Saturday, November 26

The Israel Fire and Ramifications

The last few days we in Israel we have witnessed the greatest series of fires ever. The greatest culprit is the weather with its strong, gusty winds and severe drought conditions that have not been witnessed for many years. This has created a great environment for fires. The amount of rain has been negligible over the last couple of months. These two factors contribute to making firefighting extremely difficult, even with the best equipment available. 

Unfortunately, Israel is behind in its capability of firefighting, not because of the skilled firefighters, who are really dedicated and motivated, but because of the failure of the government to learn the lessons of the previous Carmel Forest Fire six years ago and improve the capabilities of the Israeli Firefighting Brigade by purchasing more modern equipment. Israel had appealed to many countries to send resources to help put out the ever raging fires.

The cause of the large number of fires is not the weather which is just the catalyst feeding the fire’s capability. It is a macabre mix of negligence of people, including pyromaniacs of many kinds who come out of their holes and enjoy the opportunity to destroy.

It just seems to be more than a coincidence that so many fires were started in many parts of the country almost simultaneously. It began in Zichron Yakov, south of Haifa, Haifa, Jerusalem, Shaar Hagai, and other towns which were not even close to each other. It is obvious that arson must have been involved. The word “arson” is a hot potato and according to reports from the police and  Israeli Intelligence, Palestinian terrorism is involved. A number of Palestinian suspects have been arrested according to reports and it is still not clear as to whether this new form of “eshtifada” ( a word coined by Ehud Ya’ari, TV Channel 2 correspondent and expert in Arab affairs. It is a combination of the word “esh” which is “fire” in Hebrew and “intifada” which is the “uprising”) is intifada taking on a new trend, replacing the lone stabbings and cars ramming of Israelis. This is not proven.

The Palestinian lone wolves carrying out these acts of arson do not have the support of the Arab Community in Israel or even the Palestinians in the West Bank. the Palestinian Authority have even sent four contingents of firefighters to help put out the blaze that is engulfing many parts of the country. Apparently, the Arab social media praising these acts of arson are from outside Israel and Palestine with the exception of Hamas that encourages this form of terror. The condemnation of these acts came from all sectors of the political spectrum including the Joint List in the Knesset. The Arab Knesset Members condemn those responsible just as much as everybody else and demand severe punishment for those responsible . It is unfortunate that the extreme racist, right wing are making political capital out of this tragedy that affects all Israel’s peoples.

It has been encouraging to us all that the Arab Communities of many Arab towns have offered their hospitality to all Israelis, whose homes have been destroyed by the fire, irrespective of whether they are Jewish or Muslim, to stay in their homes until they have somewhere to live. It is a disgrace for many people to come to the conclusion that the Arab citizens of Israel are responsible for the arson collectively. We must condemn this attitude entirely! It is morally unacceptable!.  Many Israeli Arabs are also fighting the fires heroically in the Israeli Firefighting Brigade as well as being members of the Police Force. The implications of collective guilt on the minority groups in Israel are a terrible outcome of this massive fire. The oversea response to Israel’s call for help has been remarkably positive in the response, including from neighboring Arab states.

Having said all this, we cannot overlook the fact that the government has been negligent in retrospect for the inability of the Israeli Fire Brigade to be more effective in putting out the massive blaze that has affected so many parts of Israel. As mentioned earlier, the Carmel Forest Fire six years ago cost the lives of 44 people; in this case, about 150 people were mildly injured mostly because of smoke inhalation and shock. There was fortunately no loss of human lives. This is a great consolation of course. Nevertheless there was tremendous loss of property and homes. The evacuation of over 75 000 people from their homes saved their lives.

The Israeli Government is to blame and Netanyahu should resign. This brings to mind the spending of money on four extra submarines for the Israeli Navy, which according to the previous Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon, was not necessary. If this money went to the purchase of more firefighting, state of the art equipment, including firefighting aircraft for the Fire Brigade, the loss of property and destruction would have been minimised.substantially and it may not have been necessary for Israel to appeal for help from other countries, which resulted in delays until the firefighting aeroplanes arrived.

Fires in Israel: Thousands evacuated amid row over 'arson intifada'
The submarine deal fiasco and the large amount of money involved in purchasing submarines for the IDF is cooking in the background. A strong suspicion remains as to whether the deal was organized by lawyers close to the coalition hierarchy had superior motives to make a profit out of the deal. The Israeli Press including Channel 10 has raised a suspicion as to the illegal element involved. Many of us feel that whether this is true or not there was definitely misappropriation of the tax payer’s money for closing a deal with a German shipbuilding enterprise. This remains to be proved after a police enquiry.

To date, the massive fires raging all over the country are under control and 1700 families have lost their homes in the blaze. Our hearts go out to the victims who have become homeless and hope that they will receive compensation for the loss of their homes.

According to latest reports, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians are responsible for arson attacks.

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