Wildfires have devastated California and killed 88 people, with the number of casualties continuously rising. Californians lost their homes, farms, and pets. Americans throughout the nation have offered assistance and contributed financially. Our hearts broke from news of the devastation.
These California fires were not started intentionally. But what if we lived in fear that park fires would be started maliciously? What if we were threatened daily with arson terrorism?
Arson terrorism has been a daily and agonizing reality in Israel.
Israel has spent this past year under unyielding bombardment of terroristic arson. For over seven months, on a daily basis, Israeli farms, homes, schools, national parks, and wildlife sanctuaries have been burned by malicious fires, fires started as intentional acts of terrorism.
Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad members and supporters, who desire to overtake Israel and “kill Jews,” have been attempting to weaken the Israeli borders by overwhelming the border towns with unremitting fires. The fires are started by terrorists launching burning kites and incendiary balloons from Gaza into Israel. The fires rage and firefighters struggle to put them out.
As we have seen in California, putting out fires in dry climates is rather challenging. Israelis have lost over 8,648 acres of farmland and forests to arson terrorism. For scale, imagine Central Park in NYC, then multiply that by 10. That is how much land has been lost. A quarter of the Israeli nature reserves next to Gaza have been eradicated in the past year.
Children, schools, and kindergartens have been under attack. This heinously destructive form of ecological terrorism has killed thousands of native wildlife, engulfed public parks, damaged irrigation systems, inflicted harm on livestock, and burned down nature sanctuaries. Arson terrorism has produced an average of 11 fires a day in Israel over the past year, with a total of almost 1,000 fires.
Soldiers have remained at the border with Gaza and have helped the firefighters and the locals at the Israeli-Gaza border control these fires, but Israel was limited in its ability to reduce the magnitude of the ecological disaster.
While the United States has yet to experience arson terrorism on mass levels, the devastation that crippled California is a sure sign that we would have a difficult time recovering from the aftermath of terroristic arson in the U.S.
To date, American news has largely ignored the challenges that the Israelis have faced in their fight against arson terrorism. But we cannot afford to do so after experiencing our own weakness and unpreparedness for large-scale fires. Lest we forget, Israel is akin to an innovation lab of Islamic terrorism: whatever succeeds in Israel is eventually brought to the rest of the world. The terrorist fires, unfortunately, have accomplished their purpose in the Holy Land. This must serve as a red flag for us.
We must learn from the Israeli and California response successes and failures. We need to equip our federal and local governments with resources and knowledge on how to most effectively combat arson terrorism. Understand this: if arson terrorism happens in the United States, it won’t just be contained to the border as it is in Israel; it will likely come from the inside and target our home communities. Joseph W. Pfeifer testified before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on June 12, 2013, warning us about the dangers and complexity of battling arson terrorism in the United States. It is time to start listening to him.
We need to increase our vigilance and adequately prepare ourselves to battle the evil that our ally has been living through.