Palestinian reactions are mixed
to PA aid in Carmel fire:
Even if your home is stolen,
you don't want it to burn
by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
When a major forest fire broke out in the Carmel Forest in northern Israel last month, the Palestinian Authority sent fire fighters and equipment to help.
|Text: "Members of the Palestinian Civil Defense helping to put out the fire."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 6, 2010]
Palestinian reactions to helping Israel fight the fire were mixed. Some categorized it as a "humanitarian act," while others said help was not actually for Israel's benefit but rather because the Carmel Forest in northern Israel near Haifa is really in "occupied Palestine":
"Even if an aggressive foreigner occupies our home and steals it,
we don't wish for the home to burn," stated a regular columnist in the official Palestinian Authority daily.
According to this opinion, all of Israel is stolen Palestinian land, which is why Palestinians fought the fire.
The same attitude was expressed by the head of the PA civil defense, Ahmad Rizq, when asked if the fire fighters were criticized for helping Israel:
"I believe that the majority of the Palestinian people still think that this land [the Carmel Forest in Israel] is Palestinian."
But Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas explained it positively:
"A catastrophe befell our neighbors, and it was our obligation to perform this humanitarian act for our neighbors, to save the environment, and to save human life."
And this brought praise to the Palestinian Authority leaders:
"A purely humanitarian act," a senior PA official described the decision to send help, adding that it "was undertaken at the instruction of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad."
Nonetheless, even Abbas compared helping Israel in its time of need to helping the enemy who conquered one's land by citing the following precedent:
"... just as the [Muslim] leader Saladin [who conquered Jerusalem] sent his physician to treat his enemy, Richard the Lion Hearted, who led the invasion of our land and conquered it."
The following are excerpts from various articles relating to the PA's aid fighting the Carmel fire:
Headline: "The real Israel and the false Israel" (Daily column by Yahya Rabbah)
"We hope that the regional and international firefighting team... will be able to gain control of the fire, which is swallowing the Mount Carmel forests... In the depths of our Islamic Arab culture, even if an aggressive foreigner occupies our home and steals it, we don't wish for the home to burn."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 5, 2010]
Interview with the Director-General of the Palestinian Civil Defense, Ahmad Rizq, about the Palestinian participation in extinguishing the fire in the Carmel region:
PA TV News reader: "Have you received any criticism through the internet or in statements as to why the [Palestinian] Civil Defense participates in extinguishing the fire in the '48-territories [euphemism for Israel] or with the Israelis?"
Rizq: "I believe that the majority of the Palestinian people still think that this land is Palestinian [land]."
[PA TV (Fatah), Dec. 5, 2010]
"President Abbas yesterday awarded a certificate of appreciation to the commander of the [Palestinian] Civil Defense, Ahmed Rizk, [and] to the non-commissioned officers and members of the general administration of the Civil Defense, in appreciation of their humanitarian efforts in participating in putting out the fires which broke out at Mount Carmel in Haifa and in the neighboring villages.
During the reception which he held at the Presidential Residence for commander of the Civil Defense, Ahmed Rizk, for the officers and members of the Civil Guard who participated in putting out the fires in the Carmel, the President said: 'You have done a great deed, and in humanitarian instances such as this we do not linger in carrying out our humanitarian obligation.'
The President added: 'Our human history shows that we have not lingered in carrying out our humanitarian obligation, just as the [Muslim] leader Saladin [who conquered Jerusalem] sent his physician to treat his enemy, Richard the Lion Hearted, who led the invasion of our land and conquered it.'
He continued: 'A catastrophe befell our neighbors, and it was our obligation to perform this humanitarian act for our neighbors, to save the environment, and to save human life.' The President emphasized that the Palestinian people does not linger in carrying out its humanitarian obligation towards the whole world, whether this activity [takes place] within Israel or elsewhere, within the limits of its abilities...
The President received a telegram yesterday from his Israeli counterpart, Shimon Peres, and from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in which both thanked the Palestinian Authority for its effective and courageous contribution to extinguishing the fire which broke out in the Carmel. The telegram read, 'The State of Israel expresses its thanks and its profound appreciation to the special delegation of the Palestinian Authority, for its valuable and superbly courageous contribution in extinguishing the fire in the Carmel."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 12, 2010]
"An officer in the Palestinian Civil Defense said that yesterday he supervised a team of twenty, to extinguish the fires which broke out in the Carmel region in northern Israel four days ago. The officer, Ibrahim Ayesh, told Agence France Presse in a telephone conversation from the Carmel region: 'We are still working to extinguish the fires, since nine this morning, and we have not encountered any problems arising from our being members of the [Palestinian] Civil Defense working among the Israelis.' Ayesh said, 'We hope to contribute with the others to extinguishing the fire soon.' It should be noted that a Palestinian team from the Palestinian Civil Defense participated yesterday, from the morning, in activities to fight the fires which broke out in the Carmel region, close to Haifa, four days ago... The senior official said that the participation of the Palestinian team in the activities to extinguish the fires inside Israel 'was undertaken at the instruction of President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, since this is a purely humanitarian act."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 6, 2010]