Do Prolonged States of Warfare Affect the Level of Violence in Israeli Society?

Simha F. Landau, Hebrew University

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, fear of terrorism and concern for personal security have become widespread phenomena in the major industrialized countries of the western world. It is still too early to know the effects of this new situation on crime patterns in general and violent crimes in particular. On the other hand, Israeli society has been living under a constant threat to its security, both on the national and the personal level for more than five decades already. This threat has increased drastically since the outbreak of renewed violence between Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the end of September 2000 (the so-called 'El-Aqsa Intifada'). The aim of this paper is to analyze the relationship between prolonged states of warfare and various aspects of violence, focusing on the Israeli experience as a case study and thereby, testing the applicability of various criminological (and other) theoretical models. I begin my analysis by outlining general trends in violent crime in Israel over time. I then present a brief discussion of security-related stress in Israeli society and introduce a number of conceptual models relating stress and violence. Empirical evidence in support of these models is then provided, together with a brief account of some unique measures of stress developed by me in the course of my research on violence in Israel (objective/subjective indicators of stress and social support). This is followed by the examination of the possible brutalizing effects of the El-Aqsa Intifada on Israeli society. My basic thesis is that the patterns of violent crime are closely related to a number of stress factors in Israeli society, the most prominent being security-related stress.

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Updated 05/20/2006