Analysis: Sentenced before the evidence is in

All this because of a suspected electrical fire?

May 6, 2010 05:12
1 minute read.
Palestinian and IDF examine mosque fire damage

mosque fire 311. (photo credit: AP)


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A day after a fire in a West Bank mosque in Lubban Sharkiya, the world already knows that settlers were responsible for it.

A quick Google search on Wednesday found headlines in The Washington Post and The New York Times like “Mahmoud Abbas warns fire at West Bank mosque could imperil peace talks,” “Mosque fire casts shadow on peace talks,” and “Palestinians’ emotions run high after fire destroys mosque in the West Bank.”

But those reports were just accurately reflecting what was being said by Palestinians.

Even before any findings were in as to whether the cause of the fire was arson or an electrical failure, the PA was insisting Tuesday that the evidence already showed that settlers had burned the mosque as part of their “price tag” policy of retribution. PA President Mahmoud Abbas called it a “criminal” act that “represented a threat to the efforts to revive the peace process,” because the IDF was “providing protection to the settlers.”

All this because of a fire that may have been caused by an electrical short?

Despite claims by a Rabbis for Human Rights field worker that the alleged arsonists had placed shoes on top of burned copies of the Koran – which they had laid out in a half-circle design in the mosque – initial findings by Israel Police investigators, working in conjunction with Palestinian authorities, rejected arson as the cause of the fire.

It is extremely unlikely that the PA and the newspapers that reported the fire on Wednesday will now publish clarifications and updates about the apparent electrical circuit malfunctions, correcting themselves regarding their earlier assertions of settler blame.

And thus – thanks to the overheated responses by the senior PA officials, given unfortunate credibility by some settlers’ declared “price tag” policy of retribution – the danger is that readers worldwide, when they try to understand another deterioration in Israeli-Palestinian relations, and the faltering of the much-anticipated proximity talks, will think they know whom to blame.

Precisely as those quick-to-accuse PA officials intended.

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