|State Bird of Israel. This is what a Zionist with wings looks like.|
I am, of late, developing an interest in Israeli wildlife, having realized at some point that many of the animals referred to again and again in Torah were things I really didn't know very much about. I am rather embarassed to say that well into my thirties, I believed that a hyrax was a kind of gazelle or something, when it turns out that they are actually "fairly small, thickset, herbivorous mammals in the order Hyracoidea"*. Apparently they are sort of the raccoons of the Middle East, and have been known to raid trash cans. I think they're adorable. They also get Biblical mentions, and not only in terms of being trayf, which they are, but also poetically in the Psalms; The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the hyrax."
But enough about the hyraxes for now. Today we're talking about the hoopoe, which is also not kosher**, and which has also inspired Manchester’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign to be critical of the socialist British daily newspaper the Morning Star.
What the heck could the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have against the humble, bug-eating, dust-bath-taking hoopoe, you ask? And how did the Morning Star get involved in this? Well, I'm glad you asked. The Morning Star has a daily quiz, in which one of the questions recently made reference to the fact that the hoopoe is Israel's national bird. This is a fact suitable for a trivia quiz, right up there with the fact that the national animal of Belize is the Baird's tapir, or that the bangus is the national fish of the Philippines. And yet, there was an element in town that objected.
In a letter to the newspaper, Linda Claire, the chairwoman of Manchester’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign, asked why it had referred to the bird after it has “always been the newspaper you could rely on to support the cause of the Palestinians.”
“Maybe you don’t support the methods chosen by the international solidarity movement of BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel] to assist the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom and justice,” she said, adding that this included any reference to Israel’s wildlife.No, no, you didn't misread that. She considers BDS to apply to free-range wildlife. Her husband also seems to consider the hoopoe, an indigenous bird that has never been known to harm anyone who wasn't a beetle, to be a wedge fowl.
“Despite its condemnation of zionists [sic] it yet finds space to include an item in its daily quiz about Israel’s national bird. Is the Star not aware there’s a cultural boycott going on?” Claire’s husband, George Abendstern, asked in another letter.(George, a tip here...the Israelis did not INVENT the hoopoe. They are not MARKETING it. Its inclusion in the quiz does not indicate any sort of policy statement.) This may just leave you scratching your head in puzzlement, or, if you're a hoopoe, off to take another dust bath and take it easy, but this nutty couple underline something very real about BDS: it's not about policy, it's not about any positive goal, it's about the blind hatred of Israel, and the desire to reject anything connected to Israel--hoopoes included.
After being criticized for being really weird, the PSC clarified. “It was not the bird we object to but what this bird represents – the racist and apartheid State of Israel.”
It's not racism they want to get rid of, folks, or the imagined apartheid...it's Israel.
*'Thickset?' say the hyraxes. 'Thanks.'
**Just as well for the hoopoe, one might point out.