Israel Must See to Human Rights Before Animal Rights

The next time we are shocked at what is being done to animals we had better remember that not only monkeys have rights that a self-respecting society must strictly preserve - so do foreigners.

Ninety laboratory monkeys are to be sent to the United States in a few days from an experimental facility in Moshav Mazor. The High Court of Justice issued a temporary restraining order against their export.

Some 700 asylum seekers from South Sudan are also to be deported in a few days and no restraining order will prevent their expulsion.

El Al Airlines, like many other airlines worldwide, refuses to fly animals for experimentation, but with foreigners who are forcibly and cruelly deported from here, airlines have no compunctions. They fly them unhesitatingly, even when the deportation is accompanied by violence on the part of the policeman involved in it.

I once took a flight to Amsterdam on board which was such a deportee. The heartrending cries of the cuffed African did not stop from the moment of takeoff at Ben-Gurion airport until landing at Schiphol. I will never forget it. If, God forbid, either the monkeys or the humans are expelled, their fate will be sealed. One guess: The monkeys will not be deported, the Sudanese will.

The struggle for animal rights in Israel is impressive and touching. A number of groups are at work on the issue. My colleague Orna Rinat published a piercing and chilling article in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz on March 26 about the cruel fate that awaits monkeys if they are taken out of Israel. "From here begins a road that starts in agony and ends in death," Rinat wrote, and one's heart breaks.

But a similar fate - a road that starts in agony and ends in death - awaits the South Sudanese people forcibly deported from here. Even the Knesset research center concluded that South Sudan is a dangerous country and that 46 of its 79 districts are in a state of humanitarian emergency. But that is of no interest to the authorities. Interior Minister Eli Yishai, who is overseeing the deportation, said Israeli human rights activists who are fighting the expulsion of the Sudanese "are invited to become their foster families."

The monkeys at least have a minister who comes out in their defense. Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan is working hard to prevent them from leaving the country. The Sudanese don't even have one such minister.

There is no way to determine which struggle is more just and whose fate is crueler - that of the monkeys or of the Africans. The monkeys do not speak, and therefore it is easier to disown them, but the African community in Israel also has no voice. No one listens to them, practically know one knows their distress. They are transparent or hidden from view on the edges of the big city, almost like the caged monkeys hidden away at the Mazor farm.

Activists who are devoting their time to both are deserving of praise. And yet it seems that the struggle for animal rights is more attractive. The fact is that more celebrities are involved in helping such animals than in helping the foreigners.

Few will admit they are in favor of abusing animals. The abuse of foreigners? That is already a more "complex" question. It engenders a long list of reasons to justify deportation - the need for our camp to remain pure, the jobs they supposedly steal, the crime and disease they supposedly spread.

Yes, the foreigners bother us more than the monkeys and therefore it is easier to justify their expulsion, or the difficult and inhuman lifestyle that Israel forces on them, while at the same time preventing them from making a living. The outcome: They sleep in public parks, in shameful conditions, with only a few volunteers managing somehow to save them from starvation.

Society is measured by its attitude toward the weak - monkeys or people. In 2010, about half a million animals in Israel underwent experiments in about 1,500 research projects, some unnecessary. Tens of thousands of foreigners in Israel are also subject to cruel experimentation. Israel is studying how much they can be abused before they realize this is not their country.

The next time we are shocked at what is being done to animals we had better remember that not only monkeys have rights that a self-respecting society must strictly preserve - so do foreigners. First we must see to human rights, then to animal rights.

Read this article in Hebrew