Israeli Police Turn a Blind Eye to the Poisoning of Fifty-Three Cats and Seven Dogs in Kiryat Tivon
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
-- Mohandas Gandhi
Long regarded as one of the most ailurophobic nations in the world, Israel has had its already tarnished image further sullied by the revelation that at least fifty-three cats and seven dogs recently were poisoned in the northern town of Kiryat Tivon.
"We're definitely dealing with a psychopath," resident Michaela Shingler, who has had five cats poisoned and another seven to disappear, told Haaretz on July 24th. (See "Cat Killer Turns Playground into Animal Graveyard.") "This criminal murderer had an easy time of it. He took advantage of the cats gathering, spread the bait around, inserted the phosphate, and the cats ate."
To make matters worse, police in the town of 13,700 residents, located fifteen kilometers southeast of Haifa, have so far refused to investigate the poisonings. This is in spite of the fact that the Ahava Foundation has filed four separate complaints and a local veterinarian has added a fifth one.
"The organization demands the dismissal of those parties responsible for the series of blatant lies which it is difficult to believe come from those who are supposed to investigate crime and defend the public from criminals," a spokesperson for Ahava told The Jerusalem Post on July 25th. (See "Fur Flies in Kiryat Tivon over Pet Poisonings.") "Instead, Ahava is acting in the place of the Israel police, who aren't doing anything."
Ahava therefore has been forced to raise money not only in order to retain a private detective to investigate the poisonings but also so that it can offer a reward for information leading to the apprehension of the perpetrator. All of this is in addition to rescuing and treating cats and dogs that have been poisoned. (See photo above of Ahava volunteer Shachar and a poisoned kitten that was saved by the group.)
The indiscriminate poisoning of cats en masse is not confined to ailurophobes but in the past has been the modus operandi of public health officials and politicians. Par exemple, between 1999 and 2005 hundreds -- if not indeed thousands -- of cats were poisoned by bait tossed out in the street by governmental officials in an idiotic and barbaric attempt to deal with a rabies scare.
Also during this time an undetermined number of cats were seized from private dwellings and killed. In a thoroughly disgraceful lapse of ethics, veterinarians also confiscated and killed cats that either had not been inoculated or whose immunizations were not up to date.
Even when the Israelis are not killing cats outright, their shameful and unconscionable neglect of them leads to the same result. Jerusalem, for example, has an estimated fifty-thousand homeless cats who are allowed to die of thirst, hunger, heat exhaustion, disease, predation, and underneath the wheels of callous motorists. (See photo below.)
In a July 28th article for The Jerusalem Post, Jill Hamilton of the RSPCA and Hebrew University ludicrously attempts to pack off the blame for Jerusalem's feral cats on the English imperialists. (See "Blair and the Stray Cats of Jerusalem.")
While they no doubt brought some felines with them that they later abandoned, the fact remains that cats have always lived in Jerusalem and other cities in Israel. Besides, Israel has been a sovereign state since 1948 and therefore it has had plenty of time to have found a humane solution to the problem.
The Israelis' systematic abuse and neglect of cats continues unabated in spite of several legislative and juridical initiatives in recent years designed to remedy the situation. For instance, the Knesset passed the Animal Protection Law of 1994 and a High Court of Justice ruling during the same year criminalized the poisoning, killing, and deportation of cats.
Like so much of everything else that occurs in Israel, these legal mandates have not been enforced. For instance, hotels and individuals continue to kill cats with impunity.
According to a July 28th report on Y Net News, there are four-thousand cases of animal cruelty reported each year in Israel plus an estimated ten-thousand such incidents that go unreported. Worst still, only forty indictments are returned each year. (See "Pet Parade.")
Equally disturbing is the fact that up until recently the government used strychnine as its poison of choice in order to get rid of feral cats. Concern for Helping Animals in Israel (CHIA) was able to get the government to agree in 2004 to replace strychnine with TNR. It is not clear how well this is working out in practice, however, because sterilization initiatives remain grossly underfunded.
Israel's total disregard for animals is by no means limited to those living inside its borders. Au contraire, its mistreatment of those in the Occupied Territories is every bit as egregious.
When the Israeli colonialists pulled out of the Sinai in the early 1980s they left behind hundreds of cats and dogs to fend for themselves. Dogs, for instance, were even left chained in yards.
Its abandonment of twenty-one colonies in Gaza and four more in the West Bank in August of 2005 brought about a repeat performance of what had occurred earlier in the Sinai. This time around thousands of cats, at least seventy dogs, and several parrots were cruelly abandoned to their own devices. Countless pigeons also plunged to their deaths when the building wherein they were nesting were demolished.
Earlier in 2004, the Israeli Army killed many animals when its tanks rolled into the Rafah Zoo in Gaza. During March and April of 2005, the Israelis used a rodenticide called fluoracetamide in order to poison Palestinian cows, sheep, and goats in southern Hebron. (See Cat Defender post of November 7, 2005 entitled "Israeli Colonialists in Gaza and the West Bank Leave Behind Thousands of Cats to Die of Thirst, Hunger, and Predation.")
Last summer's invasion of Lebanon provided another gruesome example of just how ruthless and merciless the Israeli war machine can be to both individuals and animals. In addition to bombing practically the entire country back into the Stone Age and killing thousands of noncombatants, the Israelis killed untold numbers of cats, dogs, and livestock. (See Cat Defender post of August 10, 2006 entitled "Death Toll Mounts of Cats and Other Animals Slaughtered and Left Homeless in Lebanon by Israeli War Criminals.")
Their bombing of a coastal power plant in Jiyyeh released one-hundred-thousand barrels of crude oil into the Mediterranean which in turn contaminated just about all of the Lebanese coastline and ruined beaches as far away as Syria, Cyprus, Greece, and Turkey. The number of fish, turtles, and other marine life killed by the oil slick is estimated to have been in the thousands. (See Cat Defender post of October 12, 2006 entitled "A Few Hundred Cats and Dogs Are Airlifted Out of Lebanon but Cluster Bombs and an Oil Slick Continue to Kill Animals and Marine Life.")
The parallel that is often drawn between cruelty to animals and cruelty to people is to a large extent applicable to governments as well. In other words, governments that fail to protect the rights of animals are far more likely to abuse both their own citizens and foreigners as well. This certainly seems to be a fair assessment of Israel.
In addition to Ahava and CHAI, several other dedicated animal rights groups are working hard to change the way in which Israel treats cats, dogs, and other animals. It is an uphill struggle, however.
Most of these groups are hamstrung not only because of a total unwillingness on the part of the government to enforce the anti-cruelty laws, but also due of a lack of funding. As long as this situation remains unchanged the killings and indifference to the suffering of animals will continue.
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated," Mohandas Gandhi once said. Israel is as rich as Croesus when it comes to having guns and money but until it learns to treat animals with compassion and respect it will continue to be a moral bankrupt.
Photos: Alon Ron of Ahava (Shachar and kitten) and Tallulah Floyd of The Jerusalem Post (Jerusalem cat).