Family Honor Killings: Between Custom and State Law

Aref Abu-Rabia*
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel 84105

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© 2011 Aref Abu-Rabia.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel 84105; Tel: 0544292892; Fax: 08-6472952; E-mail:


In this paper I will review some attitudes and perspectives regarding family honor killings, mainly in the Arab/Bedouin population in Israel, Sinai, and the Middle East in general. What is the difference between sharaf and 'ird? What deviant sexual behavior is considered a capital offense? How widespread is the use of honor killings, and what alternative sanctions are employed? Under which circumstances are compassion and mercy exercised? What kinds of solutions exist for such cases? The research also analyzes the conflicts that exist between custom and state law vis-a-vis family honor killings, and examines how court systems in Israel and elsewhere relate to murders committed to save family honor. The research illuminates the role of sheiks and the police in defusing tensions and saving lives, and explores how Arab leaders in Israel view and address honor killings.

Keywords: Arab/Bedouin, Israel, honor killings, customs and law.