Opinion |

Israel Fires Raise Burning Questions About Occupation

Question: Why haven't we heard about the arrest of Jews calling for the murder of Arabs? Answer: Jews are exercising their right to free speech.

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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A resident of Halamish surveys the damage done to the West Bank settlement, November 26, 2016.
A resident of Halamish surveys the damage done to the West Bank settlement, November 26, 2016.Credit: Gil Cohen-Magen
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Is a fire started intentionally for political, or “nationalist,” motives worth more than an ordinary fire? Will the criteria for government compensation to Israeli citizens whose homes were damaged last week be set based on the source of the flames, creating a hierarchy of reparations and assistance?

Will a fire classified as a hostile terrorist act provide its victims with faster and higher reimbursement than those unfortunates whose houses, photo albums and computers were consumed by a fire caused by a police flare or a carelessly discarded cigarette whose combustion was fanned by the winds?

Why aren’t we hearing about the mass arrest of Jews whose social media posts called for the murder of Arabs and who expressed joy at their misfortunes, but have heard about a social activist from Rahat who was arrested for mocking those who welcomed the fires?

Some answers:

* Jewish incitement isn’t news.

* Jews say what they think and are exercising their right to free speech.

* Hatemongering Jews who incite to murder Palestinians aren’t arrested. Or they are in the governing coalition or Knesset.

* Declaring that arsonists’ citizenship will be revoked is not incitement, but part of a long-standing expulsion policy.

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How is it that Israeli journalists hurried to quote the expressions of Schadenfreude posted on Arab and Palestinian social media sites? How is it that they can’t seem to find the press statements, reports from the United Nations and B’Tselem, and the Palestinian posts that report on the routine abuses and cruelty perpetrated against millions of people by the Israel Defense Forces, the Border Police, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Interior Ministry, the Civil Administration, the District Coordinating Offices, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Public Security Ministry, the Israel Land Authority, etc.?

Some answers:

* Because Israeli intelligence officials who hunt down suspects feed the information to journalists.

* Because Israeli journalists aren’t familiar with the websites of B’Tselem and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

* Because they don’t want to hurt their friends, comrades and children, who are the soldiers, judges and administrative personnel perpetrating the abuses.

* Because they are Israelis before they are journalists.

* Because they know what Israeli news consumers want to hear, and what they couldn’t care less about.

* All of the above.

* Because reporting on how Israel dominates the Palestinians wouldn’t leave room for any other news.

* Because what’s routine doesn’t make headlines.

We have to acknowledge that there were Palestinian arsonists, just as there were also false accusations. But if we want to prevent similar sabotage, we need to understand the motives.

These actions, no matter how reprehensible they may be, are closely linked to the policies of cruelty. Anyone who doesn’t want to know about these policies or recognize that they exist is signaling that he’s interested in continuing the problem in order to justify future expulsions and abuses.

Three maps

Where are Beit Meir, Nataf and Canada Park, three locations where fires blazed? One answer is that they lie west of Jerusalem. Another is that Beit Meir sits on the lands of the destroyed Palestinian village of Bayt Mahsir, which in early 1948 was home to 3,000 people. Nataf lies where the village of Beit Thul once stood, and which we also destroyed so that its 300 fleeing residents could not return.

Canada Park, which is run by the Jewish National Fund, is on the ruins of the villages of Imwas and Yalo, whose residents we expelled in June 1967.

And where is the settlement of Halamish? On the lands of the villages of Deir Nizam and Nabi Saleh. Halamish is expanding; Israel restricts any new construction in Palestinian villages.

The fires last week sketched out three maps of the country. One is the imaginary map of pure Jewish territory from which Palestinians have been erased. The second is the painful map of the invader and occupiers, where we find the few arsonists who presumably caused some of the fires and those who were pleased by the conflagrations. The two maps are amazingly similar.

The third is that of people who are attached to their homes, who have lost or are losing them, of those who will return to them after they’re rebuilt, and of those who haven’t returned.

How many people does it take to evacuate entire Israeli neighborhoods? Only a few Palestinian arsonists whose society rejects them.

How many people does it take to make half a million Palestinians flee from one firetrap to the next in Gaza? Many Israelis – an entire government, the General Staff, senior commanders, and thousands of soldiers and pilots.

How many Israelis does it take to kill, in one summer, 180 children aged 0-5, 346 kids aged 6-17 and 247 women, as happened in 2014? The same entire government, General Staff, senior commanders, and thousands of soldiers and pilots – along with most of a nation that cheers and encourages them to continue.

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