Free Falestine

What animal abuse in Gaza zoos tells us about Hamas.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.

Falestine was finally freed from her open-air prison in Gaza and her Palestinian oppressors.

The plight of the 14-month-old lioness had caught the attention of the world after a video circulated of her being brutally declawed in the Rafah Zoo so that visitors could play with her and pose for selfies.

Before that, four lion cubs had frozen to death at the zoo operating in the Hamas-occupied territory.

Along with Falestine, the mission by Four Paws, a European animal rights group, also extracted 46 other animals from Rafah Zoo, including monkeys, wolves, ostriches, peacocks, and other lions. Freed from Palestine, Falestine will regrow her claws and begin a better life in a wildlife refuge in Africa.

The Rafah Zoo, dating back to 1999, was the oldest and one of only three zoos remaining in Gaza. Two previous zoos, including the Khan Younis Zoo, a horror show labeled the “Worst Zoo in the World” by National Geographic, had similarly been bought out by Four Paws. At Khan Younis, the animals kept starving to death, and the owner had taken to amateur taxidermy and put their bodies on display.

The owner claimed that the dead stuffed animals would prove that all this was somehow Israel’s fault.

Gaza zookeepers usually try to blame Israel for their animal abuse, but the declawing of lions at the Rafah Zoo and the amateur taxidermy at the Khan Younis Zoo make it abundantly clear that the issue isn’t the Zionist Jews, who are routinely blamed of everything from starving the lions to handing out aphrodisiac gum to Muslim teenagers, but the abusive behavior of the owners and zoo staff.

Exotic animals are illegally smuggled through tunnels from Egypt, and then put on display, starved, mutilated and neglected according to the whims of the owners and staff. Gaza is not starving. It’s full of mansions, shopping centers and luxury hotels where rooms can run to $600 a night. Zoo animals in Gaza aren’t being deprived of food by Israel. Like Falestine, they’re being starved and tortured by Falestinians.

Four Paws bought out the Khan Younis Zoo in 2016 and the Al-Bisan Zoo in 2014. The Bisan Zoo, seemingly also named the Gaza Zoo, was booby trapped by Hamas, along with a nearby school, during the fighting in 2009. Most of the animals died. Many had starved to death or eaten each other.

Back then the media widely accepted the Iie that the suffering of the animals was Israel’s fault. After several zoo evacuations, even the media had to note that Israel appeared to have nothing to do with the condition of the zoo or its abused animals.

"We can see how much the people in Gaza love their zoo and its animals," Amir Khalil had claimed. "So Four Paws is pledging its expertise and financial support for the correct reconstruction of the enclosures. We also want to train the local team in how to deal with the animals."

And the Falestinians of Gaza have gone on loving their zoos and animals so much that Four Paws and Khalil have to keep rescuing them and evacuating them from Gaza. And Four Paws may be part of the problem in a new twist on a familiar Gaza scam. Animals are smuggled in from Egypt to stock ‘zoos’ that have no relationship to an actual zoo. The animals are starved, abused, and allowed to die. The deaths of the animals are used to fuel anti-Israel propaganda. Animal rights groups then monetize the outrage, as Four Paws did, by loudly broadcasting the suffering of the animals, and then fundraising off it. The animals are finally bought by Four Paws from the zoo owner at an undisclosed, but likely high price.

The zoo abusers make money. So do the animal rights groups. And the media which reports on it. Meanwhile, the abuse of wild animals in Gaza is incentivized for propaganda and profit.

Hamas has been pulling the same scam with people in Gaza ever since it took over. It blocks food from entering Gaza from Israel, and declares a humanitarian crisis. It, along with Fatah, messes up the electricity and declares a humanitarian crisis. Its hospitals don’t have enough medication, but it refuses drugs from Israel, instead it declares a humanitarian crisis and resells expired meds on the black market.

All these humanitarian crises invariably end with money and sympathy for Gaza and its Hamas masters.

Pulling the same stunts with zoo animals is comparatively small change, but every NGO eager to make headlines and fundraise off helping Gaza, counts. And so the zoos of Gaza will continue popping up, especially if there are lucrative buyouts waiting. All you need is some start-up capital to smuggle in a few lions, then abuse them, and wait until the animal rights groups show up with their checkbooks.

In 2013, Hamas trumpeted the birth of two lion cubs at the Bisan Zoo from a lioness that had been smuggled into Egypt. "For the first time, a lioness gives birth to 2 cubs in the besieged Gaza #landoflions," the Muslim Brotherhood terror group had tweeted.

The cubs were named Fajr, after a type of rocket that the Islamic terrorists had been firing at Israel, and Sejeel, after the name of the Hamas campaign against the Jewish State. The Gaza terrorists had put far more thought into exploiting the birth of the abused animals for propaganda purposes, than in caring for them. Both Fajr and Sejeel died after a few days. The zoo manager explained that they had no actual experience caring for lion cubs and that he had no idea what “unspecified illness” had killed the cubs.

The Hamas-run zoo didn’t even have a resident vet on staff. But it chose to blame power shortages, food shortages and had the chutzpah to solicit donations even though the terror group has billions of dollars.

Islamic terror groups like to portray themselves as lions. But their sadistic cruelty goes far beyond the behavior of any wild animal. And it viewed the lion cubs as disposable, failing to even pay for a vet.

The names of the two cubs, like Falestine’s name, showed that the animals were being weaponized to promote Islamic terrorism. But, once they were born, Hamas didn’t care any more about whether they lived or died, than about its suicide bombers or the people living near where it launches its rockets.

Dead lion cubs, like dead Gazans, are useful propaganda for the Islamic terror group whose strategy is to worsen conditions, spread misery and horror, and then blame Israel for its own disgusting abuses.

The deaths of the cubs helped lead to a buyout of the zoo by European animal rights activists next year.

But the media, as usual, showed no interest in holding Hamas or Gazans accountable. “Tragic Turn for Adorable Lion Cubs Smuggled Into Gaza,” ABC News declared. The headline was false, the cubs had been born in Gaza, but it also glibly skipped over the accountability for the deaths of the lion cubs.

The Associated Press suggested that the track record of Gaza zoos might be spotty.

That’s understating it. In 2009, the Marah Land Zoo made headlines when it tried to pass off a donkey as a zebra by painting stripes on it after the actual zebras had starved to death. The zoo apparently also had an old tigress, but most of its animals were dead. A year later, the zoo had been put on sale.

And the media keeps writing these stories up as the lighthearted antics of a people under siege, rather than the ugly behavior of a cruel and irresponsible culture that cares little for human or animal life.

Dead lions are better than live lions. Suffering animals are better than healthy ones. Like everything else in the terrorist-occupied territories of Israel, and in the territories of Islam, everything is upside down. Hospitals and schools are staging grounds for rocket attacks and zoos are places where animals die.

“We love death like our enemies love life!" Hamas boss Ismail Haniyeh had declared.

The zoo animals of Gaza don’t love death more than they love life. But they don’t get a say in it.

Falestine is now free of “Palestine”, of its murderous hatreds, and its mad obsession with death. Falestine has been freed from Palestine, but millions are still threatened by her former masters. And that is how it will remain until the world is as free of Palestine as the lions that suffered in its cages.

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