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Even Animals in Gaza’s Zoo Were Slaughtered Printer friendly page Print This
By Dallas Darling
Axis of Logic
Friday, Aug 29, 2014

Since Americans love their pets and animals, lavishing upon them last year a record $56 billion (1), maybe they will at least make a connection with Gaza’s zoo animals that were recently slaughtered by Israel. Developed in 2008 on what was once the site of a garbage dump, the Al Bisan Zoo remains the pride of Gaza and important aspect of Palestinian self-determination. Serving as a major attraction where children and students can study and learn about a few animals from around the world, it was also a place of escape. Some could forget, even if was only for a few moments, the slow strangulation of occupied lands, expansive settlements, Israeli military incursions, and punitive economic blockade. It is a blockade that forced zoo keepers to smuggle animals through tunnels and paint black stripes on two donkeys so as to resemble zebras. Because of the tight Israeli siege on Gaza and closure of border crossings, they were unable to import zebras from Africa. Still, and even if they were not real, they wanted children to see African zebras.

Is it a zebra or a zemor?

But just like the last Israeli military invasion of 2008-2009, decaying carcasses of vervet monkeys, storks, and a baboon litter the  Al-Bisan park area and damaged zoo. All killed from Israeli missile and air strikes. Animals that survived the onslaught sit dazed, shell shocked, in filthy pens that have not been cleaned for weeks. Other zoo animals, yet to be identified, are contorted, their bodies dried and rotting in the sun. Almost everywhere there is the smell of stench and the sight of death. “Before the war,” said zookeeper Farid al-Hissi, “the area was very beautiful. There were trees, lots of greenery, palm trees. It was an area for children, there were playgrounds and areas for families.” He continued, “But not eight monkeys are killed, and an ostrich was killed too. The lion’s enclosure was wrecked and the zoo was completely destroyed. The Al-Bisan Zoo was totally devastated.”(2) Like other parts of Gaza, it will take years for the park and zoo. And like the rest of the people of Gaza, Farid al-Hissi remains in a state of shock.
There is a direct correlation between America’s decline in global affairs and its escapism into the world of pets. The same is true with its distancing from the humanness of others and closeness towards electronic gadgets and a techno-virtual world of pets. As more people identified with the familiarity and warmth of their pets, manufacturers capitalized by introducing new products that helped animals move from the backyard to the front room. Some of the most popular shows, movies, and commercials pertained to animals. Pet industries grew extremely rich from noticing how individuals were also retreating from communal responsibilities and society as a whole, becoming more and more insensitive and self-absorbed in a culture of narcissism. While Americans became less dependable and increasingly ill-mannered and rude, pets remained a constant source of attention, reliability, and friendship. In some cases, perpetual fear and paranoia drove pet lovers to bond only with their animals, becoming totally disconnected from other humans.
Right now pets and animals are extremely popular in American society and culture. In many cases, and with an estimated 95.6 million cats and 83.3 million dogs, not to mention 20.6 million birds, 8.3 million horses, 145 million freshwater fish, 13.6 million saltwater fish, 11.6 million reptiles, and 18.1 million small animals, they are sometimes treated better than fellow Americans. They are cared for more than other humans. So upon learning that many animals were killed in the Al Bisan Zoo, Americans might grasp how this latest conflict also killed 2,100 Gazans, mainly civilians and about 500 children.(3) Perhaps they will recognize how a number of UN schools, mosques, major apartment complexes, and water wells and purification plants were severely damaged or destroyed. That there is a good probability Israel is really after Gaza’s offshore gas reserves, valued at $4 billion.(4) Americans might even put a stop to Israel’s military madness and public confinement of Gaza, including their own culpability in supplying the Jewish nation with billions of dollars worth of military weaponry.
A ceasefire has just been agreed upon between Gaza and Israel. It will include the opening of both the Rafah border crossing into Egypt and the opening of the Israeli crossings into Gaza under Israeli supervision. Perhaps Gazans will finally be able to import a real African Zebra. But it still does not change the enormous damage done to Gaza and the many years it will take to rebuild. Neither does it negate the deaths of Gaza’s zoo animals. According to Aamir Abu Wards, another zookeeper, along with the continuation of being trapped in shelling and air and missile strikes, it was the noise that really affected the animals. He described how the sounds from the bombings terrified the animals to the extent that animals abandoned their young ones, some of which died. Sadly, they were not the only living life forms terrified by continual bombing campaigns and military invasions. They were not the only ones which suffered abandonment, some of whom also died and yet were by far more valuable and important.

Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John‘s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for You can read more of Dallas’ writings at and

(1) Americans-spent-a-record-56- billion-on-pets-last-year.

(2) Animals-caught-crossfire- trapped-gaza-zoo. 2014/08/16

(3) Israel-leveling-gaza- apartment-blocks-other-large- buildings. 2014/08/24.

(4) Is-the-control-of-gazas-offs… serves-a-factor-in-israeli- military-operstions? 2014/08/22.

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