A couple of days ago I wrote “The Myth of Vegan Progress in Israel.” Already that article is the 9th most read on this site and has been shared on facebook over 1,000 times. It is important to say that I am glad it is being read as the worst case scenario when writing things like that is that it will be ignored. With the good comes the bad though, which has been a variety of insults and commentary from very angry vegan Zionists.
The decision to write about that backlash wasn’t a quick or easy one. I know that responding to deflections from Zionists will only create more deflection and that the idea of a conversation or a “dialogue” is a cover to continually allow for a re purposing of the status quo. I am also no stranger to this kind of response. I used to run a podcast/website “The Vegan Police” which I actually shut down in 2013 after a pattern of harassment after writing critically on the 269life campaign in Israel. In hindsight, I think refusing to continue to press on this issue is as pointless a strategy as engaging in faux “dialogue.” Strong and critical commentary that eschews those two things seems to anger this camp the most, and seem to be where my time is best spent. Also, I think the response has been enough to warrant a follow up. Below are responses to five of the main points of contention about what I wrote (well, four and then one really angry diagnosis).
Why Don’t You Write About Settler Colonialism In Canadian Vegan Communities?
I saw this response repeated by advocates in North America and also within Israel. Why am I “picking on” Israel? Well, I hope you clear afternoon because I’ve actually written extensively on settler colonialism in Canadian vegan communities! I don’t mean to humble brag, but I think I am the person who has written and spoken publicly the most about this exact issue. 1,000’s of words are just waiting for you on this topic under the “Veganism in the Occupied Territories” tag on this site. As you will see, and as I wrote in that article, I think there is a connection to how vegan communities frame issue and market themselves within colonial occupations. I write mostly about the Canadian context, where I live, but I do also write about those connections and other contexts. Don’t worry, there are many folks in Canada who respond with the exact same excuses and the exact same hostility.
You Used Old Data!
A particularly strong push back from within Israel has centred around the data I used in the article – particularly that the numbers I used were from 2011. Many who push the narrative of a progressive and Vegan Israel offered anecdotes and timelines that suggest that the “great change” has come post 2011. This could be the case, however, neither they or I have any updated per capita meat consumption data beyond 2011. What I used tracked that consumption from 1960 to 2011 and can be set up against other countries and averages. The data is the data. People can interpret it as they will, but this is what we have to create an opinion based off of. I have responded to this and asked for any other data I have left out and have been handed sources in Hebrew alongside claims that sale of all milk products dropped 3.7 – 6.1% in 2013, they dropped again 9.8% in 2014, that chicken consumption dropped 4% and that the first half of 2013 saw a 22% rise in the sale of milk substitutes. Another individual, when asked for any other data let me know that Domino’s Pizza now offers vegan calzones. Mea culpa, I don’t speak any language other than English. The data I used was not a grand “conspiracy,” and the data I’ve been provided with in response is underwhelming. Still, at no point am I arguing that per capita meat consumption has not dropped post 2011, or that it could not have dropped (we don’t know). The argument is that the per capita meat consumption is the highest in the region, well above EU average, had been increasing at an extreme pace leading up to 2011 and one of the highest in the world. On top of all of this, the numbers from 2011 are there to crunch. For people who want to pursue this angle take the total meat production stats, minus the per capita consumption of 5% of the population (this is extremely generous and would suggest a full 5% increase since 2011), and you will have some idea of what even a dramatic and drastic drop would look like. You would also then notice that you’d still be well above any country in the region, above the EU average, and well above the world average. You would also notice that my argument would still be the exact same argument. For this crowd though, I do promise to update what I wrote when we have updated data.
You Ignored Anti-Apartheid Vegans in Israel / There is Nothing We Can Do About the Occupation
An odd and competing claim that has come out of 269life camps in Israel is that my article ignores the proud tradition of anti-apartheid in vegan communities in Israel (which 269life is not part of) alongside a counter that there is nothing that Israelis can really do to alter or end an occupation that is less than a century old as they strive to “end animal slavery.” Fortunately, what I wrote actually found anti-apartheid vegans in Israel and they supported it and saw why it was important. I thought it was clear that what I wrote was a critique of greenwashing in Israel, both by the state and by some vegan communities in Israel. I have seen one critique that suggested that I claimed that to be vegan in Israel was itself “Islamophobic.” That is an absurd interpretation. Those within the Israeli animal liberation scene know the history of anti-apartheid within the movement and also know that this idea of “progress” lines up with an abandonment of those politics by many within the community. I wholeheartedly support those in Israel and in every (colonial) context, who fight to ensure that the movement to liberate animals from human society is not co-opted by the interests of the State or their own self serving positions of power.
The State of Israel Does Not Support Vegan Activists
I should have given a definition of green washing in that article but instead linked to four others that I think did. My focus was just on the data and the idea of framing Israel as a “progressive” “vegan” nation. Although the State of Israel does engage in foreign policy on these terms and touts “progressive” moves like vegan options for the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), it is also in keeping that the State would move to restrict, control, monitor and harass vegan activists. Why is that? This is the basis of “pink washing,” “green washing,” “vegan washing, etc” – Israel is interested in symbolism associated with these “progressive” values – compassion, mercy, peacefulness. However, they are not interested in the values themselves. Vegan communities who support this narrative aide the State narrative while also passing an apology for their own role in occupation (settler colonialism) – even if the state is still hostile to them as well.
“Anti-zionism equals antisemitism. Antisemitism is a disease. Please get your mental illness treated at your nearest insane asylum.”