Arab MKs blame the government for B'Tselem fire

Arab MKs quick to blame fire at B'Tselem offices on the Israeli government, which they claim incites against leftist NGOs.

Ben Ariel ,

Fire in B'Tselem offices
Fire in B'Tselem offices
Hezki Ezra

Arab MKs were quick on Sunday night to blame the Israeli government for the fire that broke out in the building which houses the offices of the leftist B’Tselem group.

One person was lightly injured in the fire, which is being investigated as a possible arson.

But Arab MKs did not wait for the results of the investigation and were quick to link the fire with what they called the government’s “incitement” against so-called “human rights organizations”.

MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint List, responded to the fire and said, "We do not know who lit the match, but the source of the fire that was sparked tonight at B'Tselem is the government and its leader, who waged a campaign of incitement against human rights organizations.”

MK Hanin Zoabi also blasted the government and said, "The government ignites and incites. If the fire at the offices of B'Tselem is indeed the result of arson, then this is a direct result of the campaign to delegitimize the leftist organizations by the government."

"What began with the burning of the Dawabshe fire and continued with the burning of the Church of the Multiplication and the bilingual school, now continues in Jerusalem. The real arsonist is the government and its head, who should be placed on trial for inciting racial hatred," charged Zoabi.

MK Ahmed Tibi also responded to the fire, and said that if it was arson, "It can be said that it is not surprising in light of the ongoing incitement against the B'Tselem human rights organization by the right. Right-wing extremists have in the past torched the bilingual school. Those who offered to label leftist NGOs show the way to the crazies on the right, and that way is full of fire and gasoline."

"B'Tselem,” continued Tibi, “is a reliable and effective organization with an international reputation which is committed to professional standards and ethical performance."

B’Tselem, for its part, issued a statement following the fire, saying, “We are still awaiting the findings of the investigation of the fire fighters, but if it proves to be arson, then you cannot see it as isolated from the wave of attacks and incitement against human rights organizations.”

“Of course, the damage to our offices will not prevent us from continuing our work to document the injustices of the occupation and expose them,” said the group.

The fire came after the purported human rights organization defended executing Palestinians who sell land to Jews. The group is one of 13 Israeli NGOs that are funded by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah.

The Otzma Yehudit nationalist movement issued a statement on Sunday night, calling on police to properly investigate the arson case and question if it was staged.

“Our noses smell an acrid odor of provocation in an attempt to divert the public debate on the injustices which arose and are up for investigation. We have already seen that they (B'Tselem) or those close to them do not hesitate to break the law.”

The statement refers to how left-wing extremist Ezra Nawi came under police investigation for exposing Palestinians to a fate of torture and capital punishment under the PA, as revealed in an investigative TV show last Thursday.

B'Tselem responded by defending the executions as noted, and leftist activists associated with B'Tselem were also revealed by the TV program to be similarly handing over Arabs for execution.