Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Israeli and Vegan? I Bet You Hate All Palestinians

How do you know if someone is a vegan?

Don't worry. They'll tell you. And they'll probably tell you again. And just as you're leaving, they'll probably mention it again.

How do you know if someone is an anti-Semite?

Don't worry. They'll tell you. Not by using those exact words, that would be too simple. You have to work it out by reading between the lines of their obsession with and hatred of all things Israel. You have to decipher the criticism of anything Israel does but sure enough, once you have done that, there it will be. A hatred bordering on the irrational. An obsession bordering on the psychotic.

I recently stumbled across an article in Warwick's Globalist. You can read it here. Since I left Warwick last year, I've stumbled across articles in the Globalist that have increasingly left me shaking my head. This one is no different. Vegan-washing is the latest accusation thrown at Israel and, presumably, "pro-Israel" activists. That somehow anyone who happens to note Israel's animal rights record is not just noting Israel's animal rights record. No, instead, it is some cynical ploy to divert attention from war crimes and occupation and all these other charges levelled against Israel.

This is an interesting, if bizarre, assertion. Let's deal with it point by point:

First, the author links us to a BBC radio show, aired during 'Veganuary'. Let's not forget what Veganuary is. A month about Veganism and raising awareness and encouraging people to attempt it for a month and, presumably, continue beyond. It is not a month about Israeli war crimes. Or the IDF's "illegal and brutal occupation". Or "illegal settlements". No, believe it or not, it is a month about Veganism. It is not, then, at all surprising that the BBC should run a piece about Veganism. It is not surprising that it should do so and interview an Israeli. And, lastly, it is not surprising that it should run a piece about Veganism, interview an Israeli and choose to focus on Veganism. In fact, the opposite would have been surprising. Imagine the following:

RADIO PRESENTER: Welcome to today's show on Veganism in the IDF

ISRAELI: Hello, thanks for having me

RP: First, can you please explain to my why you are engaged in a brutal and, should I also say, illegal occupation of Palestine?

I: Sorry, what?

RP: Do you personally believe all Gazans should be murdered or do you just act on orders?

I: Erm...

RP: Please, all my listeners who have tuned in to hear about Veganism would like to know if you support the mass displacement and murder of Palestinians. Oh and that illegal occupation. Have I mentioned that yet? Because on this show about veganism, I'd be damned if I don't discuss the occupation.

Do me a favour. A show about Veganism, in a month dedicated to Veganism, is not vegan-washing if it discusses, wait for it, Veganism.

Second, the author, in making the claim about 'the media' links us to, The Times of Israel, Ha'aretz and the BBC, amongst others. I could easily have found links on these websites condemning Israel for all of the charges the author levels. Accusing 'the media' of vegan-washing by publishing articles on Veganism but not mentioning the occupation would be as absurd as me publishing an entire article condemning the BBC for reporting an Israeli strike on Gaza and not mentioning the fact that my cousin's next door neighbour's cat is a vegan. (For the record, I have no idea if my cousin's next door neighbour's cat is vegan, but I presume, as part of the Israeli PR machine, if s/he isn't, s/he will be shortly.)

Third, the author condemns organisations like PETA for 'flocking to commend Israel for championing the vegan movement'. As if it is a crime for an animal rights organisation to maybe suggest that other armies should be more vegan-friendly. Trust me, you can call for armies to be more vegan-friendly, like the IDF, and condemn an occupation. I presume the author believes that PETA should add a caveat: Please be more vegan-friendly, but do us a favour and don't also brutally occupy Palestine. To support the IDF for its vegan-friendly attitude is not to devalue the Palestinian cause or plight. One can both praise the IDF for being vegan-friendly and either a) remember you're an animal rights organisation and steer clear of political conflicts that have nothing to do with you and/or b) support the Palestinian cause.

Fourth, the Times of Israel is accused of arguing that being a vegan is somehow written into Jewish Law. To argue that because of the prohibition on mixing MEAT and milk, Jews are more accepting of substitutes is not to suggest that 'accommodating a vegan diet is somehow written into Jewish religious constitution'. Read the sentence again. Mixing meat and milk. The prohibition is on the mixing of the two, not the eating of either. The assertion being made is that Jews are used to milk substitutes, which is true. Many Israeli/Kosher desserts do not contain milk - ironically, given the author's accusation, because of our preference as a culture for meat meals. Find me a non-kosher, milk containing dessert and I will show you a milk-free Kosher version. It is remarkably easy to give up milk as a Jew. (Until Shavuot when we are basically obligated to indulge in as much cheese as possible.) To point this out is not to say that being a vegan is written into Jewish Law, but rather than from the starting point of having an abundance of  milk-free desserts, becoming a vegan is easier. The J-Post article is absurd. I reject its contents for exactly the same reason I reject the content of the Globalist article, ironically.

Finally, the author ends in typical fashion for an article of this type. We get an: "I am sure Israelis do not support the occupation" and an: "I am sure the vegans in Israel have honourable intentions".  G_D forbid the Israeli media report this. G_D forbid the IDF accommodates this. G_D forbid, indeed. No, apparently, doing this is just a cynical attempt to deflect attention from war crimes. When the Israeli media reports that there are Israeli vegans, it is not reporting a mere fact, it is deflecting attention from the occupation it reported in other articles. When the IDF accommodates vegans, it is not just accommodating vegans, it is making the argument, "We must be a good army, we make it easy for vegans to kill Palestinians too."

Israel either kills Palestinians and brutally occupies their land or deflects attention from this fact. Israelis who are vegans might have honourable intentions, indeed, they might even do the honourable thing and object to the occupation and all the other things I, the self-appointed authority on morality, think are terrible. However, we cannot discount the fact that they might just be doing it to deflect attention from Israeli war crimes.

This is the argument being made. It is an argument as illogical as it is wrong; as hateful as it is misguided. It is an argument that makes it impossible for an Israeli to be coherently a vegan. I mean, they might have opposing political views to you. Shudder at the thought. And it is an argument that whispers anti-Semitism as quietly as possible, hoping the screams of I am just pro-Palestinian and engaging in legitimate criticism of Israel where she can do no right, only wrong will drown out the whispers. Not this time Clare, not this time.