Question Part I:

If an Arab cab driver here in Israel makes up a price of 30 shekel, and then when the passenger arrives he says “ok, that is 50 shekel like we made up…” is it muttar to not pay, or even to punish him more and break windows? They have done this to my wife, and she (wisely) bites her lip and pays. After all, she is carrying a child… why get hit chas v’shalom. But if someone wants to make sure they won’t do it to other people in the future, can they take the law into their own hands and not pay, or punish the person for his cheating?

Answer Part I:

Regardless of whether you can take the laws into your own hand in such matters (which I don’t believe halacha allows for in this type of case), it is highly unwise to do so. Arab cab drivers tend to be vengeful, cruel, and many times outright murderous when they lose their tempers.
I would never consider breaking their windows or damaging their property as the act of a private citizen.
Another thing to consider is that the way this country (Israel) works… an Arab is always, automatically assumed to be innocent and will always be given the benefit of the doubt in court. Therefore, it is really not wise to intentionally cause them any damage.
However, there are a few strategies I would suggest.

  1. Make it a policy to never take a cab driven by an Arab driver it will never be a pleasant experience one way or another.
  2. If you have to take an Arab cab for some reason, make extra efforts to put it on the meter or to clarify the price in advance using the tactic of “Rachel bitcha haketana1)Genesis 29:18”.
  3. If none of that works, make sure you take note of the cab driver’s name, mispar ishur (by law marked by a plaque somewhere near the driver’s head), as well as the cab company name, and the license plate number of the cab. If you run into trouble, make it clear that you plan to file an official complaint with the misrad hatachburah (Ministry of Transportation) with a lawyer and notary public. If you have a phone with a camera function take pictures of him and all of these things as well. By the time you are finished with making this scene he will likely take the smaller amount out of fear, and if he doesn’t you don’t want to mess with him — trust me!

Question Part II:

Is there any possible heter to simply not pay him because of something like mekach taus, i.e. had I known you would have made my life difficult by haggling like this and lying, I never would have gotten in, or is there no side at all that you can just not pay him?

Answer Part II:

This question isn’t really categorized under the heading of mekach taus since he did exactly what you hired him to do which is drive you from point A to point B. The issue is ramaus (dishonest scheming). He is being merameh you for more money. There is actually a crime in the law book for what he is doing, it is forbidden by law. He is just taking a calculated risk that most people are weak and afraid of Arabs and they won’t pursue any other course other than caving in.
Mainly I have found that once you send from the beginning of the ride the clear unequivocal message that there is no way you are going to be weak and cave in, then they just shut up and take what you originally agreed upon. The deeper issue is how do you deal with a ramai.
David Hamelech said im ikeish titapel2)Tehillim 18:27. Yaakov Avinu said about Lavan “Im ramai hu achiv ani b’ramaus3)Megilla 13b”. Sometimes you can try tactics of an equally shady nature in order to protect yourself from being taking advantage of. To pull shady shtick on them is actually one way to deal with them. There is no clear guideline for how to do this successfully. Generally straight and erliche people don’t naturally intuit ways to counter a ramai with his own medicine. That is why I suggest the course of action of taking his info and threatening to report him. This would be the way for a person who doesn’t want to cave in but doesn’t have it in them to start pulling shady shtick with an Arab.

References   [ + ]

1. Genesis 29:18
2. Tehillim 18:27
3. Megilla 13b