Gangland violence in Israel. A mark of progress?

November 17, 2008

A beeper buzzed on the newsdesk of the Jerusalem bureau with a stark message in Hebrew: “Preliminary report – blast on bus on Namir Road in Tel Aviv”.

The information came from the Zaka emergency services, whose ultra-Orthodox Jewish volunteers were usually the first on the scene of suicide bombings on Israeli commuter buses during a Palestinian uprising that began in 2000. Their job: to collect body parts for burial.

But it’s been nine months since a Palestinian suicide bomber last struck in Israel and four years since a bus was blown up.

Thankfully, Zaka got it wrong.

It was a car that exploded, and the driver killed in the blast was a reputed mafia kingpin, Yaakov (The Don) Alperon, a colourful figure in a signature hat whose family is locked in conflict with a string of rivals. Alperon, who has served several prison terms, had survived a number of attempts on his life.

His luck ran out in a white, rental car on a busy Tel Aviv road after he left a court where his son had just been indicted for alleged extortion and assault. And while Israelis could breathe a sigh of relief that suicide bombings had not returned to their streets, police
swiftly cautioned that Alperon’s death could lead to a fierce mob war that could endanger “civilians”.

Mobsters largely used to kill only their own in Israel. But more and more, bystanders are getting caught in the crossfire.

Two passersby were wounded in the blast that killed Alperon and eight bystanders have died over the past three years in bombings and shootings involving gangsters. Tales of alleged crime lords and their murky dealings on the fringes of politics and Israeli business are regular features of Israel’s front pages these days, easily competing for space with a conflict with the Palestinians that is no longer as bloody as a few years ago.

With such gangland violence fast becoming routine, perhaps the words of Chaim Nachman Bialik, (1873-1934), regarded by Israel as its national poet, have come true. Bialik, who lived in British-ruled Palestine and did not witness the establishment of the Jewish state there in 1948, once wrote: “We will be a normal state when we have the first Hebrew prostitute, the first Hebrew thief and the first Hebrew policeman.”

4 comments

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It’s interesting to read about non-Palestinians being involved in auto explosions. It’s too bad that major U.S. news media attribute all such acts to Palestinian suicide bombers, or by leaving out specific information about who responsible for such acts leads one to believe that Palestinians are responsible.

Posted by Neil Stevens | Report as abusive

The first jews got to Palestina after II Worldwide War believe Israel state could be a “paradise on earth”. However, 60 years after, this country continues involved in a endless war status with the palestinian people, only getting international insulation. Even more, its internal troubles increase quickly: government corruption, common criminality, and recently, a fast growing of inner arabian people on Israel. The last matter is the main change factor in the Jewish character of Israel, and probably, is the way to peace.

Posted by Luis Rodolfo Cabrera Juárez | Report as abusive

Despite that crime levels in Israel are far below those of most countries in the world, and especially lower than those in Britain, the media will not miss a single chance to portray some negative aspect of that country.
One thing has not changed since Bialiks time – Jews are demonized and dehumanized today as they have been in Europe for the past 2000 years.

Posted by Graeme Anderson | Report as abusive

A country where people take innocent Palestinian civilians out of their homes of centuries by gun point and bring in Jewish families in the same hour to move in those same houses. Those new occupants are usually Jews who just recently moved into the country, such a country deserves all kind of miseries.

Posted by Amr | Report as abusive

[...] Gangland violence in Israel. A mark of progress? Reuters UK ,November 18, 2008 It was a car that exploded, and the driver killed in the blast was a reputed mafia kingpin, Yaakov (The Don) Alperon, a colourful figure in a signature hat … [...]