In Occupied Palestine, Animals Are Treated Better Than People

Category: World Affairs Topics: Occupation Views: 891

While oxygen tanks are banned from passing through to the hospitals of the Gaza Strip due to the tight Israeli military siege, vaccines needed to protect Palestinian livestock from the fast-spreading foot-and-mouth disease are now available.

The matter sounds perplexing.

Millions of Palestinians live under one of the worst Israeli blockades recorded since the signing of Oslo Peace Accord in 1993. Those who try to "violate" the curfew are shot, beaten or arrested.

While healthy Palestinians might be able to survive the blockades, those injured in Palestinian hospitals cannot function without medicine, medical equipment, doctors and nurses, and the ability to transfer serious cases to other hospitals where medical care may be more advanced.

But nothing and nobody can move in or out of the West Bank and Gaza, except armored Israeli vehicles and the daily caravans of Jewish settlers. A suffocating blockade has impaired the Palestinian territories, leaving tens of thousands without work, markets out of stock and hospitals out of urgent supplies.

Needless to say, while people are at risk of starving as the humanitarian crisis intensifies daily, no one has paid close attention to the foot-and-mouth disease that has spread to Palestinian cattle and sheep in the West Bank.

The outbreak of the disease was reported in Hebron and Nablus, but many feared that the disease could spread to the rest of the West Bank, Gaza and even Israel.

The Palestinian Authority rightly blamed Israel for the crisis.

According to the Palestinian media, Israel's siege and prevention of vets to move freely about the occupied territories has harmed the Palestinian chances of containing the disease.

Moreover, vaccines for such a disease, like most Palestinian needs, require Israeli permits, supervision and close monitoring. Since Israel is the main supplier of such vaccines, livestock in the West Bank and Gaza were left unvaccinated for months.

Israel denied the PA's accusation, dubbing it "ridiculous".

Yarden Vaticai, spokesman for the coordinator of government activities in the occupied territories lashed out at the Palestinian media saying, "humanitarian and medical assistance has never been barred by Israel."

Vaticai's comment appeared utterly uninformed, considering that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon himself threatened to further suffocate the West Bank and Gaza if the so-called "violence" continues.

The comment also coincided with a statement issued by a top PA official Luai Arandas who complained that the Israeli army blockades are jeopardizing the lives of many Palestinian patients.

In a recent report issued by the UN World Food Program, Palestinians are now among the poorest people in the world. Estimated losses in the Palestinian economy rose to $2 billion, and unemployment soared to 48 percent.

Vaticai apparently failed to see the inhumanity in all of this.


While doctors and medical aide workers are often shot by Israeli soldiers while trying to save the lives of wounded, Israel is offering free movement for vets.


Yet interestingly, Israel is now working diligently to assist Palestinians to restrain the spreading foot-and-mouth disease.

On March 18, Israeli agricultural minister Shalom Simhon met with his counterpart in the PA Hikmat Zaid at an Israeli army roadblock at the entrance of the West Bank town of Tulkarm.

In the meeti,ng, which was viewed by observers as historic and promising, Simhon handed Palestinians over 150,000 doses of vaccines. Israel offered Palestinians all needed assistance, saying that they would go as far as allowing vets to move freely to vaccinate Palestinian livestock.

While doctors and medical aide workers are often shot by Israeli soldiers while trying to save the lives of wounded, Israel is offering free movement for vets.

Those who viewed the Israeli offer favorably suggested that Israel is giving friendly gestures to revive trust between both sides. Those who distrust Israel said that Israel puts the lives of animals before the lives of Palestinians.

Although Israel's behavior in the last six months indicates that Palestinian life has little value to the Israeli army, settlers or even people who back their army's savage practices in the besieged Palestinian areas, Israel's vaccine scheme is a well-calculated economic tactic.

Aware of the magnitude of the disease and its ability to spread through the air and dust, Israel is worried that the disease could enter Israel at any time, even if all Palestinians are forbidden to do so.

Israeli officials made no secret of this concern, confirming therefore that their help to the PA was not obliged by neighborly gestures but rather by the fear of financial loss.

If one case of foot-and-mouth disease is reported in Israel, one of Israel's thriving sectors could suffer great losses, as Israeli raw meat and livestock would become of little value in the international market.

"Disease doesn't know borders, they don't stop at checkpoints," Peter Lerner, spokesman for Israel's military administration in the West Bank told reporters on Sunday, March 18.

The vaccines handed to the PA didn't signal a change of heart from Israel's hard-liner government toward the Palestinians, nor could it be understood in humanitarian terms.

Instead, it was only pure financial interest that pushed such "cooperation", fueled by Israel's fear for the well being of its cattle, sheep and pigs. ,In relative terms, animals enjoy more rights than Palestinians do.


Ramzy Baroud is a free-lance journalist living in Seattle, Washington and is a weekly columnist for

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Occupation
Views: 891

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