Two nights ago, the building that houses B’Tselem, one of Israel’s leading human rights organizations, caught fire. Luckily, no one was seriously injured (though there were minor injuries). The preliminary findings pointed to arson, and many people, including many left-wing activists, assumed this to be correct. I also believed that it was arson.
Yesterday morning, the preliminary organization showed that the cause was most likely an electrical shortage and not arson.
Why did so many, myself included, assume otherwise? There are many possible reasons for this, but a two stand out.
Over the past year, there have been a series of arson attacks, including the Jewish-Arab Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem and the infamous Duma attack in the West Bank that killed a one-year child and his parents. Additionally, multiple churches and mosques have been attacked by arson, or have been presumed to be attacked by arson. Even though the preliminary investigation on the B’Tselem offices show that this case was one of faulty wires, many other fires on left-wing institutions and on Palestinians’ property have indeed occurred. This method of terror is becoming more and more common, and so initial assumption of a copy-cat attack is not an illogical starting point for both the public and the investigators.
A second reason that stands out is the reaction of the extreme Right within Israel. The organization Im Tirzu, which only a few weeks ago released a video calling B’tselem employees and others “moles”, published a picture depicting B’Tselem’s logo with a dead person being hanged from it. Needless to say, this reaction is extreme; the comments are not better. Even if the fire was caused by an electrical shortage, as seems to be the case, many people expressed happiness by the fire, even when initial reports stated that the cause was most likely arson. One comment on a Haaretz article says (in Hebrew, my translation):
“So sad…it’s a shame! It’s very unfortunate…that they weren’t in the offices!”
“Such a happy occurrence, I hope they all die”.
While many were wrong to assume arson, these comments show that the sentiment against the Israeli Left is negative and harmful. Even if the fire was not arson, many showed approval when they believed it was.
These are two examples in what many see as a society becoming more right-wing and more extreme. While this fire may not have been arson, the vigor of the extreme right continues to burn.