In most areas of Galilee, Arabs constitute a majority. They continually squat on Israeli public lands and private Jewish farms. Returning to the practice of the 1920s-1940s, Arabs engage in low-level attacks on Jewish farms, stealing equipment and livestock, trampling down Jewish fields, and harassing Jews there. The situation is so bad that many Jewish farmers pay protection money to Arab gangs.
Israeli police cannot feasibly prosecute the myriad of such offenses in courts for the lack of hard evidence. The police also turn a blind eye to Arab criminal gangs, as it is very dangerous to carry out investigations and arrests in the hostile Arab settlements. Arab members of the Israeli Knesset and Jewish leftists also push the police for non-involvement in Arab affairs, lest the Arabs become upset and riot. The police, accordingly, would prefer that the Jewish farmers leave Galilee.
When Jews try to take matters into their own hands, their only option is to shoot the Arabs, as there is no other way to confront a numerically superior adversary which disregards the law, doesn’t fear short-term imprisonment, and generally feels the unwillingness of Jewish government to harness them. Israeli courts have sentenced numerous Jewish farmers for manslaughter after they used firearms against Arab marauders.
On the face of it, the Torah prohibits killing robbers in the daytime (Exodus 22:2). The rule is commonly misunderstood as applying to daytime house robbery, but such a crime would have been odd in the ancient villages where everyone knew everyone and the robber would immediately have been spotted upon entering the victim’s house. Exodus 22:1 deals with the robbery by sapping a house (usually at night), and 22:2 with corral robberies (usually in the daytime when the cattle are outdoors); indeed, the subsequent verses detail the restitution of cattle. The daytime robber is fined two to five times the value of the stolen animals. The punishment cannot be waived. The logic is clear: the house robber is prepared to kill and it is permissible to kill him, but the cattle robber is probably not prepared to kill and so should not be killed.
In order to fine the robber, the owner has to subdue him. In practical terms, the only way for a Jewish farmer or a guard to subdue an Arab criminal is to wound him with a firearm. So it is perfectly legitimate to shoot at the Arabs who infringe on Jewish property. It is not legitimate to intentionally kill robbers, though. Unintentional killing even of a peaceful Jew is not generally punishable (Exodus 21:13), and it is all the more permissible to kill a hostile foreign criminal.
Arab criminals are very different from Jewish ones. Jewish daytime robbers should not be killed on the presumption that they are still members of Israeli society. They serve in the army or at least suffer from Arab attacks, and outside of their criminal activity, they identify with Jews. For Arabs, however, robbing Jews is the next best thing to attacking them. Arabs generally don’t trample the other Arabs’ fields or steal their animals; their criminal actions are largely directed against Jews. The Arabs we so far have neglected to expel have indeed became thorns in our sides. Robbing Jews is the moderate Arabs’ way of fighting us. And when they fight us, “just as they would have no mercy upon us, so we should have no mercy upon them.”
In many incidents, Arab robbers actually have tried to kill Jews; even Arab drug traffickers and metal scavengers have tried running over the army’s outposts in the Negev. Invariably, when Jews confront the Arab robbers, they threaten the Jews. Religiously and morally, it is perfectly legitimate to kill Arab robbers.
Israeli police, like those of almost any state, will shoot even at petty criminals under certain circumstances, such as an attempted escape from prison. What is the moral grounds for shooting a petty thief just because he tries to escape? The answer is simple: statistical probability and threat. Petty thieves don’t break out of prison because they are likely to be shot. The minuscule chance of being shot during arrest keeps petty criminals from resisting the police. The disproportionate punishment affects such a small sampling of petty criminals as to not affect their human rights substantially. There is never absolute justice, it is enough that it be efficient.
Jewish law also recognizes disproportionate exemplary punishment when it sets two to five times restitution. Thieves are not caught every time they steal, so the one time they are caught should make their entire business unprofitable. If this were enforced, Arabs wouldn’t risk their lives robbing Jewish farms.
In practice, killing an Arab robber and faking an attack by him, such as by bruising oneself or injuring oneself with a knife, is a simple and judicially impeccable solution.