On Israel's Firefighting Incompetence

Goldblog seems to have set off a wee controversy by asserting that the proprietor of this blog will not be donating money to the Jewish National Fund in the wake of the terrible forest fire in northern Israel because a) the JNF is schnorring for firetrucks, and it is a commonly-held belief among everyone except proponents of checkbook Zionism that the free and independent and well-off State of Israel should pay for its own public safety equipment. This blog, contrary to statements made in the dumbosphere, is not opposed to helping Israel out of this mess, which is why the suggestion was made in this space -- and is being made again -- to donate money to the Yemin Orde youth village, which looks after some of Israel's neediest children and was half-burnt out by the fire. 

But about that controversy: Adam Dickter, reporting in The New York Jewish Week, writes that the Jewish National Fund's CEO thinks I'm ignant for arguing that people shouldn't give him money:

JNF CEO Russell Robinson said Goldberg's assertion that the government should go it alone "shows a complete lack of understanding and ignorance."

A lack of understanding and ignorance. That's heavy. In fact, I do think the Israeli government should go it alone when it comes to public safety. That's what proud, advanced countries do -- they don't schnor firehoses from senior citizens in Boca Raton. However, I also think people should plant trees in Israel; it's almost a religious obligation, one I have fulfilled repeatedly. But I'm not going to do it now, and neither should anyone else, until the Israelis can assure us that our newly-planted trees won't be burned to a crisp because of government incompetence.

Ask yourselves this simple question: Do you believe that the Israeli government's firefighting capabilities and strategies are currently sufficient to protect your trees?  If your answer is yes, you haven't been reading about the incompetence of those Israelis in charge of suppressing forest fires. No one expects Israel to prevent all forest fires, but, as numerous press reports have detailed, Israel's fire service is -- and has been -- a disreputable mess. Israeli authorities have known about this disaster-in-the-making for years, and have done nothing. So, no, I'm not going to waste my money buying trees for Israel until I know that competent people are in charge, and that a plan is in place.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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