Gilad Atzmon: The Burning Bush
Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 11:00PM
As I am writing these lines, Israeli Fire fighting crews are battling with the flames. They also express no hope of controlling the fire soon. "We lost all control of the fire," said the Haifa Fire fighting services spokesman. "There aren't enough fire fighting resources in Israel in order to put out the fire."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hurried to the scene of the fire on Thursday. He requested the help of the U.S, Greece, Italy, Russia, and Cyprus to send additional forces to aid the Israeli firemen. A normal country would probably ask for the help of its neighbours, but the Jewish state doesn’t have neighbours. It made all its neighbours into enemies.
But the story here goes far deeper. The fire in northern Israel is far from being a coincidence. Israel’s rural landscape is saturated with pine trees. These trees are totally new to the region. They were not there until the 1930’s. The pine trees were introduced to the Palestinians landscape in the early 1930s by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in an attempt to ‘reclaim the land’ . By 1935, JNF had planted 1.7 million trees over a total area of 1,750 acres. Over fifty years, the JNF planted over 260 million trees largely on confiscated Palestinian land. It did it all in a desperate attempt to hide the ruins of the ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages and their history.
Along the years the JNF performed a crude attempt to eliminate Palestinian civilisation and their past but it also tried to make Palestine look like Europe. The Palestinian natural forest was eradicated. Similarly the olive trees were uprooted. The pine trees took their place. On the southern part of mount Carmel the Israelis named an area as ‘Little Switzerland’. I have learned tonight that Little Switzerland is burned.
However, the facts on the ground were pretty devastating for the JNF. The pine tree didn’t adapt to the Israeli climate as much as the Israelis failed to adapt to the Middle East. According to JNF statistics, six out of every 10 saplings planted did not survive. Those few trees that did survive formed nothing but a firetrap. By the end of each Israeli summer each of the Israeli pine forests become a potential deadly zone.
In spite of its nuclear power, its criminal army, the occupation, the Mossad and its lobbies all over the world, Israel seems to be very vulnerable. It is devastatingly alienated from the land it claims to own. Like the pine tree, Israel and the Israeli are foreign to the region.
Article originally appeared on Gilad Atzmon (http://www.gilad.co.uk/).
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"A mood of recrimination has gripped Israel as government negligence was blamed for the deaths of at least 42 people in the deadliest forest fire in the country's history."
By Adrian Blomfield, Mt Carmel
5:50PM GMT 03 Dec 2010
Successive administrations ignored repeated pleas for more manpower and equipment despite warnings by official commissions of inquiry that the country would struggle to contain a major natural disaster, senior officials in the Israeli fire department said.
The growing anger came as Israel marked an official day of mourning for the dead, nearly all young cadets in the prison service whose bus became trapped in the fire after a burning tree fell across a road, cutting off their escape route. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, described the fire as an "unprecedented disaster".
Israel's overstretched fire services struggled for a second day to contain the blaze as it advanced through the foothills of Mt Carmel, where Elijah is held to have challenged the prophets of Baal to a fire-starting contest.
European firefighting aircraft, including an RAF helicopter dispatched from Cyprus, joined the fight, dumping thousands of tonnes of fire retardant on the smouldering valleys.
The international assistance, while welcomed, highlighted the shortcomings of Israel's own firefighting capacities, and senior rescue service officials complained that their requests for aircraft had been turned down.
"It's very hard to control such a large fire with firefighting aircraft," said Haim Tamam, the deputy commissioner of the Israeli Fire and Rescue Department. "Without them, it's impossible.
"The lack of manpower and equipment, the lack of firefighting aircraft and water infrastructure in risk areas creates an uncontrollable situation when a fire breaks out."
A number of privately-owned firefighting aircraft were summoned to assist but because they were not on standby they took over two hours to reach the scene of the fire, why which time it was already out of control.
"If the appropriate means were available, whose lack I have reiterated over the past year, some of those killed would have been saved and the fire would not have reached such a scale," said David Golan, the director of the company that owned the aircraft.
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