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Racism and fires in Palestine

Israeli firefighters try to extinguish a fire has erupted in Israel on 24th November 2016 [Muammar Awad/Anadolu]
Israeli firefighters try to extinguish a fire has erupted in Israel on 24th November 2016 [Muammar Awad/Anadolu]

Whether or not Netanyahu, his government and the heads of the security agencies have been truthful about the cause of hundreds of forest fires in occupied Palestine, and their accusation that Palestinians in Israel were responsible for arson, they should resign. Within four days, hundreds of fires were ignited across the country. According to the official statements, there was no advance intelligence about any of them; all of the fires, apparently, came as a surprise.

In order to organise so many acts of arson, there must be advance preparation for months, perhaps even years, in which hundreds partake in complete secrecy. Sites would have to be agreed upon; the locations must not have surveillance cameras; and advance visits must be made. While this was being done, other people would have had to prepare the flammable materials, and transport to and from the sites would have to be organised. Then, of course, someone would have to start the fires. All would have had to be done under a co-ordinated leadership for such a large-scale operation to be carried out.

The leadership would have had to wait for ideal weather conditions and then order the start of the operation. Thus those taking part would attack Zikhron Ya’akov from various sides. After this, they had to change their targets and move to other areas in order to exhaust and stretch the fire service.

Then the instructions would have been issued to ignite fires across the city of Haifa, starting with an attempt to burn the fire-fighting trucks in the city, and then move to the various neighbourhoods and start fires there. The arsonists would have had to watch the direction of the winds and then move the fires to suitable areas.

The next instructions would be to go back to the outskirts of Jerusalem and set them on fire once again, then head to the settlements in the West Bank, followed by Hebron. The leaders are still issuing their orders and instructions.

The establishment of this organisation and preparation for the mass arson operations carried out by hundreds of people was — we are led to believe by Netanyahu and his cronies — done in complete secrecy, and Israeli intelligence had no idea about what was happening around them. The members of the organisation apparently worked like phantoms and succeeded in deceiving the Israeli security agencies while carrying out the most near-simultaneous incidents of arson in the history of the country. The success of the operation is the complete and utter failure of the Israeli government and intelligence, which were surprised by the operations and remain helpless and bewildered.

If the scenario that Netanyahu and his government claim is true, then this is their greatest failure and the biggest scandal for Israel since the 1973 October War. As such, the prime minister and the heads of all of the security and intelligence agencies should resign from their positions.

If the scenario is not true and there was no systematic arson attacks, then Netanyahu’s government should still resign, because the fascistic campaign that they have launched against Arab citizens has reached the extent of incitement to kill in official discourse. They told the Israeli Jews that the Arabs were trying to burn them alive in their homes. This dangerous propaganda is similar to that used by the Nazis in Europe eighty years ago that spread hatred and a desire for revenge. Israeli ministers are describing events as an “arson intifada” carried out by those who do not love the country and have no relation to it. Furthermore, cabinet ministers are vowing to impose the harshest punishments on the “terrorists” lighting fires, and threaten to revoke their citizenships and residence rights.

However, the fires did not hit Jewish towns exclusively. On the contrary, they were mostly ignited near Arab towns in Galilee, the Triangle and the occupied West Bank. When fires are ignited near Arab towns there is little or no media coverage; that only surfaces when they threaten Jewish areas, as if Arab-owned property and Arab lives are worthless.

The Israeli government is expert at seizing opportunities to incite against Arab citizens. It does so in order to divert attention from the crimes that it commits against them, including the demolition of villages in the Negev and Jordan Valley, as well as passing neo-fascist legislation such as the law to ban the call to prayer and legalising the theft of private land. The roles being reversed, they claim that the Israeli Jews are the victims being pursued by Palestinians wanting to burn them alive, and so they ask for the world’s help while facing these inhumane acts.

When it becomes clear that this propaganda is false and there was no secret organisation that planned and burned the country, and that everything said by Netanyahu and his government came from their sick collective imagination, then they will also need to resign.

In closing, let us look at previous arson attacks about which nobody is referring these days. Remember the attacks which killed Mohammad Abu Khdeir and the Dawabsheh family, and destroyed so many olive trees? And the arson attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque, Toba and Umm Al-Fahm Mosque, and the Tabgha Church? The only people remembering these attacks are the rabbis who claimed that the arson was punishment for the decision to evacuate the illegal Amona settlement.

The aircraft dropping water on the forest fires remind us of similar planes spraying Bedouins and their crops with toxic chemical pesticides to force them to leave their land. The mountains of black smoke remind us of what the Israeli army is doing in the northern Jordan Valley, where soldiers are burning what they call “nature reserves” to prevent Palestinians from grazing their livestock there; the army is killing rare deer, rabbits and birds in the process.

There is only one group of people in occupied Palestine with a track record of burning people, land and animals; it is not the Palestinians. Netanyahu and his government should stop the racist rhetoric now.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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