Anger, Recriminations Over Grain Silo Arson Footage

A fire. (Reuters/Baz Ratner, File)

After footage of an act of agricultural terror-in-action was broadcast in Israeli media Sunday night, farmers and MKs demanded an immediate solution to the ongoing problem of harassment and terror against Israeli farmers by Arabs – with MK Eitan Broshi (Zionist Camp) calling for the resignation of Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel for his “utter failure” in stopping the phenomenon.

“He has no choice but to quit,” Broshi told Kan News. “The only thing that has happened in agriculture during his term in office has been an aggravation of acts of terror. He has to pay for his lack of action.”

Broshi was speaking after firefighters on Sunday afternoon – after more than 30 hours of intensive work – managed to put out a fire that had broken out in a grain silo in Kibbutz Kissufim, in southern Israel. Footage from security cameras clearly showed how the fire broke out: Two figures wearing hooded sweatshirts are seen spilling accelerant on the floor of the silo, and minutes later the place is in flames. Fire inspectors and police opened an investigation into the fire, but so far no arrests have been made.

Dudy Amitai, head of the Israel Farmers Council, told Channel 20 that “we are seeing a process of reverse ‘redemption of the land.’ As Arabs intimidate Israeli farmers with fires, theft and outright terror, farmers are either selling their holdings to Arabs at fire-sale prices or even abandoning land – which Arabs take over. It is the opposite of the process by which the state was created. There will soon come a time when we will have no agricultural sector left. We are coming to the point where farmers will simply take the law into their own hands, because police and the authorities do nothing. We know this because we have sought their help many times, but nothing ever changes. It would be a simple matter to solve this problem – but the will has to be there, and it is not.”

Amitai added that because of the large number of attacks, it was impossible for many farmers to get insurance. “So we have no insurance and no security,” he said. “What are we supposed to do?”

Pinny Badash, head of the Omer local council, spoke on Monday about a related matter – involving the firing of automatic weapons by Bedouin youth on a main highway in the Negev, as part of a “wedding celebration.” Police have arrested two people in this incident, which took place last Friday, and was also recorded in security footage.

“We have simply lost control” of the Bedouin and Arab population, said Badash, whose town is located outside Be’er Sheva. “We hear the gunshots every night and weekend, and we often find stray bullets in Omer fired from the neighboring villages. Just recently one of those bullets was shot into someone’s living room. We have sought help from the police, but to no avail. In any event, the punishment for crimes that these people commit is so light as to be laughable. In one case, a person was arrested 40 times for car theft, and did not serve one day in prison. I do not understand how such a strong country surrenders to this kind of terror.”

Speaking to Kan News, Ariel said that “the problem of agricultural terrorism is a serious one and requires new ways of thinking, which we are working on with the defense minister, justice minister, and others.” When events such as a fire occur, Ariel said that “the state helps farmers out, and we will try to do so in the Kissufim fire. We are planning to provide state-sponsored insurance for incidents like these.”