Yesh Din’s Fuzzy Math: A Comparative Analysis of Global Crime Statistics
- Yesh Din is an Israeli non-governmental organization (NGO) that leads campaigns regarding legal issues in the Israeli justice system, including Israeli investigations into alleged crimes by both security forces and settlers in the West Bank. Yesh Din also regularly engages in legal actions, petitioning the Israeli High Court of Justice to alter what it labels as “discriminatory” policies.
- Yesh Din publishes annual data sheets that include statistics on Israeli investigations in the West Bank. The following study analyzes and compares their claims regarding “ideologically motivated crimes” and Israeli “investigative failures” to official Israeli and international statistics about these issues.
- The study finds that Yesh Din’s research suffers from fundamental methodological and analytical shortcomings. Primarily:
- failure to define key terminology;
- failure to define terms in generally accepted ways;
- unverifiable statistics regarding “ideologically motivated crimes” and “investigative failures”;
- failure to compare statistics regarding the above crimes to cases in other Western countries;
- baseless condemnation of Israeli State prosecution and reporting rates for hate crimes.
- Yesh Din alleges a “trend of protracted failure regarding investigations into ideologically motivated offenses committed against Palestinians.” However, when comparing the figures provided by Yesh Din with those of the Israeli government and Western counterparts, Israel falls within the international norm. Therefore, Yesh Din’s claim that Israel’s investigatory process is a “failure” is more of a political statement than a research-based conclusion.
- Yesh Din is primarily funded by European governments, including direct funding from the United Kingdom (2016), European Union (2015), Norway (2015), Ireland (2015), and indirect funding from the governments of Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands via the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat (2015) joint-NGO funding mechanism.
The Israeli NGO Yesh Din campaigns on legal issues, such as petitioning the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ), to alter Israeli policy (for example, to cancel the law prohibiting the transportation of Palestinians in Israeli vehicles within the West Bank; to gain access to military court records). Yesh Din also engages in advocacy campaigns, including briefings to foreign diplomats and encouraging Palestinians to claim compensation for seized land.
Yesh Din’s research is considered to be credible, as reflected in citations by the United Nations, European governments, the media, and sympathetic academics. The following analysis, however, demonstrates basic flaws in the credibility of Yesh Din’s research methodology and data analysis, rendering this perception unwarranted and highly questionable.
Since 2011, Yesh Din has published a series of “data sheets,” concerning what the NGO terms “ideologically motivated crimes” allegedly committed by Israeli civilians against Palestinians. The term “ideologically motivated crimes” is commonly used to refer to cases of violent extremism (e.g. White Supremacism) or terrorism. Yesh Din, however, fails to explicitly define how it uses the term and refers to crimes that would not fall under the definition commonly used by law enforcement agencies globally.1
In Yesh Din’s data sheets, the group also refers to Israeli “investigative failures” in addressing the “ideologically motivated crimes.” In referring to “investigative failures,” Yesh Din uses a term without a generally accepted definition to refer to all investigation files that did not end in an indictment, including files that have been closed due to “offender unknown,” “insufficient evidence,” and “lack of criminal culpability.” Yesh Din points to no normative framework where this sole metric (investigation resulting in indictment) is used by any law enforcement agency to determine the sufficiency of the investigatory process. Yesh Din cannot point to any such framework, because none exists.
In other words, Yesh Din analysis is based on vague terminology and invented standards not used by any other organizations or agencies measuring the sufficiency of criminal justice systems. As a result, Yesh Din’s conclusions are both factually inaccurate and politically biased, as shown below.
This study utilizes a comparative case method to consider whether Yesh Din’s claims are warranted. We compare Yesh Din’s data, purporting to show failure to properly investigate “ideologically motivated crimes” and the corresponding “investigative failures,” to that of official Israeli government sources, noting discrepancies between the two. Specifically, we consider Israel’s general statistics for prosecution and crime reporting rates.
We then compare both Yesh Din’s and official Israeli data with that of various Western countries, examining European and North American general crime statistics related to prosecution and report rates. Additionally, since Yesh Din claims “ideologically motivated crimes” are unlike general crime rates, we also use hate crime data (a type of “ideological crime”) to effectively compare the rates.2 Since data concerning convictions of hate crimes is scarce, we further considered OSCE Hate Crime’s prosecution data to compare relevant countries’ statistics with those used by Yesh Din.3
Ideologically Motivated Crimes
As stated above, Yesh Din views any investigation of an ideological crime that does not result in indictment as a failure, stating that “files closed on grounds of ‘offender unknown,’” “insufficient evidence,” and “files originally closed on grounds of ‘absence of criminal culpability,’” are considered as Israeli investigative failures. Yesh Din furthers claims that the police deliberately “failed” to collect evidence in files closed on grounds of insufficient evidence because of an alleged discriminatory motive. Yesh Din does not acknowledge the possibility that the police were not capable of gathering sufficient evidence, which can occur for a variety of reasons (see Part B below).
As such, in the 2017 report, Yesh Din claims that out of 289 ideologically motivated offenses that occurred between 2013-2016 in the West Bank, only 20 led to indictments against offenders (8.2% of the files whose treatment has concluded), 225 cases were closed upon completion of the investigation without any indictment (77%), and police “failed” in the investigation of 183 files (75.3%).”4 A Yesh Din 2015 report presents similar figures, alleging that “84.9% of investigations into ideologically motivated offenses against Palestinians are closed due to police failures” and “7.3% of complaints regarding ideologically motivated offenses against Palestinians lead to an indictment.”5 Yesh Din also claims that its figures on the rate of prosecution are similar to those of the Israeli government.
However, the Israeli Ministry of Justice’s (MOJ) June 2017 report presents vastly different data. According to the report, of 1,284 cases opened due to allegations of ideologically-based offences committed by Israelis in the West Bank and investigated by the Israel Police in 2013-2016, the average indictment rate was significantly higher – 22.5%, and has in fact increased over time (19% in 2013, 16% in 2014, 29.7% in 2015, and 38% in 2016).6
Yesh Din further argues that, “It is reasonable to assume that the national proportion of indictments for offenses committed against an ideological background is much higher than the general figure.”7 In plain language, Yesh Din is making an argument that ideological crimes should be prosecuted at a higher rate than general crimes. Yet, the NGO does not refer to any material on criminal justice that supports this claim, nor does it offer any comparative data. Yesh Din’s assertions reflect a lack of knowledge and expertise regarding the nature of hate crime investigations. NGO Monitor shows that Yesh Din’s non-expert allegation is not supported by the data in any other country. In fact, Israel’s prosecution rate for hate crimes versus other crimes is clearly consistent with international standards.
Figure I compares data from 10 western countries to both Yesh Din and the Israeli Ministry of Justice’s data on the West Bank, focusing on the percentage of hate crime prosecution (proxy for Yesh Din’s invented term of “ideological crimes”) and total prosecution rate for general crimes. We also look at the “rate of change” in order to compare the total crime prosecution rate to that of hate crime prosecution rate, to understand whether Yesh Din’s claim that ideological (or hate) crimes should be prosecuted at a higher rate than general crimes is valid. Figure II presents the hate crime data in a graphical form for comparison between countries.
Figure I: Hate Crime Prosecution Rate by Country
|Country||Hate Crime Prosecution Rate (x)||Total Crime Prosecution Rate (Eurostat)|
|Rate of Change
|UK (England and Wales)||28.58%||39.54%||-28%|
|West Bank||7.30% (Yesh Din 2015)||15.90% (in Israel - Israeli Police Report 2015)***9||-46%|
|29.70 (Israeli MInistry of Justice 2015)8||86.8%|
Source: OSCE/ODIHR, Eurostat
*Cyprus reports over 100,000 persons prosecuted and less than 10,000 total crimes to Eurostat.
**Greece does not report persons prosecuted for total crimes.
*** Yesh Din does not provide statistics regarding total crime indictment rate, so Israeli figures are used here for general crime rate. https://www.police.gov.il/Doc/TfasimDoc/shnaton2015.pdf
Figure II: Hate Crime Prosecution Rate by Country*
*Graphical representation of “Hate Crime Prosecution” data from Figure I.
Yesh Din’s figures are widely different than official Israeli statistics. However, even taking the NGO’s figures at face value shows that the hate crime prosecution rate falls well within the norm compared with other European countries. Yesh Din’s lower figure, that “7.3% of complaints regarding ideologically motivated offenses against Palestinians lead to an indictment,” is still higher than the Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden (see “Hate Crime Prosecution Rate” in Table 1). Yesh Din’s allegations of “failures” and “discrimination”, therefore, are baseless.
Similarly, Yesh Din notes that in 2015, the Judea and Samaria Police Department opened 280 investigation files regarding suspicion of nationalist crimes committed by Israeli civilians, which led to 59 indictments, of which in “only four” of these cases the victim of the offense was a Palestinian.10 Yesh Din claims that Palestinian reported crimes constitute just 6.8% of cases that result in indictments. Based on this, Yesh Din claims that, “The fact that the law enforcement authorities manage to put suspects on trial for ‘nationalist crimes’ when the victims are not Palestinians demonstrates that these figures are not inevitable, but rather a product of policy.”11
The Israeli Ministry of Justice again reports vastly different figures. According to a report published by Israeli Ministry of Justice (May 2016), out of the 279 cases investigated in 2015, 40 were based on complaints submitted by Palestinians. Of these, nine indictments were filed, constituting 22.5% of the cases.12 There is therefore a much greater amount of cases relating to Palestinians that result in indictments than Yesh Din claims.
Yesh Din also fails to compare Israeli crime reporting statistics with those of other countries. In the October 2015 data sheet, the organization claims, “From the beginning of 2013 until August 2015, out of 377 documented incidents of ideologically motivated crime, in which Israeli citizens were suspected of harming Palestinians and their property, in 219 of these incidents, 58%, the victims lodged a complaint with the police.” Apparently, a further 33% of victims chose not to file complaints with the police during this period.13 Yesh Din labels these “troubling figures.”
Looking at data from the United Kingdom, for instance, demonstrates that the figures presented by Yesh Din are relatively high. The 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 Crime Survey for England and Wales data demonstrates that only 48% of hate crime incidents are reported to police.14 Hate crimes in Canada were reported at an even lower rate of 33%. Given this comparison, it appears that it is more likely that an ideological crime be reported in the West Bank than in the US, England and Wales, or Canada.
Table II: Ideological/Hate Crime Reporting Rates
|Country (Year)||General Crime Reporting Rate||Hate Crime Reporting Rate|
|New Zealand22 (2013)||31%||-|
|South Africa21 (2013-14)||36%||-|
|UK19 (E/W 2012-15)||40%||48%|
|United Nations18 (2014-15)||53%||-|
|West Bank15 (2012)||43%||58%|
Nevertheless, in Yesh Din’s March 2017 data sheet, the group concludes that the “Nationalist Crime Unit of the Judea and Samaria Police established in 2013 with the declared mission of protecting Palestinians from nationalist crime, has not led to an increase in solving cases of this kind.” This reflects a “trend of protracted failure regarding investigations into ideologically motivated offenses committed against Palestinians.”26 In contrast, when comparing the figures provided by Yesh Din with those of the Israeli government and other Western counterparts, as done above, Israel’s behavior is well within the norm. Therefore, Yesh Din’s claim that this reflects a “failure” is false. The fact that government policies and mechanisms enacted to improve investigations are met with unfounded and sweeping accusations, suggests that Yesh Din’s comments are politically motivated and its goal is not to offer constructive advice.
Yesh Din’s claim of “protracted failure” reflects a fundamental lack of understanding as to how criminal investigations and prosecutions take place. It further shows Yesh Din does not understand how legal constraints and security arrangements with the Palestinian Authority impact on those investigations and prosecutions.
In an April 2016 report, the Israeli Ministry of Justice elaborated on a number of challenges that complicate the process of surveying a crime scene, collecting evidence, and obtaining witness testimonies to be used in court for crimes committed in the West Bank that fall under Israeli jurisdiction. For example, Israeli entry into Area A and/or B of the West Bank requires security coordination with the Palestinian Authority and a military escort. Sometimes, entry to a specific area at a certain point in time is difficult due to violent demonstrations or other security risks. In addition, many complaints are filed only after a considerable amount of time has passed since the alleged offence occurred, making it challenging to obtain forensic and other evidence. In certain cases, there may also be reluctance, on the part of victims and witnesses, to cooperate with the Israel Police, further complicating the investigative process.27
The 2015-2016 hate crime report regarding England and Wales demonstrates that the challenges faced by Israeli forces in investigating ideological (or hate) crimes are not unique. The issue of duration of investigations is one issue analyzed, and according to the report, the median number of days taken to assign an outcome to criminal damage and arson hate crime offences was 27, compared with 14 crimes of damage and arson not flagged as hate crime. A similar pattern is noted with the crime of violence against a person:28 when related to a hate crime, the median number of days to assign an outcome was 33, whereas it was 25 for non-hate crime offenses. We can thus infer that investigating hate crimes involve certain additional challenges.
It is important to note, that when deciding whether to submit an indictment, Israeli prosecutors have to be convinced that there is a “reasonable chance of conviction” and that there is a public interest in the prosecution. This standard is substantially equivalent to the UK standards and higher that the US standard of “probable cause” for indictment by grand jury. The Israeli criminal justice system, similar to other western systems, see no value in leaving investigative files pending, even though there is little to no chance of a suspect being identified or that additional evidence will theoretically be gathered at some later date that would enable submitting an indictment.
As the above analysis demonstrates, Yesh Din’s unverifiable statistics regarding “ideologically motivated crimes” are used by the organization to make unwarranted accusations against Israel. Indeed, when comparing Israeli statistics regarding prosecution and reporting rates with other Western country counterparts, it is apparent that these numbers fall within the generally accepted norm.
As a result of the findings in this comparative case study, we call on Yesh Din to publish updated data sheets, (a) verifying the sources of its statistics and explaining why these numbers differ so dramatically from official Israeli sources, (b) defining “ideologically motivated crimes” and “investigative failures” in terms of internationally accepted as normative definitions, and (c) revising the allegations of “failure”, given that the Israeli record falls within the international norm. Until Yesh Din takes these steps, its “data sheets” should neither be considered credible nor reliable. In addition, we call on the European government funders to consider the implications of this analysis.
- https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Los Angeles Framework_1.pdf