Study Reveals Complex Dynamics of Jewish Settler and Arab Violence in Israel

Study Reveals Complex Dynamics of Jewish Settler and Arab Violence in Israel

A study spanning 2009-2022, sheds light on the issue of Jewish settler violence in Israel. A direct correlation between the escalation of serious Arab violence and Jewish violence was found, as was a negative relationship between state actions against Arab violence, suggesting a self-defense response. At the same time, formal responses against Jewish violence tend to be associated with increases rather than decreases.The results underscore the importance of consistent and balanced law enforcement approaches.

Jewish settler violence in Israel and its territories has become a focal point in the media and for policy makers, yet research on the topic is scant. An interesting study by Dr. Michael Wolfowicz and Phd student Esther Salama from the Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has unveiled critical insights into the complex interplay between violence, formal and informal responses, and the broader sociopolitical context.

The study, spanning the period of 2009-2022, combines data from the Israel Security Agency, the Palestinian Authority, the United Nations, and open sources. Employing Generalized Negative-Binomial models and Newey-West OLS models, the research explores the hypothesis that Jewish violence functions as a form of social reaction, self-help, and social control, influenced by Arab violence in conjunction with government inaction and selectivity in its responses.

The study reveals a direct correlation whereby increases in serious Arab violence leads to increases in Jewish violence, providing evidence that Jewish violence may be, at least in part, a response to perceived threats and a means of self-defense.

Moreover, Jewish violence tends to decrease when formal responses towards Arab violence are more pronounced. However, the study highlights unintended consequences of harsh measures targeting Jewish violence, particularly administrative detention orders, which may exacerbate the problem rather than deter it. As such, the results emphasize the importance of a consistent and balanced approach to law enforcement and justice.

The research underscores the utility of traditional criminological frameworks in understanding collective violence, specifically vigilantism, as in the case of Jewish violence. Drawing parallels with previous studies on violent extremism and hate crime, the findings suggest that common perceptions of the causes of collective violence may actually reflect its effects.

The study also emphasizes the need for balanced and evidence-based approaches to reduce collective violence, cautioning against the counterproductive nature of excessively harsh measures. While ordinary incapacitation measures show potential for small but meaningful reductions, anti-terrorism-oriented measures may not be as effective in curbing vigilantism and may in fact exacerbate the situation.
The research paper titled “Returning to the Wild West: Jewish violence, social reaction, self-help and social control” is now available in the International Annals of Criminology and can be accessed at
Michael Wolfowicz1, Esther Salama1
1) Institute of Criminology, Faculty of Law, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Regions: Middle East, Israel
Keywords: Society, Social Sciences


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