Monday, July 23, 2007

The Israeli mob deals in large arms and stereotypes

It usually doesn't make the first page of the ever ready checklist of ethnic accomplishment, but the Jews have proven to be as effective organized criminals as any other distinguishable group. Think about it this way: The legacy of Jewish-American gangsterism is a gilded palace of legalized sin called Las Vegas, while the non-fictionalized Italian-American mafia is now represented by the frosted tips and fake tans of Growing Up Gotti.

So it shouldn't be that much of a surprise that Israel has a vibrant criminal underworld. And, given the general militarism of Israeli society, an unusually well-armed one at that.

Mob activity in the Holy Land has been on the rise lately, according to this report. Which even goes so far as to claim that "when an explosion goes off on a busy Israeli street these days, it seems as likely to be a mob hit as a Palestinian attack."

So what is the source of this escalating violence . . ? A turf war over empties. Yes, the recyclable drink receptacles that can be returned for a few cents. Apparently Israeli mobsters require restaurants and nightclubs to pay for their protection with completely untraceable glass bottles and aluminum cans.

There is nothing unusual about the mob offering protection or picking up the trash -- these activities are staples of organized crime the world over. But there is something in the tedium of collecting and returning empties that play into certain age-old stereotypes.

So yes, if you tossed a penny in front of an Israeli gangster it stands to reason he would take the bait and bend over to pick it up. Although it isn't always wise to tease a man with an anti-tank missile launcher.

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