CounterPunch / June 18, 2021
Last Wednesday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) praised Israel for being the first country to ban the sale of animal furs. Laws like these are obviously worthy of praise, however, in the case of Israel, any praise, especially regarding its ethics towards animals, is completely misled.
Throughout Israel’s short history, they have repeatedly exposed their stances on environmental justice through their state protected environmental terrorism and delibrate military attacks on animals.
During Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009, an attack that killed hundreds of Palestinians, also took the lives of many animals, particularly those sheltered at the Gaza zoo.
“This camel was pregnant, a missile went into her back,” Gaza zookeeper Emad Jameel Qasim told Gulf News, “Look, look at her face. She was in pain when she died.”
According to Qasim, once the Israeli soldiers entered the zoo, they made way for the lion enclosures, shooting the lions at point-blank range. Monkeys in the zoo tried to flee. Some of them were shot inside their enclosures, and others attempted to hide in clay pots and nearby administration offices, only to be hunted down and killed in the most brutal of ways at the hands of the “world’s most moral army”. Many of the animals that weren’t killed by Israeli bullets, died from starvation because the Gazans taking care of them were trapped in their own homes due to the Israeli bombardments.
Rather than a condemnation of Israel’s attacks that occurred on all life in Gaza, less than a month later, PETA took it upon themselves to come up with a solution to the so-called ‘Israeli-Palestinian conflict’. PETA appealed to the Israeli Defense Ministry to install a “pro-vegetarian mural” on both sides of Israel’s apartheid wall and barriers in the West Bank and Gaza with the phrase “Give Peas a Chance” and “Nonviolence Begins on Your Plate: Go Vegetarian”. PETA has made it perfectly clear, through statements such as these, that like Palestinian lives, the lives of Palestinian animals too is trivial and not worthy of mention.
Unfortunately, this was not Israel’s only attack on the Gaza zoo. In 2014, during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, Israeli forces heavily bombarded the Gaza zoo. More than 80 animals were killed in the bombing. A number of the zoo’s lions had to be transferred out of Gaza in order to receive psychological treatment due to the trauma they endured, a privilege no Gazan human is afforded.
During this same incursion on the Gaza Strip, Palestinian farmers were devastated by the bombing of agriculture land and livestock. Ali Alommor, a Palestinian farmer in Gaza explained to Middle East Eye that his donkeys were vital for his livelihood and that of his family. The attacks left Alommor’s donkeys “riddled with bullets” and another looking like it had been run over by a bulldozer as it tried to flee. Another farmer, Sami Abu Hadaeid, while escaping the Israeli bombs, fled his home leaving his beloved sheep behind. All 30 of his sheep were killed before he could return home. They too were full of Israeli bullets and decapitated by soldiers, others had been suffocated underneath rubble. Israeli tanks also killed over 500 cows that supplied many Gazans with milk and supported the livelihoods of 60 families’.
Similarly in 2017, Israeli F-16 planes dropped a missile on a chicken farm in Gaza. The roofs of the enclosures collapsed, killing hundreds of the chicken.
Israel’s lack of humanity and concern for Palestinian life, has never been exclusive to human beings. Whether that be the state protected settler arson attacks on Palestinian groves, toxic waste dumping in the West Bank, or the Israeli destruction of Gaza’s water treatment infrastructure leading to the dangerous pollution of Gaza’s sea, the Israeli regime has remained consistent in its positions towards Palestine’s wildlife and their habitats.
At the very least, it is irresponsible for PETA to applaud any action by the Israeli government, considering Israel’s brutal legacy towards Palestine’s environment and the animals it sustains.
Zarefah Baroud has a Master’s degree in Policy Studies from the University of Washington, where she researched American aid programs to the Israeli military; Baroud has published various articles on CounterPunch, Common Dreams, Socialist Worker, and others