Netanyahu incites against the Arab community during wildfire emergency

Date: 2016/12/08
Fires broke out across Israel on 22 November 2016, ravaging neighborhoods in Haifa. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several members of his cabinet seized the opportunity and accused Palestinian “terrorism” for the fires that blazed across the northern district.

Fires broke out across Israel on 22 November 2016, ravaging neighborhoods in Haifa. 75,000 Haifa residents were evacuated from their homes and over 77 buildings were destroyed, leaving approximately 1,600 people homeless. Emergency crews from around the region, including the Palestinian Authority, helped to bring the wildfires under control.

 

The Arab community offered immediate, generous support for fire victims and formed emergency crews to aid displaced families. As fires blazed through neighborhoods in southern Haifa, Arab heads of local councils offered to host fire victims and Arab restaurants in Haifa donated meals to displaced families. Two Arab timber suppliers have also donated wood paneling to rebuild a Conservative synagogue damaged in Haifa.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several members of his cabinet seized the opportunity and accused Palestinian “terrorism” for the fires that blazed across the northern district. Jafar Farah, Director of the Mossawa Center, said, “We must not accept incitement by Netanyahu, the government, and the media. We are working with the media to try to reduce incitement against Arabs." Netanyahu’s allegations of terrorism were later denied by police, but Netanyahu’s terrorism allegations amount to flagrant incitement against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the oPt.

 

These comments follow a pattern of incitement against the Arab community from the Israeli media, Netanyahu, and his administration. Major media outlets in Israel published headlines blaming Arab terrorism for the wildfires. The Mossawa Center demanded that the networks change their inflammatory and inaccurate headlines and encouraged citizens to call the networks to make the change. Within hours, major outlets removed the inciting headlines.

 

Netanyahu and prominent ministers in his cabinet have frequently made disparaging comments against Arab citizens. During the 2015 election, Netanyahu warned Jewish voters that Arab citizens were voting in “droves”. In January 2016, Netanyahu accused the Arab community and a wide range of Arab public institutions of supporting radical Islamic ideologies. These comments are divisive and blatantly discriminatory against Arab citizens of Israel.
 

Following the wildfires in Mount Carmel in 2010 that destroyed 74 buildings and killed 44 people, Netanyahu’s government failed to implement the recommendations of the State Comptroller report detailing necessary improvements to action plans and equipment. As a result, Israel was ill-prepared to handle the latest spate of wildfires.

 

A week after the fire, the Mossawa Center collaborated with Channel 2 to produce a program profiling Palestinians who were falsely accused of arson, arrested, and then released.

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