Israel, the first world country with vegan washing?
By: Palestinian Animal League
Israel has been described as a “vegan paradise” and is believed to have the biggest vegan population in the world. It has been also debated that the vegan movement in Israel has started as an integral part of the fight for justice and against all kinds of oppression, including the occupation and colonization of Palestine. However, this could not be seen in the mainstream Israeli vegan discourse where veganism does not seem to clash with Zionism. On the contrary, Israel is using vegan washing in order to cover up the damage it is causing to the Palestinian life and to veganism in Palestine, and is now gaining international support by considerate and well-known vegans, who have intentionally or unintentionally become marketing tools in the vegan washing game of the “vegan paradise”!
“Vibe Israel”, as an example, is an Israeli organisation created to “connect Millennials positively with Israel and inspire them to share Israel’s story”, and to promote Israel as a modern peaceful country with “competitive advantages” but surrounded by evil neighbours, i.e. the Palestinians and other Arabs, who insist to prolong the conflict for no apparent reason or probably for a reason that only “Vibe Israel” can explain to the Millenials it connects. And as part of this new marketing campaign, “Vibe Israel” has invited prominent vegan bloggers to visit what they described as “the Vegan Empire called Israel”. Such campaigns are unfortunately being perceived positively by the international vegan community, ignoring the Palestinian elephant in the room, and disregarding a seven decade occupation, theft and appropriation of the culture and history of Palestine.
Apparently, the Zionist occupation of Palestine did not stop with stealing the land and natural resources, but has expanded to include the country’s folk costume, cultural heritage, and traditional cuisine. People who are familiar with the Palestinian-Israeli context probably have already witnessed how Israel is claiming almost everything that is Palestinian as a property of Israel. The occupiers colonized Palestine, called the largest part of it Israel, and then started to appropriate the culture and history by claiming the native natural and cultural resources including native animals, food, music and costume to be Israeli. For example, the Canaan dog has been recognized as the “national breed of Israel” and Falafel and Hummus are being widely promoted as Israeli national cuisine. Certainly, the colonizer cannot survive without lying about everything, all the time. And this is what Israel has been doing since its declaration 70 years ago, washing away its dark history and its long-lasting oppression of Palestinians by promoting good deeds as competitive advantages of the peaceful eco-friendly paradise called Israel.
Israel is indeed utilizing all the social movements that are emerging to improve its image at the international level. The new Vegan Birthright program is one example of how the Israeli government exploits veganism and uses it in the service of colonialism. “Birthright Israel” is a program created in 1999 that has sent over 500,000 Jewish young adults on a free ten-day trip to Israel, in the name of strengthening Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish state. Any Jewish person, from any country in the world, can have access to this free trip, and, furthermore, automatic citizenship if they choose to immigrate to Israel. Recently, a Vegan Birthright trip was added to the program, called “Israel for Vegans”. This program also promotes Tel Aviv as “a world leading vegan city”, and this description can be seen in many blogs of vegans who visited the city and were impressed of how vegan it was. Most probably, what makes a city vegan for these people is when it has great vegan restaurants!
Similarly, Hasbara, a form of propaganda that aims at disseminating positive information about Israel and its actions, have actually mobilized an army of social media
 Read RENOUNCING VEGAN BIRTHRIGHT (Apatheid isn’t vegan)
pro-Israel users to comment on the announcements made by “Vibe Israel” or the vegan bloggers it invited for the aforementioned tour by this statement and other similar statements: “Israel is a global center for veganism and besides for the traditional Israeli food, there are amazing vegan restaurants of all types.” It is worth mentioning that any other comments that oppose this very point of view are being deleted and some commenters have been blocked from commenting or replying on the pages and posts of “Vibe Israel” and the vegan bloggers.
Ridiculously enough, not many people are aware of the fact that Israel is one of the biggest meat consumer in the world, with more than 80kg of meat per capita per year, and it is by far the biggest poultry consumer in the world, with 57 kg of poultry per capita per year. It is worth to mention that according to an article from 2015 published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, while 3 per cent of Israeli Jews are vegan, the number of 48 Palestinians (Palestinians who were not expelled from their lands in 1948 and live in what is today Israel) who are vegan is twice as big.
Morally speaking, much of the production of vegan products takes place in the illegal Israeli settlements inside the Palestinian Territories, where a significant amount of Israeli agriculture is grown. This poses a moral dilemma for the vegans who are also human rights activists as a lot of the vegan food found in Israel was produced in stolen land, inside settlements that violates the International Law. Precisely, that is why Israeli professor Ayel Gross wrote that “in Tel Aviv it is far easier to find food free from the exploitation of animals than to find food free from the oppression and uprooting of other human beings”. Needless to mention the catastrophic implications of the Israeli illegal settlements on the Palestinian life.
Therefore, before applauding a supposed victory for animals in Israel, it is essential to do a critical analysis of the context in which it took place. In order to avoid falling into Israeli vegan-washing trap, and then end up supporting a genocidal government that uses the struggle for animal rights to improve its self-image and cover up violence against humans, while it hypocritically continues to exploit and murder non-human animals.
In fact, the moral price we pay for disconnecting the struggle for animal rights from the struggle for human rights is reproducing, reinforcing and making other oppressions sustainable.
We at the Palestinian Animal League want to draw attention that we tried to contact The Buddhist Chef, one of the invitee vegan bloggers, to invite him to visit the Palestinian Territories during his visit to Israel, but he declined the invitation with a brief reply saying he will be on a very tight schedule. Also, non-Palestinian friends have reported to us screenshots of them being banned from commenting on his page after they tried to highlight the issues discussed in this article. One of the banned people was an Israeli Jewish woman who criticised him for going along with the vegan washing.
This message shall reach the vegan bloggers that are taking part in the visit to “the Vegan Empire called Israel” that “Vibe Israel” organizes. While this is not to tell people what to think and how to act according to their morals and principles, as a vegan, one might ask themselves these questions:
- Why am I vegan?
- Is veganism about having many great vegan restaurants?
- Yes, Politics always ruin nice pictures, but am I going to ignore a whole side of the story just because one side is selling a nicely-presented vegan story?
- Am I aware of the concept “vegan washing”? And why it is important for Israel?
- Can I see it when veganism is a conscience-cleaning device to help hide someone’s role in perpetuating the suffering of others?
- Can I think intersectional and fight for justice for all, because everyone deserves justice?
Israel being one of the biggest meat consumers (and number 1 poultry consumer): http://www.israelhayom.com/2017/07/20/israel-4th-worldwide-in-meat-consumption-oecd-report-says/ Israeli animal testing: https://speakingofresearch.com/2017/05/18/animal-experiments-in-israel-rise-by-51-in-2016/ And here: https://www.timesofisrael.com/half-of-animal-testing-in-israel-involves-maximum-pain-allowed-study/ Vegan Birthright: http://mayanotisrael.com/trip/veganisrael/ Then1948 Palestinian vegans/vegetarians : https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-veganism-on-the-rise-among-israeli-arabs-1.5397532 The vegetables in 48 being produced mainly in illegal settlements: https://whoprofits.org/content/made-israel-agricultural-export-occupied-territories Ayel Gross article: https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-vegan-while-occupying-1.5290150 Note: credit of a great part of this article, including references, goes to our friend Sandra Guimaraes.