By Yossi Schwartz (Member of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency [RCIT] and Central-Israel Branch of Balad), 25.11.2016, http://the-isleague.com/
Before the waves of blazing fires began last Tuesday, many Israelis were disturbed by the corruption scandal involving the purchase of military submarines and the prime minister’s personal lawyer involvement in the deal. (1) A very similar case to the case of Olmert – a former Prime Minister who is now sitting in prison. But then very serious fires have been consuming forests and houses. The blazing fire is a real disaster for the population but not for Netanyahu and the other right wing politicians. It has been seen by them as a gift to be used for shifting the focus of the public attention from the corruption scandal to the fire. Furthermore they have been using it to ignite a political fire against the Palestinians citizens of Israel and of the West Bank.
This is already the fourth day that fires are consuming houses and forests in Israel. The worst fire was in Haifa, a city where both Jews and Arabs live. Tens of thousands people were evacuated. Dry air, no rain and high winds turned the city into a tinderbox. Haifa is not alone. Arab villages in Israel have also been battling fires in the past days. In Nazareth in Fahura an Arab neighborhood, in the forest Ben Ami near Um al Fahem, in the area of Misgav that include 6 Bedouin villages amongst its 35 small towns and villages. (2)
In addition Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip, as well as Ramallah, Hebron, Qalqilya and Hawara, in the West Bank, have also seen blazes, as have cities in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.
“The weather conditions in 2010 were remarkably similar to those today, as Shahar Ayalon, Israel’s former fire and rescue commissioner, notes. He stated that he was not surprised by the outbreak of the latest fires. “You have a combination of drought conditions and dry winds from the east, and this is the result,” he told Haaretz. “It’s to be expected.” (3)
So far there have been no reports of deaths. However tens of thousands were evacuated from their homes and several dozen people were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. Hundreds of military reservists have been called to join the police and firefighters. An international fleet of firefighting aircraft has been sent by various countries and joined the battle against the fire. The Russian Emergencies Ministry has sent two Beriev Be-200 amphibious aircraft to Israel to help put out forest fires. American Super tanker was sent to Israel. Eight Palestinian Firefighter vehicles arrived from the Palestinian Authority. Egypt and Jordan offer to help.
Where is the Help for the Palestinians?!
We, as revolutionary socialists, of course, support the fight against the fire that is dangerous for Arab, Jews, guest workers, refugees and tourists. Yet the Palestinians in Gaza and the Arabs in the neighboring states have not received such help and the Palestinian authority to our knowledge has not offered the same help to the people in Gaza. We also ask how many supertankers could have been bought for the price of a one German submarine? How many supertankers could have been bought for the price of the three of them? Why were they bought is it for a possible war with Iran that will cause rivers of blood? How many firefighting trucks could have been bought instead of expending the settlement in the 1967 occupation? The huge sums spent on the racist propaganda in its different forms?
After the last disaster caused by the 2010 fire, Netanyahu's government has promised that it will act to prevent such event in the future. Clearly whatever it did, it was not sufficient because money was wasted on projects in the service of making Israel an open unmasked apartheid from the river to the sea, rather than a safe place for the people who live in this country.
One cause of the fire in Israel is the planting of the Aleppo pines, also known as the Jerusalem pines that grow very quickly. These trees were planted on ruins of Palestinians villages whose population was expelled in 1947-8 in order to hide these ruined villages. These trees catch fire very easily. The colonialist KKL who planted those trees clearly thinks Israel is located in Switzerland or some other place in Europe. Also, the government failed to provide money to build a new fire fighting department in Ausafia (Druze village) as previous reports suggested, allowing the fire to spread faster.
Atmosphere of Lynching
For the right wing government of Israel this fire is another golden opportunity to blame the Palestinians for arson. Immediately, without any serious investigation, they have declared that the fire is the work of Palestinians and this is a new Intifada of fire. The racist atmosphere among Israeli Jews brings to mind the racism of the American South during the slavery and the Jim Crow period. There exists an atmosphere of lynching Arabs. It plays on the memory of the Holocaust when Jews were burned by the Nazis.
It is the same tactic Netanyahu used during the elections with his racist speech "the Left is busing Arabs to vote, the Right is in danger". The same tactic he also used when he said that it was the Mufti of Jerusalem who convinced Hitler to kill the Jews. On Friday Netanyahu told reporters there is no doubt there have been incidents of arson. He also said that anyone implicated in setting the fires would be punished severely. “It' a crime for all intents and purposes it is terror for all intents and purposes”. He added that incitement to arson was also playing a role in spreading the fires. The only thing he did not say openly is "death to the Arabs"
Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday night that a series of fires raging across the country in recent days, a number of which are believed to be arson, could only have been set by “someone whom this land this does not belong to him” making a seemingly oblique reference to Arabs. (4)
It will not come as a great surprise if Israelis mobs, that follow these hate propaganda speeches, will attack Palestinians. The police have detained some suspected Palestinians. However there are growing indications that the fires or at least most of them have not been caused by arson. It is possible that the fires, or at least most of them, are the result of careless acts as was in the previous fire in Haifa in 2010. The fire then focused on Ein Hod, Nir Etzion, Usfiya, and the wildlife reserve. 44 people mostly prison service officers’ course cadets and their commanding officers died and at the beginning the Palestinians were accused of setting the fire, but at the end it was clear that the fire was result of careless act of a youth.
On Thursday, Anas Abudaabes, 29, an activist from the southern Israeli town of Rahat, was arrested after posting two messages critical of Arabs who see the fires plaguing Israel as punishment for a bill that seeks to silence mosque loudspeakers. The Police mistranslated one of his posts, reaching the mistaken conclusion that he encouraged on Arabs to set fires. He explained it to the Judge who nevertheless ordered his detention. (5)
It is enough that a Palestinian youth has a backpack to be considered a suspect for arson. A video released by the military shows how a drone is used to help locate arson suspects. "He has a backpack," a drone operator is heard repeating in the video. "Robot, just confirm that you see my image," he says, before using the aircraft to direct forces toward the suspect. (6)
Another Suspect was detained because he carried standard materials used for igniting barbecue coals which is very common method of cocking in Israel. (7)
Israel’s public security minister, Gilad Erdan, told journalists on Friday that his forces had found evidence that gasoline was used to start a fire in Zikhron Yaaqov, a town in northern Israel. A man from a Jerusalem was arrested with fire-making materials. (8) Just think about it, Gasoline was found in the north of Israel, no one was caught with this gasoline or seen setting the fire. A man is caught in Jerusalem with fire making material. What was he carrying? Matches? Lighter? Materials for Barbecue? What is the connection between the gasoline in the North of Israel and the man in Jerusalem?
Unlike most of the right wing politicians who are pushing the Jews to blame and attack the Palestinians, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich was more careful and said that there are some cases of arson, but lots of cases that are not.
It should be noted that Hamas and the government of Syria, Lebanon and Egypt – unlike the government of Israel – has not blamed the Zionists for setting the fires.
“Amira Hass a reporter for Haaretz wrote that she asked some Palestinians friends in the West Bank whether it is possible that Palestinians set the fire near the military base Neveh Yair. No, it’s the army, she was told – even before it was reported that a careless soldier might have tossed away a burning cigarette. People in the village have stopped counting how many times their fields have caught fire from the stun grenades and tear gas thrown by soldiers to quash demonstrations against settlers stealing their spring water.
Are you sure it wasn’t intentional?” She asked.
A friend said that is impossible. And if someone did it on purpose, it’s madness, irrational and wrong. It’s nature and the environment that get hurt; trees and animals.
There were reports about a fire breaking out near the settlement of Mevo Horon, and about the evacuation of hikers from Canada Park in the Latrun enclave. She called an acquaintance who lives in the village of Beit Liqya, beyond the separation barrier.
How do you think it happened? She asked.”
The acquaintance is originally from Beit Nuba. The army expelled the residents of his village and the neighboring villages Yalo and Imwas immediately after they were conquered in the 1967 war. Mevo Horon was built on Beit Nuba’s lands. The Jewish National Fund built Canada Park on the ruins of Yalo and Imwas. The name honors the Canadian Jews who donated money for it.
His reply was, “No Palestinian is allowed to get to that area, apart from the laborers in the settlements who need their wages. Second, it’s our trees there, our dead who are buried in the graveyards there, the water cisterns dug by our grandfathers. We’ll return there, so why destroy it?” (9)
In the case of Maale Adumim the police reported the fire was caused by electric failure. (10) Two Palestinians suspected in setting fire in Halamish were released. (11)
Prevailing Racism against Arabs
A friend of mine told me today that in his mind this fire reminds him of the burning of the Reichstag in February 1933. The Communists were blamed for it, but many historians think it was the act of the Nazis themselves.
There are reports of comments in the social nets that some Arabs hope the fire would burn the Zionist state as punishment for the bill to ban mosques from broadcasting the call to prayer over loudspeakers, the hand of God. There were quotes from the Koran corroborating this, as well as criticism of the Palestinian Authority, which would once again offer its firefighting equipment .This reaction result of decades of oppression plays into the Hands of the Israeli government, yet it is not surprising in light of the Israeli state crimes but it is not the same as deliberately setting forests on fire.
The real danger for the Israelis is that the prevailing racism that makes them an easy prey for the government manipulation and as long as they will not break with Zionism and join the anti imperialist struggle of the Palestinians and the Arabs in the region they will not be able to fight for secured life.
We do not know of course whether there are some cases of arson in reaction to the systemic discrimination and oppression of the Palestinians, it is also possible that some right Jewish extremists set the fires to create a hate wave against the Palestinians.
Setting Palestinians fields and houses on fire has been for a long time one of the tools used by settlers while the police and the army not only do not see it but defend them against the angry oppressed Palestinians. We will not form an opinion on this question before the facts will be clear. Unfortunately an honest truthful investigation is unlikely to happen. How the investigators determine that the fires are cases of Arson? According to Haaretz on Thursday, investigators managed to determine that at least some of the fires were intentional, although they did not have unequivocal proof. In the best case scenarios, witnesses, videos, wind direction and objects help investigators put the puzzle together. "In other cases, there is no explanation," Shelef says. " ... We will only be able to tell following a thorough investigation. We are very careful." (12) How careful such investigation can be when without strong evidence they already determined that these are cases of arson?
The fact that some Arab village are fighting the same fire and that fire is blazing in Gaza and in Syria and Lebanon indicates that it is the dry weather and the wind that is behind the fire. Furthermore no Palestinian has taken responsibility for the fire and if it was a case of arson somehow it would be publicize in some Arab mass media or the social nets.
The Zionist hysteria and lynching Atmosphere ignore the fact that the Palestinians are the native of this country and they care about forests and the green environment not less than the Jews. They will not set fire to areas where they live in.
Ayman Odeh, the head of a joint Arab bloc of parties in Israel's parliament and a Haifa native, appealed to Israelis to come together and abandon "politics" during the trying time. "This is something that harms all of us. This is not a story of Arab or Jew. Whoever did this is an enemy of all of us," he told Israeli Channel 2 TV news.
This is a very wrong message. Why to accept Netanyahu line that it is arson? This is the time to accuse the right wing Zionists for playing with fire of hate!
(3) Judy Maltz: Israel Fire Is a Painful Case of Deja Vu for Those Watching the North Burn Again read more, 24 November 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.755208
(4) The Time of Israel: Alleging arson, Bennett blames fires on those ‘this land doesn’t belong to’, 24 November 2016, http://www.timesofisrael.com/bennett-only-those-whose-land-this-doesnt-belong-to-could-have-start
(5) Jack Khoury: Satirical Facebook Post Criticizing Celebration of Israel Fires Lands Arab in Jail, Haaretz Nov 25, 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.755367
(6) Gili Cohen: Israel using drones to find suspected arsonists, 25.11.2016, http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/LIVE-1.755044
(7) Diaa Hadid: Israel Arrests 22 Over Wildfires, as Arson Is Suspected, New York Times, 25.11.2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/25/world/middleeast/israel-wildfires-arson.html?_r=0
(9) Amira Hass: Palestinians' Response to Israel’s Fires: If It's Intentional, It's Madness. Fires in Israel have been cheered by online comments from Gaza and Arab countries, but many other Palestinians say: These are our trees and lands, so why destroy them? Haaretz, Nov 25 2016, http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.755322
(12) Ilan Lior: More than 13 arrested in connection to the fires, Minister says, Haaretz 25/11/2016, http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/LIVE-1.755044