by Alice Rothchild
We are delighted to publish this piece by JWE board member Alice Rothchild which was first published on mondoweiss
April 9, 2021 The New York Times has published an article that is half ironic and half serious entitled “Where wild boars infest the streets “ by Patrick Kingsley. It opens with a photo of a large boar mother crossing a Haifa street with eight boar cubs and a waiting driver who laughs. This is not a ridiculous way on so many fronts.
While wild pigs can weigh up to 300 pounds, in this article they are described as having “caused a ruckus” (rumpus is a word I generally associate with unruly children on a playground). Boars are portrayed in a variety of ways: from harmless as squirrels to dangerous pests that gobble up lawns and rummage through garbage, but the images are all cute. The author soon falls into the realm of politics hasbara. “[Haifa] is one of the few Israeli cities where Jews live alongside a significant number of Palestinian citizens of Israel, which make up about 10 percent of the city’s population ”. Cites Edna Gorney, poet, ecologist and lecturer at the University of Haifa. “‘I wish everyone in Israel could learn to live as they do in Haifa, it is an example of coexistence – not just between Arabs and Jews, but also between humans and wildlife.'”
Why does this worry me so much? The last time I saw wild boars in Israel / Palestine, Jewish settlers were releasing them onto Palestinian farmland where they caused an enormous amount of destruction and were virtually impossible to control. In the village of Chisel near Nablus, during a visit with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, villagers complained of nearby Jewish settlements often blocking access to local villages, burning their farms and olive trees, and raising wild pigs which they released in Palestinian farms.
Just outside the quite idyllic village of Deir Istiya, there is a valley called Wadi Qana, part of the food basket for the Salfit district. Surrounding Jewish settlers dumped raw sewage into the valley, contaminated the water, kicked families out of the region, dug reservoirs that drain natural springs, demolished orchards, uprooted trees, and released wild pigs to Palestinian farms where they eat smaller vegetation and more olive trees. young people who were planted to replace the damage done by the settlers.
These stories obviously aren’t that cute or moving. Reports from the region dating back to 2012 indicate that wild pigs are indigenous to Palestine and there has been an explosion in the population due to a lack of predators and pig killing laws. Damage to Palestinian crops (and not Israeli settlements) is on the rise due to the policies and practices of the Israeli government. There have also been numerous articles in Vice, The Palestine Information Center, is To the Monitor which confirm that the story of the pigs releasing settlers is not just an urban tradition, but a fact.
Then we come to the myth that Haifa is a kumbaya model of coexistence in a fractured Israeli society. It is certainly nice that there is a “Liberal Arab Renaissance in Haifa“But the situation is much more complex than that of gay and tattooed Palestinians who have the freedom to party in a bar of their choice. Jihad Jaburaya, a Palestinian lawyer living in Haifa, explained for me the troubled history of Haifa. Before 1948, 70,000 Palestinians lived in the city and it was a major trading center, attracting workers from all over the Arabic-speaking world. In the 1948 war, the Israeli army forced the inhabitants to flee “to sea”, many fleeing to Lebanon, leaving 1,200 Palestinians struggling within the new state. When Palestinian properties were seized, they were placed under Israeli government “companies” which collected rent from the former owners.
The Israelis declared the empty Palestinian homes “absent ownership” and amassed the remnants of the city in a prison-like ghetto called Wadi Al Nasnas. Wadi Al Nasnas became the center of Palestinian cultural life, including the home of the poet Mahmoud Darwish. Property seizures included Muslims wafq which is allegedly protected under Islamic law for use by families. Many of the street names were changed to names of rabbis or famous Jewish fighters, and the remaining names were largely Palestinian collaborators.
In the El Hadar neighborhood, we saw many traditional Arab stone houses. Jihad noted that it is against international law to sell or restructure the property of deported persons and that the rent and sales of “state property” belong by right to the original owner. He also claimed that the Israeli government ignored rampant drug use for years and only intervened when it started targeting Jewish citizens.
Haifa’s Palestinian population (40,000 in 2017) is now a city within a city. Most Jewish citizens live separately from their Palestinian “neighbors” through the forces of history, culture, economy and unwritten politics, including the red line. Schools are segregated, although Palestinian children are taught the customary Zionist curriculum devoid of Palestinian history. When Jihad bought a house in a nicer area, he said he was charged $ 15,000 more than an Israeli Jew and when he moved into the luxury property, he was told he wasn’t allowed to talk to any of the future owners until the property has been entirely sold. His Arabic would collapse property values and potentially ruin the neighborhood.
Clearly a city with this kind of traumatic and racist heritage cannot truly be a center of coexistence until it comes to terms with the past, history complete with all its pain and destruction, and a movement towards recognition and repairs.
You hasbara the industry does not want Haifa to be talked about with this kind of honest and lucid evaluation of the past or the present. You hasbara the industry also does not want to talk about settlers releasing wild pigs on Palestinian farms, the Israeli government’s racist response to its Palestinian citizens when it comes to education and vaccines against COVID-19, and the abandonment of residents of East Jerusalem, apartheid vaccine policies against Palestinians living under occupation. They do not want to talk about the worsening of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the Netanyahu accusation, the constant shift to the right of Israeli Jewish public opinion, the Israeli attacks on Iranian ships in the Red Sea. The list goes on….
Wild boars gnawing on flowers in Haifa is a lot more fun. The New York Times he should be ashamed.