As more than 60,000 Haifa residents flee their homes in the third day of blazes across Israel, the predominantly Arab Joint List Party is pushing back on claims some or most of the fires were started by Arabs for nationalistic reasons.
Speaking to Army Radio Thursday afternoon, Joint List chief MK Ayman Odeh expressed outrage at the suggestion that Arab arsonists were responsible for the fires in Haifa.
Comparing the claim to medieval blood libels against Jews, Odeh dismissed the idea as fiction.
“This reminds me of the anti-Semitism in Europe, like when they would blame Jews, saying they poisoned wells.”
In Israel, however, accusations are investigated by the police. Blood libels were baseless accusations of murder said to have been committed by Jews which led to pogroms and violence without due process of law.
Later on Thursday, Police Chief Roni Alsheich lent credence to arson as an explanation for at least some of the fires, adding that some arrests had already been made.
Dr. David Bukay, a Middle East Studies Professor at the University of Haifa and a specialist in the Arab-Israeli conflict, noted that at least four fires had been sparked simultaneously in different parts of Haifa, leaving little doubt as to the cause.
“Fires were sparked in four different places across Haifa at the same time,” said Bukay, himself a resident of Haifa.
“I was worried about something like this happening since Saturday, but I hoped that it would just be a forest fire, but they’ve managed to burn down Haifa. It’s just terrible, it’s outrageous. Where are all the people who claim the Arabs love the Land of Israel? Look at how they’ve decided to burn Haifa; it’s an outrage.