The Samaria Regional Council plans to sue the left-wing NGO B’Tselem for slander after it alleged that settlers from Yitzhar had set fire to fields near the Palestinian village of Burin.
Overnight B’Tselem tweeted a dramatic nighttime photo of the village with the flames burning in the background. In the tweet it stated, “settlers torched Palestinian fields in Burin.”
At 8:10 a.m. it also sent a release to the media about it, but within two hours, at 10:07, it retracted the charges.
“The fires in Burin tonight are being re-examined. I will update with any new information I have,” B’Tselem stated. No further information was provided.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said the actual story was precisely the opposite. Palestinians “were the ones that ignited the fire that threatened residents’ homes.”
The IDF told The Jerusalem Post it had evidence that Palestinians had ignited the fields. It added that when settlers arrived to douse the flames altercations broke out between Palestinians and settlers.
Dagan said the initial tweets had been shared 2,000 times including by the left-wing NGO B’Tselem. The Council and Yitzhar have now asked an attorney to prepare a defamation case against B’Tselem.
“At night, the Arab residents of the village lit a fire that endangered the lives of the Jews, and in the morning their extreme-Left friends lit a fire of hatred against the settlers,” Dagan said. He warned that the settlers were not “suckers” and that “from today” they would not “remain silent” on the topic of defamation and slander, Dagan said.
“Freedom of expression is a sacred value, but not freedom of expression and defamation,” he added.
Dagan’s charges against B’Tselem come amid an upsurge in allegations of settler and Jewish extremist violence against Palestinians in the aftermath of Sunday’s drive-by shooting attack by a Palestinian, in which three teens were injured, including two seriously.
The international community has also increasingly focused on the issue of Jewish extremist and settler violence against Palestinians.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs there have been 97 attacks against Palestinian property and 30 acts of physical violence against Palestinians as of April 26th of this year.
Last year there were 270 attacks against Palestinian property and 63 physical attacks, according to OCHA.