After the searing exposé of the part played by a B’tselem worker in sending Palestinian land vendors to torture and even death at the hands of the Palestinian authorities, it was with some consternation that we learned of the fire that engulfed the building that houses B’tselem’s offices last night.
A major fire broke out late Sunday in a Jerusalem office building that houses the left-wing rights group B’Tselem.
The blaze was first reported shortly before 10 p.m. Sunday in the building in Jerusalem’s southern Talpiot neighborhood.
One person was evacuated with light injuries from smoke inhalation. He was not a B’Tselem employee. The fire was extinguished shortly before 11:30 p.m.
At least five firefighting teams battled the blaze, with officials saying no one was trapped in the building’s upper floors, as was initially feared.
Firefighters confirmed that the fire began on the same floor as the B’Tselem offices, according to Maariv. Fire investigators and police were examining the possibility of arson targeting the controversial group. An unconfirmed report said the fire may have been started in multiple places in the building, suggesting arson.
We can presume that it was thought that the fire had to be arson simply because B’tselem would be such a tempting target.
B’Tselem said its offices had been damaged, but that it would not be deterred from its work. “Needless to say, the damage to our offices will not prevent us from continuing with our work to expose and document the iniquities of the occupation.”
“We don’t know if it’s deliberate arson or not, but we’ve seen the police assessments of the situation,” a B’Tselem spokesperson said in a statement. “But if it turns out that it indeed was arson, it’s impossible to see it disconnected from the wave of attacks and mudslinging against human rights groups.”
But besides the immense danger to life and the utter immorality of burning down a building, no matter how obnoxious the occupants, surely no rightist could be so dumb as to hand the anti-Israel NGO such a propaganda victory??
Well, it turns out that indeed no rightist is so dumb or so evil. Nor even a leftist for that matter. It turns out that the fire was a simple electrical fault. Very unfortunate for B’tselem, not to mention the other occupants, and in a way unfortunate too for the right-wing too since so much evidence has gone up in flames, literally.
The Jerusalem Fire Service has determined that the fire which occurred last night at the offices of the far-left NGO B’Tselem was caused by an electrical fault, and was not the result of arson.
The fire, which took place at the building housing the NGO’s offices in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Mekor Chaim, caused extensive damage but no injuries. One person trapped on the fourth floor of the building had to be evacuated by firefighters.
Following the fire, Arab and Left-wing MK all but preempted the investigation, blaming “right-wing incitement” and the Israeli government for what they clearly believed was an arson.
Below is security camera footage released this afternoon which appears to show the electrical short that caused the fire.
Binyamin Netanyahu used that most potent of weapons – mockery – to throw the accusations of incitement back at the Left:
At a Likud faction meeting in the Knesset, the prime minister chided his critics for quickly condemning him and his political allies over the blaze.
“Our opponents rushed to condemn, even before the flames were extinguished. Before the fire investigators even arrived at the scene, left-wing MKs and NGO heads charged that I and the national camp were directly responsible for the fire,” he said.
“Well, I don’t know if there was arson involved. All signs point to an electrical short, but maybe they will still blame me for the short. I won’t be surprised.”
However the “arson” and “incitement” genie is out of the bottle. How do we put it back again?
Does anyone remember the mosque fire that was immediately laid at the door of the eeevil settlers? And then it turned out that the fire was caused by a faulty electrical heater. But ask any Palestinian or their supporters who caused the fire and you know what answer you will get. It was the settlers/Zionists/Jews/Israelis/the occupation. Anyone but an accident or even their own fault.
I fear that the arson libel is already out there in the worldwide media and no amount of counter-reports and Fire Department investigations will change that opinion.
Please make sure that the truth is broadcast loud and clear to all your local and international media outlets. We cannot let this unfortunate accident be used to smear Israel and turn into yet another 21st century blood libel.