discontent is again becoming apparent. Over the past several days, Israel launched a campaign of mass arrests against Palestinians in mixed cities who were accused, often without specific evidence, of rioting. No such sweeps were made to arrest Jewish Israelis accused of mob violence.

The article cites the number of "1,600 Palestinians arrested" (another article in Le Monde [fr;paywall] says "close to 2,000"). In the article witnesses accuse the police of protecting or ignoring violence when committed by Jewish people, for example:

“We’ve seen certain houses being marked by mobs by day, only to be attacked by night. This is terrifying because they are aided by the police directly, or indirectly when they turn a blind eye.”

The article argues that the Israeli police routinely discriminates against Palestinians:

Abou Shehadeh said there is a current movement to ask for international protection for Palestinians inside Israel. “The police are against you. The media is against you,” he said. “We have lost any basic feeling of security."

Is the Israeli police and justice system discriminatory against Israeli Arabs?

  • 2
    If your question is "is the justice system designed by politicians to be discriminatory" that is a political question. If the question is "are they institutionally, or culturally discriminatory", that would seem not to have a political flavour. The UK police were found to be institutionally racist, but there wasn't a political decision to make them racist. It was the combined conscious and unconscious bias of the police that made it so. The question should make the political aspect clearer.
    – James K
    Jun 4, 2021 at 11:22
  • 2
    @JamesK: given that the police/justice system is a crucial part of a democracy, I'd say that whether it is functioning properly or not is a political topic by itself.
    – Erwan
    Jun 4, 2021 at 14:25

1 Answer 1


See the following literature study in a 2015 article by Giora Rahav, Yoram Rabin, and Eppi Yuchtman-Yaar:

The presence of biases in the judicial process has occupied Israeli investigators since the late 1970s. In 1978, Haj-Yahya, Rahav and Teichman showed that Arab juvenile delinquents received harsher dispositions than Jewish delinquents. They argued that this was not due to ethnic discrimination because Arab delinquents were dealt with by Arab probation officers. Rahav used similar data and arrived at similar conclusions. Palmor and Cohen extended the study of probation officers and their recommendations by studying young adults and examining both the probation officers' recommendations and the courts’ decisions. The authors adopted the conclusions of the earlier studies, adding that "the courts tend to amplify the inequality" between Arabs and Jews. ...

It would seem that Rattner and Fishman have produced the most significant study. The authors checked approximately 60,000 criminal files handled during the period of 1980–1992 and tested the probability of file closure, conviction, and prison sentencing of Arabs and Jews. They found that after controlling for the type of offense and the offender's age, gender, and past criminal record, Arabs generally received harsher dispositions. The differences were very small, and somewhat more favorable to Arabs for case closure, but were considerable and harsher for Arabs in terms of the rates of conviction and imprisonment.

Included among the newer developments in this area is the Fishman, Rattner and Turjeman paper that analyzed the outcomes of 1,394 cases of violent offenses handled in a single District Court. A unique element of this study was that the authors tried to control for not only the ethnicity of the accused, but also that of the victim and the judge. The authors found a consistent tendency among Jewish judges to be more lenient with Jewish defendants. Arab judges seemed to be unaffected by the defendant's ethnicity, although the picture may be complicated by the four combinations of victim and defendant ethnicities.

The most recent addition to this body of literature is the Gazal-Ayal and Sulitzeanu-Keinan paper that tested the initial detention decisions in 1,852 cases. They found that Arab suspects were indeed more likely to be detained. However, once a decision to detain was reached, no ethnic bias was displayed regarding the length of that detention.

Disparities Between Jews and Arabs in the Israeli Criminal Justice System

The authors conclude: "This survey of the literature conveys the following general picture: Arabs seem to be treated more harshly by the Israeli criminal justice system." The authors conduct their own statistical analys and conclude:

The study has produced several meaningful findings. First, Arab defendants are more likely to receive harsher penalties than their Jewish counterparts. The difference between Arabs and Jews is greater for prison than for suspended prison terms and greater for suspended prison terms than for fines. Second, the difference between the groups begins at the early pre-trial stage when a decision is taken as to whether to prosecute or to cancel the case. And third, once we distinguish between the type of penalty and its severity, it seems that the source of the difference lies in the decision concerning the type of penalty rather than its severity. Finally, there is no period effect: the year of the trial does not have any significant impact. Thus, the Intifada and its aftermath has not left any visible trace on the processes that we have examined. Generally speaking, these findings are consistent with former studies concerning the difference between the disposition of Arab and Jewish offenders. That is, in various stages of the judicial process, Arabs receive a more severe disposition. It should be emphasized that the biases observed are mostly small and non-significant. However, since the process involves multiple stages, these small biases accumulate

We cannot determine the source of the differences between the two groups. The simplest explanation is that the courts are biased and discriminatory.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .