The HyperTexts

Protecting Endangered Species: Cecil the Lion and Palestinian Children

I wrote the letter below to our local newspaper. It's a short letter, but I think it makes a good point and closes with valid questions. I understand why so many people are upset about the murder of Cecil the lion, and I support efforts to protect animals from illegal poaching. What I cannot comprehend is why there is a louder outcry in the United States when a single lion is gunned down, than when millions of Palestinian children live under the gun on a daily basis, and thousands of them are slaughtered in massacres like the Nakba of 1948, and in more recent attacks like "Operation Protective Edge" and "Operation Pillar of Fire."

To the Editor:

Recently there has been an international outcry against the killing of an African lion named Cecil. African lions are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

There is another international convention that we ought to consider: the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. It specifies that states must “respect and ensure” the human rights of “each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind.”

Israel ratified the Convention in 1991, but has repeatedly discriminated against Palestinian children in Gaza and the West Bank, and even within its own borders. Many Palestinian children have been arrested, detained for long periods of time, humiliated, tortured, maimed, set ablaze with white phosphorous, and in numerous cases murdered. In 2012 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child strongly criticized Israel for “gross violations” of the Convention.

Why are there so many voices speaking for Cecil, but so few speaking for Palestinian children? What does this say about Americans as a people and as a nation? What does this say about the Christian religion, since most Americans profess to be Christians?

Michael R. Burch
Editor and publisher of Holocaust and Nakba poetry

Footnote: If any nation should understand what is really happening to Palestinian children, it is the United States. In the past, we had land-grabbing in which huge tracts of land were wrested away from Native Americans. For this to happen, several things had to take place. First, the land-grabbers had to portray themselves as the "good guys" and their victims as "savages" so that the land-grabbing could be rationalized as a "defensive" operation, when in reality it was highly offensive in both senses of the word. Second, there had to be two very different sets of laws: one to protect the land-grabbers from having their land and property stolen from them, and another to deny the "savages" the right to defend their land and property from theft. Third, there had to be a huge military apparatus to put down rebellions when the victims resisted, and the suppression had to be ruthless. Fourth, there had to be national denial which would allow the land-grabbers to go to their whitewashed churches, sing hymns about "justice" and "morality," listen to sermons about ethics, and go home feeling good about themselves. Fifth, there had to be a callous disregard for the suffering and deaths of completely innocent babies and children; this required the denial to be absolute, complete. The victims could not be seen as human beings, or their children would have mattered more than the land being stolen.

Slavery required the same sort of horrendous system, as did the Holocaust. And today, if we stop living in denial and examine the reality, we can see the same things happening again. Israel has become a nation of land-grabbers and robber barons. The Palestinians have been portrayed as "savages" and "terrorists" to the Israeli public, the American public, and the world. All the horrors that Israel inflicts on completely innocent Palestinian children are explained away as "defensive" operations. We are told that the Palestinians "do not really exist" and "are not really a people" in the sense that Jews and Americans are a people. The callous disregard that Israel has for the humanity and rights of Palestinian children is eerily similar to the disregard Nazis had for Jewish children, and which white supremacists like Andrew Jackson had for Native American and African American children.

I hope Americans do spring to the aid of African lions, and other animals endangered by illegal poaching. But I wish they would also leap to aid Palestinian children, rather than living in denial. The United States is currently involved in its third Holocaust. The first was the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans. The second was the enslavement of African Americans. The third is the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, which is being accomplished by Israel with the help of American money, weapons and influence.

The HyperTexts