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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 12/3/17

In age of forest fires, Israel's law against Palestinian goats proves self-inflicted wound for Zionism

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From Mondoweiss

A ban by Israel on herding black goats -- on the pretext they cause environmental damage -- is to be repealed after nearly seven decades of enforcement that has decimated the pastoral traditions of Palestinian communities.

The Israeli government appears to have finally conceded that, in an age of climate change, the threat of forest fires to Israeli communities is rapidly growing in the goats' absence.

The goats traditionally cleared undergrowth, which has become a tinderbox as Israel experiences ever longer and hotter summer droughts. Exactly a year ago, Israel was hit by more than 1,500 fires that caused widespread damage.

The story of the lowly black goat, which has been almost eliminated from Israel, is not simply one of unintended consequences. It serves as a parable for the delusions and self-destructiveness of a Zionism bent on erasing Palestinians and creating a slice of Europe in the Middle East.

The 1950 Plant Protection Law, one of Israel's earliest measures, was introduced as a way to outlaw the black goat, also known as the Syrian goat, from large areas of the country. The goats had been the lifeblood of Bedouin farming communities.

At the time officials declared that the goat was damaging vegetation, especially millions of pine saplings recently planted as forests.

The trees were fulfilling an important Zionist mission, in the eyes of Israel's founding fathers. They were there to conceal the rubble of more than 530 Palestinian villages the new state had set about destroying and prevent the return of some 750,000 Palestinians who were expelled during the 1948 war that founded Israel -- what Palestinians call the Nakba, Arabic for "Catastrophe."

Close by the ruins of the villages, Israel established hundreds of exclusively Jewish communities like the kibbutz and moshav to farm the former lands of the Palestinian refugees.

Both the ban on goats and the mass planting of European pines were part of Zionism's efforts to sell the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as "environmentalism" -- a supposedly green agenda that is now being exposed as a sham.

Planting pine forests

Jews around the world were encouraged to drop pennies into charitable "blue boxes" as a donation to help the young state "redeem the land."

In fact, the money was being mostly used to plant pine forests over the razed Palestinians villages, making it impossible for the refugees to return and rebuild their homes.

Additionally, the pine was useful because it was fast-growing and evergreen, shrouding in darkness all year evidence of the ethnic cleansing committed during Israel's creation. And the forests played a psychological role, transforming the landscape in ways designed to make it look familiar to recent European immigrants and ease their homesickness.

Finally, the falling pine needles acidified the soil, leaving it all but impossible for indigenous trees to compete. These native species -- including the olive, citrus, almond, walnut, pomegranate, cherry, carob and mulberry -- were a vital component of the diet of Palestinian rural communities. Their replacement by the pine was intended to make it even harder for Palestinian refugees to re-establish their communities.

In charge of planting and maintaining these forests was the Jewish National Fund, an internationally recognized Zionist charity. Paradoxically, its website extols its work in Israel as "innovators in ecological development and pioneers in afforestation and fire prevention." The JNF claims to have planted some 250 million trees across Israel.

In an indication of Israel's success is selling these colonization policies as environmentalism, the United Nations lists the JNF as having expertise in climate change, forestry, water management and human settlements. The UN also allows the organization to sponsor panels and workshops at UN conferences around the world.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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