The Shin Bet is no answer to poverty

After the number of Arab casualties passed 100 this year, Naftali Bennett declared that he takes the issue of violence in Arab society most seriously. At an October 17 government discussion on the issue, he went so far as to say that “we are losing the country. ” The Ministry of Justice is also preparing a package of laws that will permit house searches without a warrant, and economic laws are being designed to fight crime. Bennett announced that he himself would oversee a special cabinet to deal with the issue, and he appointed a project manager to head its staff, which includes the police, the Shin Bet (General Security Service) and the army. It appears that the cries of MKs and heads of the Arab councils have finally reached the ears of the country’s captains, in the sense of: “You asked for it? You got it, and got it big.” What accelerated this concern at the top were the events of May during the last Gaza war, when thousands of young Arabs went out to main intersections, and the mixed cities became battlefields between Jews and Arabs. Along with casualties, this fire consumed businesses, cars, buses and everything in its path. Taken by surprise, the government returned the concept of “governance” to its agenda.

The prevailing opinion is that Israel has a strong army, an omnipotent Shin Beth and a weak police force. The army and Shin Beth have proven they can solve complex problems. As proof, Israel has lived beside the territories it occupies for 54 years. Referring to the Palestinians, Bennett even coined the term “shrapnel in the butt” – something unpleasant, but you can live with it. The army and Shin Beth may excel in exerting control over another people, but they have never solved problems of a social and national nature, nor are they intended to do so. The Palestinian problem remains unsettled, erupting in different ways every few months.

What can the army, police and Shin Beth do about the fact that 40% of Arab youth are not in any occupational or educational setting? What can the Shin Beth do about youth who are careful to point their weapons not at the state and its Jewish citizens, but inwards against Arabs? And it is also worth asking how Shin Beth intervention can be justified, when the motive for violence is not nationalist but socioeconomic?

Violence is a product of the existing socioeconomic system, which has marginalized the poor countries of the world, as well as the underprivileged in rich countries. When 40% of youth do not work or study, the result is crime, drugs and violence, regardless of religion or nationality. In fact, crime among US blacks is much greater than in Israel, and among black youth, those who do not study or work exceed 40%.

Israel should learn from America’s bitter experience. It made excessive use of draconian legislation that filled the prisons with a million inmates, mostly black. The arming of police resulted in the deaths of innocent black civilians and quite a few police. Black society sees the police as the problem, not the solution to the violence that rages within it, and rightly so. That is why the Biden administration decided to bring about change, with support of the black leadership. The Democratic Party wants to inject the huge sum of $ 5 trillion in direct assistance to citizens and renewal of physical infrastructure, bringing back many components of the welfare state. Biden and the Democrats reject the principle that the state is the problem, instead adopting the principle that the role of the state is to serve the citizen. Reagan’s conservative revolution, long maintained by the both major parties, ended with the rise of Donald Trump.

Poverty in Israel is not limited to Arab society. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish citizens are also left on the margins: these include people on minimum wage, temporary and contractor workers, and those who must live on meagre social security. It is clear that Arab society, like black society in the US, is the first victim of the existing economic system, because the tier of national discrimination is added.

The Biden administration, as well as leaders of the black community in the United States, understand that there is no separate solution for blacks and whites. Americans need to rebuild their economy from the bottom up, contrary to what has happened to date. In Israel, on the other hand, neoliberalism continues to dominate and the economy works for the rich. 300,000 high-tech workers act as the locomotive of the Israeli economy, attract foreign investment, get rich quick and enrich the state coffers. Behind them remain the crumbs with which other workers are forced to make do. These crumbs are tossed into Jewish society, and nothing remains for the Arabs. When you build from the top down, poverty grows and breeds violence.

The Bennett-Meretz-United Arab List (UAL) government is working to approve a budget dubbed “social”, thus ensuring its continuity. Yet this budget has no good social news. Finance officials continue to dictate the policy that sees the “bloated” state apparatus as the problem. The so-called reforms in question do nothing more than extinguish fires, and are far from meeting the need for a change in priorities. Give another NIS 500 to the elderly, as if this amount will save them from the shortage of food and medicine; impose a congestion charge to rescue Israel from traffic jams; provide a few hundred more jobs to solve the unbearable burden in hospitals, and impose a tax on disposable utensils to deal with environmental pollution.

This is not a comprehensive plan designed to rebuild growth and the economy to locate the foci of poverty and eradicate social gaps and discrimination. This is a program that maintains the budget framework at all costs, and upholds the same method that hundreds of thousands of young Israelis protested against in 2011. In fact, the Bennett government is continuing Netanyahu’s policy, approving a five-year, NIS 26 billion plan for the Arab sector through 2026. The problem is that only 60% of the amount allocated to the previous five-year plan (992) and approved by the Netanyahu government was ever used. Moreover, today we also know that some of these funds flowed in various forms to criminal organizations on the Arab street through unfair tenders. It is known that earmarked funds allocated to Arab society do not solve the problem, for two reasons. Due to its clan composition, Arab local government suffers from corruption and failed performance. In numerous cases, staff are hired not because of skills, but because they belong to the right family. Secondly, NIS 5 billion a year is not enough to make a real revolution. These funds are designed to keep the Arabs with their head above water, but not to grow and integrate.

The Arab leadership’s insistence on trying to address the problem in a sectoral manner, without a comprehensive look at Israeli society and the existing neoliberal economic system, leaves Arab society weak, isolated and devoid of any political influence. UAL’s participation in the government is intended to obtain budgets for the Arab sector in the same way used by the ultra-Orthodox parties. Yet these budgets nourish and perpetuate poverty, and do not solve fundamental problems in education, employment, transportation and welfare. Like its predecessor, the new Israeli government is unwilling to invest in these areas. It continues to starve the public sector, works to privatize government companies to hurt workers’ wages, harms employee pensions, encourages high-tech at the expense of creating jobs that pay a salary above minimum wage, and remains stubbornly unwilling to invest in vocational training.

The black leadership in the United States has become a leader in the struggle for democracy and social justice for all Americans – black and white alike. In contrast, the Arab leadership in Israel sticks to old slogans, differentiates itself from the Israeli public, and leaves the political arena in the hands of the right and its partners from the left. These pretend to fight for citizens, but in the meantime are abusing Palestinians, leaving workers in poverty, and Arab society rooted in poverty and violence.

About Yacov Ben Efrat