Saturday, December 4

Israel in Flames

A terrible tragedy hit the Carmel Mountains. A forest fire of tremendous proportions had broken out resulting in the loss of millions of trees and wild life. The lives of 40 prison wardens trapped in a bus engulfed in flames were lost. They were on the way to save security prisoners, Jewish and Palestinian, who were threatened by the monstrous fire. Over 40000 dunams of land destroyed.

The fire has been raging for a few days now and we are witnessing the total impotence of the Israeli Fire Brigade. I have seen reports about the lack of allotted budgets for the fire brigade. The fire brigade commanders have demanded a budget increase from all the Israeli Governments past and present over the years but nothing was done. The only time when moneys are allotted is when there is a fire literally but in actuality the crippling network of Israeli burocracy has always been a big obstacle to overcome in just about every important civil necessity.

The budget that should have been allotted to essential civil services has somehow made its way to partisan parasitic yeshivas in coalition religious deals that somehow seem to get their booty with the minimum of burocratic red tape. All this is done for the sake of placating the parasitic Shas Party to remain in the coalition to wreak hell and brimstone havoc in the form of political blackmail to gain disproportionate funds for their yeshivas.

The fire brigade is the responsibility of Interior Ministry under Eli Yishai the Shas Party leader. The ultra Orthodox Shas Party’s price to be in the coalition is to get money for their yeshivas. This explains the ill-equipped and largely ineffective fire brigade services. The fact that they are able to function is due to the dedication of the firemen despite the tremendous odds against them. We must raise our hats to them in humility. They are working round the clock facing indescribable difficulty.

We are facing a natural disaster of incredible proportions with damage to property, loss of lives including wild life that will take a long time to rehabilitate.

I think of the time, prior to the mega fire, wasted on issues that antagonize a large section of Israel's minority. I think of the paranoiac attitude that the Israeli Government has towards the outside world that criticizes Israel for its settlement policies in the occupied territories. The cries of anti-Semitism are quick in coming whenever Israel is condemned for Palestinian human rights abuses. The fire brigade is the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior. This Shas Party inflated Ministry seems to be more concerned in preserving racial Jewish purity (endless energy spent on xenophobic attitudes towards foreign workers and pledges of allegiance by non-Jews to Israel as a Jewish state are some examples of wasted energy) by the plethora of costly bills to ensure that goal rather than being accountable for essential services that citizens are entitled including the fire brigade.

It is a case of Nero fiddles while Rome burns. Nero is the Likud leader, PM Benjamin Netanyahu, while Rome is the burning Carmel forests.

Many people in Israel say that this mega fire could have occurred under previous governments but it was just unfortunate that it happened under the present government. This may or may not be true. What is true is that there have been fires in the Carmel forests over the years but the responsible bodies took no heed in beefing up the fire brigade once the fires were put out. Instead they had numerous commissions of enquiries with inconclusive results swept up in an insurmountable web of Israeli Government burocracy that did nothing.

Israel appealed to the world community for aid to extinguish the fire. Help was fast in coming - even from so called "hostile" countries like Turkey. PM Erdogan whom Israelis claim hates Israel played his part in sending two fire fighting planes to help in containing this natural disaster. Even the Palestinian Authority had sent in aid to Israel to help extinguish the fire. 

The cause of the fire is from Isfiya, the Druze village. It was started by the negligence of two youngsters. It was not arson. There are pyromaniacs who have been lighting fires as well causing new fires in the area. The police are investigating and have made some arrests.

However, some lessons can be learned from this. What comes to mind is the failure of Israel's fire brigade because of lack of modern fire-fighting equipment. Israel's appeal to the international community for help in extinguishing the fire never went unheeded and the response was gratifying beyond expectation.

So much time had been wasted on passing racist bills against Israel's non-Jewish minorities led by two racists, Avigdor Lieberman the Foreign Minister and Eli Yishai the Interior Minister. All this was done in order to maintain a right wing coalition. All these racist bills pale when the terrible disaster occurred. Israel was caught with its pants down in its inability to extinguish the fire without outside help.

It also reinforces the fact that Israel is part of the world community and we are all dependent on each other especially in times of disaster. Lately Israel has been very arrogant and going against the wishes of the international community in its opposition to the extension of a settlement freeze in the occupied territories.

After the fire is put out, there will be a commission of enquiry. What is obvious at this early stage is the pathetic ineptitude of the Interior Ministry under Eli Yishai the Shas Party leader. He has proved to be a disgrace and totally useless. He must resign and shoulder some of the responsibility for this tragedy. This would be the correct thing to do.

Israel has always sent teams on rescue missions to countries that have had natural disasters. They have built field hospitals in countries like Haiti with great success. They helped Turkey when it suffered a massive earthquake about 24 years ago. However, on their own turf, their fire fighting ability is poor and they had to rely on outside help. This is unfortunate and our hearts go out to all those families who lost dear ones in this disaster. The ecological disaster area in the Carmel will take many years to rehabilitate.    

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