DIANA BUTTU With several international aircraft manoeuvring the skies above Carmel recently, the scene resembled a synchronised airshow with airplanes diving and peaking in perfect tune. Bright yellow fire-extinguishing aircraft ascended sharply among the green pine trees spraying bright orange fire retardant and in the distance the yellow and red flames of the Carmel fire danced. Israelis of all walks descended upon Danya - a posh Haifa neighbourhood - to witness what many Israeli onlookers called the rescue operation. Fathers graciously pointed out to their young children where each of the aircraft originated (France, the US, Sweden, and so on) while others criticised the Israeli government for not having enough materials and equipment to extinguish a fire of this magnitude. I hope they learn some lessons, remarked one onlooker, presumably referring to the Israeli government. But as I watched the fire rage, listened to endless statements of support from the international community, including from US President Barack Obama and the Palestinian Authority, I could not help but think about the worlds many double standards - even as they relate to disasters. Dont misunderstand me: Haifa is no less dear to me (or to any Palestinian) than any of its current residents. But Gaza is also valuable to me. Where were the international forces - those belonging to Azerbaijan, the UK, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Italy, Jordan, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and particularly the US - when Israel brutally set Gaza ablaze two years ago this month, killing not 41 but more than 1,400 civilians? Where were these same countries when Israeli forces, similarly devastated Lebanon four years ago? Where were the beautiful airplanes in the sky manoeuvring to try to stop Israels man-made disaster? The only airplanes we saw then were the ones that destroyed nearly 60,000 Palestinian homes and factories, completely decimating 3,500 structures; aircraft drones designed to terrorise 1.5 million Palestinians; and aircraft designed to plunge Gaza into perpetual darkness or ensure that thousands are without a clean water supply. Why then the different treatment? Perhaps the difference is that it is easier and less controversial to rush to extinguish fires that threaten trees than fires that threaten people. But if that were the case, where were all of these countries who recently helped extinguish the Carmel fire when Israeli settlers once again set olive groves and other Palestinian trees ablaze? Where was the fire retardant material? The firefighters? Where were the Israeli fire rescue teams rushing in support of Palestinians just as Palestinian firefighters rushed in their support? Lest I appear ungrateful I must note that over $5b from the international community was pledged to Gazas reconstruction to clean up the mess that Israel created (with a parenthetical note that two years later the situation in Gaza is no better, owing to Israels continued siege). Indeed there are many lessons to be learned. Israel has undoubtedly learned it is better at setting other nations on fire than at extinguishing its own fires, and that lighters are more devastating than Qassams and Katyushas. One can dream that Israel will learn those in glasshouses should not throw stones. But as is often the case, Israel will simply take away what it needs to boost its rescue services before it sets another country aflame. It is hoped Israel has learned that non-indigenous objects - like pine trees planted in place of ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages such as Al-Tira and Ayn Hawd - do not survive well in the Middle East (though looking at the latest settlement announcements, it is clear that this message about non-indigenous objects has not yet registered). For Palestinians, there are also lessons. We cannot take comfort in outward statements decrying Israels actions, in the face of a history of warm relations. For example, despite Israels point-blank killing of Turkish activists aboard the Gaza-bound flotilla in May this year, Turkey cozied up to Israel - just as it did in the aftermath of Israels brutal attack on Gaza to purchase Israeli military equipment. But if there is one fundamental lesson all parties have learned it is this: the different treatment between the international rescue of an Israeli forest and the lack of similar aid to Palestinians has little to do with trees, nature or the environment. Rather, the international community will always rush to Israels side when it is on fire, but will never stop Israel from setting fires elsewhere. Diana Buttu is a human rights lawyer and a former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team. Daily Star, Lebanon