By DAVID BRINN
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 arsonistshad placed shoes on top of burned copies of the Koran – which they hadlaid out in a half-circle design in the mosque – initial findings byIsrael Police investigators, working in conjunction with Palestinianauthorities, rejected arson as the cause of the fire.It is extremely unlikely that the PA and the newspapers that reportedthe fire on Wednesday will now publish clarifications and updates aboutthe apparent electrical circuit malfunctions, correcting themselvesregarding their earlier assertions of settler blame.And thus – thanks to the overheated responses by the senior PAofficials, given unfortunate credibility by some settlers’ declared“price tag” policy of retribution – the danger is that readersworldwide, when they try to understand another deterioration inIsraeli-Palestinian relations, and the faltering of themuch-anticipated proximity talks, will think they know whom to blame.Precisely as those quick-to-accuse PA officials intended.
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