“Fire Intifada” in Israel? Why it matters for Europe and the rest of the world – by  Maria Chr. Alvanou

Israel has declared state of emergency as the country is in flames and cities like Haifa face imminent danger due to wildfire[1]. About 80,000 people have been asked to evacuate their homes and flee to save their lives[2], while their property is in danger of perishing in raging flames. Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Bulgaria, Russia and Turkey[3] have sent special firefighting aircrafts to help Israeli authorities cope with the situation.Israeli officials speak about a terror plan behind the fires[4] and already the term “Eshtifada” (“Fire Intifada”) has appeared in the press[5]. Israeli Police has arrested a suspect for inciting to arson on a social media platform and more were arrested on suspicion of arson[6]. It remains to be proved whether the allegations of terrorism will be verified. What is especially worrying is that a special hashtag “#Israelisburning”[7] is trending in arab social media. If this disaster and tragedy proves to be the act of men in the context of terrorism, it must be of general concern to the rest of the world, for the following reasons (apart from human solidarity):

  1. Destroying forests is not an attack against Israel, it is an attack against nature and nature belongs to every human being on this planet. It is not (only) Israel to be harmed, it is the whole planet that suffers under such an attack. The role of forests in the ecosystem and its balance is vital. It is where animals live and find shelter, it is important for oxygen on earth and it is an asylum of nature in the midst of the artificial environment man has created. Forests are the lungs of our existence. A terror attack that targets nature has disastrous and lasting effects to the environment and it is highly dangerous for all.
  2. This operational methodology of arsons should concern countries other than Israel because of the copycat phenomenon. We know by now- unfortunately very well since Paris, Nice and Brussels- that the Middle East is a “test field” for operational methods to be adopted afterwards by jihadists in Europe. And even more particularly we have experienced that whatever operations have been used against Israelis during the second and (what has been described as) the third Intifada have found their way in Europe. Suicide bombings, knife attacks, vehicles driving against pedestrians, all were operational methods used by Palestinian perpetrators that afterwards were employed by operatives of the international islamist terror network. If police and judicial research show that this tragedy in Israel is truly the result of planned arsons, if those who speak of a “Fire Intifada” are correct, then this is something that could come in the european backyard sooner or later.

In Europe, apart from measures for the prevention of attacks (like good intelligence and legal provisions) there is an interest to counter radicalization in order to combat the phenomenon of terrorism. Conferences and workshops take place, plus special programs are getting established. Yet, there can be no effective systematic effort to stop radicalization, if double standards exist in caring about the evil terror inflicts and condemning it. An important step against radicalization to violence and the legitimization of extremist violence is to denounce them wherever and whenever they take place. If indeed “arson terrorism” has appeared in Israel today, Europe must condemn it in a strong way now, before it becomes a european problem tomorrow.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/24/world/middleeast/israel-fires.html

[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-38088651

[3] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/11/24/five-countries-help-israel-fight-massive-fires/

[4] http://www.timesofisrael.com/officials-say-evidence-of-arson-unclear-as-fires-burn-overnight-in-many-parts-of-israel/


[6] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4884247,00.html

[7] http://www.i24news.tv/en/news/international/130960-161124-hashtag-israel-is-burning-trends-on-arab-social-media