Tempers flared in Israel as leaders such as the Security Minister Gilad Erdan call for the homes of “politically motivated arsonists to be demolished.”
This promoted the idea that the wildfires in Israel, which began on November 22nd and spread to over 600 locations from as far south as the Dead Sea area north to Nahariya, were started by Arab terrorists. Calling the fires “a new type of terrorism,” many of Israel’s nationalists are getting on board with the idea that Arab terrorists started the wildfires, although Israeli police are withholding information regarding the specific allegations against more than half of the suspected arsonists it is currently holding.
According to the police, 23 people are currently under arrest in relation to the fires; an additional seven have been released. The police released basic details regarding only 10 of them, all allegedly involved in minor fires and not in the larger blazes like those outside Jerusalem, Zichron Ya’akov or Haifa.
In these cases, the circumstances raise questions over the suspected political motivation ascribed to the accused arsonists. For example, a Nazareth resident whose arrest has been extended is suspected of arson in his own Arab-majority city. In another case, two suspects are accused of starting a brush fire between Sajur and Beit Jann, both of which are almost entirely Arab communities.
Fires in Israel have been cheered in online comments from Gaza and Arab countries, but many Palestinians say, “These are our trees and lands, so why destroy them?”
The Israeli security establishment increasingly insists that several of the wildfires may have been politically motivated cases of arson, though most of the fires were caused by extreme wind gusts and drought.
Israel Police Chief Roni Alsheich has confirmed that arrests have been made in connection to the fires spreading throughout Israel. The Associated Press reported that four Palestinians have been arrested. Alsheich also said that if the fires were in fact acts of arson, he believed that they were not organized, but were instead the result of people “taking advantage of the opportunity.”
The police chief said that a special unit of investigators handles cases of suspected arson and that those responsible probably had political motives.
The Joint Arab List Chair Aymen Udeh a prominent member of the Israeli left said that incitement against Arabs needs to stop in wake of the fires raging across Israel.
I don’t know if it’s an Arab or not. If it is, a severe punishment is in order. We’re all together to try and save this beautiful place. I’m a son of Haifa and the Carmel, but the most important thing right now is to save this place. It’s not important if it’s Jews or Arabs, Haifa and the Carmel belong to all of us. This harms everyone.
The Palestinian Authority sent in four teams of elite firefighters to help fight the blazes. Three firefighting teams from the Palestinian authority were sent to the town of Neve Tzuf (Halamish) in Samaria where they helped save the homes of 350 mostly Jewish families who were evacuated.
It was not be the first time that Palestinian firefighters aided Israel. 19 Palestinian firefighters helped fight 2010’s deadly blaze in the Carmel forest. Israeli security forces originally turned them down because, they said, they wouldn’t be able to spare soldiers to supervise them; however on the third morning of the fire, the Israelis changed their minds, and within four hours, 19 Palestinian firefighters were packed and on their way to the Carmel forest. The 19 firefighters who assisted in the Carmel fire were from Bethlehem, Ramallah and Jenin.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday night to thank him for sending firefighting teams and trucks to help Israel put out fires. In total several countries including Cyprus, Russia, Croatia, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Egypt, Azerbaijan, France, and Ukraine sent planes, trucks and helicopter crews to help combat the fires which are just coming under control as this is being written.
Netanyahu is now busy with his own political pyromania, as he and his administration try to use the fires as a way to fuel their nationalist agenda, as they race to find guilty parties to hold responsible. While doing so, they are willing to look past who or what might be actually responsible and place the blame onto the usual suspects: Palestinians,
“We must be prepared for a new kind of terror – the terror of the arsonists,” he said, in his haste to mark the target.
Chief of police Alsheich also has a clear doctrine: “It is reasonable to assume that if it is arson, it was politically motivated,” he said.
Ultra-nationalistic motives and terror, as we know, apply only to one group: Israel’s Arab and Palestinian citizens. “They are the ones to whom the country does not belong,” according to Israel’s education Minister Naftali Bennett, and therefore “only they could set the fires.”
Thankfully, Israeli senior police officers were remarkably cautious about hurling similar accusations. They still remember the campaign against Arabs over the 2010 Carmel fire, which quickly turned out to be a baseless endeavour.
They understand, perhaps, that there is no way to prosecute the weather — the strong eastern winds and dry air — that spreads the fires, and no reason to hastily draw targets. More importantly, they may recognize that such irresponsible accusations could ignite far more dangerous fire, one that no aircraft or supertanker can extinguish, igniting the flames of national dissent and racism that are constantly on the doorstep of Palestinian-Israeli relations. This could result in an “arson intifada,” as it’s being called.
The investigation to uncover the arsonists, if there are any, must precede with caution, rigorousness and a responsibility to stop the political pyromania constantly being aimed in the direction of an entire group of people by political opportunist like Netanyahu, who use nationalism and fear as tools to achieve political agendas.
Content posted to MyMPN open blogs is the opinion of the author alone, and should not be attributed to MintPress News.