Blind Justice or Blind Justices? On Punitive Discrimination of Arab Criminal Defendants in Israel

Tomer Einat, Sharon Toys

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4 Scopus citations


This article examines discrimination in the Israeli criminal justice system based on the ethnic origin (Jewish or Arab) of both defendants and judges. It does so by analyzing all the motions to revoke convictions of misdemeanors filed by defendants of both ethnicities in magistrate (trial-level courts) and district courts (middle-level courts) over the past twenty years, and by comparing the periods prior to and following the entering into effect of the Penal Law Amendment No. 113, 2012, “Structuring Judicial Discretion in Sentencing.” The findings indicate a significantly higher number of non-revocations of convictions of Arab defendants in comparison to Jewish defendants when tried by Jewish judges and a complete lack of discrimination when Arab judges tried defendants of both ethnicities. In other words, Arab judges did not favor one ethnicity over other. The study also found that district courts hardly ever changed decisions by magistrate courts with regard to either ethnic group. Finally, the structuring of judicial discretion did not have any impact on reducing ethnic gaps in revoking convictions. The overall conclusions are that the Israeli judicial and punitive system discriminates against Arab defendants and that for Jewish defendants, this discrimination occurs only in cases where all or most judges are Jewish.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-781
Number of pages19
JournalCritical Criminology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2021

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© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


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