Joint List to AG: Probe Netanyahu for Arson Incitement against Arabs

The Joint List announced on Monday, December 5, that the bloc will demand an investigation against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for incitement against Arab-Palestinians citizens of Israel. According to MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), who heads the list, Netanyahu will be investigated for incitement against Palestinians after he accused them of deliberately starting the wildfires that burnt through vast tracts of land in Israel recently. “On behalf of the Joint List, I am issuing a formal request to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to probe Netanyahu for incitement,” Odeh announced.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a Border Police officer at the scene of one of the fires after it was extinguished

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a Border Police officer at the scene of one of the fires after it was extinguished (Photo: GPO)

Over the past month, Netanyahu and several other top officials of his governing far-right coalition have labelled the wave of fires an “arson intifada,” alluding to a Palestinian uprising. “If any of the blazes were deliberately set, the arsonists should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Odeh said.

On November 26, Netanyahu accused “terrorists” of seeking to “engulf our country with hate,” while arguing that Israel sought to “encompass our region with peace. Their flames will never burn down our hope.” Far-right Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett also blamed Arab “fire terrorists”, saying that “only someone who this land does not belong to would be capable of setting fire to it,” implying that Arabs were responsible for the fires because they do not have any attachment to the land.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan had called for the demolition of homes of any Arab found guilty of arson, and Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said during a visit to the illegal Israeli settlement of Hallamish in the occupied West Bank following a fire there, that the best answer to the destruction caused by the flames was to”expand settlements.” Critics have claimed that Israeli politicians were quick to blame Arabs from Israel and Palestinians for the fires as a political maneuver to further convince the international community of Palestinian hostility towards the Israeli state.

Last week, Haaretz reported that an Israeli police source rejected claims that the fires were set for “nationalist” or “terrorist” motives, while Ran Shelef, the Israeli Fire and Rescue Authority’s chief fire investigator told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday: “In most areas you won’t find many things that say whether it was arson.”

Shelef did say evidence of arson was found in four areas: the Galilee region in northern Israel, the area from Umm El-Fahm to settlement Betar Illit, the occupied West Bank, and Israel’s central region. Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the fires in the northern coastal city of Haifa and Zichron Ya’acov. Last week, Israeli officials reportedly said that out of the total 1,773 reported fires, centered largely in and around Jerusalem and Haifa, only 25 were suspected arson. The Israeli army is also investigating evidence that one large fire started after an Israeli soldier threw a lit cigarette into an area close to a checkpoint.