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December 10, 2010 10:07 pm

The Carmel Fire and the Future of Terrorism

avatar by Dovid Efune

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The catastrophic Carmel Blaze raged in northern Israel last week. Photo: TheNins.com.

As the catastrophic Carmel Blaze raged in northern Israel last week, allegations of arson quickly surfaced. Two brothers suspected of starting the deadly fire in the Carmel region were arrested on Monday and released shortly afterwards, under restrictive conditions by the Haifa Magistrate Court.

However, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post that “based on an initial analysis of findings on the ground, the fire was caused by negligence.”  Reports that the brothers were suspected of hurling burning waste products during a picnic could not be confirmed.

Meanwhile, police and firefighters had to contend with sporadic fires that erupted far from the main Carmel fire zone, leading investigators to conclude that arsonists were attempting to “hitch a ride” on the Carmel disaster. However, on Monday morning police announced that two additional youths from Usfiya were arrested on Sunday night in connection with the breakout of the Carmel fire, and that more arrests could be expected soon.

Although it hasn’t been widely circulated in international media outlets, some in Israel have actually reported a wave of terrorist arson by Arab citizens of Israel. Channel 2’s website carried a report that Border Police arrested two Arabs, one an Israeli citizen and the other from the Palestinian Authority, who tried to start a fire near Jerusalem on Saturday night. The two were caught in a ravine near the “tunnels checkpoint” at the entrance to the neighborhood of Gilo. A short time later, a 34-year-old Arab man was arrested near Dodge Junction close to Nazareth.

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The News1 website reported that Radio Haifa interviewed several people who witnessed car horn-honking and other acts of public celebration in the Arab village of Furadis, south of Haifa, after news of the tragedy became known on Thursday.

Israel National News reported on its website that pictures of the charred victims have already begun making the rounds worldwide. A group called “Mujahedeen of Palestine,” identified with Al-Qaeda, put the images of the bodies on a YouTube video. The video includes text that says “Muhammad’s lions” came out at night to set alight the land of the “occupiers.”

Whilst investigations will continue, and perhaps sometime in the future a public report will shed light on what exactly did take place and where the responsibility lies, one thing is certain, that even if the fires were not a coordinated act of terror, they certainly could have been.

The ramifications of this are frightening and the implications are far reaching. The world has now been presented with another stark demonstration of how terror organizations can use inventive and creative ways to shift beyond the conventional means of terrorist warfare and create mass chaos and destruction through defying the trust that a society places on its citizens.

It was not that long ago that the series of bulldozer attacks in Jerusalem hinted at this seismic shift in terrorist strategy, indicating that the abuse of professional trust could be used as a tool for indiscriminate destruction. These terrorists were operating bulldozers. Imagine for a moment the devastation that could have been wrought had they been operating a mechanical wrecking ball, were employed at a gas plant or in air traffic control.

What would be the value of the preventative efforts of airport security, if one of the pilots flying the airplane is of the same mindset as the bulldozer operators in Jerusalem?

Then, of course, there is the Internet. In a Wall Street Journal article on Monday, Mortimer Zuckerman addresses the topic of cyber terrorism at length. Referring to White House counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke’s revealing book “Cyberwar,” published earlier this year, he points out that cyber terrorists can “tap into networks and move money, spill oil, vent gas, blow up generators, derail trains, crash airplanes, cause missiles to detonate and wipe out reams of financial and supply-chain data. Havoc can be created at the blink of an eye from remote locations overseas.”

When it comes to terrorism there can be no doubt that the enemy within is more dangerous than the enemy without, and this week Israel has seen another glimpse of what that enemy is capable of. Of course this threat is by no means limited to Israel; it is a matter that all responsible governments must address by directing ample resources and employing their greatest minds.

The Carmel fire must serve as a stark wake-up call to Israelis and to leaders around the world that counter-terrorism efforts that are just preventative are greatly limited. The world we live in today requires these efforts to be anticipatory, or predictive aiming to foresee potential abuses of power and trust in the professional and public domain.

The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at defune@gjcf.com.

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