Arab praise of fires

Arab praise of fires

As forest fires raged out of control in northern Israel last week, The Jerusalem Post published a disturbing story.
The paper reported on Dec. 4 that many Arabs were strongly condemning Egypt and Jordan for sending help to the Jewish state to extinguish the fires. 
“Many in the Arab world seem to be happy with the big fire that has been raging in northern Israel over the past few days,” the Post reported. “Judging from comments of readers in response to the blaze in several leading Arab media outlets and websites, a majority believe that God is ‘punishing’ Israel for occupying Arab lands and killing Palestinians, especially during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.”
Some of the comments reported in the Arab media were especially heinous:
• “O’ Allah, burn them (Jews) before the Day of Judgment. O’ Allah, destroy them and all the enemies of Islam.”
• “Thank God for this new Holocaust and shame on the Egyptian authorities who rushed to save the Zionists while continuing to lay siege against our brothers in the Gaza Strip.”
• “Allahu Akbar! This is an effective weapon. We call on our Palestinian brothers to set fire to all forests.”
You get the idea. The Holocaust references, especially those about “burning Jews,” are particularly disgusting for anyone professing to be religious.
But as provocative as these remarks are, they tell only part of the story of the Arab reaction to the fires.
After all, what are these hatemongers’ screeds about? They’re about Arabs helping Israelis. Egypt and Jordan did send assistance, so did the Palestinian Authority and even Turkey — its brand new cold war with Israel notwithstanding.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas can’t seem to meet over a negotiating table, but they spoke by phone as the fires burned — Abbas to express his sympathies for the loss of life, Bibi to thank him.
Much of what is reported in the Arab media is meant for public consumption, while very different things are said and done away from the cameras. We learned this lesson very well during the recent publication of State Department cables by Wikileaks — the ones in which Arab leaders were urging the United States to attack Iran.
So while some organizations in the Jewish world are already pouncing on these quotes to whip up anti-Arab sentiment, Israeli leaders would do well to keep in mind what they really mean. Just like in Israel, the Arab world has its extremists, too, and just like Israel, it must deal with them.